My new French friend, Esteban,


and I are in the kitchen making up lasagna for our host family and the farm helpers – mostly created with produce from the organic farm in Nagano, Japan.

From nearby nature, we have tomatoes, greens, garlic, onion, rosemary, and fresh goat’s milk cheese (made by Esteban himself).


As I wash a few dishes,


I peer out the window which opens to a view of the farm, Japanese rooftops, and mountains in the distance.

Esteban turns to me in his French accent. “Vee are very lucky… to be here,” he says, making a pointing gesture with his head and eyes out the window.

“Wee.” I’m clearly learning so much French.

For some reason, though, I find it difficult to relax and enjoy what’s around me.


I could tell I was having an internal, mental block.


Joe and I have been planning our next steps for Japan, US health coverage for our month stay, other details for home, and final pieces of our visas for Spain.

These are all exciting things, of course. They do generate small concerns and bits of work, especially when trying to book a hotel with websites and receptionists who only communicate in Japanese. We’ve learned about 20 words — not enough to carry on any conversation about rooms and rates.

Other things on my mind have been the random, horrendous acts of terror around the world, finishing up items on my to-do list, and worrying about whether or not I was doing a good job on the farm.




Pasturing goats and sheep, harvesting flax, weeding vegetables correctly (i.e. not tossing out important plants that look like weeds), and feeding chickens are mostly new to me.  

So, while these things are minor and don’t compare to other stresses and anxieties, they take a toll on my mental state and ability to fully relax.


We all have things that weigh on our minds and hang in the background — no matter how big or small.


But as I look about me — to Esteban dancing to Lana Del Rey, the mountains in sight, and the fun of cooking in Japan — I can see that there is nothing to worry about in these moments. I can stop thinking and worrying and planning. I can separate from the “work and worry” part of my mind and step into the current moment.

There are things to get done, though, I don’t have to do them or think about them right now, while cooking lasagna.


I move forward by making an effort to put concerns and to-dos aside.


A feeling of levity enters my mind and spirit, as I step out of my “work and worry” thoughts and fully enter into the uplifting vibe of the kitchen.

I feel freer while cooking, singing, and goofing around the kitchen. I recognize that I have nothing to worry about in these minutes. I can be free of my worries and rummaging thoughts.




I can choose not to think about what needs to be done next (at least for 30 or 60 minutes!).

It’s easy to let our minds wander to what we have to do or what’s bothering us. I remember in college it was hard for me to relax, just knowing I had homework to complete. Even if I was hanging on the couch, the pending history paper swirled in the back of my mind.

There will always be things to do and things to worry about. But there won’t always be opportunity to enjoy the time we can be free from them. We can actively choose to take breaks from the thoughts that bear weight in our minds.


We can separate, at least for a while.

And bask in the present shavings of time.

After cooking the noodles and clearing the cooking dishes, Esteban and I layered the lasagna. From the picture below, you can tell I traveled back in time. I guess after weeding cucumber and squash plants in the beating sun, I flip my hat around and become a 90’s kid until my shower.




There are many moments, like cooking a meal with a friend or taking a walk, that can be fun and free. My mind doesn’t have to constantly revolve around a to-do list or tomorrow’s worries.

I can let those thoughts run free somewhere else, while I enjoy the dancing, the view, and the laughter.





Share with: