The whole idea of being alone had always intrigued me, yet at the same time scared me half to death. Being alone would mean no human contact, no talking, no going to work, paying bills, running errands, or doing any of the usual things I spent so much energy on. What would that be like? Who would I find there, underneath all the layers of social conditioning, obligations, rules, and cultural filters? Would I even like this person? It seemed the best way to find out would be to follow the traditional monastic schedule of sitting, walking, chanting, bowing, and cutting wood for one hundred days.
-- from the Introduction
Inspired by her Korean Zen master's discipline of long, solitary retreats, Jane Dobisz strikes out to a lone cabin in the countryside of New England, armed with nothing but determination, modest food supplies, and an intensely regimented daily practice schedule. The unfolding story of her experience is threaded through with Zen teachings and striking insights into the miracles and foibles of the human mind when left to its own devices, with little distraction at hand.
Both entertaining and inspiring, The Wisdom of Solitude offers a poignant testament to the benefits that reflection and retreat of any duration bring to our lives.
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Jane Dobisz (Zen Master Bon Yeon) is the guiding teacher of the Cambridge Zen Center in Massachusetts. She has practiced in various traditions of Buddhism for twenty-five years and has led retreats around the world, including several ninety-day intensive retreats in the United States, Europe, and South Africa. Dobisz is the editor of The Whole World Is a Single Flower by Zen Master Seung Sahn. She lives in the Boston area with her husband and daughter.From Publishers Weekly:
At an early point in her Zen training, Dobisz (former guiding teacher of the Cambridge Zen Center in Massachusetts), packed a few basic supplies and journeyed to an isolated cabin in the New England woods for a winter retreat. She spent 100 days dedicated to a strict schedule of meditation in its various forms: sitting, walking, bowing and work. This book, arranged in dozens of brief chapters, loosely follows the chronology of her retreat. She is unafraid of sharing the challenges she faced, both small and large-from trying to empty her frozen-solid chamber pot into the outhouse, to the intense boredom of being alone in the woods for over three months. She also shares many of the joys she discovered, such as a heightened awareness of even ordinary chores: "A sense of rapture permeates even the smallest activities of the day." Yet the book suffers from lack of a unifying theme or style. Although individual chapters can be quite effective-as when she describes how her intense desire for a change of diet led to her stealing cookies from nearby picnickers-many chapters end in a lesson that either feels forced or is simply too enigmatic to be accessible. Also, the various approaches she employs-some chapters chronicle her experience on retreat; others are more like Zen sermons; still others read like a personal journal-prevent a coherent approach to her topic. The result is a disjointed work that fails to provide fully satisfying insight into either Zen Buddhism or the experience of a solitary retreat.
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