7. Things I Like To Do

I have finally discovered the things I like to do, after experiencing a wide variety of activities, and collecting the scars to prove it. I like to cook. I like to walk.

I worked as a sous-chef, but I relied heavily on cookbooks, especially the classics by Masaru Doi, at first. After years of practice, I can now experiment a little, and disasters in the kitchen have become rare. Nowadays, I’m pretty good at cutting corners, making a large quantity of food and doctoring it up the next day, creating a fresh new dish out of leftovers and saving time. I’m good at preparing nutritionally balanced meals, and using up the vegetables in the refrigerator. It’s taken exactly 10 years to get to this level of expertise.

When my art is coming along well, I particularly enjoy cooking. Recently, I found kome-nuka* at the local grocery store and decided to picklesome vegetables. So far, I’ve tried eggplant, radishes, and cucumbers. My house is empty for long periods when I travel, so I’m in the process of finding ways to make the pickles keep while I’m away.

*note: Komenuka: Rice bran used to pickle Japanese vegetables.

To walk.
When I was creating art while still holding a job, I never worried about getting enough exercise. But, now that I’m in an environment where all of my time is committed to creating art, I’ve made it a daily routine to walk for 30 minutes every morning. In the beginning, this was just for health reasons, and to maintain my spirit.

One day, 2 or 3 years into adopting the morning walk, I came across a newspaper article reporting that Enryaku-ji, the Tendai-shu temple in Mt. Hiei was accepting applicants to become monks. It reminded me of my orientation training as a new employee, at the kojirin at Enryaku-ji. I decided I wanted to apply to Enryaku-ji. When I encounter difficulties with my artwork, peculiar ideas like this invade my mind.

If I was to apply in all earnestness to the monkhood, I would have to meditate for long periods of time, and jog through Mt. Hiei in the early mornings. I would have to train my body and spirit in preparation for the application exam. From that day, I extended my 30 minute walk into a jogging session three times the length, and meditation (zazen) in the mornings and evenings.

I currently live about halfway up a rolling hill, so if I jog down, I have to climb back up to get home—it provides a good amount of exercise. About three months into my training, the temple announced there would have to be an age-limit for applicants, to make the number of applications manageable. Fortunately or unfortunately, I was older than the limit, so it ended my plans of applying to become a monk. But, thanks to the training, I trained myself to sit in zazen for long periods of time, even though my short legs are not ideal for it. I can also now climb up and down hills with no problem. I found out that jogging can put too much pressure on your knees, so I switched to power walking. As I continued training, I found I could walk faster and farther. These days, I walk at least 10,000 steps.

I don’t like walking while doing something else. For example, I don’t like listening to the radio while I walk. Instead, I listen to the birds chirping, the wind rustling, and watching the trees sway. I also like finding trees in yards pruned in interesting shapes, and finding spindly palm trees: there’s no end to the interesting things I encounter. As I was walking the other day, I noticed I’ve been speeding up because I bent my arms at a 90 degree angle, like a jogger. Up to then, I had held my arms straight down, and swayed them back and forth, like a pendulum. But when I bent my arms, I could swing them faster, and my walking speed quickened along with it. Days when I make little discoveries like these are good days. (Japanese site)

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