Sharpening Knives

To those who have been reading this blog for a while, it should be no surprise that one of the sources for my Inspiration is the Food Network show Chopped. This week my inspiration began with the story of one chef, Nathaniel Zimet of Boucherie, who shared with the judges how he had been shot three times about ten months prior and his journey to recovery. While his story of recovery was inspiring, what was humbling was to hear him speak with such compassion about the man who shot him. His understanding that the man who shot him had to have been in extreme pain in order to shoot him as he did was a powerful illustration of compassion. It reminded me of a YouTube video of the father of one of the young girls who had been murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School recently and his compassion for all those who were grieving and for the family and friends of the man who had killed all these people. Having just blogged about compassion the other day, his attitude and story resonated with my soul.

However, there was a comment he had made earlier which already had my brain and spirit excited. It was when he talked about how sharpening knives was meditative. While I am not sure that sharpening knives would be immediately meditative for me, as I have not yet mastered it, I could certainly understand how it would be. For those who use their knives for a living, as chefs do, being able to attain the perfect edge on your knife can be a lifetime journey. For those who are seeking to attain Nirvana, meditation can be one tool in what is for many a lifetime journey.

What makes sharpening knives meditational is the state of consciousness one is able to enter. Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi refers to this state of being as flow. However, it is also an example of an approach to shamatha meditation, where one focuses one’s attention on a specific object, in this case the knife to be sharpened. One would keep returning one’s attention to the sharpening of this knife anytime one’s attention began to wander off. Ultimately, one can become so focused on the sharpening of one’s knife that all else is suspended in time, and one experiences a state of being which is relaxing, and for some trancelike.

Daily life is filled with opportunities to “sharpen one’s knives.” There are those moments when you are sitting in a car while you are waiting for the person you are picking up or those blocks of time while sitting a waiting room until your name is called. These are opportunities to take the time to focus on a mantra, a chant, or your breathing and take a moment to meditate, rather then fill your life with busyness and clutter. Living with chronic pain, there are times when I use that pain as a way to help me “sharpen my knife” by focusing on something other then the pain and allowing myself to choose not to allow the pain to affect my state of being.

Each day is filled with opportunities to “sharpen one’s knives,” the question is whether or not one will be intentional about taking the time to do so or be complacent to work with “knives” that are becoming increasingly dull with each use. Is one willing to begin the journey to achieving the perfect edge on one’s knife or a state of nirvana in one’s life?