Deer Park Monastery sits in a valley that nestles and shelters all who come there for quiet and for things you might not even know you need or are in need of.
Meals are taken in silence. The practice is to line up after the sound of the bell, select a bowl and chopsticks, serve yourself, and find a seat at the communal tables where you will sit and wait until the next bell signals that everyone may begin to eat.
What do you do while you are sitting with your hands in your lap waiting? What I did one morning was to look at my bowl which had a piece of banana bread perched precariously over my oatmeal, peanut butter, almond milk concoction. I thought about where each ingredient of banana bread had come from: sugar, flour, eggs, milk, butter or oil, spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. I thought about how each ingredient had to have come from a place on the earth that was planted and watered and harvested. I thought about how each ingredient had to be farmed by someone who was born on this earth because of other someones as far back as time. I thought about each of those ingredients being transported to market in a bag or can or box that sat in a ship or on a rail car. Each of those conveyances had to be built along with the rails, roadways or ports. And that took people. I thought of the market where the ingredients were shelved, then purchased and carried to the kitchen where they were assembled into the batter that went into the pan that went into the oven to be baked. And how everything had to be made before the gas was turned on to heat the oven to bake the bread. When the bread was baked someone had to take it out of the oven, pop it from the pan, cool it, slice it and serve it where I would pick up a piece to enjoy as my breakfast.
I never quite got to thinking about the rest of that particular breakfast meal - where it all came from - who was responsible for it. But even now I am reminded that a simple slice of bread holds the whole cosmos.