I was distressed to read Zen Beginner's post about Saturday. I had seen the conversation taking place, and the resulting exit, but had no idea who had been the protagonist of the situation or that it was having such an impact. My first reaction was that I needed to have a conversation with the other party, which I managed to do today. I listened to what they had to say, and then put forward a couple of ideas of my own.
I once sat next to someone for a sesshin who was in a chair; sometimes they were very still, sometimes they were very fidgety. One period, feeling particularly irritated - I had a fidgety person on the other side of me as well, and was not settling - I decided to count how many times this person moved. My intention was to be able to wave this in their face after sesshin. The total ended up being around ninety distinct movements in thirty minutes of sitting, and I suddenly realised that there was a lot of suffering causing this to happen - I didn't say anything to that person in the end, but I did stop feeling irritated by them.
So my feeling about this story from Saturday was that the other person, who has some years of practice under their belt, should have tried to keep a compassionate mind towards the newer student, and if that was proving too hard for them, then maybe they needed to go and sit in the gaitan to have some peace.
One of the things I try very hard not to do as ino is reinforce anyone's idea that they may be a failure. I am sure that I have managed to make more than a few people feel bad, and sometimes, for someone who is in residential practice, that might be a helpful thing, but I can see how easily dynamics and perceptions can be reinforced and co-created. As Paul mentioned in his talk on Saturday, when you start to sit, it is common for these kinds of feelings to become more prominent as you are paying more attention to them, and with something as slippery as our practice, it is easy to think that everyone else must be doing it much better than you are. It simply isn't true; no-one is failing and no-one is succeeding. We trust that we are all trying our best, even if it sometimes doesn't look like it or feel like it.