When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to do was to be in the kitchen with my mom. She’s an incredible baker, and seems to have an instinct for how to make baked things come out perfectly. She specializes in yeast doughs (cinnamon rolls, bread, pizza, etc). I don’t know if you’ve baked with yeast before, but yeast doughs are their own creature. You’re literally working with a living organism, the yeast. Yeast can be temperamental. It wants the water a certain temperature, it wants some sugar to wake it up. If you let it over-rise too early, you’ll have flat baked goods later. But, maybe because it’s linked to so many great early memories, working with yeast doughs is one of the things that centers me.
When I bake with yeast, I have to show up in the kitchen. I can’t be writing my blog post in my head, or monitoring my Twitter feed, or catching up on my continuing education hours. I have to attend to the process of the dough. When it’s time to mix in the flour, I have to get my hands dirty–because flour in a yeast dough can’t just be stirred in. The dough needs to be kneaded, so that you work the ingredients together uniformly. And when you’re adding the flour one handful at a time, the dough (not a measuring cup) tells you that it’s done. It reaches this smooth, elastic, bouncy texture. Kneading dough is rhythmic, and soothing, and messy–it’s like meditation where you’re covered in flour.
And that brings me to the reason for this post. It’s a Monday post, instead of my regular Friday posts. And that’s because I was on vacation from work on Friday to show up for my daughter’s birthday. To be fully present. To be immersed in the day, in her experience.
Whether we are baking, or parenting, or working, or loving–it matters to do those things that get us centered and remind us to show up. It’s too easy to get distracted by our to-do lists, or our technology. It’s too easy to let expectations (ours or those of others) pull us away from our experience. Here’s a short list of some of the things I do to center myself:
- Listen to music
- Practice yoga
- Play a game
- Get on a swing
- Talk to a trusted friend
What are your favorite centering activities?
Image Credit: Photo by Phil Roeder via Flickr