It was wonderful to bathe in Jack Kornfield's presence again, this time for a daylong retreat at Spirit Rock. Not so good, was the crowded room, and having to squeeze on a chair next to a big guy. At first, I tried to dismiss my annoyance. Everybody else seemed so content to be with the master. I beat myself up for not feeling the joy. My neighbor's leg brushed against my left thigh, his shawl spilled over my shoulder, and his right foot clearly invaded the space in front of my chair. Way to start! I started plotting some escape routes, scanning the room for other empty chairs.
Jack proceeded with the fist seated meditation. "Close your eyes, and become like the Buddha. Find your quiet place under the tree, and start focusing on the breath . . . " The irony of Jack's instruction did not get lost on me. You've got to be joking! I am supposed to meditate, in these conditions. My day is ruined. I was so looking forward to this retreat. Outrage. Annoyed, annoyed. I've got to find a way out of this. Ah, Ah . . . This is another opportunity. I am to learn from the situation. Make room for the annoyance. I don't like feeling annoyed. Judging. Oh! I forgot to turn off my cell phone. What if phone rings? What will people think? Shame on me. What to do? Reach down to my bag, and look for culprit. Futile attempt. Phone's buried at bottom of my bag, out of reach. Panic . . . Neighbor's breathing heavily. What a mess! Better let go, return to the breath, and be with moment. Soon, I am breathing in sync with neighbor. Taking in all of the annoyance, the fear, the disappointment, and starting to relax. And I start thinking about neighbor as my teacher. And I burst into silent laugh.
My cell phone did not ring. At the break, I went back to my car to retrieve my cushion, and found an empty corner to sit in. Empty space never felt so good . . .