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Serving on a 10 day retreat - Dhamma Wheel

Serving on a 10 day retreat

On the cultivation of insight/wisdom
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wizi
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Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:47 pm

Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby wizi » Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:56 pm

:namaste:

It will be the first time that I am serving on a 10 day retreat next month...

Having sat for 2 retreats before.. I am answering a longing to serve fellow students... However, I have a few friends who will be attending the retreat for the first time, I am concerned how I can affect their meditation journey because of our friendships.

Any advice I should heed before I plunge headlong into seva?

Thank you.
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.

Jhana4
Posts: 1309
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: U.S.A., Northeast

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby Jhana4 » Tue Mar 15, 2011 5:25 pm

I volunteered over after a retreat to work in the kitchen for another retreat. Your mileage may vary, but I think the sleeping area of volunteers is separate from retreat participants, so coming into contact with your friends is likely a non-issue.

I've worked in alternative kitchens a lot. They can be stressy areas, even/especially at meditation retreats.

I did okay by reminding myself of that, that I was only there temporarily and that I could absorb any offense I felt for a few days for the sake of the retreat. I would repeat this to myself before I went on duty and a few times while on the job.

It helped me stay restrained in my speech where I might have said things that would have caused issues to germinate.

Have fun. It is a good experience. I got to know some interesting people I would not have had the opportunity to spend time with and I learned some good recipes too.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

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Ben
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Location: kanamaluka

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby Ben » Tue Mar 15, 2011 9:23 pm

“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) • •

e: [email protected]..

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zavk
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Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby zavk » Wed Mar 16, 2011 6:02 am

Go for it wizi! Dhamma service really strengthens one's practice. It's been a while since I served on a course but I'm trying to offer service in other ways. In any case, if this is a Goenka course, I wouldn't worry about you affecting you friend's experience. You'll be busy with the daily chores and when you do sit in the hall for the group sits it'd be a good opportunity to share a kind of 'dhammic camaraderie' with your friends. I'm sure you'll develop strong feelings of metta for one another. A great opportunity to understand what 'admirable friendship' really means.

All the best.
With metta,
zavk

PeterB
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Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 12:35 pm

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby PeterB » Wed Mar 16, 2011 9:18 am

:goodpost: Its true, as Zavk says you will be too busy to worry about everyday preoccupations.. :smile:

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wizi
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Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby wizi » Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:15 am

Thanks! I am really looking forward to the serving.

I am going to be serving in a small non-center in africa where I attended the past two retreats. From what i gather, there is always a lack of volunteers so the course organisers have always hired local help to do the main kitchen preps with assistance from part-time student servers. A full-time student volunteer (male/female) would be assigned as the 'course manager' assisting the assistant teacher in getting the schedule off the ground.

There are a few things I am concerned about serving in the retreat... the times when a student wants to leave the course prematurely.. or when they are physically sick.. or when other students are complaining about disturbance by another student who may be snoring or whatever... as a server will I get enough briefing on dealing with these interruptions?
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.

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Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby Ben » Wed Mar 16, 2011 10:37 am

“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) • •

e: [email protected]..

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Monkey Mind
Posts: 538
Joined: Sat Dec 05, 2009 8:56 pm
Location: Pacific Northwest, USA

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby Monkey Mind » Wed Mar 16, 2011 5:32 pm

I was an "accidental" manager on a course. I signed up to be a server, and at the last minute the assistant teacher asked me if I would be the male manager. My first reaction was, "Um, you picked the wrong guy. I'm the guy who opts to meditate in my room instead of the meditation hall at every opportunity. I'm the newbie to this tradition, and I certainly can't answer questions and I don't know anything about the behind the scenes workings of a retreat." The teacher heard my concerns, reassured me that none of that mattered, and had me serve as manager anyway. It was an outstanding experience, one of the best practices I have ever participated in. After the retreat, my daily practice was newly inspired.

I agree with what others said above. My other advice: Servers are allowed to talk with each other while on the job, but there are limitations to the content of the talking (Noble Speech) and limitations about where and when you can talk (nowhere where you could be overheard by students). I am an impulsive lad, and found this practice of being highly accountable for my speech to be a difficult one. Walk the course boundaries before the course starts, and mentally map out the places where talking would be appropriate versus inappropriate. I encourage you to keep to the rules of Noble Speech, even if some of the other servers want to indulge in gossip, idle chatter, etc. I wish you a great experience!
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

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wizi
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Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:47 pm

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby wizi » Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:38 pm

I guess i am slightly nervous before this serving, as a couple of my friends are attending the retreat after hearing from me the benefits of insight meditation in our daily lives. It would have been easier if we all sat in the retreat as participants on 'noble silence', but now I am concerned that I may affect their meditation practice as they would most likely come to me with their emotional past or future ... I guess a good rapport with the assistant teacher would help me to get through such encounters, but I would like to learn more from Ben about always trying to maintain awareness of vedana (sensation) somewhere on the body.

I am slowly cultivating this awareness of sensations in my day-to-day living and interactions. Particularly, when I meet relatives or friends going through troubling times, I have an even more heightened awareness of the sensations coursing through my body and I am aware that my words often aim to reflect the dhamma's law of impermanence. That whatever state we are experiencing now, it's going to obey the law of impermanence.

Sometimes, friends or relatives would ask? "Well, when will this end? When will I be free from it?"

How do you respond to that???

My common response is the dhamma prayer below in my 'signature'... sometimes, it brings about a Image in them, but oftentimes, I guess it makes em feel like this ... :roll: there's gotta be an easier solution out there! :?

In the environment of the retreat, I hope I could attain a breakthrough of being an amateur 'counsellor' so-to-speak... :anjali:
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.

User avatar
wizi
Posts: 83
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:47 pm

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby wizi » Thu Mar 17, 2011 12:41 pm

Thanks for all the good wishes ... i am really looking forward to it despite my nervousness!!! :thumbsup:
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.

User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby Ben » Fri Mar 18, 2011 5:37 am

“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) • •

e: [email protected]..

User avatar
wizi
Posts: 83
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:47 pm

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby wizi » Mon Mar 21, 2011 7:43 am

Thanks Ben for your positive reminder about the nature of the role as a dhamma server!

Just met the organizers and already know there will be a co-server who will be the one who can deal with my friends' enquiries throughout the 10 day course.
Also i understand there is a half hour taped instructions for dhamma server from goenkaji which I will have to listen before the start of the course. I guess I won't confuse my role after this! :embarassed:

I also found out there will be a Sattipattana course running in conjuction with the 10 day course for senior students, so it would be quite interesting to serve them as well! Fellow servers have told me that the teacher in the upcoming course is quite "tough"... so it will be an excellent time for me to learn equanimity...

Just found a useful resource library on http://www.buddhistelibrary.org/
They have a great elibrary on meditation.

This particular article titled "" by Ven Pannyavaro is most informative!
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.

User avatar
wizi
Posts: 83
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:47 pm

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby wizi » Mon Apr 11, 2011 2:10 pm

Does anyone recommend any useful and relevant reading materials for my first serving at the retreat? I am thinking of taking some of Shinzen Young's articles which have been very inspirational on my practice... but upon discussing with fellow vipassana friends here, they are concerned that Shinzen Young's methods are not orthodox and neither authorised by Goenkaji, and it may be counterproductive reading or even practising his techniques of clarifying/FIT/expansion contraction ...

I hope to have a controversy free serving and so would really appreciate if anyone on Dhammawheel have any helpful comment or advice on this? Thank you so much...
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.

Jhana4
Posts: 1309
Joined: Sat Feb 05, 2011 5:20 pm
Location: U.S.A., Northeast

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby Jhana4 » Mon Apr 11, 2011 4:23 pm

You can read books at home.

Why not use your downtime to get to know the other servers, take hikes around the retreat center and of course, meditate ?
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.

User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby Ben » Mon Apr 11, 2011 9:00 pm

Hi wizi
The reality is that you probably won't have much time to read.
But if you do then my recommendation is John Coleman's 'Quiet Mind'.
kind regards

Ben
“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) • •

e: [email protected]..

User avatar
wizi
Posts: 83
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:47 pm

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby wizi » Fri Apr 15, 2011 11:37 am

I am serving in a non-center in africa, so there's no chance for hikes as we are conducting the retreat with Acharya Daniel Mayer in a christian seminary where it's a pretty closed compound. The retreats here are usually not that big, so I think I will have time to read during my rest breaks. I found a book on the disciples of the Buddha which could be complementary to the contemplative spirit of the serving.. thanks the recommendation Ben, i will look out for that book when I am in a bookstore next time in europe or asia! :namaste:
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.

User avatar
Monkey Mind
Posts: 538
Joined: Sat Dec 05, 2009 8:56 pm
Location: Pacific Northwest, USA

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby Monkey Mind » Sat Apr 16, 2011 2:58 pm

Wizi- do not get too attached to the reading. There really won't be much time for reading, and reading is generally discouraged in the behavioral code because it disrupts the concentration you are creating.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710

User avatar
wizi
Posts: 83
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:47 pm

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby wizi » Mon Apr 18, 2011 6:51 am

Thank you guys, upon your wise counsel, I am leaving behind the dhamma material as I zip my bag ready for the retreat starting TODAY!!!! :toast: So Happy!!!!

Bhavatu Sabba Mangalam ..
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.

User avatar
wizi
Posts: 83
Joined: Tue Mar 15, 2011 4:47 pm

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby wizi » Sun May 01, 2011 1:41 pm

Back from serving for the first time. Is it common for first time servers to suffer burnout?

Day 2 and Day 7 were the most stressful days as students' sankharas seem to arise en masse... and it was difficult to juggle the decisions whether to report to the Teacher and telling the student off by saying it's time to purify your craving!! There were banal complaints ranging from incessant complaints on lack of hot water, persistent request for a personal room, to the more serious breaking of code of silence ... a new student even gave money to the nuns to buy milk and sugar for donation to the kitchen citing it as a cultural tradition in her temple! :juggling:

The experience gave me a really good insight into the role of the Teacher who has such a delicate job of dealing with students' sankharas as they arise. I found it interesting that many new students were fearful of approaching the teacher for an interview on the meditation technique. The teacher explained that sometimes the question that the student asks belies an underlying issue that is the cause of the student's agitation, as teachers, they have to identify these underlying issues and help the student focus in tackling these.

All said, Goenkaji's discourses were more profound this time when i hear them as a dhamma server, than the other times when I sat in the course as a student.
If you are deliberating whether to serve on your next course, I would urge you to undertake the serving as truly the benefits of dhamma serving is untold!! :twothumbsup:
All beings like yourself are responsible for their own actions. Suffering or happiness is created through one's relationship to experience, not by experience itself. Although I wish only the best for you, I know that your happiness or unhappiness depends on your actions, not on my wishes for you.
May you not be caught in reactivity.

User avatar
Ben
Posts: 18442
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 12:49 am
Location: kanamaluka

Re: Serving on a 10 day retreat

Postby Ben » Sun May 01, 2011 9:45 pm

Well done, wizi!
“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) • •

e: [email protected]..


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