Campaign ambassador Ian Waterland reflects on being in the moment while bread making
After a 28 career in mental health work, Ian spent a year learning all things Real Bread at The School of Artisan Food. In 2014 he launched Knead Good Bread, running a microbakery and baking classes, as well as mindful and other therapeutic bread making sessions.
Perhaps the most important tip I can give is to prepare your baking area. Clear your surface of clutter, which not only could physically get in the way, but also mentally can confuse your space and opportunity to approach your baking in a mindful way. Baking in a clear environment, ideally away from noise pollution, including any home-schooled kids, will vastly improve your experience. Silence or low-level non-vocal background music is ideal.
You also need to prepare yourself. In contrast to professional (and even home) baking, which may be sandwiched between other activity, when baking mindfully try to allocate time to focus purely on baking and value the time spent for the benefit it will bring.
Choose a recipe that you know well, or complete the same recipe a few times. The familiarity will allow you to benefit so much more than if you are trying to work out what you are doing and thinking about how (if) it will turn out as planned.
Begin by breathing. Generally a good idea for all of us at all times! Breathing at a natural and relaxed pace is a good starting point for any mindful activity. As you breathe in, focus on the temperature of the air, the sensation as your lungs and diaphragm expand and on any sounds you hear. As you breathe out, notice the difference in the temperature of the air as it leaves your body, warmed from being inside your lungs. Feel your lungs and diaphragm contract and relax, again noticing any sounds as you breathe out. Allow your breathing to regularise and settle into a natural pattern. Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth can naturally help this process.
Focus on all of your senses. An essential part of baking in a mindful way is to focus on touch, sight, sound, small and taste, and the incredible detail that they register and perceive.
When your mind wanders, which it will, practice returning your attention to the task in hand by focussing on your senses. This is a skill that gets easier with practice. If something beyond baking crops up that really must not be forgotten, write it down or (if it genuinely cannot wait) go and do it and then refocus.
Work slowly. Use any natural gaps (eg during proving and baking) to do breathing exercises or meditations.
Think of the time you spend baking in a mindful way as a positive contribution to balancing out any stress or anxiety you may have. Visualise a set of old fashioned weighing scales: On one side is stress, worry or anxiety. On the other side is anything you do that is positive and helpful, such as sleep, exercise, mindful baking and giving to others. Look for a balance. Balance equates to a healthy mindset.
The positive effects of opening the oven and taking out a loaf you have laboured over cannot be overstated. The sensory impact of seeing the finished loaf for the first time, the whoosh of heat from the oven, the aromas of caramelised sugars, the sound of the crust singing and the taste of fresh bread is a collection of joys. It is a uniquely satisfying payoff, and pride in such an achievement can feed directly into boosting self-esteem.