insights

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    Give and Take: The Pleasures of Pain Paid Member

    Can you share some of the benefits of chronic pain that you've discovered in your twenty-five years of dealing with rheumatoid arthritis? Nobody begrudges you even your most politically incorrect pleasures; conventional standards of social courtesy may be violated indiscriminately; you begin to be intensely grateful for the invention of things like spoons, footstools, and electric toothbrushes; and with minimum exertion, you can make able-bodied people who park in handicapped spots wish their parents had never met. Name something you thought at the time was a cool insight but on later inspection turned out to be really dumb. People have told me for years how my pain is a gift, blessing me with insight, appreciation, gratitude, and wisdom. Frankly, I'd rather be superficial. More »
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    Pilgrim of Love Paid Member

    There are lots of good reasons to go on a meditation retreat in India, but stalking your ex, I discover, isn't one of them.It all begins on Clapham Common, on a bench scratched bare by graffiti. "I'm going traveling," Becca tells me. "To India. On my own." Manfully, maturely, I take it on the chin and book a flight to Delhi.    I catch up with her at the Taj Mahal. Dusk descends, minarets purple, egrets blaze against the sky. Reconciliation beckons.    "What the hell are you doing here?" gasps Becca.   "I thought ... I thought..." I murmur, suddenly unable to think. "Look," she says, ''I'm leaving for Jaipur tomorrow—just leave me alone." Short, unequivocal. I pack my bags and catch the next train to Jaipur. More »
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    Give and Take: What does not being a Buddhist mean to you? Paid Member

    Why aren’t you a Buddhist? Mostly because I can’t sit still that long. I appear to need a spiritual practice that engages me physically and actively. When I first encountered the Sufi practice of zikr—a very energetic form of chanting, let’s call it, that is meaningless without the highest possible degree of absorption in the contents of the chant, which is almost exclusively composed of names or aspects of God—it fit me to a T. More »
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    Imprisoning Peace Paid Member

    On June 19, Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the democracy movement of Burma, will receive the dubious honor of spending her sixtieth birthday under house arrest as the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient. More »
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    Leaping Lamas! Paid Member

    I met the first lung-gom-pa in northern Tibet. Towards the end of the afternoon, my son Yongden, our servants and I were riding leisurely across a wide tableland, when I noticed, far away in front of us, a moving black spot which my field-glasses showed to be a man. I felt astonished. Meetings are not frequent in that region; for the last ten days we had not seen a human being. Moreover, men on foot and alone do not, as a rule, wander in these immense solitudes. Who could the strange traveler be? More »
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    The Price of Fear Paid Member

    I told a friend I would be writing an essay about fear. He cautioned me, counseled me: “Don’t say that our fears are groundless.” He had heard me express the widespread opinion that in allowing ourselves to be governed by fear, we may be forfeiting our freedom. More »