I was the first tent cabin resident to arrive so I got my pick of the three. I selected the one right next to the outhouse so that I wouldn’t have to walk too far in the middle of the bear-filled night should the need arise (and it did…every night). It was also the one closest to the parking lot so it made the unloading process a cinch. It only took me four trips to rid the Subaru of my suitcase, duffle bag, back pack, yoga mat, bottled water, fragrance-free grooming products (they encourage that on these retreats), shoes, slippers, flash light, umbrella, towel, sheets, sleeping bag and ergonomic pillow.
I unpacked and then went looking for the outdoor shower house. How nice it would feel to get all unscented soapy clean after the long car ride. I found a small structure that clearly wasn’t a tent cabin. And there were also some shoes propped up outside the door – that must be it. I waited a while and when the shoes were still there an hour later, I figured the person must have really needed a long hot shower. But I needed one too so I called out: “hello? Is this the shower house?” Out came a petite woman with short dirty blond (but clean) hair and a runner’s body. “No, this isn’t the shower house, this is the teacher’s cabin”. I walked away with my pony tail between my legs. So, this is how I met my first meditation teacher on my first meditation retreat. There were many more firsts to come.
Like when we all agreed to observe the 5 precepts of Buddhism during our stay:
- Do not kill (left gun at home – check)
- Do not steal (unless you count seconds on the fabulous food, I didn’t take a thing – check)
- Do not indulge in sexual misconduct (significant other is home with the sick cat – check)
- Don not make false speech (on a silent retreat, this one is easy – check)
- Do not take intoxicants (left my martini glass at home – check)
Turns out all but the first were a meditative walk in the park.
Each of us were assigned some type of working meditation that we performed for an hour every morning. Some people ironed napkins, some cleaned the bath house (that I eventually found), and others swept the meditation hall. My task was to deadhead all of the daisies and butterfly bushes on the property.
The first morning I went to the tool shed to get my scissors and a pair of gloves. This was a beautiful open building that, in appearance, reminded me of Grandpa O’s fruit farm barn, and in smell, was reminiscent of Grandpa C’s Adirondack camp basement. I smiled when I saw three cans of wasp and bee killer. Maybe I could abide by the first precept after all – someone else was planning on taking care of the stinging insects.
So I mindfully walked to a bed of daisies and slowly clipped each dead flower from its stem, watching as it fell into my bucket. After several precision cuts, I felt something on my forehead. Instinctively and without thinking, I raised the back of my glove-covered hand to swat at whatever was there. Ah, that felt better. But wait! Did I kill something? I looked at my hand and didn’t see any bug blood – maybe I missed.
Maybe not. An hour later when I went to the bath house to clean up, I discovered I’d spent my entire working meditation with mosquito guts smashed onto my forehead in the shape of a cross. It might as well have been Ash Wednesday at the Catholic Church.
So much for the first precept – I was wearing the evidence.