The thing I love about going to the Ontario Vipassana Centre is that there are always lesson to be learned.
Here I was thinking I was going to learn to dissolve my ego by spending my birthday at the centre. The plan was to have the day pass without the usual fanfare.
I’d read somewhere that celebrations of holidays, anniversaries and birthdays are not observed because it’s a place to go to meditate and to develop in Dhamma. It’s not a vacation. It’s not a retreat.
And while I had meant to keep my birthday a secret, I accidentally told someone when my birthday was. It came up so naturally. A friend asked me about my astrological sign and as I was concentrating on working in the kitchen I answered without thinking “Cancer, my birthday is tomorrow.” As soon as the words slipped out of my mouth, I could feel my heart beating a little faster – I’d let my awareness slip. I’m not dissolving my ego! I’m not doing what I had planned! But then I thought, this person isn’t going to care. He’s not going to tell anyone. This is Dhammaland, everything that is meant to be will be. I just have to be more aware of my speech.
Well the day passed and I managed not to say anything else to anyone.
The next day, I’d forgotten it was my birthday until I noticed my phone had a bunch of birthday text messages on them. (Text messages come in but I can’t text or call out – another amazing lesson about attachment learned at the Centre, cruel or perfect I can’t decide which.)
After reading each message I had to work again to dissolve my ego. To feel the love, but not get attached or feel any special importance. It is just another day after all.
The day went by quickly with work. Again I managed to forget it was my birthday.
In the evening after our final meditation an announcement was made that we were meant to meet in the kitchen to discuss a situation that has just come to light.
Immediately I got to observe my ego arise – ooh, is it for my birthday? Again, I had to calm my mind, get my ego in check. I reminded myself that celebrations do not happen here. And on top of that, it’s so interesting to see that the first thought arises as soon as someone says anything, we relate it to ourselves. I, I, always with this I, me, my. So self centred. I thought, what if someone got hurt today? What if there’s a real problem and the first thing I’m thinking about is myself?
In the kitchen we all waited around for the meeting to start. I stood leaning on a counter observing my sensations and my mind and how often my thoughts turned to myself. Could it? Yes? –No, maybe –stop. Breathe. Observe sensation.
Then the AT walks in with not one but TWO cakes with candles on it… and everyone starts to sing happy birthday. It was soooo sweet to see the faces of all these servers that I’ve grown to know all smiling at me as I turned to blow out the candles.
This experience taught me to graciously let go of my plans as humble as I thought they were. Maybe they weren’t such humble plans, maybe I was looking for a sense of accomplishment. Maybe my ego just wanted to say – oh look, how humble I am!
All in all, I still learned about this ego I’m trying to detach myself from but I think the great lesson was about walking the middle road. Accepting each moment as it arises. Being harmonious and happy ranks above all. That is what I learned from the kind, loving souls that run the Centre.
A thank you to Virginia, Bill, Bob and everyone else involved in the celebrations. Especially Mishka for paying attention to the details, I don’t think anyone else noticed that I was going to be bed right after the sits.
May you all be happy.
Note: this happened between courses so I guess rules are a little more relaxed. I doubt this would have happened during a course session. It’s also why I had my phone on me.