What Makes a Buddhist a Buddhist?

Here’s an old Jewish joke:

Stan has been shipwrecked on a desert island for decades. One day he is rescued. Before leaving the island, he shows the rescuer how he spent his years alone: Building a main street with several huts, each with a different purpose.

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Bananas, Buddhism, and Me, Me, Me

(I spent the winter of 2012 in silence on a self-guided retreat at the Forest Refuge, a Buddhist meditation center in rural Massachusetts. This twice-monthly blog explores daily life in the silence, and how intensive retreats offer a compass for everyday life).

My first silent retreat was at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California. The food at Spirit Rock, even at breakfast, was ample and delicious: hot and cold cereals, hard-boiled eggs, breads, assorted jams and spreads, and, at the far end of the table where the food was laid out, a big bowl of fruit.

The fruit bowl itself offered a generous selection. Except for bananas. These were always in limited supply, and went fast.

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Meditation, Life, and the Good Sit

(I spent the winter of 2012 in silence on a self-guided retreat at the Forest Refuge, a Buddhist meditation center in rural Massachusetts. This is the second entry of a twice-monthly blog exploring daily life in the silence, and how intensive retreats offer a compass for everyday life).

I have my first good sit today…Take one.

I’m nine days into the silence, and this morning for the first time since arriving I have a long meditation sit that I would describe as “beautiful.”  Continue reading

Buddhism and Grief: Where it Gets Tricky

(I spent the winter of 2012 in silence on a self-guided retreat at the Forest Refuge, a Buddhist meditation center in rural Massachusetts. This twice-monthly blog, which begins with this installment, explores daily life in the silence, and how intensive retreats offer a compass for everyday life).

It is a warm afternoon, early March. I am deep into the retreat — ten weeks so far. As I head out for my daily walk in the forest that surrounds the center, I pass the communal message board near the dining room. A note is posted with my name on it. This is very odd. I read: Someone has called with news that my friend Bob died.

I turn back and return to my single dorm room, lie down, and cry. It’s a brief, clear, unobstructed cry. A few minutes later, I head out again to walk in the forest.

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