of service

February 9, 2018 § Leave a comment

Lately, I have been deepening my yoga practice. 11 years of relationship with the mat and somedays, it feels like we just met. It has seen me at my most vulnerable state sometimes when I am weeping or almost on the verge of throwing up after a long night.

“The body is tired, why do you still push it?”, it asked.

Other days, I am as strong as a puma. Zipping from adho mukha svanasana (downward dog) to chaturanga dandasana and head straight to multiple parsvakonasa (side angle poses) for sun-salutation sequences. By the time I step off the mat, I am sweating profusely and feeling vibrant.

Somedays, the mind is so exhausted it can barely allow the limbs to feel connected. Telling my leg to move across from one side to the other is such a chore. How does one part feel so heavy and isolated when everything is so intact? 60 minutes of yin poses later, every part feels united again.

This journey of mine started when I was working as a waitress in a family run cafe. It was small and quaint but the hours were quite brutal yet satisfying. I attended an evening Hatha class that required no pre-experiences with yoga. The breathing techniques and slow movements were the complete opposite to my daily routines. Little did I know then that, it was exactly what I needed. A yin to the yang. I would cancel my social appointments just to attend the classes. My peers could not understand how important it was and I showed no regrets for not meeting up with them. Working in the hospitality industry it was already very hard to keep a social life. Your friends are your customers, the purveyors, the delivery men and perhaps the public transport conductors. Your colleagues become your community.

I left Singapore to England to further my studies, but found myself creeping back into the kitchen. A weekend job at the local fish and chip restaurant to make ends meet. Double shifts during the holidays to juggle out finances but occasional getaway before the term starts. But every evening, I found myself on the mat before dinner time. A half an hour or hour worth of asana by the heater in the winters and with the windows down during the long Indian summer. Reflecting, recuperating, reviving and grounding the soul.

It also was not soon, that I left the academic world and ended up in a culinary school across the North Atlantic Sea. I learnt the fundamentals of chiffonad-ing vegetables and whipping up fresh full cream in a French institution but with American accents. I found a liking for patisserie and most of all, questioned the philosophy of a meal.

What is it to create a meal for others that is so instinctively gratifying?

We all love food, there is no doubt. But why is it that for some of us, we love feeding people? After a whole morning in the kitchen, preparing meals, cleaning counter tops over and over, waiting for orders to come in and receiving a simple gesture of “thumbs up” can be the most fulfilling emotion.

There is unpleasantness in peace. As the only female Asian in a Mexican men filled kitchen, the communication was tough and the jokes were made. The silver lining were staff meals, Mexican cuisine is family oriented. The large amount of fried rice with cumin and tomato sauce, tomatillos salsas, fresh guac and refried beans were often set out in the communal table before service. A reoccurring scene I can narrate and witness in almost every decent restaurant.

There is almost a certain standard of service given when such display of genuine camaraderie is present between staffs. Everyone might get on each others nerves but certainly know how to sit down and share a meal together.

At the end of the day, I would go home and end up on my mat. Recounting the dockets and play out the sequences of putting the dish together; counting my inhales and exhales while following an Ashtanga sequence for 60 minutes. The morning practices are the hardest. They say it is best to practice in the mornings but I just could not deliver my best on the mat. My feet cannot seem to touch the ground. Why are my heels always so distant from earth when 90% of it is always on it?

The discipline and relentless attitudes were brought on my mat. When a chef says 5, you bring out 5, if not 6, just incase one fails on you. When a customer expects a meal within a certain time, you deliver before. The unsympathetic notion I brought upon my work was good, only until.

It was not until years later that I realised, you do not have to deliver your best on the mat. Being on the mat is enough.

Well, did it not just take me a decade to pen that down?

Since last September, I have immersed myself into a different academy. But, as always, it did not take me long to find myself working in an eatery again. Even then, I needed a different challenge. One that is always changing their menu depending on the farmers or fishermen, then handed to the kitchen where the cooks play with ingredients and then to the front.

The front, I have yet to learn how much influence can a dish make with its first impression. How to keep them coming back for more and refining the service. The gratitude is still the same, but it is not from a place where you wait to receive. It is from within yourself that you find recognition and thus, giving it to others.

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My one concern is to improve the quality of your conscious awareness and your ability to exert control over it under worldly conditions. All else is confusion and meaningless gabble. When the system, dogma and language blots out the light, some energy has to be found to let it in again. Dwell in this light and share it with those capable of receiving it. Whether you call it peace love or self-control is immaterial.

There is only one light. 

-John Gent

 

 

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