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To continue the thread from the previous posts, this is a fictional rendition of the Winter Retreat 2010 at the Tibetan Meditation Center.
Saturday late night and early Sunday Morning – 1/1/11
As we left off, Mical stopped chanting at 11 pm, unable to go to sleep. And this fact had not changed. But let us step back a few minutes, to 10:45 pm. And then the reader will understand why the word “circus” is in the title. Also, please keep in mind that most people go to meditation retreats with the understanding that there are certain behaviors which are permissible and there are certain behaviors which would typically get one suspended from attending further retreats. It seems the TMC is more on the permissive side of this line. But read on and decide for yourself.
At 10:45, Khenpo Konchog Lhawang told Mical to go get the next group (to relieve the first one). Mical proceeded to tell the people in the kitchen that it was their turn to go chant, and then we went downstairs to tell several gentlemen who had been sleeping down there that it was indeed their turn. As he started down the stairs, he smelled something peculiar – a burnt off-onion odor was drifting up. So first he stopped at the closed downstairs kitchen door.
“Bang bang bang!!! Bang bang!” The sound of a hammer hitting something abruptly caused Mical to pause.
“What the…??!” He was quite confused. “Why would someone be hammering something at 11 pm, especially on this night of all nights?? Good Lord! What is going on around here?” He gently pushed in the door and found Susan, a woman from Southeast Asia slapping lemongrass with a metal spatula. “Oh.” Now he knew what the odor was, and that was the source of the sound. From previous retreats, he knew to tread carefully around this one.
“Is something burning?” He asked with curiosity. She was cooking… late at night…
“No.” Susan said. Well that was that.
Mical shut the door behind him and went toward the downstairs sleeping area. He found Alex, who is a large man, muttering under his breath, “I’m going to kill her! I swear to God, what the hell?”
“Hey Alex, you okay man?” Mical tried to intercede – no use having someone murdered while on retreat. It would not be good for any of the parties involved.
“What the f#$% is someone cooking for this late at night? And then she is slamming eel tails or burning onions on top of it all! I could not bloody sleep!!!” Alex was understandably perturbed. “I mean what country am I in for God’s sake?!”
“Hey I’m sure she will be finished soon. You wanna just go upstairs and do your chanting? I know she will be done when you finish.” Mical soothingly asked.
“Yeah, well I’m cool. But maybe I will go do a belly flop on her…” This was no idle threat coming from him. But Alex smiled as he said this so Mical knew it would be okay.
As Mical turned to follow him up the stairs, he noticed that the smell of burnt onions (lemongrass) was worse downstairs, which is where he was supposed to sleep… “Ugh!”
Back in the shrine room, the second group had started. Mical sat down at his usual spot next to the captain of that group – Ashoka. He wrote a note to his seat mate, it read:
“Excuse me Ashoka, what I am to do about the woman hammering and burning onions downstairs?? That is where I am supposed to sleep…”
Ashoka, as a captain, was one of the people helping to lead the chant. But when he read Mical’s note, he started chuckling, and he tried to chant and chuckle at the same time and it sounded real funny. So everyone in the shrine room looked over, well all six people that is. But Ashoka went on with his chanting and did not answer Mical’s question.
“Oh well, better go try to get some rest.” Mical got up and bowed and then dedicated the merit in his mind. Because now he was serious of trying to sleep.
He went downstairs, passing the “Bang bang bang!!” of the kitchen.
“Oh God!” he thought to himself. He grabbed his sleeping bag and pillow and went upstairs to sleep on a couch.
Earlier in the day he had been chatting with one of the new, young members of the center about Indigo Children. This topic is a whole other discussion which may or may not be covered at a later time. However, that same young individual had followed him up the stairs with his cushions and sleeping bag.
Jasmine was trying to get to sleep on the other couch and Jeffrey put his cushions down on the floor between the two couches. Mical lay down and realized that all three of them were Indigo Children (or adults considering Mical was in his 30’s). He said so, “Jeff, all three of us are Indigos actually.”
Jasmine piped up with, “Oh you should put that in your short story too… Good night!” She wanted to sleep. For some reason, this was another cause for a brief giggling fit from Mical.
They lay there trying to sleep for five or ten minutes. Then, “Ring ring ring!”
“Sorry…” Jasmine said sheepishly and answered her phone. At 11:30 pm, when Mical needed sleep worse then ever. “I thought I had put that on vibrate…”
Then ten more minutes of trying to sleep. The door from downstairs opened and the speaker in the kitchen, right next to the three, started to blare the haunting sound of the chanting from the shrine room. It might have been soft, but at this point in the night, Mical’s senses were attuned and enhanced so it was enough to distract and irritate him. He let out a guffaw and then got up and turned the speaker off. “Okay…” He mumbled.
“Is that smell getting worse?” This time Jeff broke the silence. He coughed several times.
“I think it is.” Mical agreed.
“It’s making me cough…” Jeff got up and closed the door.
Perhaps another five minutes passed when Jeff’s phone went off. By now it was past midnight. Mical thought to himself, “Oh Dear Lord!” He was chuckling and irate at the same time. “I may not ever get to sleep!” He could hear Jeff talking on the phone down the hall…
Mical finally faded off to sleep, maybe around 1 am… Only to be rudely awakened by his own alarm clock at 2:45 am.
Mical staggered toward the shrine room. His half chuba (maroon colored skirt) was coming down, so he sleepily looked around. No one, so he adjusted his skirt in the hall outside the shrine room. Of course, who should walk in a second later but his root teacher, Drupon Dorje Sangpo along with a female translator. Luckily Mical was so groggy he only realized later that they may have seen him undressing (through the glass door).
Drupon asked, “Are you awake?”
“Yes Rinpoche. (I think so anyway…)” Mical answered.
Drupon, Mical and his group chanted the Sun up. Maybe one person had stayed awake the entire time, aside from Drupon-la. Most people experienced a brief nodding off.
Then the rest of the day went without a hitch and everyone enjoyed doing Lama Chopa practice and partaking of the Tsok feast (pictures available from the first post in this series).
Thanks for reading!