The Nuns' Island

Seven Sisters on RetreatSandy Boucher

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Here in the nunnery the afternoon is for sleep, study, contemplation. The night before, Ayya Khema suggested that we imagine we are going to die shortly and then see what we cling to. I find I am sad to lose my possibilities—for achievement, and, yes, for liberation. Why am I here, after all, if I do not believe in my capacity to be enlightened?—though we are made so uneasy by this idea that we make jokes. Sydney, a 26-year-old Fulbright scholar from Florida, says that should sudden illumination awaken her, she will telegraph her family: "Bingo!"

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