“The five elements in our foods nurture the five elements in our bodies. Put differently, the elements that nourish us are the same elements that are within us. When we recognize this integral connection – that we are sustained by the five elements of nature – we understand that each bite of food is a blessing from Mother Nature. This realization is the beginning of sadhana.”
– Maya Tiwari, The Path of Practice
Sadhana: a Sanskrit word whose root, sadh, means to reclaim that which is divine in us. Sadhana practices encompass all of our daily activities, working to reconnect the simple things we do daily with that which is divine in us: our power to heal, serve, rejoice, and uplift the spirit. Sadhana practice works to connect internal awareness to external rhythms and ultimately to our own inner wisdom.
One Sadhana practice that I have recently learned and been experimenting with is that of bringing consciousness to my cooking. Instead of rushing through the act of chopping vegetables, I am working to slow down and enter into the process – mindfully feeling, smelling, and being present to the experience. This, in and of itself, is healing. However, I am also working to sing and chant over the food while I prepare it, directing energy of love and life and nourishment into the food that I will serve and heal myself and my family with. This practice has added a new dimension to my experience of preparing a meal – adding depth and awareness and purpose. I find it empowering.
Food sadhana practices are rituals that will help develop your awareness of food and your ability to rediscover nature’s wholesome rhythms. One sacred practice that you can bring to your kitchen is Sadhana of the Seed… or spice grinding. Spice grinding is meditation in motion… a way to become present to the rhythms, sounds, and smells of the present moment. The repetitive motion and the gentle sounds created while grinding spices draw us into the quiet stillness of the moment. Beside this, by taking the vital energy held within a seed and using our hands and a natural object such as stone, clay, or wood to release that energy to be used in our food, we can boost our own vital life force.
To develop spice grinding as a sadhana practice in your life, begin by finding a grinding stone or mortar and pestle to use to grind your spice. Look for one made from a natural material such as clay, wood, or stone. They vary in style, size, and shape depending on the cultural origin. The Japanese Suribachi (unglazed pottery bowl and a wooden pestle), Vedic Sil Batta (flat stone base and handheld stone roller), earthenware mortar and pestle from Thailand, and stone mortar and pestle used in Mexico and Peru are all options to be explored. Using a mortar and pestle made from a natural material to grind spices invites in the essence of sadhana, allowing the rhythm of stone grinding on stone, and earth on earth to renew our connection with the earth and our ancestors.
Next, find seasonally supportive spices to make your masala, a traditional mixture of Indian spices. The masala can vary greatly depending on the type of spices used in it. In her book, The Path of Practice, Maya Tiwari explains the practice:
“Begin by roasting fresh seeds. Roasting helps to renew the energy and memory of the seeds. Using a cast-iron skillet, roast one type of seed at a time for two to three minutes, over a moderate flame, until they begin to crackle or pop. Be careful not to burn the seeds. Next, grind the seeds one kind at a time, in a clockwise motion. Allow yourself to become immersed in the circular movement of your arm. Be mindful of the blissful aroma and sonorous resonance of each spice as it is ground. Acknowledge, as well, the inner tranquility you feel as you grind away the cares and fears of the day. Be aware of the rich taste this sadhana gives to your food.”
As we are presently brought to life in this beautiful autumn season and will soon transition into the settling nature of winter, we draw ourselves to the spices and masalas that support our bodies during these times of year.
½ cup sesame seeds
1 teaspoon freshly ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
Roast and grind the sesame seeds before adding the cayenne and salt.
Early Winter Masala
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 teaspoons black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
Roast and grind the seeds before adding the spice powders.
Store your masala in an air-tight container to be used in your cooking, either in food preparation or sprinkled onto your meal before consuming. Relish in the slowed, stilled nature of this practice and the vitality that it offers your food and body. Use the act of spice grinding as a way to practice sadhana… to slow, to still, to hear, to feel, to be… a way to reclaim that which is sacred inside each one of us.
Author: Erica McLaughlin is a mind-body therapist specializing in embodiment. She strongly believes in the healing power that comes when we provide ourselves a quiet space to connect the body and mind. In this space our true essence has a chance to emerge, offering the greatest gift of healing: self-acceptance.