Peter’s Strange Retreat Adventure

by Peter Carlson on May 29, 2014

It is our custom to dedicate a night’s dialogue to reviewing a significant retreat experience by a member of the Sangha.  This report is exceptional, as Peter’s 2 week self-retreat was significantly altered by disease.  During this talk, Peter described the onset of methycillin resistant staphylicoccus aureous  bacteriea (MRSA), a dangerous infection of the skin.  During the first week of the retreat, concentration practice proceeded normally, while what initially appeared to be a spider bite was developing into MRSA.  After several visits to a local clinic for medication and draining the abscess, further complications warranted hospitalization, due to mental fogginess and difficulty with balance.  This effectively ended the formal sitting aspects of the retreat, while Peter was still able to practice mindful awareness of the mental hindrance (“sloth and torpor on steroids”).  During the hospitalization and upon returning home to begin recuperation, Peter reflected upon the impermanence of existence and the nature of suffering, bringing to the discussion this phrase: “We only lose what we’re attached to.”. This was related to attachment to the form of mindfulness of breathing meditation, being on retreat, the onset of aging and the vicissitudes of illness and loss of functioning.  Peter recalled that the Buddha’s teaching on the nature of reality emphasizes non-attachment: to believe in life after death is a mistake, and to believe that there’s no life after death is a mistake as well.  The point of the teaching is that attachment to any view automatically creates insecurity and dissatisfaction.  The remainder of the evening was a lively discussion of the meaning of non-attachment in everyday life.  Next week’s dialogue will explore the hindrance of restlessness and worry.

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