Have you seen the “Meditation for Real Life” column in the New York Times?
The author, David Gelles, instructs human beings on the fine art of being mindful while mowing the lawn, doing the dishes, filing your taxes and, yes, holding a baby. (“Remember that whatever state of being that your baby is in at any particular moment, it is not a permanent condition.”)
I’m not going to say this is a load of crap.
In fact, I kind of like the idea that if you must perform a mundane task then you might as well try to trick yourself into thinking that it’s incredibly fascinating.
In the instant classic “How to Be Mindful While Cleaning the Bathroom,” Gelles writes, “Once you’ve selected your cleaning tool, take a moment to notice it with your various senses. Feel the soft texture of the sponge or hardness of the mop grip.”
But I must make a confession here. If you’re thinking I’m an enlightened individual who faithfully reads the New York Times meditation column – and being mindful while doing so – you would be wrong. In fact, I only noticed it because one of them was about grilling.
I love to grill. I love to grill so much that when my family suggests we have Cuban sandwiches for dinner, I take the day off and cook a pork shoulder for 17 hours.
Low and slow.
My favorite thing to cook low and slow is beef brisket, because it’s hard to do, and I like a good grilling challenge. The thing about brisket, you could be cooking one all day and watching its internal temperature rise and then all of a sudden it stops at 150 degrees and stays there for hours.
This is called the stall. That’s when some people assume it’s done. Or they jack up the heat.
Or they do something pretty smart like wrap it in aluminum foil, which is called the “Texas Crutch.”
But I just like to wait it out. The brisket is a big muscle, and you’ve got to give it time to break down.
Anyway, the meditation column about grilling was entitled “How to Be Mindful By the Grill.”
“Summer barbecues are social affairs,” Gelles wrote, “but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a moment for yourself.”
Bess would laugh at this. She would say that, to me, summer barbecues are all about me taking time for myself. She would claim that I turn the simple process of cooking a meal – which she performs masterfully in the kitchen everyday in 30 minutes or less – into an endless, weird ritual involving wood chips, chimney starters, plate setters, drip pans, direct and indirect heat, and too many fermented beverages.
But I think she would admit that as far as vices go, I could have chosen something worse.
Here’s what Mr. Gelles recommends to do while you’re grilling:
“Reflect on where the food you are about to cook was grown, produced or prepared; how far and by what means it has traveled; and the number of people involved from start to finish.”
Or you could crack open another beer.
I think I’ll do that.
Gelles even has advice for being mindful when you sit down to the table: “Rather than eating at the same speed as you’ve been cooking, allow time to savor the food.”
Rather than eating at the same speed as I’ve been cooking? Brother, if I do that, I’ll still be eating at lunchtime tomorrow.
So maybe this particular column wasn’t meant for me.
But I will try to be more mindful next time I scrub the toilet.