I had a fantastic sit in the morning. Super cinnamon rolls. I was ten minutes early for the 8 o’clock and I sat straight through the 9 AM break. I stayed put. There was no consultation with the assistant teacher because noble silence was going to be broken the next morning.
This was our last big day of “serious work” and I sat until after ten. Well over two hours and it felt like five minutes. The rest of the day was pretty normal sixth day type stuff.
I did go one last time to ask the teacher a last question. More on this in a moment.
I’ve attended two other courses since this first one. I don’t remember my second assistant teacher. I remember my last assistant teacher because something he said to me made the spell of Vipassana break. Not in an angry or bitter way, but like a bucket of cold water with a slap in the face chaser. He said something I knew to be false, even ignorant, and that humanized the whole experience. It made any other-worldliness I’d felt up to then about the wisdom of my teachers vanish. They were still good people, and I still appreciated what they had taught me, but they were just people like me. I didn’t need to look to them for guidance on everything. They taught me a technique, that was all. They had the patience and benevolence to do it, but any wisdom came from doing the work.
But on my first course the assistant teacher was a smiling Chinese man. A boy even it seemed to me. He had huge, dark glasses. In my head I named him Buddy Holly on the first day because I’d already forgotten his name.
My first course was also bilingual, so everything that was said was in 2 languages. It was funny because you knew an hour of meditation was over when the PA would come on and there was recorded instruction and encouragement. During my first course that period took twice as long because everything had to be then translated into Chinese by the assistant teacher. He had a nice voice. Not radio quality, but I remember it being calming.
On the ninth day of my first course I went to see him. He was the teacher who had talked me into staying when I wanted to leave on the fourth day. I wanted to know why I felt good. Why the experience that was so bad on day four had become so much better. I said it was the same body and same mind and he stopped me laughing.
He was genuinely laughing at me. I can’t remember how I felt about that, only that he was doing it. I thought maybe he was reacting to a question only a newbie could ask, a question so ridiculous that I broke his composure. Half of that was true. It was a newbie question, but I’d given him a chance to show composure under different deportments. I don’t think he could laugh in the meditation hall and expect it to go over well. Even if his heart was light and his thoughts for the students were kind. But I guess by coming to him in good spirits, and appreciative, it was okay for him to let his light heart laugh.
He stopped me and repeated my words in the negative:
“It is not the same body, not the same mind.”
“But it is really.”
“No. It is always different.”
That seemed more of an abstract idea when I heard it, but there are times when it is very literal to me. Sort of like that juicy fact that your skin is completely replaced every 30 days or something. That means the skin you’re in right now is 100 percent different than the skin you were in last month.