Lately, I've felt like I'm cooking without a recipe. In the kitchen, I trust my instincts and knowledge of the chemistry of food. However, even on this familiar turf, I have felt a growing uncertainty about the nature of the food sources themselves. Last month, I went on retreat for a few days. Fortunately for me, the food included in the retreat package was organically grown in their own gardens.

While on retreat, I watched The Future of Food, an eye-opening and disturbing film about the genetic engineering of our seed bank. As a person who has spent my life creating rituals and ceremonies around the use of food, I became more awake to the nature of our current predicament. For years, the saying by the Indian chief, "What will they do when they can't eat their money?", was one of those thoughts that distinguished "us" from "them." Now it is apparent that while some of us have been walking a path of healing, there is really no separation and we are all at the doorway of this uncharted territory together.

It is time for me to come clean with the notion of separate but equal. For over a year, I have been giving lip service to the idea that as healers and light workers, we have been given a reprieve and we have something that others do not. This places us on a safe, self-proclaimed pedestal. I have been urging my fellow light workers to round up those who are waiting and looking for the answers that we have already claimed as our own. Yet, in my own personal experience, I am once again being brought to my knees to fully understand that there is no separation, and while our training may have been thorough and expensive, we are at the same doorway to a universal experience that has no recipe. While we may have some of the staple ingredients to prepare this meal, the grocery store is packed full of items that we do not recognize.

Recently I taught a cooking class called "Food for the Soul." It was intended to be a class using fresh organic ingredients from the garden. However, in the desert in June, the temperature was over 110 degrees for several days in a row, and so it was clear that in addition to using fresh ingredients, the foods needed to be prepared with as little cooking as possible. This last-minute menu is indicative of the times we are now facing. From one minute to the next, everything seems to change course. How can we plan a dinner party when faced with chaos, fires, flooding, and general disruption of our lives? I am speaking to this time when there is no recipe for the main course.

Perhaps the simple tools I use to prepare a meal can be a valuable reminder of how to live fully present and play the cards you are being dealt. Go to the market without a design; I always start in the produce department. I look to see what is fresh and what calls me. On this night in June, fruit was at a tasty peak. Fresh berries were plentiful, ripe, and inexpensive. So into the cart go raspberries, strawberries, cherries, and then sweet-smelling mangoes, firm but ripening avocados, and the peppery organic greens that caught my attention from clear across the aisle. Yes, this is a model of living our lives - to stand in the center of the produce department and see what is calling you.

On my clipboard is an outline of the meal I plan to prepare, but it remains fluid until long after my trip to the markets. The second reminder for today: while it is sometimes possible to design an outline for your life, until you really smell the fruit and touch the vegetables, it is nothing more than a sketch. For me, it is easy to apply this technique to planning a meal, yet I seem to become more rigid in orchestrating any given workday.

Next, when I return home, I lay out all the fresh ingredients on the table. I still have no real clue as to where I am heading, but it is perfect, for in this moment, I am free to create. In the kitchen there is a sense of timelessness; even though the guests will arrive in a few hours, I have an outline of the course work, and so I begin to do the mantra. I chop a bowl of onions, garlic, and whatever mise en place (things in place) I need. Isn't this the same as saying your prayers in the morning and asking to be of service? In this case, the raw food is in service to our palates. I am just the conduit, the tool that is used to manifest a divine opportunity to heal.

We then take what is laid before us and start the alchemy process. It's no different than turning water to wine: one takes four or five ingredients and turns them into a savory dish. How subtle and sublime to see two avocados, a mango, a lime, and some diced red onion turn into a mango guacamole. Take those fresh berries and create a simple but delicious sauce for the white fish. The peppery leaves of the organic greens volunteer to transform themselves into a wilted green salad with lentils and lemon. I ask myself, what have I offered myself up to be today? Am I a rigid recipe that no longer matches the ingredients, or am I readily available to be transformed in an instant?

Two weeks ago, while on retreat, I unraveled a new piece of the recipe that was missing key ingredients. There was a farmer who tended this massive garden that fed 150 people a day. A few mornings every week, he would give a garden tour following a breakfast made with the freshest ingredients picked from his fields. As I watched him pull carrots from the earth to show us his bounty, I realized that he possessed something that I was missing. He had an absolute smile on his face and loved what he was doing. His vegetables were his offspring, and the art of managing the growing seasons remained his curiosity. His love of his garden was contagious, and the image of his joy has remained with me ever since I returned home.

Over and over again, I have had to ask myself, where is my passion? What do I do from complete joy in my life? In cooking, I bring forth my gifts as a channel for love, to feed others. Yet I am quickly realizing that I do not have a recipe to feed myself. Because I am a resource center, I get the chance to speak to many people every week who seem to be facing similar questions. In this turning upside down of our life, our economy, our food supplies, and our mother earth, I believe it is essential that we answer the simple calling of what brings us simple joy.

Recently I was asked to discover what was in my own heart, and I could no longer find the place of knowing. Caught on the hamster wheel of creating a new business, I had forgotten about the child's heart inside of me. Yes, I could cook a feast, but I was letting her starve. Perhaps it is time that we go to the market for ourselves, stand in the center aisle, see what sights, sounds, and smells grab our attention, and create the bountiful feast that will renew our souls to be present for this time when we are being called. So, last night I heard the whimper of the child within, and we took a walk to the park to watch a movie with all the other children: it was food for the soul.

Author's Bio: 

Renee is the Founder and Director of the Healing Arts Center in Palm Desert, CA which is comprised of a consortium of businesses who stand together as one light in order to heal business and our world, and who wish to attract clients with a holistic approach to wellness and sustainable living. Renee also works as a shamanic coach, teacher, writer, chef, event planner, and gift wrapper for healers.

Renee has completed Light Body Training with the Four Winds Society, received rites of passage from the Quero Elders in Peru, and has integrated the DNA work of Margaret Ruby. Her strong belief in the power of prayer combined with earth-based traditions is the basis for her work and she has studied with many modern-day mystics. She works extensively with early childhood trauma, addictions, and food disorders. Her intuitive gift is the ability to uncover blocks that hide people’s true potential.

Renee’s classes and workshops have included Sacred Play, Creating Your Personal Spirit Doll, Tending to Your Sacred Garden, Sweat Lodges, Gift-Wrapping Your Healing Practice, Shamanic Rebirthing, Real Forgiveness, and Introduction to Shamanism. She also organized the Business of Healing conference in March 2007. She is available for speaking and training engagements.

As a Gift Wrapper, Renee can help you develop and market your authentic gift as a healer or community advocate by “packaging” your gift to present it to your community through Internet setup, e-newsletters, brochures, logo design, and/or other business peripherals.

As a chef, Renee has owned two popular restaurants and two upscale catering businesses, and worked her way into corporate senior management. Renee has a B.A. in Communications from U. of Maine, and attending the NY Restaurant School.