Serving at a Vipassana meditation retreat is a way to give back to the organization, by providing a peaceful experience for the meditators who are doing the hard and diligent work of meditating, for 10 hours a day, without being able to speak, read, write, watch tv, etc. My job was serving in the kitchen, helping to prep the food for 100 ppl, and clean up after all meals. It was also my responsibility to gong the bell before meals, and bring the Teachers their meals in their cabin.
It is also a way for the servers to experience the practice of maintaining equanimity, while in a new, stressful environment. the kitchen, after-all is the center of the home, the center of life! Isn’t there a TV show based on the stressful workings of a restaurant kitchen? there was no time for rest – up at 5:30 done everything by 10 pm, with 5 hours of meditating throughout.
what the Servers are doing, is giving Metta – benevolence toward all beings, without discrimination, that is free of selfish attachment. It is a strong, sincere wish for the happiness of all beings. this is displayed in the precision, and dedication of the servers to their tasks, and of the organization to guiding the way to Dhamma. at the end of each day, the servers give metta to all meditators.
At first, i was thinking how i actually was in the way – most ppl had served before, knew the ropes and had a grove. that quickly passed, and i became aware of how integral each person was. how severly important each movement was. but also unimportant at the same time.
at one point I was to measure the prunes for the oatmeal. i measured 8 cups and put them in a pot to boil. along came another new server, and said, oh look, there are leftover prunes from yesterday. so i put the prunes back, washed the pot, and the measuring cup. half hour later, the kitchen manager asked where are the prunes? i said, there are leftovers from yesterday, i put the other ones back. she smiled, and said those 8 cups are to be added to the leftovers, we need both.
so off i went, to gather the prunes, dirty the same pot and measuring cup lol. all i could do was laugh as my mind thought of these very things – the inefficiency of doing it all over again due to a misunderstanding, and in the very same thought, realized it’s all metta. i could do the same thing over and over and over again, as long as im doing it w love and kindness, i’m generating those attributes in the world.
i laughed at this simple lesson bc how consumed we (I) can become at doing things “right” and “best” and with “efficiency”, and how distraught one (I) can become when something goes in another direction.
for info on the theory behind Vipassana go to http://www.torana.dhamma.org/introvp.html