Knowing when to act and when not to act, when to speak and when to be silent, when to intervene and when to quietly be present is fundamental to our every interaction and relationship. In other words, it is central to the art of living. Making my own bread has taught me the essential elements of this art.

I have been baking bread for more than 20 years. This weekly ritual arose out of desire. When my husband and I were first living in Italy, I longed for darker, sweeter, and more savory variations of bread than we could buy locally. I decided to make my own. I started with a book of bread recipes from around the world. I made nearly every recipe, experimenting with different flours, yeasts, and additional ingredients like nuts and seeds.

These days, friends sit in my kitchen, taste my bread, and often sigh. Many tell me how making bread takes so much time. But I have learned this is not really true. A typical bread recipe requires 10 minutes to gather and mix ingredients, 10 minutes for the first kneading, and 5 minutes for the second kneading. That’s about it. A total of 25 minutes altogether. Most people take at least that long to run down to their bakery and return home with a fresh loaf.

Complete Presence

Bread doesn’t need a lot of time. What it really needs is the baker’s complete presence. A baker needs to know when to be actively involved with the bread and when to be inwardly present while it’s doing its own thing. The tension between these two ways of being is beautifully told in the gospel story of the sisters Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42).

Middle Eastern hospitality requires hosts to fill the table with the best delicacies in the house, which explains Martha being “distracted by her many tasks” upon the visit of Jesus and his disciples. Meanwhile, her sister Mary is quietly sitting at Jesus’ feet, listening to him.

When Martha complains to Jesus about Mary’s behavior, he first acknowledges Martha’s worried state of mind and then affirms that “Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

“I have learned that baking bread, as well as being with others, requires a continual presence to what is and what is becoming. Like life, the bread cannot be forced, coerced, or ignored.”

Mary’s choice was the right one for that moment in time. Jesus needed her to be present to him, just as much as Mary needed to be quietly listening to him. While Martha was bustling about, busy with dinner details, Jesus and Mary were appreciating each other’s presence while in relationship with one another.

This is the lesson bread has taught me. Bread needs you to be with it. If I am busy like Martha, hurriedly tending to household chores, it is very easy to become distracted and forget that I am in the process of making bread. Many times I have fallen into an internet-induced stupor and forgotten all about my rising bread, only to find the dough puffed out and slumped over in a gooey mess. Other times, when I am focused on the bread, I can surrender and let it rise, quietly watch it as it bakes into a golden loaf, and simply enjoy its aroma wafting through my kitchen.

What Is Becoming

I have learned that baking bread, as well as being with others, requires a continual presence to what is and what is becoming. Like life, the bread cannot be forced, coerced, or ignored. It needs us to cooperate, enable, and encourage it. For example, when kneading bread, we need to know how long to knead, how hard, what we might need to add to help the process, and when to stop. The same could be said about being in relationship. We can help build our relationships by being present or hinder them by being overactive and/or inattentive.

Perhaps the ultimate act of being present to bread (and ultimately to ourselves and the world) is when we slice this humble food and enjoy its earthly sustenance. When it brings us together with others over a cup of tea, a shared sandwich, or a religious ritual. And when it connects us with nature as we joyously toss our leftover crumbs to the neighborhood birds.

About the Author

Catherine Ann Lombard, M.A., is a psychosynthesis psychologist, practitioner, and researcher, with numerous scientific articles published on spirituality and psychosynthesis. Learn more at

Catherine Ann Lombard


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