I am sure at the retreat that most people knew I was a newbie to the Buddhist way.First of all, NEVER wear shoes that tie or buckle, as you will spending a lot of time taking off your shoes and putting them on. No shoes in the meditation hall, none in your room, none in the gift shop, or in the yoga room. The only place you could wear shoes was in the dining room or walking outside. I was always the last one to everything as everyone else slipped on their Crocs, clogs, etc. (even the monks/nuns wear Crocs!) and I was still trying to find a place to sit to put on my shoes, get the shoes buckled, or untangle the shoe laces.
Then I did not have the bow thing down. No one explained it to me, and I had to watch very carefully to see what others were doing. I asked another participant why we were not given directives, and they reminded me that this was a mindfulness retreat and one of the goals of the weekend was to watch and pay attention to what is going on around you. OK cool. By the end of the weekend I had internalized it and understood how the bow honored our food, the Buddha, and each other. I wish we did more of it in this culture, as we take so much for granted and don't realize the work that it takes to grow/harvest/buy/cook the food, and how we also take one another for granted.
I think the hardest time I had was the mindful walking, which is at a slow and thoughtful pace. I kept finding myself walking at my NYC pace, and even once I ran though the dining room.
The worst thing I did was squash a mosquito in the dining hall. It landed next to me and I immediately slammed it and it went SPLAT, as a refrain from a song drifted in that a group that was singing outside about not even killing the mosquito and asking it to spare your blood. "Great " I thought, as I nonchalantly wiped the splattered mess off the table.
At one point in time I said to one of the sweet nuns, "boy, do I have a lot to change to do this right", and she replied to me in the deepest of sincerity, "you are a beautiful person and don't have to change a thing. You just need to calm down!" I smiled warmly and wondered if Type A was tattooed across my forehead.
I still feel pretty calm in spite of the long days I have been putting in. I got this book on 8 minute meditations, and have found that it is not enough time for me so I am going to up it to 10, and slowly increase it till I get to a point that feels right for me. I do it first thing in the morning, though I am half asleep anyway and have not had my coffee.
Off to have dinner now, one of Pika's quiches that I bought at the farmer's market.
Patti O Student