Every Time We Say Goodbye: Savoring the Delicacy of First and Final Encounters

My hosts were right: Bergmannstrasse is a fine choice for solo dining this warm spring evening. I have been in Berlin a few days, inaugurating another month-long trip to Europe. I’m staying with friends of a friend in the relaxed, hip Kreuzberg district, not far from Checkpoint Charlie—the former, grim demarcation between the Western and Soviet segments of this revitalized, thriving city.

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Stumbling into Worship on a Silent Buddhist Retreat

I’m eight weeks into a three-month silence. For many days now, my inner world has been sweet and calm: mind quiet, concentration strong, access to compassion readily available. The wordless, ephemeral beauty of being alive saturates my waking awareness, colored by gratitude and a tolerable, even welcome, hint of melancholy. Access to this tender state is one of the reasons I enter these long silent immersions.

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Mindfulness Meditation and the Passage of Time

I’m 14 days into this silent Buddhist retreat, with 72 more to go. It’s my second Thursday. Last night was the fourth dharma talk. That’s four of 24 scheduled while I’m here.

I wonder if some people completely lose track of time while on retreat. I don’t. Life at silent meditation centers is radically less scheduled than anywhere else I know, yet still tethered to inescapable rhythms.

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When Meditation Becomes Prayer

The essence of vipassana meditation — the Buddhist root of mindfulness — is to see things as clearly as possible without superimposed narrative, without the colorations of personal history, free from the desires and aversions that steer even the most subtle reaches of mental life. It is this practice I hone hour after hour, day after day, in the long weeks and months of a meditation retreat.

But sometimes, my meditation flows organically into something that feels more akin to prayer.

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