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Top Chef Teachings

It’s no secret that I love to cook, so it might come as a surprise to know that, until recently, I’d never watched the show Top Chef. Honestly, I’m a little surprised myself. Despite the buzz surrounding the show and how much I love a good competition (hello, I used to work on Wall Street), I had never tuned in.

That is until I found myself on the couch over the holidays with Hulu and nothing to do. Fast forward thirteen hours, I had binged the entirety of Season 14. Where had this show been my whole life? I love it. My main takeaway from Season 14? The power of perspective.

You see, Season 14 was unique in that half of the contestants were first time competitors on the show, while the other half were contestants from previous seasons back for a shot at redemption. It was Rookies versus Veterans. While they were all accomplished chefs in their own right, the Rookies were at an obvious disadvantage. Overwhelmed by the newness and intensity of the show, they lacked the bandwidth to perceive the forest through the trees. They were more aligned with the end result—winning—than with the approach needed to get there.

As returning contestants, not only did the Veterans have a serious competitive edge, they were armed with a tool you can’t find in any knife bag: seasoned perspective. They were able to capitalize on their mistakes from the past, navigate their blindspots, and choose to see the whole experience through a different lens. What a gift. It reminded me of the opportunities we have as yoga practitioners to use our experience of a pose as insight into how we might approach it in a new way.

How many Downdogs have we practiced over the course of our yoga journey? How many times have we done Triangle Pose? Here’s the thing: it can be so tempting to rely on our familiar understanding of what we do all the time. Autopilot is easy. We think to ourselves, “Oh, I know how to do this pose,” not realizing that we’re actually limiting our ability to experience it fully.

I’ll often teach postures multiple times in my classes to give students the opportunity to explore a pose in a different way. Maybe I’ll introduce a prop or a variation. Maybe I’ll ask the class to intentionally modify the pose so they can see the nuances they might have missed along the way. The goal is to inspire a new way of experiencing the postures. It’s precisely these new ways of experiencing the postures that provides an access point for seeing ourselves more clearly.

You can take this practice on in your life in simple ways. Explore a new route to work. Try a different method of communication with your partner. Play with a favorite recipe, or try a new approach to cooking what you love to eat. They key is to challenge our automatic patterns of doing and seeing. Changing our approach can offer us the gift of perspective, and help us to see that everything has multiple angles and meanings. Even if our circumstances feel permanent and unworkable, we can change how we relate to those circumstances by shifting our approach.

I’m currently neck deep in the Top Chef vortex, devouring seasons with as much enthusiasm as the judges taste the food. The binging has only reinforced my thoughts about perspective: No matter what we’re doing, we have the power to approach our practice in infinite ways.

Sometimes it takes the discomfort of physical pain, the shock of a big life event, or a failure like getting kicked off Top Chef to prod us out of the deep, familiar grooves that trap us in our singular perspective. But the reality is this: perspective is also a choice. We can make a conscious decision to change our lens. Like the returning contestants on Season 14 of Top Chef, we can choose to align our approach with the bigger picture. Sure, the Veterans want to win, but they also appreciate what unfolds in the process: a clearer, deeper understanding of themselves.

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  • Thanks for welcoming me into your h(om)e.

    May this meditation help you find the peace within. I look forward to sharing more inspiration and goodies with you in my regular newsletters.

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