When I became an anagārika I had taken a sabbatical from my research PhD in psychology at Southampton University to spend a year at Chithurst monastery. All my work colleagues thought I was crazy, my career was really taking off. I had spent seven years training first as a psychologist and then added on physiotherapy with the aim of doing research in the area of neurological rehabilitation.
Yet, all along my personal agenda, as a practising Buddhist, was to develop my contemplation of body and mind. I was not really sure what to expect from monastic life but for the first few weeks it was just good to give my brain a rest and do the simple work of cooking and driving and so on.
Then one night, out of the blue, I had an extremely lucid dream which was to change the course of my life. I dreamt that I was rushing around the wards at the hospital, as I had been for so many years – but instead of patients in the beds there were just organs. In one bed a liver, in another lungs, in another a pile of intestines. I had no idea what to do. The situation seemed completely hopeless.
I just kept running around saying to myself,
“What am I going to do, what am I going to do?”
When I woke up I sat up in bed and my first thought was,
“Oh no, all that work!”
I realised that my hospital career was at an end, and here I am still in a monastery twenty-five years later with no thoughts of going back. Looking back I can think that perhaps the taste of freedom, of letting go, I had experienced a few years before after a trip to the morgue had gone deeper than I had thought.
I offer this for your reflection