Friday, May 7, 2010


People who have attended sesshin, or Zen Buddhist retreat, may have noticed ....

After an almost 100% silence for three or seven or more days, perhaps there will be a get-together or tea to mark the end of sesshin efforts. And at that tea, the room will fill with a symphony of words and conversation.

Think of it -- after seven days of silence, how much news could anyone have to report? And yet there seems to be a lot to report, a lot to talk about. You'd think everyone had been on a tour around the world ... so many adventures, so much excitement, so much talk. And if you try to put a cork in it, to maintain the silence of the time just past, it seems positively contrived or arrogant ... or that was my experience.

Logolatry is defined as, "A blind regard for words or verbal truthfulness" and that's not exactly the word I'm after the describe the scene ... "blind" has too disparaging a feel to it. It's not that after sesshin people idolize or worship words, it's just that the word engine gets a workout after a period of disuse.

What a curious function and yet not so odd at all. Talking is one of the things we all do. We are social. We communicate. We say smart things and dumb ones.

Perhaps the function of a purposeful silence is to find the meaning or substance that words cannot covey and yet convey as well as any purposeful silence.

Adore the silence and still there is silence. Adore the words and still there are words. Adore the truth and the world succumbs to so many lies ... and still there is the truth.

What the hell? -- this is a tea party, isn't it? Tea parties ares something anyone might enjoy.


  1. I didn't die to talk after sesshin but too many people wanted to. OK Sometimes I didn't, sometimes I didn't. Wasn't clear cut. But yes I am usually too polite not to talk back if someone is talking to me.


  2. How quickly folk fall back into place.
    And I too, have resented that post-retreat chatter - once getting a lift home with two ladies who talked non-stop for nearly two hours.
    I'm sure it was a necessary "grounding" exercise for them. Can't say I ever felt the need.
    My lack, perhaps.