This year will end soon. It is hard to believe that I’ve been at antaiji for almost half a year. Through many mistakes, I’ve learned to take them as opportunities to grow physically, mentally, and spiritually.     

Thinking back to my first month during tenzo (cooking) training, I remember feeling overwhelmed.  Due to my lack of experience, it was very difficult trying to start the fire, boil the water, and cook a meal. It was especially difficult thinking about what to cook with the limited amount of ingredients and seasoning available. Since then, I’ve learned to keep things simple and work with what I have and make the best of it. 

Fast forward, I just finished my 5 days tenzo cycle. It was not as difficult as the first time; however, it was still hectic. I feel like there is not enough time to prep, cook and clean so I would wake up at 3:00 am to allow myself enough time to finish all the tasks. I would only allow myself to take a maximum of 10 minutes before getting back to prepare for lunch. I wanted to ensure that I had enough time to for the tasks. Once lunch is done, I have 4 hours to prepare for dinner which includes picking vegetables, making fire for the boiler and preparing for tomorrow’s meal. In addition to the cooking time, I am always aware of the time when I need to set the table to ensure that the meal is not cold by the time it is served since the weather can get very cold. Overall, it can be stressful and hectic during these 5 days; however, I am very grateful for the experience. I learned that waking up early and going to bed late is just a small trade off to the generosity that I was shown since arriving here. 

Another experience I wanted to share is takuhatsu (begging). Today, November 19, 2023, is the last day of takuhatsu. I didn’t know what to expect when we started. I didn’t know how painful it could be just standing in one spot for 6 hours. It was the most physically demanding practice since I’ve been here. However, reflecting on the last 3 days and half, I could say it was a great experience. The amount of money we received was beyond my expectation. I feel happy and overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity that the Japanese people showed toward monks.

I am thankful for the experiences so far and looking forward to many more.