Abbey friend and Retreat from Afar participant Daniel Brasher shares his vivid lived experience of his mindfulness of the body practice.
man kneels before nun offering a gift
While doing the Retreat from Afar, this year I had a Mind/Body event that transformed how I view the world today.

I almost died.

Yes, I had a Myocardial Infarction, a major heart attack. As one medical personnel put it, “A widow maker.” And yet I lived. Thanks to the good karma of being where I was and the right people being in the right place at the right time, I am alive today.

Not ready to let go

Coincidentally, in the Four Establishments of Mindfulness Retreat from Afar, we were finishing up the meditations on the body—meditating on our attachment to something that will one day be gone. I got a first-hand view of what it would be like to not be here as a human being. And for all the work I have done over the years, I realized I was not ready to let go.

That was evident to me from the top of Vail Mountain at 11,250 feet all the way down to the hospital, as I kept telling myself that I was not going to die that day. In between chanting the Buddha’s mantra and telling myself that I would make it, my sole concentration was on getting to the hospital.

Things did seem to fall into place as I made my way down a ski hill, to a gondola, to a ski shop, and met my friend at the bus stop. All the while in extreme pain. We no sooner got on the bus, and we were moving. However foolish, I felt the need to bring my vehicle to the hospital.

Once there, I got out and someone asked me if I needed help. I told them it was my heart. I was immediately rushed into the ER and one nurse got some EKG probes on me and within a matter of seconds there were people all over the room.

Abbey nuns hold up the merit robe for all to see

Then came the shock

I was managing to keep my focus and concentration until one nurse told me, “We got you.” Then it hit me, and shock took over.

No matter how hard I tried I could not overcome that bodily reaction. I began to shake uncontrollably, and I got extremely cold. Everything was out of focus and disconnected. By then we were in the Cath Lab where doctors do their tests and procedures to treat cardiovascular concerns.

I woke up a few hours later in a bed in Intensive Care. My mind was calm, and my body didn’t hurt. I was alive.

Not over yet

That wasn’t the end of this ordeal, though. The second stent operation wasn’t supposed to happen right away. I was to be sent home on the third day and come back a week later. I woke up that Wednesday morning, and then, within a matter of a few hours, I was fading. I could hardly breathe and my thoughts were not organized.

The doctor came in, ran another EKG, and off to the Cath Lab we went. This time I was more aware of my surroundings and what was going on.

Later that morning I was back in my room and feeling better. After 24 hours, they kicked me out and sent me home. After four days in the hospital and two stent operations, I now have 6 stents and a long road to recovery.

I also have a greater appreciation of this precious human life.