When Patanjali suggests in sutra 1.40 that we can settle the mind by focusing on whatever we want so long as it’s elevating, I understand that to mean it’s cool to plan parties while I meditate. For me, entertaining is a joy when I’ve taken the time to think through the experience in advance—when I’ve considered the vibe I’m trying to create, anticipated both my needs and the needs of my guests, and prepared as much as I possibly can before the big day. Visualizing the big picture helps me identify all of the little details that go into making the experience what it is.
Here are some of the questions I contemplate before hosting.
How do I feel?
The first thing I always do is check in with how I’m feeling, because my mood ends up being the driving force behind every decision I make. I think about my energy. For example, am I feeling calm, energized, joyful, fiery, or introspective? I contemplate what’s inspiring me in that moment; it could be a color, a flavor, or an idea. The mood I create through my menu, my table setting, the flowers, the music, and the general flow of the experience are all a reflection of how I’m feeling inside.
How can I best approach my mise en place?
Mise en place is a French phrase that means “everything in its place”. It refers to the process of preparing all off your ingredients ahead of time so you can hit the ground running when you begin to cook.
I expand that idea to include everything, and I mean everything, I need to do to ensure that the meal runs smoothly. To me, it’s not just about the cooking; it’s also about serving the meal to my guests. This includes when and where I’ll source my ingredients, the timeline for preparing and cooking the meal, as well as the details that will make my life easier in the moment. There’s nothing worse than having a home full of guests and being stuck in the kitchen frantically making a salad dressing at the last minute or slaving over the stove to assemble a dish. I do as much as I can ahead of time. Here’s a hard earned tip: There’s always more you can do! Meditating on the flow of the meal, from appetizers to dessert, helps me strategize and plan accordingly.
How can I best serve my guests?
Hosting is all about anticipating the needs of your guests. What brings them joy? How can I make them feel at h(om)e in my home? How do they take their coffee? I want my guests to feel special and so I try to think about the little details that would show them just how much they mean to me. Whether it’s serving their favorite drink, or writing up a menu that they can take home as a memento of our time shared, or decorating my home with flowers and candles to make the experience feel special, love is in the details.
My entertaining meditations not only help me create a heartfelt experience, they also create the space for spontaneity. Planning everything in advance helps me stay present in the moment. I’ve learned through practice that proactive organization frees up space in my mind to ultimately go with the flow. It reminds me of a quote I love (although I’m not sure to whom it’s attributed): “Make your plans, but then leave enough space for God to walk into the room.” I hope my meditation practice sparks your creative juices and helps you create a memorable experience for you and your guests!