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12/28 – I am assigned to the group that chants the 3 am to 7 am shift first. And wow am I not in retreat mode yet! I am so restless – I get up, walk around a bit, stretch and do yoga. When 6 am comes, I am so thankful that I volunteered to cook breakfast.
Breakfast is typically the same each day – although there were a few changes throughout the week. I sneak downstairs to boil some eggs for my personal consumption. I say sneak because at the last Mani Drupchen we were not allowed to consume them in the public space. In doing so, I discover that the downstairs stove has an electrical problem. I stick a metal spoon in the water to pick up an egg and I notice a foreign, shocking feeling. I think to myself, “What the heck??!!” However, due to the fact that my mind is a little fuzzy from chanting on top of waking up at 2:45 am, it takes several shocks for me to realize that electricity is passing through my body… So basically I electrocute my eggs (ah kha!) – it turns out they are only soft boiled despite being in the boiling water for twelve minutes.
I am noticing pain in my abdomen – my digestion is stopped up and I suspect it is from the soy I ate on Saturday night… :^( Well I press on with chanting and I make a mental note to massage my viscera later.
During the day, when all the retreatants are in the shrine room chanting, like 9 to 10 am, I notice people doing a variety of activities (sometimes while chanting the Mani mantra and sometimes with the exclusion of chanting). Someone is drawing musical scales – I learn later it is for the tune we are singing during the day, someone else is staring wistfully out the window, yet another person is nodding off (this is just the first full day of chanting – wow!), the lamas are tying protection cords while they chant and the funniest thing up to this point – one young man, who proclaimed that he is not a morning person, came in at 9 am and put on thick sunglasses! Of course there are many people spinning prayer wheels and clicking malas (counting mantras). And you might say that I am busily watching the other members of the intensive as opposed to fully focusing on the practice.
Sometimes my finger clicks the mala without my thinking about it, sometimes, if I want to actually be accumulating an accurate number, I must focus my mind on my fingers to will them to click at the appropriate time. Sometimes I start day dreaming and I chant dozens of mantras which go unaccounted for… alas. Luckily this Drupchen is about the time (a week) and not the number of mantras accumulated (most retreats go for 100,000 plus mantras per person).
It turns out I do not have to sign up for any jobs – not because I am on the facilitator team, rather because I am put in charge of hydrating the lamas and the ordained. I serve them hot water or coffee if they request it. In addition to bringing them occasional snacks and clearing any refuse from their little tables.
I have taken to staring at spots on the carpet as I chant, as a way to force my mind to be single pointed, and not distracted by what is going on around me. Therefore, when I finish a mala round, I am only too happy to get up and take care of the lamas.
As an aside, I find many ways to distract myself when I am up. I say distract, but actually I find that many little jobs are left undone – like washing the kitchen / bathroom hand towels, or taking out the compost, or making certain a particular door is left open to prevent pipes from freezing, etc. I am secretly overjoyed to be out of the shrine room, yet being of service elsewhere. So I do a job and then chant, I water the lamas and chant some more, wash, rinse and repeat.