It was the fifth day of the retreat. The eleven hours of meditation a day, the vow of silence, and the cold dampness of the Himalayas in late fall was making my body ache and my mind scream.
As was the custom of us women, we would get our bucket of cold water at noon, the warmest break in the day we had. In the courtyard of the womens’ quarters, we would clumsily try to bathe under the required but very wet and clinging sarong. And, as before, this man from the adjacent house would come to the edge of his rooftop to look over the wall and leer at us women (or so I thought).
Now on the previous days, I got so angry with this “Peeping Tom”. I would shake my fist at him and scowl, unable to hurl any particularly pointed words, I was supposed to be quiet and serene you understand…
So here it was the fifth day And the routine was beginning again Today I was furious. How could this man watch us bathe so unabashedly day after day? My rage started to rise. But then, the instructions of my teachers filtered into my agitated brain. “When you feel yourself in reaction to an event, stop yourself right after the actual perception, and physically feel this emotional reaction in your body. Really feel what it does inside your body. Look back at the event, and see who is this person reacting? And who is this observer?”
Well, I was horrified to feel the deep rage inside my body, churning within my chest. And I saw this judgmental mind instantly condemning this man’s actions as wicked and offensive. I was now the Observer behind this chattering monkey’s mind. The Observer self wanted no part of this feeling coursing through my body. Automatically my hands went to my chest, clasped in a “Namaste”, and looked directly into this man’s eyes. I bowed to this teacher, then motioned with my hands for him to please move off the rooftop. He smiled back at me, his eyes becoming gentle and warm back. He moved off the rooftop, never to return.
I stood, completely stunned over this quick event. What a gift not to be in automatic reaction to everything in life. To have an awareness that there is this tiny gap of pure consciousness between perception and reaction. What stood quietly behind that that was the Observer and universes of choices that are available to each of us every minute of the day.
The Observer came from an inherent place of serenity, connectedness, love and compassion. There was no thought needed in the Observer’s actions. The man seemed to recognize the shift. And I realize we are all connected to that which the Observer is part of, part of the Divine…
Thanks to all of you who continued to remember the Truth.
Laurie Lee, RScP