Today I am baking muffins. A small thing really; although you have to count the cost of using the oven in the summer in Phoenix. My movements are slow, meditative.
I shape the muffins by hand, left palm up. The motion I was not “supposed” to get back. Sort of a secret form of physical therapy. This is the second time I have tried muffins since I broke my hand and elbow six months ago.
The first time, my daughter was with me. I could feel my anxiety rising as I tried to hold the bowl and mix the thick batter. I was hurrying, trying to make muffins (ironically) for the Mystic Activists group. She watched me for a while, love and compassion in her eyes. Her question startled me in its depth of knowing: “why do you bake as if 70 people are going to show up? Couldn’t you just enjoy it? ”
It was a question pregnant with story. It cut through the answers already forming on my tongue and left me silent. This image of my childhood, remembered by a daughter, vivid in color.
My dad was president of a Bible college for many years of my childhood. As such, we often entertained large groups of people in our home. Often times, he would forget to tell my mom that they were coming. A chance remark by the Secretary would throw us all into a frenzy of preparation. My mom would go off to the store and leave me in charge of the baking. I would send my brother to gather the neighbor children, and put them all to work at stations. I would move from table to table, instructing one to stir more, and another to pour the batter. It doesn’t take a therapist to notice signs of control at an early age. And so in this way, the baking would get done. Another group would come, and I would bask in the comments about how good it tasted.
And so this is how I bake: in triple quantities, multiple recipes, and fast. I have a feeling of satisfaction when it is done, but very little joy.
And so this question stirred sometging asleep, deep within me. What would it be like to bake in a meditative way? Somehow, in the process of healing, I have begun to fold clothes this way. Slowly, feeling the warmth, smoothing the wrinkles. An act of worship.
Some of my friends are keeping Ramadan. Often, we pray for each other during this time. One wise friend, grafted into my family tree, sent me a phrase from an ancient song book: “be still, and know, that I am God.”
Today, while I was baking, the words came up in my heart. I slowed my pace, noticed my breathing, and closed the second recipe book.
One is enough. I don’t need to push past any longer. I felt relief, and something akin to…joy?!