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.



7 thoughts on “Retreat

  1. morelenmr says:

    I can fully feel, even this remove of distance and life from the event the ‘wrongness’ you describe.

    Although not as spiritually troubling, I myself encountered a very similar situation once while staying at a hotel in Whitby. Again, it was far more trivial as it was not something that impinged on such a deep ritual moment. However I experienced what I think was a very, very similar external sensation of wrongness while staying in my room. It was so overpowering that I genuinely could not sleep a moment through the entire night. I wedged a chair under the door handle and sat up reading with my maglite. At every sound, every seagull crying or drunken hen/stag-nighter shambling noisily to their own rooms – at every moment I expected my door to be kicked in and be murdered in my bed. There was misty, drifting malice in the very fabric of the darkness all around me and I dare not put on the main – greasy-brown – light for fear of what I might cause to coalesce. The only reason I did not leave on the spot was I did not want the owners to think I was trying to run off without paying.

    As you will probably remember I am one to always look to the paranormal first, so I think something pretty terrible happened in that room in the past. Maybe not the stereotypical murder, but something horrible and flinching and drenched with baseness. Something had been left behind. It had clearly not been decorated since the very early nineties at best and even in daylight it felt… stained, abused, unclean. I cannot say how pleased I was to watch the sky lighten through the thin towelling curtains and LEAVE without even my B&B’ed breakfast.

    Anyway. That is what your post brought immediately to my mind. That is the same feeling that I empathize from your words.

    • Hello Morelenmir.

      Yes, I do remember!

      It was that sort of feeling, desperately wanting to escape, but not really being in a position to do so.

      • morelenmr says:

        Precisely! Almost as if whatever ‘it’ was, was exploiting the ‘tied in’ aspect of the experience and had been drawn there itself by the psychical energy of so many celebrants over the years in worship and meditation. But, there I go again!

        I think you should take the positive from it. You resisted the influence and made it away whole. As Becky says bellow a VERY brave post to make.

  2. beckyannison says:

    I think it is incredibly brave of you to post this, especially given how much you were looking forward to it. I shall be very interested to hear the rest of the story. I love how honest you have been about your search for your path.

    • Hello Becky

      I didn’t know you were still reading! Thank you for your comment, I have been worrying about posting this, hence why there was such a gap between when I wrote it and when I posted it!

      I am trying to be honest in my writing and especially my search for my path, so many people seem to find it very straight forward and honest and I don’t think that is a the case for a lot of people.

      I am having a blog fast at the moment, but I will catch up with all of yours soon!

  3. beckyannison says:


    I’m very sorry I didn’t reply to your email all that time ago. The last 18 months have been pretty full on, I finished my Masters, relocated to Derbyshire, had a baby 7 months ago and now have four pigs (the first step in our proto-smallholding).

    I haven’t blog anything at the old blog for a long time. But I’m slowly getting back to things after all that change. I’m really enjoying reading about your spiritual journey at the moment – it sounds very intense. I don’t think you should worry about what people think of you, all that matters is that you are authentic to yourself, and I think being authentic means you have to try a lot of different things to find your path. Whatever happens I expect that you will have found something in Buddism that will enhance your life and stay with you wherever and whatever you do next (whether that is further on the path of Buddism or something else). Therefore this experience was important and valuable.

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