It is customary during the Wednesday night meeting after a significant retreat experience to allow participants to “think out loud” about what gains in understanding and living the Dharma might result from that retreat. This talk reflects the two-week year-end self-retreat Peter sat through recently. The title and topic are extraordinary because of the death of Peter and Paula’s beloved dog Jhana, whose health was declining before the retreat. Many reading this have spent time with her over the 12 years of her life; this may be how you learn of her death from cancer. Peter resided for over 1/2 the retreat in the cottage in the back yard as usual, but became painfully aware of how close to the end Jhana was on December 25, so he moved the retreat back into the home and contemplated the Three Characteristics, anicca, dukkha and anatta regarding the strongly felt distress, that is, craving and clinging to the loss. The intention was to have an immersive exposure to Jhana as an object of attachment and carefully investigate Namarupa (the mind related to form) and the law of cause and effect (karma), that is, how craving and clinging are caused and then overcome through vipassana practice. The retreat ended as scheduled on the 28th, and she died peacefully on the 29th.
The following essay describes the unfolding of the retreat in a more narrative way, and how that process relates to the death of the family dog as an opportunity to realize more about the Four Noble Truths in “real time”, not the abstractions that might occur otherwise in that contemplation.
Here is the essay prepared for the talk: THE DHARMA OF LOVING A DOG
Next week, Peter is considering beginning an exploration of the Anapanasati Sutta, the discourse that describes the path of awakening manifested through the practice of mindfulness of breathing.