The Bell Swingers? (Retreating into Silence, post 8 of 10)
You may recall that there initially were two jobs given out to us volunteers. One young man took on the task of monitoring the hot water maker for tea. Apparently he went to bed one evening without refilling it fully, and there was no hot water in the early morning for the tea drinkers. During the time when Josh and Linda address housekeeping items, he was asked if he forgot - or if we had gonethrough an entire container of hot water in the evening. (The intent of the question was to uncover which had happened, because if he filled it up and we ran empty, that meant we would need to make a plan B.) He looked sheepish. “I forgot.” A public shaming, we chided! (Of course, not really.)
The tea was glorious. I always love to discover what kinds of tea are available on retreats. There is typically this Bengal Spice tea , for some reason, it usually shows up on retreat. I always have some -and that’s the only time that I do. I also discovered that in Bessel Farm, NH, they had some of my very favorite loose leaf tea from Rhode Island! It was this Yogi Chai, which I also have at home. I picked some up at the Ashram in Millis last year when several merchants were selling their wares. I also got some of her “Women’s Blend” tea, which is my absolute favorite. Matt jokes that it’s a terrible name - they have alienated half of their potential market. I don’t care. It’s delicious. Maybe men wouldn’t find it so.
So the Hot-Water-Checking was an important job. So was the Wake-Up-Bell-Ringing. That was my job. I volunteered for it readily. I felt confident that I could perform this task; I’m naturally an early riser. Being up in time to awake others by 6AM felt like cake. And yet, I recognized that it was an important task, and I could fail a lot of people by oversleeping. So, to be safe, each night I set my alarm. Each morning, I awake before it, turned it off, then began my morning rituals, which here on retreat include walking through all 4 levels of the Yoga Tower and ringing the bell at 6:00 (“Six bells” as my father-in-law says… this expression made me smile now).
One morning, a few days into the retreat, my “safety net” alarm caught me. I awoke with a start - the gentle “silk” ring tone on my iPhone felt anything but silky in the deep, dark quiet of the pre-dawn hour on a silent retreat. A SILENT retreat! Horrified, I fumbled with my device to shut down the alarm. My instinct, of course, was to tell everyone in my sleeping loft to disregard the jarring alarm; this was NOT the delicate bell of a wake-up call! This was a FALSE alarm. In the truest sense! “That wasn’t real!” I think is what I cried out. “Go back to sleep!”
Phew - close call. And then, in a flash, I realized that not only had my alarm likely woken everyone up in the rudest way, but then I had (gasp) SPOKEN, out loud!
Just like Mike, the guy in Swingers who realizes too late that he'd like to undo the message he left on Nikki’s answering machine, by leaving a second message (and then a third, and a fourth...), I tried to “un-do” my transgression.
“Just kidding! Sorry! Ignore what I just said! Ignore this too!” These may have been the cover up words I sputtered.
Mercifully, I shut my mouth, slipped on my jacket, and sheepishly headed downstairs.
At 6:00 — the proper bell ringing hour — I returned to the scene of my crime. I paused for a moment. Then, ever so carefully, I struck one side of the bell with the other. Lovingly. Bells to make amends. I hoped that my loft mates could feel how much care I took in awaking them with the proper, agreed upon bell at the appropriate, agreed upon hour. Now, they may arise.