Many, many years ago I was doing some weeks of intensive meditation retreat practice. In those days I not only used a cushion to sit on but also kept a bench nearby so I could switch to the bench if I got tired of the cushion. I had a lot of anxiety that my body might hurt me, and I felt I needed to have every possible aid with me. I also sat against the back wall of the meditation hall so I could lean on the wall for support if I needed it.
One afternoon, I was sitting quite relaxed at my spot near the back wall, on my cushion with my bench right next to me. Suddenly, I heard some rustling movement near me. I opened my eyes a tiny bit and saw a hand reach down, take my bench, and walk away with it. Then I saw the person who took it put it down at some distance from me and sit down on it. The person was a new arrival whom I had not yet seen at the retreat.
A volcano of irritability exploded in my mind. It was very “righteous” irritability. He had my bench! At that moment it didn’t matter at all that I had a cushion and that my body was quite comfortable. I also knew that there were extra supplies of cushions and benches that I could have gotten from any of the retreat managers. But that person was sitting on my bench. I spent many agitated hours composing recriminating notes in my mind, addressed to the person who had taken my bench. I never wrote a real note, but my mind relentlessly devised every possible note that I might send. The notes progressed from coldly cordial to mildly sarcastic to outright demanding. Every day the same man sat on my bench, clearly not giving it a second thought. each time I entered the meditation hall, my anger rose to a new level.
As days passed and my bench showed no sign of returning, a new worry that this person would actually take my bench home with him further escalated my anger. I started to dislike every single thing about that person. I disliked the way he walked, how he sat, and how he ate his food. One day, just after a lunch when I had not liked the way in which he’d washed his dishes, I returned to the meditation hall for the afternoon sitting and found that my bench was back in its original place right beside me. The person who had used it was gone. He had apparently arrived at the retreat late and left early. Suddenly my mind cleared. It was as if it had been filled with a storm for five days, and now the storm suddenly passed.
It had been filled with a storm for five days. I realized I had spent all that time in a storm over the whereabouts of a bench I didn't need. The whole experience felt bizarre. I had used up incredible energy. I was amazed. I thought to myself, "Is this the way I do my whole life?"