I have a pretty strong internal clock. I usually attribute this to twelve years of working in live radio, with the days largely consisting of transmissions that were generally thirty minutes long. At the designated time, the red light would go on, and the studio would be live - whether you were ready or not - and twenty-nine minutes and fifty-six seconds later the red light would go off - whether you were finished or not. So these days, if I give any thought to when the doan is going to ring the bell to signal the end of zazen, I am often only off by ten or fifteen seconds.
This morning I had the feeling that the first period had reached its end, but the doan, sitting next to me, was not moving to pick up the bell, There are other indicators - often someone comes through the Laguna Street door just before we get up to do kinhin, and I also had the sense of one or two people shifting on their cushions - perhaps the fukudo, on the other side of the curtain, was looking at their clock and wondering why the bell didn't ring. We have clocks with LCD displays, which I know from experience are difficult to read in the low light of the zendo, especially if I am craning my neck round from the adjacent seat to verify the time, so I didn't move.
I was running a great internal dialogue: I am pretty sure the bell should have been rung by now, but the doan is sitting there in deep samadhi. The practice is to sit until the bell rings. But I am in charge of the zendo, I can reach over and grab the clock if I want to, or nudge the doan. Or I can just sit here. We should run to the schedule, to the second even. That's part of the beauty of practice. It's okay for things to go a little awry. Some people need to leave promptly as they have lives outside the building. Another minute or two won't kill them. It's not as if my legs are hurting. We can just keep going.
In the end the bell was five minutes late - we've had longer overruns. Nobody died, as we used to say after our broadcasts if things hadn't gone according to plan.