Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Silence Does Not Apply to Almonds

So Week 2 of Ango is underway and I'm really starting to get the feel for this tenzo thing.  I've made notes of some changes to menu items that need to be made and others items (especially some of my originals) have been wildly successful.

Monday, I inadvertently started the week off for everyone with a laugh during breakfast service.  I'd prepared quinoa, cottage cheese, and some frozen applesauce (care of Dale Kent, there's still more and it was tasty).  I figured we could use a little more texture so I toasted some almonds as well.

Now I've toasted almonds, cashews, and walnuts before but don't remember anything like this happening when I did.

So we're all sitting there at the table at 7:30 after two hours of meditation and a service.  My teacher, the ino, work leader, ino's assistant, jisha, visiting priest, a couple others and myself being all intense and focused for oryoki when we notice that the bowl of almonds are popping like rice crispies as they were cooling.  We each top our cottage cheese with a scoop and the bowl makes its way down the table.

Inside, I found this condiment's noisy irreverence, with all of us being so solemn, really funny and was trying not to smile about too much since my teacher was sitting to my right.  I thought I had it under control when the ino's assistant sitting right next to me on the left starts up with the giggles.  It was just too much and I had to snicker along with a few others.  I couldn't see my teacher's face but I'm sure she enjoyed it too.  They kept popping throughout the meal.

(I wish I could have been there for lunch when they ate the "So wonderfully mild gazpacho," as my teacher called it after dinner that night.  Two serrano chilies was one too many, it just got spicier as it sat in the fridge for three hours after I made it.  I said that I was glad "hot" was one of the Six Tastes and Three Virtues.)

What a way to start a Monday.

(I'm so lame...)

I'll have to write about my super exciting weekend receiving the precepts another time.  Plus I've gotta prepare for cooking a half day retreat for a bunch of Dharma Punx hosting Brad Warner.  It'll be cool to finally me him. Dunno how long he'll be in town though.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Two Months of Fun (?/!)

Ango started today and I'm not too sure what to expect out of this summer practice period so I'm trying not to expect anything.  It marks my first official assignment as tenzo (as far as I'm concerned, all the other stuff was a warm up).  I have full control over the kitchen as well as all planning and purchasing.

Since I can't take two months off (my supercool and exciting) job, I'll only be able to prepare breakfasts and a couple dinners during the week.  I've planned out all of the meals with the exception of two dinners a week and will coordinate purchasing and prep for all of them.

My activities this week will be limited in the evenings by Aikido since I have a test Thursday, and this weekend because my dad will be coming into town for the weekend for a visit and to attend my jukai ceremony (which I'll write about later).

It's an odd feeling with so much to do and no real choice about doing it.  It has to get done and I'm best qualified to do it.  I feel some resistance at times, it comes and goes.  The meals don't have to be fancy, people just need to get fed.  It's definitely far easier to do what I need to do when I'm in charge.  I've always been more comfortable as a second in command, just making sure nothing slips through the cracks, but it's good to be calling the shots and being successful.

By the time the sesshin rolls around the last week of June, everything should be running super smooth and should be a very different experience than the last two sesshin I worked. The previous retreats have had a huge buildup right before the start as we go from normal life to retreat life with meal planning and coordinating to do, but all of that anticipation will have been burned off by then, it already feels like a relief just to have it started.  All the meals for the whole practice period are oryoki, so by the final week I will have run through most of my recipes a couple times leaving no questions about prep, leaving me more mental space to just relax and enjoy it.

Every meal I prepare for the sangha feels like a session of zazen and after so many it feels so much more comfortable to slip into tomai sanmai (rice-washing samadhi)*.   It should be interesting to see what happens after  I've prepared the next 80 something meals in the Zen kitchen.


*a new term I discovered that my girlfriend refers to as "cooking face."  Apparently I do a mean Bodhidharma impression while I'm cooking and have for years.  Virtual high-five to anyone who can find the kanji for "toumai sanmai"