Sunday, July 13, 2008

Don't Just Do Something, Sit There by Sylvia Boorstein

Don’t Just Do Something, Sit There by Sylvia Boorstein is a Buddhist retreat in a book. Boorstein walks the reader through the preparation of how to have a silent retreat in your own home for however long you want to go. After walking through the why and how, the book is divided into three sections or, actually, three days. Day Two is the one that can be repeated as often as the reader likes. If time allows, and you wanted to have a week long retreat using this book, you would repeat Day Two. Day One is the entry into the retreat and Day Three is the exit.

Unlike Bliss in a Box or How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life, both by Susan Piver, Boorstein encourages the reader not to bring along a journal or a book to read or anything to distract from the intention of the retreat—to sit in silent meditation. Or eat in meditation. Or walk in meditation. Essentially, the purpose of this retreat is to learn how to infuse each and every moment with meditative practice. The Day Two section offers various stories, lessons on which the reader can meditate.

The truth is, the thought of going into a retreat without even a journal at hand is overwhelming, bordering on the frightening. It would take the kind of focus and discipline I am not convinced I have. Still, I think that if I were to do another silent retreat with a Buddhist focus this is the source to which I would turn, the foundation on which I would build the experience. I love Boorstein’s writing. She makes Buddhism accessible. Perhaps not as stimulating as D T Suzuki but I don’t always want to read something that is challenging. Sometimes it’s enough to sit with a book that makes me feel welcome, like coming home.

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