Cut this tomato with love

A few years ago, while I was at a multi-day Zen retreat, I wandered into the kitchen of the place where we were staying. Our group always stayed Kairos House of Prayers in Spokane, Washington. It’s a small property hidden in a secluded area surrounded by acres of pine woods, not too far from the city (only minutes away), but so snugged and hidden that one could feel far away from the busy hustle of life. Whenever I come here, I always feel like life melts away. The sisters, sister Rita and sister Florence, care for this place, and welcome visitors with open heart, open arms, and a big hug. Whenever I come here, I feel like I have returned home, not just any home, but the home of my childhood where all my needs were cared for, where I was loved, and where I knew I was absolutely safe because of the tendering care and protection from my parents.

As I walked in the kitchen, I saw sister Rita cutting a tomato. I commented to her how great the foot tastes the last few days. In fact, the food always tastes better here even though they are really simple dishes. To me, the food here seems better than any food that I have had anywhere else.

Sister Rita stopped what she was doing, looked up at me and said:

Dear, you see, I’m cutting this tomato with love. When you do things with love, they usually turn out great.

Wow, upon hearing this, I paused. Isn’t this what we, Zen practitioners, have spent the last few days trying to achieve with our practice? We want to be mindful in whatever we are doing. We want to get rid of the distractions of the past and of the future, and to focus our mind solely on the present moment. The present moment is all we got; the past is already gone, and the future is not yet arrived. Knowing the present moment is a wonderful moment, we give it our energy and attention, and we give it love.

Right then and there, in the kitchen of Kairos, I learned to cut the tomatoes with love. I learned the true lesson of Zen.

What is it today you are going to do with love?


With loving heart,

Thanh Nguyen

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