I forgot THE most important use I put the bag to on the silent retreat (which ended at 11:00a.m. yesterday: as a sound blimp.
Background: on a five precepts retreat like this one, Surāmerayamajjapamādaṭṭhānā (the fifth precept) is usually translated as alcohol but more recently, the term has been expanded to ‘intoxicants’; this broader definition includes stimulants, of which one is coffee.
The presenters of this workshop were given dispensation to have coffee—critical when arising at 04:30 to present at 05:30.
Good coffee requires freshly ground beans—but have you ever really listened to a coffee grinder? They make a truly harsh, discordant, deeply intrusive, sound: full of high energy, high frequency sounds (the motor, the cutting burrs, the sounds of the burrs crushing the coffee, and so on); picture this now on a silent retreat, where the room where the grinder will be used is acoustically bright (glass windows, hardwood polished floors), and ones fellow meditators are in adjoining rooms?
Sleeping bag to the rescue: place the half-opened bag on the floor, place the grinder on it, and simply cover the grinder loosely with the rest of the bag. No precision is required: you have constructed a field sound blimp: turn the grinder on and it is virtually inaudible.
Sound damping is all about trapping still air (or in the case of some double glazed windows, which perform a similar sound blocking action) a degree of evacuation. “In space, no on will hear you scream” is both dramatic and accurate: as space is a complete vacuum (or, at least as complete as the Universe can manage!) there is no sound at all. So (now to urban dwellers who are troubled by traffic and other noise) good double glazing can be your friend.
Back to the retreat: I ground the morning’s coffee each evening after dinner when everyone else was still in the eating hall, and I boiled water at 04:31, and was able to make excellent coffee (black, with Nityananda’s herbs; more on the process and its dramas tomorrow).