Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Monday, February 09, 2004  

I was out of town this weekend, and I'm just getting caught up on the news. I'm of course interested in the Bush interview, regretting that I didn't get to see it live (see Drum, eRobin, Jake, and Jesse for cogent analysis). The AWOL story is also exploding with a post containing some of the relevant Bush documents, again at Calpundit (negating the need, apparently, for any other blogs). So there's much to read.

While I do remedial reading this morning, a personal note. This weekend I spent time with a couple dozen folks who are raising money for Buddhist retreat facilities. When they're built, the facilities will accomodate cloistered one- and three-year retreats. Although Tibetans have a long tradition of multi-year retreats, for Americans the idea of sitting on a cushion for three years, wholly out of contact with the world, seems a little offbeat. We've discovered that Americans willing to contribute to such a venture are similarly offbeat, and just a little less rare than Americans willng to actually do the retreat.

In the interest of leaving no stone unturned, I wanted to let you know about this project. Even the idea of the role of long retreat to a society is a fascinating one. Many cultures have developed monastic communities, and mostly they receive cultural support. Why? Is there any benefit to a larger group if some members remove themselves for months or years? Do the retreats actually benefit even the retreatants? The Dalai Lama has been sufficiently interested in this that he's worked with pyschiatrists from the University of Wisconsin to study the effects of meditation on the brain (see also here). In other research, Alan Wallace is planning a project that will study the effects of a one-year retreat on the brains of Buddhists.

In an outcomes-based culture like ours, these studies may help legitimize the notion of long retreat. But in some ways, that allows us to subvert the larger question of whether there's any value to the society at large if a few members to remove themselves from the hustle and bustle of regular activity for extended periods of contemplation and meditation. If this question tickles your interest and you'd like to know more, or if you know someone else whose interest might be tickled, please take the time to drop me a line (emmasblog(at)yahoo(dot)com). We're trying to exapnd our net of interested folks; nothing would please me more than chatting about the project.

Now, back to our regularly-scheduled blog....

posted by Jeff | 8:17 AM |
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