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Cooking as Cultivation:
How to Nurture Love and Awareness 

in the Kitchen Using Buddhist Principles

with Jennifer Justus   

William Kelly Retreat Center
510 N. Second Street
Bay St. Louis, MS 39520

In-Person Retreat • July 4-7, 2024

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About the Event

One of the reasons people don’t tend to maintain the same level of practice consistency in the “real world” is due a perceived lack of time. Far better then, not to mention easier, to take things that already exist in your day, and see them through a new lens. Take, for example, cooking. Most of us attempt it at least occasionally. But when our feet are in the kitchen, our minds might be elsewhere.


This retreat seeks to answer this question: How might we feed our stomachs and souls all at once?


Cooking mindfully can not only help you become a better, more centered person, but also a more accomplished cook. (Consider: most kitchen "disasters" -- cuts, burns, burnt food, undercooking -- are ones of inattention).


The act of cooking is physical and metaphysical all at once. Cooking gets the mind and body -- and, if we’re lucky, the heart – to harmonize. The lessons learned can not only boost our metabolism, but also our spirits. The balance that we can learn, through a mindful cooking practice, can lead to balance in our day-to-day lives. At that point, we can feed others not only with our cooking, but with our presence. The more whole we are, the better we might serve others, in whichever sense of the word. (This isn’t just self-help book quasi-mystical gobbledygook; numerous recent studies have shown a direct link between cooking and positive psychological identification). 


This retreat is intended for seasoned cooks, newcomers to the kitchen, and those who are looking to begin again – or anyone seeking more of a spiritual connection to their cooking. It features both traditional guided and “free” meditation, creative exercises, service meditation, and Dharma talks. While the instruction will be group-centric, the “work” we will be doing will be different for everyone.


Teacher Bio(s)


Timothy Charles Davis (Acharya AtīvaDātu) helped co-write The Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook (UGA Press). In 2015, The Hot Chicken Cookbook: The Fiery History and Red-Hot Recipes of Nashville’s Beloved Bird (Spring House Press/Blue Hills Press) was published. In its fifth printing, the book has been reviewed or otherwise mentioned in Time, The Washington Post, Southern Living, National Geographic, The New Yorker, and Food Republic, and was the subject of a feature on NPR’s Morning Edition. Davis’ partial publication credits include pieces for Southern Living, the anthology Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing,, Mother Jones, First We Feast, Saveur, Christian Science Monitor, Travel + Life, Harp, Gastronomica and Oxford American. He is a former staff writer and food columnist at Creative Loafing in Charlotte, NC and Weekly Surge/The Sun News in Myrtle Beach, SC. He also contributed as an associate editor to Gravy, the official newsletter of the Oxford, Mississippi- based Southern Foodways Alliance. He has taught writing at Belmont University, Cumberland University, Nashville State Community College, Lipscomb University, Volunteer State Community College, and Watkins College of Art, Design + Film, as well as through Flowering Lotus Meditation Center. He is a Dharmacharya through Heartwood Refuge and Academy in Hendersonville, NC, which is a multi-lineage lay ordination program lead by the Venerable Dr. Panavatti Karuna and the Venerable Ashin U Pannadipa Thero and is also a member of the Zen Peacemakers Order ministerial program, where he serves as a mentor/facilitator. He has taught two prior online retreats for Flowering Lotus Meditation Center: Spokes in the Wheel: Better Writing (and Living) Through the Noble Eightfold Path, and More than Words: Writing as a Means of Discovery.


Jennifer Justus writes about food, music, and life. Growing up with parents who worked hard outside the kitchen but not so often in it, she had an early culinary education at the local meat-and-three over plates of fried chicken and collard greens. Her formal training comes from Boston University where she created her own food writing curriculum with courses in Journalism and Gastronomy, a cultural study of food founded by Julia Child and Jacques Pepin. She’s the author of Nashville Eats (Abrams, 2015) and The Food Lovers’ Guide to Nashville (Globe Pequot Press, 2012). She worked as food culture and lifestyles reporter at The Tennessean for six years before embarking on a freelance career. Her work has appeared in Cornbread Nation: The Best of Southern Food Writing, TIME, Parade, The Bitter Southerner, Garden & Gun, Serious Eats, Nashville Lifestyles, Nashville Scene, Southern Living, the Boston Herald, The Boston Globe and more. Prior to journalism, she worked in qualitative research studying the emotional connections we make with food and entertainment. 



Thursday, July 4

3:00-5:00 pm Arrival & Sign-In 

5:30 Orientation (inside dining hall – pass out kitchen service schedule for Friday and Saturday group meal preparation) 

6:00 Dinner (provided)

7:15-8:30 pm – Intro: Letting It Go: The Culinary Self-Interview

8:30-9:00 Kitchen Mantras

10:00 Lights Out 

Friday, July 5


6:30 Wake-up Bell

7:00 Silent Meditation 

7:30 Breakfast (simple)

8:15-9:00 Work Meditation (kitchen clean-up) or Silent Meditation 

9:30-10:45 Writing, and Rewriting, Our Stories

10:45–11:15 Guided Meditation

11:15 –Stories we Tell Ourselves About Cooking, and What Our Cooking Says About Us

12:15 Lunch (provided)

1:00-2:00 Q&A

2:00-2:15 Break

2:15-3:00 Meditation 

3:10-3:50 Kitchen Prayers (we will craft one of our own)

4:00 Meet in Kitchen to begin Dinner Preparation

5:30 Dinner 

6:30 – 7:15 Work meditation (Cleaning), Optional Meditation 

7:30 – 8:00: Reflection on Communal Cooking Experience
8:00-9:15 Dharma Talk: What did the Buddha really say about cooking and eating? 

9:15-10:00 Optional Meditation

10:00 Lights Out 


Saturday, July 6


6:30 Wake-up Bell

7:00 Silent Meditation

7:30 Breakfast (simple)

8:15-9:00 Work Meditation (kitchen clean-up)/Silent Meditation

9:00-10:45 On Gratitude and Privilege 

10:45–11:15 Guided Meditation 

11:15 – 12:30 Creative Cooking and Improvisation

12:30 Lunch 

1:00–1:30 Movement Meditation

1:30-2:00 – Keeping a Cooking Journal

2:00-2:15 Break

2:15-3:00 Guided Meditation 

3:10-3:50 On Forgiving, Forgetting, and Letting Go

4:00 Meet in Kitchen to begin Dinner Preparation

5:30 Dinner 

6:30 – 7:00 Work meditation (clean-up crew);Optional Meditation/Reflection

7:30 – 8:30 Dharma Talk: Following your Fascination / Improving at Your Own Speed

8:45-9:15 Guided Meditation

10:00 Lights Out 


Sunday, July 7


6:30 Wake-up Bell

7:00 Meditation 

7:30 Breakfast 

8:30-10:00 Packing & Cleaning 

10:00-11:30 Closing: Kitchen Magic/Go Forth!

Retreat Pricing & Expected Support for Teachers

As part of the Buddhist tradition, the teachers of this retreat do not receive any of the retreat fees, apart from travel reimbursement. Their time and teachings are freely offered to the community of practitioners. As a practice of generosity from the heart, participants are invited to offer “dana” (donations-generosity) to the teachers at the end of the retreat. Thank you for your support.

These registration costs pay for your room and meals and some of the costs it takes Flowering Lotus Meditation to continue to host phenomenal meditation Buddhist teachers in the south. Some of the costs include, but are not limited to, teacher travel. insurance, web and marketing, staff and retreat center costs, deposits and rental fees, accounting, event management software, payment processing, etc.

By selecting the highest amount you can reasonably afford, you support our ability to meet the large number of requests we receive for financial aid.


Here are the options:

Private Room ($620) 3 nights 8 meals

Shared Room ($435) 3 nights 8 meals

Commuter ($310) (staying elsewhere attending all sessions and meals.)

Scholarship ($310) SHARED 3 nights 8 meals


Our teachers rely sole on the generosity of the students for their livelihood. Teachers receive no compensation for teaching at Flowering Lotus Meditation. Please plan to give generously to our teachers at the end of the retreat.

If you have questions or need additional information about this retreat or other Flowering Lotus program offerings, please contact:


Beth Herzig, Executive Director


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