Vipassana Service

From my luxurious camping lifestyle I drove half an hour to the Dhamma Rasmi Vipassana centre in the town of Pomona, QLD. It was there that I would be giving 11 days of service to vipassana meditators. The long drive ended at a large Bodhi tree, its broad spade shaped leaves filtering golden sunlight onto a circular car park / driveway. An office building stood nearby, overlooking a dam, on which lily pads and flowers stippled the surface, I bypassed the office and parked closer to the main centre where I wandered up, slowly – like one unsure of his surroundings – and found myself on large wooden decking below cascading landscaped ponds, water ever trickling over rocks setting the soundscape for these meditative gardens.

I met Leon who exclaimed my impeccable timing and led me into the kitchen for my first meal at the centre, we ate on the decking and I met a Dutch traveller who I would be working with named Floris (who upon noticing my struggle with pronunciation asked me to call him Flo). The afternoon was quiet, I met Beth (with the beautiful eyes) and did some light sweeping and mopping – this was T minus 1 day to launch, the students would arrive tomorrow, day zero, so things were pretty relaxed.

The next day we began to prepare for student arrival, Flo, myself and a few more servers began to work in the kitchen, my first task was to create enough home-made yoghurt for 90 people – quite a tall order as my culinary experience did not go beyond sandwiches and scrambled eggs. That said, there were clear instructions and with a willingness to plunge into the depths of the unknown the fermented goods were a grand success. By the afternoon we had a full compliment of staff, not a single one of us had worked in a kitchen before and we were all a little bit uneasy about providing meals for 11 days. Fortunately for us we were graced by another member, Lucy who assumed the mantle of kitchen manager to guide and schedule us through our foray.A requirement of service at a vipassana centre is that we maintain a minimum of three hours meditation per day, due to the timing of meals this was easily accomplished however I never anticipated the stuff that would come up for me internally during these sessions, by day five I was going through heavenly highs and terrifying lows, some days could have been a write off kitchen wise, I barely held it together to do my work. I saw the same in my team mates, their eyes told all as we had times of graceful choreographed action amongst the pots and pans, and others of struggle and willpower exerted, dragging our tired feet. We had the luxury of communication (where the students were always in silence) in our separate dining area, sometimes the highlight of my day as I would be comforted in sharing experiences or discussing philosophy, one guy whom I highly enjoyed the dialogue with was Brendan the student manager, we could have talked for hours.

By day eight I was having impatient thoughts and desires to leave, it wandered from books to read, movies to watch, tobacco to smoke – I often pictured myself laying in the van, hands clasped behind my head, a smile on my face and a big ‘ahhhh’ exuding from my mouth. The reality was that this was not the present moment and I fought to bring myself back to observe what IS. This too will change.

Day 11 – as with all ‘day 11s’ I assume – bought a relaxed, freedom infused feel to the place. I was asked by the teacher to consider a three month sit, serve tour at the centre, which I will consider but not until next year. I would do 10 days of ‘sitting’ in meditation then 10 days of serving meditators (and so on) over the period of three months, I feel that I have too many fun things to be attached to right now so will contact her when I feel the pull.

I drove back to Cobb & Co campground and have spent a few days here doing some work for the owner, today I think I am the only one on the 50 acre property.

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