I was able to arrive a day and half before the course began to help set up. I prefer landing in the almost ghost town like feel between courses, rather than the hustle and bustle of everyone arriving and settling in.
When asked by the management to go into household my ego reacted. I had spent most of the journey to the centre imagining being the chef or course manager, being important – the centre of the universe. But instead it was to be my task to be responsible for cleaning the male toilets and showers. Misery!
“Selfless service is an essential part of the path of Dhamma, an important step on the direction of liberation……..With feelings of love and compassion, the wish naturally arises to help others come out of their misery. Serving on courses provides an opportunity to express this gratitude by helping people as they learn Dhamma, without expecting anything in return”.
I read and re read this in the ‘Code of Conduct for Dhamma Servers’, trying to be equanimous with the reality as it is. I was able to remember my first course and the world of pain I experienced, and the pleasure I had in finding a clean toilet or shower to cleanse myself in.
It was to be my job to give that back.
The following day brought the students and other fellow servers, and the beginning of the course. It also brought Tim, a meditator I had never met before, who was to become my co worker throughout the course. Although from different parts of the country and different lives, thanks to our shared practice and volition to be serving, we were able to get the job done. We made those showers and toilets sparkle, to be more precise Tim made the toilets and showers sparkle, I assisted him as best I could. Most importantly we had fun and a context through which to deepen our understanding and practice of Vipassana.
Also I discovered serving was Jack, an experienced meditator who I met on my first course five years ago. Way back then, he sat next to me in the old dining area whilst I sat nervously waiting for the course to begin, thinking ‘what the hell have I got myself into?’ Not only did he put me at ease and make me laugh, but throughout my first course seeing him taking it seriously helped motivate me to do the same. Coincidentally we also shared a coach ride home at the end of the first course, we did not stop speaking for the whole three hour trip. I had not seen Jack since, despite frequent visits back to the centre. At first I did not recognise him, but after five minutes of talking it all came flooding back. Jack!!
I went to the course with an equanimous mind, not to make friends but to deepen my understanding and practice of Vipassana, and to play a part in enabling others get Vipassana. I got this. But also I got a reminder of how special it is to connect with others in a meaningful way.
I would love to hear about connections with other meditators you have made whilst serving or through Vipassana……?