Serving on a ten day course

I have half packed my bag. I have ticked off my ‘to do’ list, leaving only this post to do before I set off on another Vipassana adventure, my first on Living Vipassana.

Tomorrow I shall be serving at Dhamma Dipa, the main centre in the U.K, about four hours from where I live in London. I have no idea who I will be serving with, what I will be doing or how I will find it.

The first time I served I ran away. It was six months after I sat my first course. A combination of external factors contributed, but principally because I was unable to be equanimous. I remember how my mind could not settle, it would not allow me the possibility that the negative feelings and thoughts I was having could change. I was not able to objectify my emotions nor my unsettled mind. I did not see it as an opportunity to practice Vipassana, I allowed my aversion to everything I was experiencing run wild, and the craving for getting out and going back to ‘normality’ control me like a puppeteer.

Sankhara City 1, Tom 0.

The last time I served, about a year and a half a go, was very different. Thanks to daily practice my life had begun to change. The misery that seemed to cloak every direction had begun to lift. I began to see my life and the choices I had differently. Whereas before serving was an escape from my life, this time I saw it not about me, but about giving something back and being able to practice and better understand Vipassana.

At one point during service a fellow server complained to me about my heavy breathing when meditating. A couple of years ago before I started practicing Vipassana I would have taken this as a challenge, and I would have most likely reacted negatively. I remember how I was able to bottle the feelings inside, take them away and examine them like a scientist. I came to the concluesion that although I need to be more aware of my breathing, that the fellow server’s decision to bring it up was not about my breathing, it was about him and his difficulty in being equanimous. I moved my seat so as not to disturb him, working hard to feel only love for him rather than hatred or resentment. It was not easy. I remember shortly after this  looking around the kitchen at my fellow servers, all of whom I had had the honour of getting to know a bit, thinking what a wonderful mixture of nationalities and backgrounds we all were, everyone focused on the job at hand of cooking for over 250 people, all brought together by Vipassana. I felt like I was home.

Sankhara City 1, Tom 1.

Back to the present and the new adventure I am about to begin. I have no idea who I will be serving with, what I will be doing or how I will find it. Before I go I would like to share with you as a parting gift these wise words that I hope to put into practice while serving on another ten day course:

The Buddha was once asked what real welfare is. He replied that the highest welfare is the ability to keep the balance of one’s mind in spite of all vicissitudes, the ups and downs, of life. One may face pleasant or painful situations, victory or defeat, profit or loss, good name or bad name; everyone is bound to encounter all these. But can one smile in every situation, a real smile from the heart? If one has this equanimity at the deepest level within, one had true happiness.”   S.N Goenka

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This entry was posted in Helping Others, Observations, Personal Experiences and tagged , , by Ryan Shelton. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ryan Shelton

While I'm currently married to a beautiful woman while teaching physics at Padua Academy, these descriptors fail to capture the totality of my adventurous life. I have hiked over 1700 miles, traveled to 5 continents, managed a bakery, started a meditation center, counseled troubled teens, attended Duke, UNC, and Harvard, protected forests as a wildland firefighter, volunteered thousands of hours with Americorps, rafted the Grand Canyon, SCUBA dived on the Great Barrier Reef, and continues to find new adventures. I hope my writing encourages you to pursue your dreams and be the best version of yourself while supporting your communities to work together to solve the current challenges in our world.

2 thoughts on “Serving on a ten day course

  1. Thanks… this helped me complete my packing with a better frame of mind!
    The group with whom I was planning to do a 10-day damma service next week dropped one after the other for various reasons. Finally, I was alone, but decided that I must go ahead despite the ‘ambiguities’….who will be my fellow servers, will I be able to handle things with a bunch of strangers……
    Your article helped me clear my mind and suddenly I regained the enthusiasm I had initially. Already I am feeling a compassion towards my “unknown” fellow servers and looking forward to next week!

    Like

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