Day 8: Vipassana Failures

Female Volunteers "Working"  

Female Volunteers "Working"  

I'm radically accepting that it is taking so much effort for me to get myself back in the game of life. A silent meditation retreat often feels like a no place, where time stops while the rest of the world continues on. I've spent the past week catching up on much needed sleep and slooowly getting back into my business and personal life. 

The reason why I was especially wiped out this time around was that I volunteered as the "Course Manager", a very demanding and exhausting position. The course manager is responsible for taking care of all the other meditators who are sitting the course. Besides the meditation teacher, I was the only other person that meditators can talk to for requests or concerns. I was up for the challenge when I was assigned the role but I had no idea that I would get my ass handed to me like I did. I thought I was going to play the role of "camp counselor" but ended up feeling like I was a 24 hour on-call psychiatric nurse. It was simultaneously one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences of my life. 

I worked sixteen hours a day for ten days straight and I was lucky if I got even a few hours of sleep. I tended student's flus, I sat with people who were in so much distress I was afraid they would run away barefoot out of the meditation center. I talked some students into staying when they were so certain they needed to leave. I also finally let one student go. All this to say that this job was so crazy hard! I had no idea I had it in me to take on this position and at many points I really wasn't capable of dealing with this kind of stress. I found myself failing ALL-THE-TIME. One of the first things you're taught as a server of the course is to always choose "harmony over efficiency." This was really difficult for me. I had so many requests coming in at once that I wanted to treat people like a to-do list. You need allergy meds? Check. You're having sad thoughts about your childhood? Talk to the teacher at noon. Check. You need tampons? Here. Check. I realized that I was accomplishing all the tasks but I was missing the point. The point was not to get everything on my list accomplished like a detached robot. The point was to support and care for these people. The point was create the best experience out of each interaction, even if that answer was not what they wanted to hear. It took me days before that really hit home. 

Once I shifted my perspective, everything changed. I became more patient, I had empathy for others. I accepted every challenge, every demanding request, every irritable personality. I started to see the humor in everything. It felt like a miracle! During my meditations, I thought of all the times I had failed to see the point in the "real world". All the times I was blasé towards customer service people, or cut people off while driving, or impatiently waited in checkout lines. I was moving so fast through life trying to accomplish my never ending to-do list that I was missing the point of my life. That there's only this moment, and its how you react to that moment that counts. 

So, this is why I'm experimenting with radical acceptance. I want to observe each boring/fun/annoying/horrible moment that comes my way and know that I have a choice in the way I react to that experience. When times are tough, I can be a giant B about it or I can laugh it off. Let's see how many times I'll fail at this one. I accept this challenge! 

Meditation Today: 1 hour