I just came back from 6 weeks of holidays in Sri Lanka. Primary objective of my trip was spending time with our parents, relatives & friends .
Last 10 days of my trip (19-30 Dec), I volunteered my time to serve a 10-day vipassana meditation retreat at Dhamma Anuradha in Anuradhapura.
Every time you do a 10 day Vipassana retreat, you realized lot of old students come and help to run that program. Everyone of them volunteering their time for the benefit of others. So it was my turn to serve others in full 10 days. Even you serve, you get 3 hrs of meditation time as well.
There were 22 males, 40 females & 10 monks came to the retreat. In fact it was the largest participation for a single retreat in that center. We had to send one person back home as no more beds were available.
I was able to accompany 10 others with me for this retreat. That includes my parents (my mother also serve for 10 days as she had done it before), few relatives and friends. 7 out of 10 went there for first time (yes, they trusted my word 🙂 ) and did 10 day retreat for the first time in their life while I was supporting them. It was a great feeling when you serve someone expecting nothing from them.
There were 2 full time male dhamma servers and few part timers. My responsibility was to assist the male teacher while look after facilities of male students. My day started around 3:45AM each day and first job was to walk down to Meditation hall & open the doors for people come & meditate early. Here is the walking path to Meditation Hall from my accommodation unit (Kuti). Hope you can feel the tranquility of that place.
There is a gong at 4:00AM, 4:20AM, 6:30AM, 7:50AM, 11:00AM, 12:50PM, 2:20PM, 5:00PM, 5:50PM. I had to do it time to time depend on other servers availability. Another responsibility was to look for students to ensure they come for group sittings at the meditation hall (8-9, 2:30-3:30 & 6-7PM). I had to go & get them only couple of times, in that way I did not get much stress with that task.
At 7:00PM there will be a discourse, Since majority of participants from Sri Lanka discourses given in local language in the Meditation hall. There were 10 foreign language students who had to go to a different building for English language discourses. I had to manage it for them.
Once day finishes for students around 9PM, there will be a session for Dhamma servers to practice Metta Meditation (Loving Kindness). So it is around 9:30PM when I finish my day.
Normally first 2 days were the busiest time for me. There were lot of requests from students related to facilities (washing powder,soap, clock, medicine,etc) you have to patiently full fill those request (with kindness). There was one strange request as well. One foreign students complain about a rat movement over his room and he cannot sleep at all. Fortunately after couple of days later, another foreign student has given him pair of ear plugs and he could sleep without bothering rats’ noise . (otherwise I have to catch that rat or give another unit/bed. Both options were challenging)
Before that retreat, my wife went to serve for 10 days (4-15 Dec) at the same center as well . She accompanied her parents,sister and two other friends. She had to do bit more work as she had to supervise kitchen work, also be translator for English speaking students (as Teacher was not fluent in English). Here she is with her foreign students.
If you are into meditation, you will quickly realize bringing practice in to your daily life is the biggest challenge. So you need a practice it persistently. Dhamma Service is the best way to learn it. As you have to work while opportunities to meditate you will learn how to switch your time and meditate among your daily life. Every time you serve, you get immediate satisfaction. When you giving, you have to give without any expectation. I gave 10 days of my time & practice it well. On the 10th day you will get feedback from students and I was delighted to hear that lot of them felt I was very kind and compassionate towards them.
You may think all my friends are lucky & got time to meditation like me. It may not true, I asked many of them to come for above 10 days retreat, only handful of them came for it. There were some friends who can’t afford 10 days, but able to find 1 day instead. For them , I participated another 1 day meditation workshop that teach them how to develop mindfulness using “walking”. Here how they were practicing it on that day.
If you are really busy, try at least “walking meditation” which can be done easily with other daily responsibilities. If you like to learn it, follow this basic instructions.
If you are still planning your 2018, please think about doing something like 10 day Vipassana retreat to experience the difference. If you are old student, I highly recommend for you to go for 10 days of Dhamma Service.
If you are one of my friend & haven’t done it yet, then I want you to try it in 2018 (or at least once in your life time). If you do, please let me know as well 🙂