I have been a little hesitant about writing this post. I was so looking forward to the holidays, I had planned to have two weeks off of work, wrapped up everything I needed to and was looking forward to heading out on retreat.
Retreating from everything, including the craziness of Christmas. I was going on a retreat with the London Buddhist Centre to their hideaway in the middle of the Suffolk countryside. I was looking forward to it so much, as you have been able to tell I have been getting more and more into Buddhism, having just done my Mitra ceremony in September time and looking forward to the study programme starting in January.
My husband Gavin was a little upset that I was going, he loves Christmas, but he agreed months ago that it was only fair that I got to spend xmas as I wanted to do. In hindsight I think this was wrong. He got more upset as it got nearer the time and I began to regret it all.
When I got there I was a little nervous, as I often am at the start of something new, but I didn’t see anything particularly unusual or wrong. The accommodation was rather austere, as you would expect on retreat. I have been on several retreats before, including at this centre, so this was nothing new to me.
However, I wasn’t prepared for how I would feel in the shrine room.
As you might expect a significant amount of time – 4 separate periods, is spent in the shrine room, with meditation and Buddhist teachings. Again this is nothing new to me. However this time felt so different to me. From the moment we sat in the shrine room I felt wrong. This feeling only intensified as the opening ceremony went on, I felt like I was very much separate to the proceedings and that it just did not resonate with me at all. I put it down to being tired and off from travelling.
The next morning I got up and went to the shrine room for the morning session and I had a strange reaction, I started feeling like I was going to pass out. I am used to passing out, but the trigger is normally being in hospital, even if I am there for someone else. I really hate hospitals. The room was spinning and I was going hot and cold. I tried to put my head between my knees, but that made things worse. I tapped one of the retreat leaders on the shoulders and asked him to come with me. I was genuinely worried that if I stood up and went outside I was going to pass out.
We got over to the main room and I lay down with my feet up and a cold cloth on my brow and I started to feel better. After an hour or so I sat up and talked with other people as they came in from the shrine room. Then I threw up. I had breakfast and then decided to pretty much spend the rest of the day asleep. I put all of this down to some new painkillers I was on, as they can have side effects, so I assumed that was what it was.
I spoke to people about how I could be made more comfortable in the shrine room – my knee is quite bad at the moment, I am using a stick to get around all of the time. So we set up a second chair so I could have my legs up and knees supported during meditation. But I still felt deeply wrong in the shrine room and I am not quite sure why.
The next morning I woke up feeling wrong in myself physically – I thought I was coming down with something. I went to the shrine room and took part in meditation and again I felt like I was going to pass out and I started to have a small panic attack, so I took myself out and went and sat down. This time it couldn’t be blamed on my painkillers, as I had stopped taking the new ones. I calmed down and thought it all through. This was more than just being a little ill, or side effects from painkillers.
My body was telling me that I shouldn’t be here at this time. I thought long and hard, journalled some more and then phoned Gavin. He agreed that if I wanted him to he would come and pick me up, rather than me having to deal with trains and tubes on Christmas Eve when there had been a lot of flooding and bad weather across the country. I journalled some more, thought some more and spoke to my group leader. She said it was up to me and she understood either way.
And so on Christmas Even I got my wonderful husband to come and pick me up from retreat.