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Ingredients for the Flow State

Modern times come with no shortage of noise and activity. It’s easy to be overstimulated, constantly distracted at work or when walking down the street. By constantly shifting our attention like this, our stress levels rise without us even noticing. And often, we look to lightweight TV or our phones as an attempt to release our grip and relax.

Our team knows that feeling well. New York City, our home, is especially frenetic. And while we love it, it’s taken time and experimentation to learn how to balance that out.

We’ve found that getting lost in an activity is one of the best ways to decompress—many times better than kicking our feet up and doing nothing. That quality of getting lost in something is called the flow state. We’re thinking about it all this month. For a quick summary, click here. When you’re in flow, things have a way of slowing down. Our breathing settles and becomes clear. And we’re offered a respite from the stresses of our day.

A few years ago, our team began to experience this feeling, naturally, in a daily routine. During our most high-stress moments, we found ourselves turning to cooking, the simple act of putting a meal on the table. By occupying our minds and hands in shared activity, we were able to escape from our worries, experience a sense of control, and enjoy the present. After, we found that what we’d been thinking about somehow felt lighter, more manageable.

We began talking about it with our friends and coworkers, surprised that we’d begun to feel the same way at the same time. We started cooking together, sharing recipes, and offering tips to those just getting started. That’s when the inspiration struck for our first brand, Equal Parts.

What we love about cooking as a way to get into the flow, is that the barrier to entry is so low. It requires the right amount of focus. It’s active. But, it’s for everyone. And whether you live in the kitchen or you’re just getting started, there are many ways to bring more flow into your cooking.

We always tell new cooks to start by practicing a few of their favorite recipes. While it’s exciting to cook new ones, getting to know a recipe helps you use your intuition. Once you have a feeling for the ingredients and the steps, things come naturally. You can add a pinch of this or a dash of that. You’re paying attention to the subtleties—the smell and feel of the ingredients, the motion of stirring or whipping—and then you’re in it.

Also, prep work makes it so that you’re not rushing to get the carrots chopped right before they’re supposed to go in the soup. Chefs call prep mise en place. And “my mise,” is taken to mean something akin to zen. If you get all of your ingredients ready to go ahead of time, you can get carried away in the motion of chopping, kneading, or stirring without the hurry. Plus, you’re less stressed out when the heat is on.

When we talk to the most experienced cooks, we find that many of them love their smallest kitchens the most. When everything is within arm’s reach, you can get to it without interruption. So, try bringing everything you use when you’re cooking a little bit closer and see how that feels.

Of course, playing music and keeping the phone elsewhere can help you forget the day and get into the right mood. Plus, it just feels good.

Like most activities, bringing more flow into cooking is mostly about reducing distraction and paying close attention to the moment. And the smell of caramelizing onions is one of our favorite kinds of meditation chime.

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