I spent the day before Abi’s second operation at a meditation day at the Buddhist Centre. I wanted to try and find some balance amid my emotional turmoil. The Centre is one of my favourite places because, during some of the tumultuous events of my recent past, it has had the habit of providing me with a calm refuge. In the summer of 2009, the week before Abi was rushed to hospital, Kara and I were on the Centre’s family retreat. Abi was meant to be there too, but she was suffering from chicken pox and as it turns out, something much more severe. Then, when I first made it back home after Abi’s first bout of surgery, I spent half an hour having a good cry in the shrine room at the Centre. That released a lot of tension. Finally, when Sarah and I first separated, the Centre arranged for the girls and me to stay at their men’s refuge. So spending the day at there, before Abi’s next big ordeal, seemed entirely appropriate.

I was nervous from the moment I woke up that morning. I tried to distract myself by doing a few jobs around the house, but I wasn’t far from crying. I few tears escaped on the drive to the Centre, but I sort of managed to pull myself together by the time I arrived there. But then someone asked about Abi. A tear betrayed my fears and soon everyone knew why I was there.

We spent the day focusing on three passages from the Majjhima Nikaya of the Buddhist Pali Cannon. But in all honesty, I couldn’t tell you which because even though I read from one of those passages, my mind was elsewhere. We did three short sitting meditations. I was so busy worrying about Abi, I didn’t really pay much attention to the first two. I did catch some of the third because it was introduced with a sweet talk, which was that the greatest kindness of all was: “be honest about your own feelings”. But I’m a forty-something English male who tries not to have public breakdowns and if I were entirely honest about my feelings, I would have descended into a flood of tears. So I reigned myself in and kept myself to a few tears that I hope went unnoticed. I did manage some focus when we did a walking meditation. I always enjoy those because I’m an incredibly physical person. Being mindful of each step works really well for me.

But for all my distraction and attempts at controlling my real emotions, the day was immensely helpful. I left feeling more grounded than when I first arrived. I’m genuinely glad I went. Otherwise, I might have found the week ahead even tougher than it proved to be.

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