By 5 pm on the Saturday afternoon of the weekend retreat with Nicole in Germany, I could unmistakably feel that there was major distress in the body. Intense pains and a sickening nausea began emanating out of the stomach area. I could feel myself wanting to retch. Two or three hours later, I experienced the wrath of the body as intense pain raced through the body. Every cell seemed on fire.

At times, I bent double with the pain or kept walking up and down in my room at the Waldhaus retreat centre, an hour from Bonn, or retched over the toilet with nothing but spittle emerging. These were a different level of sensations to those experienced on the meditation cushion. The pain had spread throughout the stomach area into the diaphragm, the liver, and back and to the top of the shoulder.

At times, I shook with the pain. All colour had gone out of the body leaving an anaemic looking individual with a ghostly pallor. Sometime after midnight, I knocked on Nicole’s door to wake her up.” I think I need to be taken to hospital,” I said.

She acted quickly. A member of staff drove us the hospital some 30 minutes away – with one or two stops at the side of the road to double over and retch. After the usual form filling, the doctor gave me a physical examination and concluded that it was a nasty bout of gastro enteritis. She issued a prescription and then Nicole, the driver and myself journeyed to the all night pharmacist arriving back at the centre around 2 am. The doctor said that it would take a couple of hours for the medicine to be effective and my stomach would settle.

By 6 am, there was no sign of any relief. Unbroken waves of pain continued to surge through the body. Nicole spoke with a doctor on the retreat who provided me with some 20 drops of painkiller – the first time I have ever used painkiller – except for a root canal work on my teeth from my dentist in New Delhi in January 2007. The drops had the desired effect. I slumped onto the bed for about an hour and disappeared into a fitful form of sleep.

As Sunday morning got underway, the pain began to ease off though nausea and sudden contractions continued. That night I was booked on a flight from Bonn to London and then three hours later from London to Brisbane. I rang Singapore Airlines in London to see if I could change my flight as more than 30 hours of travelling in pain from the German retreat centre to my mother’s retirement home in Brisbane had little appeal. Singapore Airlines said they had no spare seats for flights to Australia for several weeks, nor could I upgrade on the flight I was booked on.

Did I take the flight to give the retreat, DFP programme and lead the dharma gathering, as well as see my mother, nephew and niece or cancel the flight and get treatment?

I recalled an old political one-liner: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I flew from Bonn to London with Lufthansa and then on the same Sunday evening, I took the flight to Brisbane. I would not recommend it. In the past 35 years, I have perhaps spent too much time “watching sensations.” I would now watch them until I got to Australia.

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