In Writing

Since I discovered this spring that I’ve developed a gluten sensitivity, I’ve taken my usual approach to the issue: death by a thousand Google searches. My insatiable need to know everything about everything glutenalia has taken me to pages about medical research, herbs, farming practices, paleo diets and vitamin D production.

Recently, it’s taken me to pages about the chakras. And that’s made me start cooking.

I’ll explain.

First, a brief history of me and cooking: I’m bad at it. I remember the first time I told my mother I wanted her to relinquish the kitchen to me I was 11 years old. My heart filled with hope but my mashed potatoes filled with too much liquid. They were lumpy and runny (that perfect combination). I watched my parents choke them down, along with the burned, breaded chicken. I was heartbroken. I was always good at everything, so my failure hit me hard.

I moved out at 18 and subsisted mostly on takeout. When I met my husband in my twenties, I was determined that I would be a great cook for him. I wasn’t. We went out to dinner with the kids a few weeks ago and, 17 years later, he still delighted in telling them the horror story of the first night I cooked for him and made chick peas, only to turn the broth black. (Nearly two decades of explanations later, he still won’t believe I had simply added dulse or some other seaweed to the water in a flair of experimentation. He very rarely ate anything I cooked after that, and never without goofing on it).

I fed my kids simple, organic fare when they were too little to know better: steamed peas, mashed yams. When they got old enough to refuse to eat that stuff, I started in on the takeout. I never felt great about it but made it through the dark divorce years on pizza and steamed chicken with broccoli. I had a few attempts at breaking out – once, after a yoga retreat I cooked organic for a whole two weeks. But the long, draining commute from New York made it so that I unfroze a lot of food for dinner.

Then, this spring I got really ill. It was like having a stomach virus that wouldn’t end. My culinary world shrank to hard-boiled eggs, spinach and sweet potatoes.

And that’s where the chakras come in.

Searching for meditations to relieve the anxiety that my beloved Google was telling me contributed to my woes (one can eat gluten a whole lifetime, like I had, and then have a particularly stressful time cause the sensitivity to show up), I found something about how the chakras contribute to digestion issues. Chakras, according to yogic traditions, are energy centers that roughly align with certain parts of the body (invisible to the eye, but “balanced” by yoga poses, meditation and chants). For example, an imbalance or block at the root chakra (at the base of your spine), causes an inordinate preoccupation with safety and security, or a feeling of not being safe in the world. (Check). I took a chakra test (click here to take yours), to determine which of my chakras needed balancing. My results said I had an underactive root chakra (and, apparently, also an underactive heart chakra).

Hey, I’ll try anything once.

So, on my daily morning hikes in the nearby woods, I started incorporating a chakra meditation. It’s mostly about imagining warm light moving through your body. Kinda nice.

Then the weirdest thing happened: I started wanting to cook. I don’t think it was the power of suggestion, because none of the articles about chakras had suggested this might be a side effect. (Or, frankly, I probably wouldn’t have done it). But after every meditation I found myself dreaming of finding recipes. I made scallops in white wine sauce, guacamole from scratch, hollandaise sauce, shepherd’s pie. I bought a fancy new cutting board and, instead of rushing through chopping and dicing, I slowed it down in deliberate fashion. Since a blocked root chakra is about feeling ungrounded and unsafe, I took the time to feel my connection to the earth through its vegetables and herbs. It was pleasant.

I searched for cooking classes and watched Julie and Julia. I wouldn’t call myself a foodie, exactly, but I don’t shrink from the idea of food preparation quite the way I used to. Where cooking has always been about defeat and ineptitude for me, now it’s glimmering a bit with hope, like maybe I can make myself well and root out all the things that have made me feel unsafe in the world one diced tomato at a time.

Worth a try.

So… cooking class starts in a few weeks. Stay tuned for the tales.

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