After my first course I was ecstatic by the potential Vipassana brought to my life but I didn’t continue a daily practice because I was overwhelmed by the difficulty of sustaining my practice. The gap between the life I was living and the life Vipassana was teaching me to live was huge. I lacked the wisdom, inner strength, and community to create a union between my practice and my life. I decided to become a long-term server at Dhamma Patapa to allow the time, space, and energy to start bridging this gap and it worked. Today, just over 3 years since my first course, I sit 2 hours a day and have a healthy work, life, and dhamma balance.
So what did I learn during long-term service that helped me through this transition? First, I learned the language to explain the practice and what it meant to me. Early on I would try to explain to friends and family that spending two hours a day focusing on my breath and sensations allowed my past miseries to enter my mind and sitting in this misery was great! They were obviously confused. As a long-term server I started developing a deeper understanding of how the technique was working and how to discuss dhamma with both meditators and non-meditators.
Second, I gained the strength to bring my practice beyond the cushion into my daily activities. Before serving it was quite an accomplishment to work on my awareness and equanimity through my entire sittings. Slowly, as I worked through past sankaras and my life became more in line with dhamma, my sitting became easier and I noticed being present and peaceful and random times during the day. I caught myself watching my breath unintentionally. Dhamma was becoming a part of my life rather than just a lesson from the cushion.
Finally, I started to grow my dhamma community. My friends and family from the past, while interested and supportive of my practice, are uninterested in pursuing it for themselves. Becoming friends with other meditators facing similar challenges has been critical to my growth in dhamma and there’s no better place than the center to start building this community. If you have the time and interest to become a long-term server, I highly recommend it. Time to meditate.