Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Vipassana Retreat, Installment 4

Monday, July 6, 2009, 1:30 PM (?)
Philip, one of the head students, led the meeting. He informed us he would be missing out on the rest of the retreat, as he was signed up to participate in a Native  American Sun Dance Ceremony. (Shizen had also mentioned Philip’s upcoming adventure, as an example of how proud he is of many of his student’s spiritual growth).
I had assumed that volunteer tasks would include working in the kitchen, janitorial service, etc. Instead, our tasks were mostly limited to being Sit Leader, Bell Ringer, Zendo Manager, Tea Table Manager, taking care of the flowers in the Zendo, leading the afternoon Yoga/Qui Gong sessions, and helping with Take Down at the end of the retreat.
Sit Leaders sit on the low platform at the “front” of the circular Zendo room. They operate the switch that controls the red and green lights on the floor immediately outside the Zendo double doors. (Green means, “okay to enter”; Red means “Stay out”). They strike the bowl gong next to them 3 times to commence the sit (turning the light switch to red), one time to end it (turning the light switch to green). Sit leaders shouldn’t start the sit until the Bell Ringer returns to the Zendo and shuts the door. There will be Open Zendo periods each morning during the Continuing Students Process Session; the green light will remain on and students can enter and exit as they please.
Bell Ringers announce the next sit. They take the bell and striking stick from its station by the Zendo entrance and walk down the hall to the front door of the main building, ringing the bell as they go. They make a circuit of the retreat rooms, cutting back across the circular courtyard to the main building, back up the hall to the Zendo. They should perform the task as a meditation-in-motion, trying to achieve the perfect sound with each strike.  One should not strike the bell too rapidly; that would feel frenetic.
Zendo managers make sure there are always Sit Leaders and Bell Ringers signed up. They control the thermostat (74 degrees) and tell people talking (or sleeping) in the Zendo to shut up (or stop snoring). The service tenure is one day.
Tea Table Managers clean the kitchenette and run dishwasher after the last sit (10:00 pm), put out the tea and coffee makings, etc. They shouldn’t take on the day long commitment unless they can stay up late.

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