Toss a Hot Chili Pepper into your Roux!
Ask any French chef and they will tell you the “roux” (flour, clarified butter and special seasoning) is the foundation of every classic French recipe. A good roux lends a memorable dish, sauce or soup its depth, intoxicating aroma and velvety richness. A truly inspired chef intuitively knows when his or her roux needs that extra bay leaf, a dash of smoky paprika or a hot chili pepper to elevate the flavor. I find cooking to be a beautiful metaphor for faith. Sometimes we need to sweeten or as Emeril Lagasse, the New Orleans chef says, “kick the heat up a notch,” to invigorate the life of our spirit.
You will know when your inner spiritual roux is in need of a little seasoning. Restless, short-tempered and sparking a frenetic energy, you meet the world (spouse, children, work colleagues or even strangers) with a harried version of yourself. Feelings of self-doubt, regret and fear spar with your heart. Sprinting the hamster’s wheel, days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months and one day you wake up and realize you have lost touch with yourself, with God and the life you wish to live.
My personal spiritual life often resembles my cooking style. There are many metaphoric burned pots, too much of one ingredient and not enough of another. Every now and again I nail a recipe. I know it because I feel nearer to God, closer to the person I want to be, and I am peaceful.
The recipe of my faith includes the traditional ingredients of time spent with God in church, in nature and in prayer, reading the Bible and studying other spiritual writings and giving of myself compassionately to others. I have also been known to spice up my roux by visiting holy sites like Lourdes, spending time in a Franciscan monastery and practicing yoga. But the simplest of ingredients—stillness—often remains in my spice drawer.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet and spend a couple of hours with Deepak Chopra. He led a group at Vanderbilt Medical Center into an oasis of inner stillness. I came away feeling a lightness of being that stayed with me for many days. Once I was able to calm my mind and relax my body, I became acutely aware of my inner spirit, or what Thomas Merton called the part of us untouched by the world and belonging to God. I experienced what I call a “hot chili pepper in your roux” spiritual moment.
The inner peace and spiritual grounding that I experienced came from a deep understanding that ultimately who and what I am is an eternal spirit that is protected and loved beyond my understanding by the One who called me into being. I also came away assured in my depths that whatever happens in my life: All will be well.
Jesus witnessed first-hand the enormous energy required to be a human being. Life here is loud and stimulating, busy and full of surprises, often challenging and sometimes heart-breaking. To just love in itself; to love others, to love ourselves and especially to love God takes a lot out of us, especially if we are trying to do it well. Jesus intuitively knew that time spent in stillness with his Father was necessary if he hoped to engage in the world with peace and purpose, love and healing, joy and hope.
Stillness is a new ingredient in my spiritual roux and one quite honestly I need a great deal more skill in. I find it much more challenging to be still and listen for God than to speak to God. I am trying to begin each day with a couple of minutes of stillness before my head lifts from the pillow. Deepak says the breath is God’s way of gently taking us by the hand and leading us inward. I call it my “Darth Vader” breathing or ocean breath. Tongue to the roof of your mouth, you breath in your nose three counts, hold it at the top, and then release the breath through your nose to three counts. Sometimes, I count my breaths until I feel still. Other times I silently whisper the mantra, “Be still,” on the inhale, “Know that I am God” on the exhale. At the very least, I experience a softer landing to my day—my earthly edges smoothed out. But then there are those “hot chili pepper in the roux” moments where the words of John, “abide in me, and I will abide in you” become my truth and the recipe of my faith reaches a new height.
After my experience with Deepak, I have realized that I, and probably many of us, spend a lot of our earthly life eavesdropping from outside the Door to a very important conversation in progress between our soul and God. It’s when we dare to tiptoe inside the candlelit inner sanctum that we get a taste of that delicious peace and eternal knowing that only God can gift.
Live in Hope,