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Best Way to Get Mindful Over Breakfast 

Berkeley Zen Center

Detailed how-to directives for oryoki, the formal and highly ritualized way of serving, receiving, and eating food that is practiced in Zen monasteries — and at the Berkeley Zen Center on Saturday mornings — dates back to medieval Japan. The first clue that this is not your social Berkeley breakfast is the fact that the entire oryoki performance — and this is an apt word given that the event is choreographed in its entirety — takes place in silence. In the kitchen, a volunteer cook and assistant cook break their silence only to make essential requests. The volunteer servers have learned and practiced when to walk, where to kneel, how to translate gestures, and a lot more. The breakfast group sits in formal Zen style — cross-legged if members are able — on black meditation cushions with oryoki sets comprising three nesting bowls, serving and wiping cloths, chopsticks, and other implements at the ready. An array of precise hand gestures inform on things like "just a little," "enough," or "more." The silence and careful attention to detail support the practice of mindfulness and give ample scope to watch the workings of the mind. Do this a few times and you may never believe your thoughts again. This is not a breakfast to pop in on randomly. The curious would call in advance, probably attend a couple of periods of zazen, and make arrangements to have an oryoki lesson before giving it a go.

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