Cultivation Experiences Through Catering Work

Greetings Revered Master! Greetings fellow practitioners!

We all know that Shen Yun is the most effective project for saving sentient beings, directly led and directed by Master. So it’s a great honour for any Dafa disciple to be able to participate. As the cosmic climate is changing, the situation on earth becomes clearer and clearer, and the opportunity to do this becomes more and more precious. As the process of Dafa advances rapidly, it needs many supporting projects to keep up with the pace. However, due to limitations of our own circumstances, we always feel that we lack abilities or are unable to fulfil the tasks. Here, I would like to share with you some experiences of how I changed my mentality, went beyond myself, and participated in the catering services during Shen Yun's European tour.

Two years ago, the knowing side of beings in Europe woke up. They looked forward to the arrival of Shen Yun and waited to be saved. Nearly every single Shen Yun performance was completely sold out. Many regions asked for additional shows to meet local demands. That's when I realised that there would be more troops coming to Europe in the future. If that’s the case, the stage logistics and catering services would need more manpower. It would be necessary to organise a second catering service team, and even a third and a fourth team.

The most pressing issue was finding professional chefs. Chefs are the key to catering services. How can catering be served if no one cooks? Chefs, where are you? Come to think of it, many projects encountered similar problems of lacking necessary manpower and resources in the early stages. But after years of Dafa disciples' efforts and Master's support, many have overcome difficulties and are running better and better. Dafa disciples also established their own mighty virtue in them. I am reminded of what Master said in Fa Teaching at the 2016 New York Fa Conference:

“It's the same with Dafa disciples' other projects. When we do not have people with talent, we seek them in society; but after seeking here and there, it won't work in the end, and you still have to rely on yourselves. Since you are Dafa disciples, you should do these things yourselves; why do you rely on ordinary people? Why don’t you think of ways to solve the issue yourselves and develop talent?” (Fa Teaching at the 2016 New York Fa Conference)

Since I was interested in getting involved in the catering services, I asked myself why not learn to cook and take a temporary job as a chef? I thought, if given the chance, I'd be willing to be trained as a substitute chef.

At home, normally it is my wife who takes care of the housework, and I rarely cook. Usually, I could avoid physical labour. Now I was about to take up catering work for a large team and prepare meals for 100 people. In fact, my mind was not at ease. “Can I make it on the large stove? How much do I need to learn, and how can I find the time?” These questions made me nervous.

Soon after, Covid ravaged the world. In order to limit the spread of the virus, European governments adopted strict control measures and restricted their citizens’ freedom of travel. Shen Yun performances had to be put on hold. Pandemic prevention measures locked people at home, unable to get to work or school. Many certainly didn’t appreciate the situation, but for me it’s an opportunity. In terms of cultivation, I gained more time studying the Fa and doing the exercises. Every day I spent an hour doing the 2nd exercise and an hour and a half for meditation. Other than that, the extra time was used to improve my cooking skills. Professional training was unlikely, so I taught myself, watching cooking videos first and then practising the actual operation. Repeating the process while constantly summing up my experience, I learned a lot of basic cooking procedures. My wish to cook for Shen Yun was like a seed that germinated, grew, flourished and bore fruit. Everything seemed logical and natural.

This year our new catering team served several stops in Europe, from Poland to Denmark, Belgium to the Netherlands, from Austria to Italy. Accepting tasks along the way, we also faced constant challenges. In the process, the professionalism of our chef team also improved. Our team has a head chef, but he was sometimes so busy that he missed a stop. Then several newbies in the team divided the tasks, each cooked a few dishes, and jointly completed the seemingly impossible task.

When I look back, a path has been created like that. We Dafa disciples are strengthened by the power of the Fa behind us. Let go of human attachments, change mentality, and miracles will unfold. The purpose of cooking is to make everyone happy. I once joked with fellow practitioners that I might be the world’s fastest improving chef and the world’s fastest demoted chef. When I was not needed as a chef, I washed the dishes, chopped vegetables, prepared ingredients, and took care of other chores.

There’s a paragraph in Zhuan Falun:
“There is nothing innately inferior about a novice monk who tends the hearth or cooks the meals at a monastery, and his hardships make it all the more likely he will achieve spiritual enlightenment. Senior monks, on the other hand, will find it all the harder to achieve since they enjoy comfort and ease, and do fewer things that would rework their karma. A novice monk leads a hard and tiring life, which allows him to pay off karma and enlighten more swiftly.” (The Seventh Talk, Zhuan Falun)

Cultivation is so wonderful that anything you do is a good opportunity for improvement. Cultivation doesn't always mean rigid meditation and exercises or blindly working hard. Enduring hardship can increase gong, and improving xinxing while enduring hardship can increase gong even more.

Below I share the process of transcending myself, which is not an easy thing to do. When we cultivate in Dafa, we understand the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance and know the meaning of life and our mission. No matter what difficulties we encounter, we do not easily waver. We steal our will to follow Master, assist Him in Fa rectification, and save sentient beings. We persist in what we must do till the end, even strive for perfection. Only when Dafa cultivators are determined to save people with clear goals and a firm will, will it become easier to make a breakthrough. As long as I do things with the right mindset, I could feel a force, a strong inertial force pushing us forward as if there is a set of ready-made mechanisms. I can make a breakthrough just going with the flow. Many things are easily accomplished like that. It was how I felt during the catering service.

When I first started in the kitchen, due to lack of experience or professional knowledge, I encountered many unexpected problems, making mistakes on very basic stuff. For example, I added too much salt in the dish; when cooking in a large wok with too much content to be stirred properly, ingredients on the bottom burned; when the fire was too strong and the oil temperature in the wok became too high, the onions, ginger, garlic and seasoning got burned; the casserole pot lacked power and turned a frying dish, that meant to be fragrant and crunchy, into a soup; we changed to our own induction cooker for bigger firepower, but as soon as it was plugged in, the fuse tripped or blown and the power was off. So we assigned someone specifically to manage the electricity. They would learn the kitchen electric configuration in advance to figure out which line our electric stove and wok can be safely connected to. But when we got busy, we could easily forget and habitually plug into the nearest socket instead, causing the line to be overloaded and power to be off again.

Once, the power was out again, and I was very anxious: “How can we produce dishes on time without power?” I blamed fellow practitioners: “Why is this still happening? Didn't I tell you?” As a result, things got worse. We called the electrician, but for some unknown reason, they failed to show up even after several reminders. Realising it was my own resentment, I immediately let go of the attachment. Miraculously, after a while I looked up and saw the electrician coming. The urgent problem was solved immediately.

In this way, we completed the service despite the near misses. In fact, there are strict requirements in the kitchen: the stove must be kept spotless; the aisles must be clean and unobstructed, the floor must be free of oil stains; the ingredients must not be stacked randomly; the utensils must be returned to their correct places; uniforms must be neat; and hands must be cleaned constantly, and so on.

Speaking of this, I remembered something that I need to apologise to fellow practitioners for. At first, I didn't pay much attention, and offended others without realising. Sometimes it so happens that one would unknowingly create karma. In a kitchen with limited facilities, there was only one sink for washing dishes as well as vegetables. The kitchen helper practitioner was stationed there, constantly busy washing. At the time, it was my turn to cook, and from time to time I needed to use the sink to wash my hands. Every time I finished washing, I would try to shake my wet hands dry. Unexpectedly, some water was splashed onto the practitioner, who happened to be standing behind me. It was only after she pointed it out to me several times that I realised what was going on. The practitioner maintains high xinxing standards, so didn’t complain or cause a conflict. This showed there is no trivial matter in cultivation. Small episodes that improve our cultivation can occur anywhere.

The requirements for our own culinary skills have also gradually increased in the process. Not long after I learned to cook, according to various feedback, I need to constantly change the style of the dishes, combining meat and vegetarian; sweet, salty, sour and spicy tastes; Sichuan, Canton, and Northern flavours; both Chinese and Western food; and adding cakes, desserts, soups and snacks as accompaniment. I have to master various cooking techniques, including baking, boiling, frying, stewing, steaming and roasting, to be changed flexibly and used reasonably according to kitchen facilities. Meanwhile, the layout of the eating area must be elegant, personnel arrangement must be well thought out, food safety must be paid attention to, and delivery of meals must be timely, etc. Another important point is to keep up with cultivation. As we all know, Shen Yun's artistic achievements are unparalleled. Our catering services strive to be on par with Shen Yun, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. Providing the performers with delicious meals is the honourable responsibility of our service team.

Participating in catering services across various European countries felt a bit like roaming. We encountered all kinds of problems that needed to be solved harmoniously. I realised that it was also a golden opportunity to cultivate and improve. For example, when Shen Yun came, pure-hearted practitioners all wanted to prepare the most delicious food and provide the best service, that's for sure. Everyone agreed, though often without considering the specific local circumstances. Naturally, the organisers understand the local conditions best, including manpower, material, and financial resources, etc. Sometimes I overstepped the bounds a bit. In retrospect, it might have come across as acting on my own initiative, doing as I please. I've realised that even a matter of course must be communicated with the local organisers first. I remember once when Master was teaching the Fa, he needed a little more time. So he asked the organisers if it was okay. Some of the attendees even laughed, “Does it warrant a question?” Master has set an example for us to think of others no matter what we do, which is something I should always remember.

The situation is different across various countries and regions in Europe. I reminded myself that I can't act on a whim. Speaking of this, I remembered what Master said at the end of Zhuan Falun….

“Not everything has gone smoothly while giving my teachings, as there have been a variety of disruptions. The classes have gone truly well nevertheless, thanks to the great support from the sponsoring organizations and the leaders from different segments of society, along with the efforts of our staff.” (The Ninth Talk, Zhuan Falun)

At this Fa Conference, our service team would like to thank the organisers from across Europe for their trust and strong support. We will work harder and strive to do better. Another point is that Shen Yun's performance in Europe has indeed encountered interference in all aspects, which require us European Dafa disciples to work together to eliminate it. Only in this way can Shen Yun shows run smoothly and be a complete success.

When it comes to the wonders of cultivation, there are indeed plenty. Everyone has their own experiences. For example, when I entered the kitchen, I put on a chef’s hat. It was a tall white hat. Others addressed me as the "chef", which was a word of encouragement, and made me gleeful. Some praised me for my culinary skills and tasty dishes. I felt a sense of accomplishment and happiness, especially when the dishes I cooked by myself were all eaten up without even a drop of sauce left. Sometimes there was a fully equipped large kitchen for me to express myself freely. Once the dishes were made successfully, fellow practitioners would pile on praises, which made me feel good about myself. At that time, my sense of self would expand, feeling powerful, very capable, and amazing. Maybe my culinary skills are even comparable to some famous chefs’. Once these thoughts surfaced, it’s time to be vigilant.

Of course, we are all cultivators. We would not continue to slip down the slippery slope. But isn’t it an opportunity to cultivate and improve? Isn’t it time to get rid of attachments? It is a good opportunity to correct my mentality. Once accomplished, my level would increase. So, once the tall hat is on, especially the chef’s hat, hidden attachments would emerge one after another, to be removed one by one, improving step by step. Going up one step at a time, cultivation improves leaps and bounds. It is possible to break through several levels in one day. It’s precisely what we cultivators are after: improving xinxing and reaching higher levels.

Cultivation is amazing as such, isn't it? If I hadn't dared to stand up and express my wish to cook, I would have missed such a great opportunity to cultivate. Our catering teams welcome and wait for you to join us.

The above is my experience of participating in the catering service team this year. Due to the limitation of my understanding, if there are things that need to be corrected in my speech or in my cultivation, please let me know and help me so that I can wake up as soon as possible to improve. As I often say, it's great to practice Dafa!

Thank you, Revered Master! Thank you, fellow practitioners!

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