I recently watched a documentary about Massimo Bottura, the chef owner of Osteria Francescana which is one of the top restaurants in the world. Bottura’s ingenuity and creative stance has cultivated a culinary language of its own with dishes such as Oops! I dropped the lemon tart. Two things struck me throughout the telling of Bottura’s story. The first was his desire to return to the traditional foods of his childhood while engaging his own child like imagination to transform the food into an abstract work of art. His famous deconstructed lasagna goes so far as to highlight the crusty edges, something that so many fondly remember as the best part of their mother’s lasagna. The second thing that struck me was Bottura’s willingness to dance on the figurative edges of life and take risks as both an artist and a business owner. His culinary genius is fueled by his ability to step back and observe the human relationship to food with fresh eyes, and his success is owed to his persistent exploration of the creative realm.
People frequently shy away from the “crusty edges of life” because the vulnerability that arises when exploring unknown territory can feel too overwhelming. Instead, we shut ourselves off from creative expression altogether, fearing it will cause us embarrassment or lead us down a path of failure. We prefer to remain safe on the well paved paths, confining ourselves to what is sensible, as we are conditioned to do as a society. We don’t allow even a little bit of space in our lives to consider or explore the part of the self that longs to bust through the hard layers of the ego and bring forth something unique. Even our school systems are structured to teach students how to pass exams instead of teaching them to question, explore and deconstruct what they learn in order to excavate new concepts and make new discoveries. We aren’t taught the tremendous value that comes out of trial and error or failure, so we don’t even take small risks or explore anything off the beaten track.
For over a decade, whenever I have shown up for my practice, reiki has consistently invited me to take on the role of a compassionate observer for myself and others, leaving judgment at the door, even when experiencing strong emotions around any given situation. In return my own creative experiences have opened up to a whole new level of awareness and understanding. Being in this space of a non-judgmental, compassionate observer in life doesn’t come naturally. The human brain is hardwired to focus on our worries which are misguided “what if” stories drummed up by our unhealed past. However, when we breathe and lean into our pain, sorrow or grief and observe it with an open and loving heart, we can move past our fears and allow a greater vision to take over. The ego is asked to take a time out from its negative mental chatter and space is given for a higher perspective to shine through.
Practicing compassionate, non-judgmental observation cultivates an overall sense of curiosity in life. This curiosity is what assists us in remaining open hearted even when we are navigating unknown terrain and feel raw and exposed. We become the caretakers of our hearts for those uncomfortable moments when we experience vulnerability, hurt, disappointment, or fear.