Extreme Unplugging: Why I Go Dark

All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone. —Blaise Pascal

I started to write this post during meditation. I know, I know…that’s not what you’re supposed to do when sitting. But as anyone who has meditated has discovered—thinking happens.

I was a few days into a monthlong retreat at the Zen Monastery Peace Center, and I was happy. Not the kind of happy you feel when you’ve won the lottery, but happy like when you’re a kid on summer vacation.

This, I realize, is not the reaction most people would have when staring down 30 days of silence with no phone, computer, family, friends, or even eye contact. But I love being on retreat, and people often ask me what it’s like, so it occurred to me to try to articulate why I like to go dark and unplug in such spectacular fashion.

Continue reading

Going From Zero to Zen

Meditation is enjoying a moment in the limelight.

A slew of studies now confirm it’s good for you. High-profile celebrities openly encourage it. Your doctor may have even suggested it as a way for you to manage stress.

All of this may make you feel (more than you did already) that you really need to give it a go.

So you sit down, cross your legs, and begin.

And within 30 seconds you’re fidgeting. Soon your foot falls asleep, and that’s all you can think about. Except when you’re thinking about whatever your mind has decided needs to be dealt with immediately. Like checking email. Again.

Then the dog (or the cat, or your kid) realizes you’re sitting on the floor and assumes it’s playtime. Game over.

Maybe you try again tomorrow, but within a few days, because the experience is anything but peaceful, you give up.

It can be hard to go from zero to Zen. Meditating outside, with others, can help.

Continue reading

A Moment of Silence With 400,000 People

“Silence is a source of great strength.”  —Lao Tzu

I wouldn’t have thought you could get 400,000 people excitedly waiting to begin the largest climate march in history to stop, become still and silent, and raise their hands in solidarity. But it happened—and it was powerful.

As we lined the western edge of Central Park with a cushion of quiet, we had a moment to access that place beyond words, to get in touch with the bigger picture, to tap into the mystery that transcends but includes us all.

After filling up on the love, peace, joy, connection, or whatever each of us found in that moment of reflection, we brought forth that energy in a roll of sound that moved through the crowd like a wave in perpetual crest.

It was a roar of hope and frustration, of joy and anger, of optimism and sadness. It was a roar of love—the sound of a mother bear protecting her cubs and a parent whispering, “I love you” to their sleeping baby.

It was the sound of the Earth itself, saying, “I will not be denied.”