Cooking the Young Adult Program

Reflections on ‘Cooking’ the Sarana Young Adult Program

by Angie + Andrew Blake

As our world’s next leaders, I feel young adults really need our support in facing the complex challenges of our world today– stress, anxiety, violence, and environmental crisis. So much to cope with. In Roshi Bernie Glassman’s book, Instructions to the Cook, he explore cooking as an excellent metaphor to explain how transformation happens, and how you must work with all the ingredients and elements in your life and bring them together in a way that feeds the world. After all, food is the main ingredient nourishing us to live our potential, and, in many ways, it’s been my passion for cooking that brought this program into a reality.

As I approached turning sixty, I hit a crisis. I needed to find my passion and my purpose:  two strands began to weave into one. One strand was awakened by my Italian passion for cooking and then by learning to grow my own food, as I studied Permaculture and began creating a mandala-shaped garden in a cedar bush. The other, a “calling,” was inspired by a chaplain/friend’s at-risk youth project in Vancouver, where she offered youth mindfulness and cooking classes. This inspiration lit a fire within me….the first ingredient you need to cook anything, of course, is a powerful flame of intention!

In Glassman Roshi’s book, he writes about 5-course meal–spirituality, wisdom, livelihood, social engagement, and community- and how we need to work wisely with each ingredient to create this feast.  So I began gathering all the ingredients needed for a Young Adult program. The first ingredient was our land at Sarana Springs, that I say as a source of healing, where young people could unplug and turn their attention inwardly, and be supported and taught by the natural world. With Andrew’s guidance, we began crafting a vision for program that builds inner tools and practices that they could take home with them, such as mindfulness, pausing, self compassion and inner/outer listening skills. These core skills develop and cultivate what we call, “inner leadership,”  like sea salt and good olive oil in my pasta sauce. Next, we worked on exercises to help them understand how their “mind” works, through the lens of Buddhist psychology, and to reflect on how their “unhealthy” patterns get in the way by exploring some of the sources of their early conditioning and their ancestral stories. Then, by learning to apply mindfulness and compassion practices, we trust the process of making new choices out of old habits.

Among many other important ingredients I found, an essential one, was finding Maxine, our program coordinator and office admin support. Her spices and insights arrived serendipitously into our lives, as a young adult who understood the importance of mentorship and who by her own means was seeking them out in her life. About the large faculty… People thought I was crazy setting up a faculty of seven, and although we couldn’t pay them much the first year, all of them were committed to the collective fermentation process of building a 6-day experience that was transformational. Each brought their wisdom fully to the work, along side with their wonderful skills–tracking and nature awareness, cooking and nutrition, gardening wisdom, and expressive arts. As well everyone brought a necessary willingness to change the curriculum according to the weather, and we did!.

What I wanted for each young adult was to see them leave Sarana with at least one skill that could sustain them and give them access to greater resilience and well-being. I believe that our inner well-being and outer well-being are the same. Knowing where our food comes from, knowing how to prepare food, grow it, cut it, spice it deliciously, and knowing how our relationship with food and our environment are the same as knowing where our next thought leads us. Everything is interconnected.  To be well, to enjoy living a life with meaning, and to be aware and present in meeting this world’s challenges, we need to look carefully at each ingredient, understand what is needed and combine all of them into nourishment.

There’s an old Eastern saying that says, “See the pot as your head and the water as your lifeblood,”  and as Glassman Roshi says, you must look at your ingredients in your life:


“Our body is an ingredient. Our relationships are ingredients. Our thoughts, our emotions, and all our actions are ingredients. The place we live, the leaves that fall, the haze around the moon, the traffic in the city streets, the corner market-all these are also our ingredients.”


So the last ingredient I need as the cook to sustain this program is YOU!!! For this to really happen, I need each of you to think of your effect on the Young Adult program in making it happen.  Think black pepper, or spicy red pepper, or a spring of rosemary, or a dash of red wine, if you like. I need your flavour to lower the costs so young adults can afford to attend and also so I can keep a scholarship fund available for those with limited the funds. I also need your kindness to ensure we can continue to offer this program in the future by becoming a “sustaining donor” for the program. In whatever way you can offer an ingredient, I’ll add it to the menu with gratitude and a smile.

Hands in Gassho, Angie + Andrew Blake




How to Support the Sarana Young Adult Program:

  • Offer a one time donation  to support a Young Adult to attend
  • Contact us and become a “Sustaining Donor”
  • Contribute a monthly donation

Images by Naty Howard