knife! door.

Working in the kitchen at Upaya can be a tight dance between the food prep table and the wash up sink.  Cutting, chopping, slicing involves the use of a variety of sharp and often large knives which also have to be cleaned as we finish with one type of food and begin work with another.  So when taking the knife from cutting table to sink and back again, it is common to hear the more seasoned workers call out, “Knife!”  It’s a warning to everyone that a sharp object with potential for harm is in transition near them.

It seemed to me that can also be a great practice when transitioning from one emotional state to another.  “Knife!” I can cry out when I’m trying to get from anger to passion, greed to generosity, confusion to understanding.

Of course, I don’t want to just stop the conditioning that leads to suffering.  It helps to cultivate and embody the passion, generosity and understanding.  I’m reminded of what we would do when entering or leaving parts of the horse barn.  To alert the horse and rider to the opening of doors between stable and arena, we would call out, “Door!”  Another great invitation to bring the mind to attention and to keep the habitual aspects of personality from bolting.

Evan Thompson writes in Mind in Life:

According to bundle theory, there is no single and permanent self that persists through time; the self is rather a bundle of constantly changing and psychologically continuous experiences or mental episodes.

Sometimes it is “Knife!”

Sometimes it is “Door!”

Thank you for practicing,


6 thoughts on “knife! door.

  1. I love this analogy. Little calls to the moment when we need to “careful”, those critical points when we need to remind ourselves mostly, but sometimes others. It reminds me of stories my daughter tells of working in commercial kitchens. One of their favourite jokes that spilled out of the kitchen and into daily life was “behind you with a knife” Perhaps their own form of Zen!

    • I was doing the groceries and had occasion to call out, “Cart!” Didn’t help. Guess there has to be a pregiven awareness of the potential for hurt – which makes community practice all the more crucial, I guess. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Indra’s Web « Karmê Chöling Blog

  3. I love this picture of Zen cooks bellowing object names in the kitchen. I laughed out loud at this one! Pickle! Band-aid! Perhaps some new form of poetry to rival Haiku?

  4. Pingback: walking among sharp knives « 108zenbooks

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