Second Innocence: With Basho at Sesshin

Chase Twichell finds a new and hard-won freedom.Chase Twichell

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I've just returned home from the New Year sesshin at Zen Mountain Monastery, where I'm a student of John Daido Loori. Basho was there, too. Not in person, of course (having died in 1694), and not in print, since reading and writing are not allowed during sesshin. But he was there nonetheless, a stowaway in my mind, because I was trying hard to achieve what the poet Elizabeth Bishop, in another context, called "a perfectly useless, self-forgetful concentration," and Basho's poems, which spring from exactly that kind of mind, have been another of my teachers.

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