Hi Monkey mind
I'm not surprised that you had a problem with a manager on a course. Most of my course experiences have been fine, but occassionally, a retreat experience has been notable because of the attitude or behaviour of a manager or server. With some people, it appears their sense of self importance grows in an inverse proportion to their knowledge and compassion. On my last retreat in December, I was disturbed every day while I elected to sit in the meditation cell complex during the 5-6 tea break. Over the last few years, the way I've worked my retreats has been to convert all of my break times to time in the cell so that apart from 30 minutes for breakfast and lunch, it is an undisturbed period from 4.30AM to 6PM in the cell for meditation. Coming out finally to sit the last three hours in the hall for group sit, discourse and final sit. This last course, it was the male manager or a male server who came into the cell complex repeatedly during the 5-6pm break to ding the bell. I'm not sure whether you've sat in a cell for meditation but the experience makes one's hearing so acute, that one can perceive the sound of insects walking up the inside wall of the cell. One could hear the gong from anywhere on the centre. I knew it was tea time but I didn't want to come out and have tea. After some days I finally spoke to the AT about it. The AT we had on the course is an old, old student and was the guy who donated the land for the centre. We had known each other since we were both at Goenkaji's main centre in India in 1989, and he could understand my frustration. However, it continued to go on for a few more days before it finally stopped. I'm looking forward to the 30 day cours in August (family and work permiting). During the long courses, one doesn't see or hear the servers at all, and one communicates to the manager via written notes.
Whenever I mention my retreats to interested non-practitioners, there comes a time that I quash whatever stereotype they have of meditation being something nice and relaxing and self indulgent. Usually the words 'it is such hard work' is enough to do it, or 'not for the feint hearted'. But its usually with co-practitioners that I describe just how harrowing intensive vipassana can be. Working in a dark silent meditation cell intensifies the seclusion and the meditative experience. I am convinced that in order to be rid of one's defilements, one must remain equanimous to them and usually while they are manifesting. Perhaps this is what is alluded to in the descriptions of Gotama on the night he attained awakening when he was confronted by the armies and daughters of Mara. For me, the retreat, and sitting in a cell practicing anapana and then vipassana is the star chamber, the crucible, it is that intensely excoriating experience that takes one to the brink of insanity, suffering and liberation.
Monkey Mind, don't let some dimwit male manager put you off. the great thing about them is that they, like everything else, are anicca!
Take care friend and all the best with your practice!
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725
(Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • •
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