What does pesto have to do with spirituality?

What does pesto have to do with spirituality?

Already the memory has faded. What felt at the time like the most intense experience of my life has become a mere glimmer of what it was. This blog post will be my attempt to recreate it.

I’ve wanted to tell this story properly since it happened to me. I need to get it out of me and into the world, even if I’m the only person who will read it. And I’m sure I will, again and again. 

I’ll start at the very beginning. In late January, my family and I visited one of our Zimbabwean friends. He has a little vegetable garden in his backyard and is growing the most delicious tomatoes. He had an abundance of them this day and gave us a bag to take home. I had no idea what to do with them all but finally settled on making a batch of tomato bruschetta mix. I decided I’d go to the shops to pick up some basil, a key ingredient.

My famous tomato bruschetta mix – ripe tomatoes, garlic, basil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

The next morning I read something on my Instagram feed that resonated with me. It spoke of guilt being one of the lowest-vibration emotions. I acknowledged how guilty I felt. ALL. THE. TIME. Literally. My brain bounces between all the things I should be doing and all the things I shouldn’t be doing for the better part of each day. Social media wasn’t helping, except for this post’s fortuitous timing. 

After acknowledging that I sit in guilt more often than not, I vowed not to feel guilty that day. Every time it started in my mind, I said, “I’m not choosing this. I’m doing the best I can with where I’m at. It’s enough. I’m enough.”

Fast forward a few hours, and I’m at home post-grocery shopping and about to start on my bruschetta mix. The smallest bunch of basil I could find at the shops was a behemoth of a bunch. So much so that I decided I’d whip up a batch of basil pesto while I was at it. I hate wasting food.

The biggest bunch of basil you’ve ever seen.

William was 2 1/2 months old at the time and accustomed to contact naps. I’d managed to transfer him from my body to the couch and kept worrying that he would wake up while I was in the middle of my food preparation. This worry was like a fucking stuck tape in my mind, looping around and around. Regardless, I started chopping tomatoes and stripping basil leaves, all in great haste while my mind continued its rumination. “Will might wake up”. “You need to pick up Makia soon”. “What are we eating for dinner”. “What should we do this afternoon”. BLAH, BLAH, BLAH.

Asleep on the couch and not on me, a miracle.

At the time, I also had some music playing. A wonderful song by an artist called Fia was on called “When I found you”. The second verse goes:

I’m guessing you were sent by someone

To teach me something new

I was praying for guidance

When I found you

And I never thought that I would say this

Or feel the way I do, but you see

Miracles happen if we allow them to

My mind veered into thinking about a recent friendship lost, the birth of my son, and the lessons he was already teaching me. I attribute that pregnancy to so many of the decisions I’ve made to slow down.

The beautiful fresh produce laid out before me, the obsessive thoughts, the evocative music, the vow to refrain from guilty thoughts- these circumstances were the exact recipe I needed that day. I acknowledged the mental chatter and said, “Just make the pesto and enjoy it. If Will wakes up, you’ll pause and go back to it. Enjoy the work you are doing.” 

Enjoy the work you are doing. 

In other words, be here for THIS. Just this, right now. Nothing else matters except for this present moment. 

All of a sudden, the world changed. It snapped into a sharp focus. The mundanity of what I was doing became a miracle. Juicing lemons became the most visceral sensation. The acidity bit at my hands while my eyes narrowed at the brightness of the room. Everything seemed more THERE. Brighter, more colourful, truly extraordinary little miracles. The miracle of the sun. The miracle of fresh produce. The miracle of life. And the voice in my mind was finally, blessedly silent. 

The feeling was so intense that I started to weep out of wonder. A thought crept in, “I didn’t know I could feel this way.” From behind the thought came a flash of certainty. Not a thought, a knowing. It was this:

It was here all along. It’s in me. Available to me whenever. 

When the experience passed, I ran to my office and wrote it on my wall notes. (Context: I was working on a mindset course early this year and parked it until I felt more ready. The notes for it were all over my office wall.) 

It was here all along. It’s in me. Available to me whenever.

Can you spot it in the jumble of words?

All in all, it lasted for about ten minutes. Ten minutes of feeling my heart prised wide open. Ten minutes of being flooded with gratitude for the miracles of my life. Ten minutes of feeling the most alive I’d ever felt. 

As my ego came back online, it jumped to analyse the occurrence. I told Dreamboat and tried to articulate it in words – which they’ll never do justice. But I know for sure that it was the most PRESENT I’ve ever been. 

‘Present’ is such a buzzword right now. We throw around that we like to be PRESENT for our kids, or present for this or that. I don’t know about anyone else, but my previous idea of presence was being in a moment without the distraction of outside forces, namely a phone, TV, or other noise. But even in my previous most present moments, the voice in my head was always there – telling me what I should and should not do, getting stuck in old stories, bouncing between analysing the past, worrying about the future and questioning the very words that left my mouth. That voice, our ego/ identity/ self, can only survive in the past or the present. Its very survival depends on it, hence its resistance to new ideas or tools to quieten it, such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness, breath work or cold water therapy.

(The second I have even a fleeting thought that I should meditate, my mind has plenty of excuses—every single time. And so meditation becomes another SHOULD. “I should meditate”. Which keeps me feeling guilty for not meditating, which keeps my mind stuck and my vibration low. I attract more things to feel guilty about and thus spend whole days in that state.)

Two days after “The Pesto Moment”, as it’s now known, I sat down to journal about it. I allowed myself to explore the experience, and amazingly I realised that I had felt that way before, albeit in fleeting moments. And I can count those moments on one hand. There were five. All of them happened while I was travelling, and I used to call them my ‘pinch me’ moments. 

The last one was an anomaly. It happened on my 40th birthday week in North Queensland as I was wrapping up an eight-week program called ‘The Spiral’. It was the first one that occurred on home turf (Australia) and under ordinary circumstances (I wasn’t DOING anything extraordinary, just sitting around).

Well, I do call this extraordinary. Baby Makia. 2020.

The previous four all happened in 2015, two years after I started travelling professionally. Pinch me moment number one was the most profound because it was the first time I’d ever felt that way. I was in Zimbabwe visiting Dreamboat’s Uncle Eddie in his rural home. He was showing us around and picking fruit from the trees for us to eat when it suddenly started pouring rain. We raced for shelter, and as I sat under a small verandah, I had that moment of the world snapping into focus. I remember being fixated on raindrops hitting a bucket of water; I even attempted to take a photo, although it doesn’t look like much. I was desperate to hold onto the feeling, even though I didn’t know what it was. The experience had me jot down a poem, my first, and so far only, poem. It read:

Bare feet in the dirt,

Fruit that tastes at first sweet and finally sour,

My camera and I;

This is what it feels like to travel.

This shot in no way captures what I felt that day.

Those words would form the script for my first marketing videos for Zimbabwe tours. Tours that I felt called to lead and finally did in 2019. Unfortunately, I haven’t been back since kids and a global pandemic threw a spanner in the works.

You can watch that video here.

After that experience, I also felt a pinch me moment in Finland (under the Aurora in February 2015), Vietnam (at a roadside stop in August 2015) and Oman (drinking coffee at sunset listening to the call to prayer in September 2015).

I was so fortunate to have these experiences—Oman with Helloworld in 2015.

Looking back with hindsight, those moments were pivotal in my hunger for travel. I didn’t know what they meant, and I was an unconscious person at the time. But I knew they felt bigger than me, and I wanted more of them. Unfortunately, I ended up chasing more jobs, fame, money, and followers instead. Until I had my otherworldly ‘Pesto Moment’, I knew little about the feeling. Now I know that it was presence in its purest form. 

Not long after ‘The Pesto Moment,’ I picked up Eckart Tolle’s book ‘The Power of Now’ again and started from the beginning. When explaining his origin story, he speaks of a moment in time that set him off on a journey of spirituality. He writes that during a strange moment of awareness of the voice in his head, he was sucked into a void with no recollection of what happened after. When he came to, he recalled:

“I was awakened by the chirping of a bird outside the window. I had never heard such a sound before. My eyes were still closed, and I saw the image of a precious diamond. Yes, if a diamond could make a sound, this is what it would be like. I opened my eyes. The first light of dawn was filtering through the curtains. Without any thought, I felt, I knew, that there is infinitely more to light that we realise. That soft luminosity filtering through the curtains was love itself. Tears came into my eyes.”

It was my ‘Pesto Moment’ he was writing about. Eckart Tolle spent five months in that blissful state, whereas I spent just ten minutes. But I know it is there and on the other side of surrendering to the present moment, of embracing the joy of being exactly where I’m meant to be – right here where I’m at. 

I find myself chasing it, trying to grab it by the coattails. I know it doesn’t work that way. The moment my mind stops resisting, trying to be elsewhere, it will visit me again. I am ready.  

I’m writing this to make it real. Aside from an unreliable memory, a journal entry and a few conversations, this moment in time doesn’t exist. And I find it fading day by day. This blog post serves as my reminder that it was real and can be again. 

It was here all along. It’s in me. Available to me whenever. 

And it’s available to you too. You may have had snippets before, as I had. Eckart Toole speaks of this too, calling them a gap in the stream of thought, often felt when the mind is rendered ‘speechless’ by great beauty. (Like in my travel ‘pinch me’ moments). 

The ‘Pesto Moment’ was another turning point for me. In the days following, I stopped working on the few projects I was involved in. And whenever I checked in with myself, my inner knowing (different to my ego voice) whispered. Slower. Slower again. 

I am heeding that inner knowing. 

And the pesto was delicious.

It really was extraordinary.

Posted to Personal on 28th June 2023