A reader writes:
What's interesting about the particular kind of retreat that Bob Wright participated in is that it's all about experiencing the fact that "the deadliness of doing --eating, drinking, sleeping, living, dying," as you put it, isn't "deadly" at all if you turn a microscope on it.
In this case, the microscope is very precise awareness while engaged in those things: the gentle pressure of the sole of your foot on the floor as you take a step, the passage of breath in and out of your nostrils, the subtle sensations in your fingertips, and your own impatience as you realize you're already daydreaming about describing the whole experience on a blog. No visualization, no mysticism. The Buddhist insight into suffering is that the release from "the deadliness of doing" is found not in moving away from doing toward abstraction, but in closely attending to the minute particulars of experience.
And when you see a transcendent demonstration of that in a Catholic monastery, you begin to realize what Merton was reaching towards. One of the most spiritually remarkable moments in "Die Grosse Stille" is watching a young Carthusian monk walk around a garden. His steps are so slow, so deliberate, so 'going nowhere', they achieve a meditative effect all by themselves.
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