Thursday, September 5, 2013


An email this morning told me that the writer had just come from his first sesshin in 30 years. Sesshin is the intensive retreat practice in Zen Buddhism -- a time from a couple of days to seven or more, generally. The retreat is devoted to silent meditation sitting, some walking meditation and a talk now and then. Yes, they generally feed you.

The email took me down a few minutes' worth of memory lane during which it occurred to me:

Everyone gets something different out of sesshin, I imagine. But one of the nice things -- or anyway one of the things I liked/hated -- was the fact that after sesshin there was no way in hell you could tell anyone what you had been doing for a week. For those unfamiliar with Zen practice, it sounded ... well, a bit weird, perhaps. But what was even more confounding was the fact that you couldn't even tell people who had been to precisely the same sesshin what had happened.

Sure, you could try. And sure, you could skirt the edges of one thing or another, but the fact was that no matter how heart-felt the effort, no matter how much you wanted to be "honest," something always seemed to be missing and every attempt was somehow half-assed and incomplete. At a time when you might wish to be your most open and clear and authentic, it was fake.

At first, I hated that fact.

Later I learned to relax and be grateful.

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