Posted on Sep 11, 2011 | 0 comments

Today I am making bread and as often happens to me it became a spiritual exercise.  As I was kneading in more flour it occurred to me that bread is a perfect metaphor for life itself.

The base of all bread recipes is to mix two ingredients together that do NOT want to be combined: flour and water.  By their very nature alone they should not be able to inhabit the same space at the same time.  But that is before you add that magic ingredient: yeast.  Yeast makes it all happen when it comes to bread.  I mean the melt in your mouth, can’t wait to eat it straight out of the oven bread. So where is the spiritual part of all this you ask?  Our lives are like bread, we are constantly being asked to combine ingredients in our lives that on their own would never combine.

Tree Pose - Vrksasana

Vrksasana – Tree Pose

But we can’t forget about the yeast.  The yeast in our lives is our Spirit.  No matter what your religious or non-religious beliefs we all must admit that it takes something very special to take all of these pieces (ingredients) and combine them to make something whole, fragrant and wonderful.  It is the yeast that helps the gluten in the flour release it’s hold so that it can embrace the liquid, and it is the same with our lives.  Spirit allows us to open up enough to allow us to embrace the changes and absorb the lessons that turn our lives into the multi-faceted wonders that they are.

Bread takes time.  Bread takes patience.  And if you are like me, sometimes it takes throwing out a batch and starting over.  All of that is also true of our lives.  We have to give Spirit time to do the work of allowing our lives to expand and soften much like a bread dough.  When you knead more flour into the bread it turns stiff under your hands.  That is why kneading dough can be such hard work, but you have to do it to get the new flour to incorporate into the batch.    Without enough flour the bread just falls apart.  The same is true for our lives, as we add new pieces they don’t fit easily at first.  Sometimes it feels forced, but with Spirit and time it just becomes a part of you.

Bread has to rise and be kneaded multiple times for the taste to develop the complex layers that make our mouths water.  And we go through many changes in our lifetimes that test our resilience and our nerve.  This is when we are being kneaded.  It is these very times that will create a life that is rich, complex and savory.  It is hard work, but it is necessary.

Between periods of being kneaded, bread must rest and be left to rise.  The dough responds best if left in a draft free, semi-warm environment.  I personally have the hardest time with this part.  I fight with the urge to be always pushing ahead, always striving for the next…whatever.  But rest is vital.  And just like bread, we need a nurturing environment that will allow us to truly relax and let the changes sink in.

Last but not least, bread is best when shared and our lives are no different.  Let yourself be open enough to share your hopes, dreams and fears with others in you life.  This is often scary in our society that tells us we can all pull ourselves up by our boot straps.  But it is so much easier when there is someone underneath giving you a leg up. So make or buy some good bread, add some cheese and wine (or tea) and invite someone to your table and into your life.  And as you eat that wonderful bread, think of how you can build a life that brings that kind of joy to yourself and others.

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