I was really taking my time to eat when I was at the vipassana meditation centre. We had 45 mins to finish the meal and I was drinking my tea and noticed that I was the last one in the hall. I checked the clock and we had 15 mins more. I was wondering why did the ladies ate so fast and hurried back to their rooms.
The dining hall did look like a prison’s dining space where the edge of the table labeled our room number. The side windows had to be shut and we were all facing only one direction where we were looking either at our friends’ back who were sitting in front of us or we were looking out of the front windows which opened up to the view of some trees and plants.
This was the first time when I really felt that I had “nowhere to go and nothing to do”. We were not allowed to bring anything in our rooms (except for necessities), including books and writing materials. I could not understand why the ladies ate so fast and went back to their rooms. For me, I did not want to be in the room again. It felt like a prison cell for me on the first few days. During meal time, I will always make tea or coffee and grab some biscuits after my main dish and just sat there to enjoy my “dessert”. I even named it Cafe Vipassana, in my mind of course, as we were still maintaining noble silence.
Funny how we influenced each other in silence, 2 other girls started sitting longer during meals and another younger girl started to take some biscuits to enjoy with her tea too. By the third day, she had a handful of 20 biscuits in her hand. We were the biscuit girls!
“Cafe Vipassana” was operating officially after the 5th day with more and more ladies enjoying their tea and snacks after meal. I had company.
On a more serious note, I had the opportunity to practise mindful eating during this period of time, as no one was looking at me. I would take 3 deep breaths before meal and say my thanks and also a prayer for the hungry children. There are still many children that do not have hot meals. This was what I truly connected to during the silence.
It was not my regular practice but I believed the mindfulness energy was growing in me, especially when I just attended the Plum Village’s Retreat right before this practice.
The environment of silence and no eye contact also made it very conducive to look deeper inwards and appreciate the food that we were eating. When we were not rushing to do the next thing or had our gadgets near us, we were able to connect to the present moment and savour our food.
Whenever we have a little more insight, our consciousness expand and move beyond our usual “I” only. We have the natural capacity to feel for another human being or living being who might be suffering. With this thought and realisation, we continue to be out of the veil of ignorance where we are always focusing on our own enjoyments or contentments only. There is much to learn and gain in our silence.
Pause for a moment and allow the universe to work through us. Quit trying to control all the time. This will create more space for us and make us feel lighter!
Savour your next meal and may we appreciate all the meals that we have.