One City

by Davee Evans

How about a year off? NY designer Stefan Sagmeister does this every seven years. He shuts his design firm, and heads off to work on personal projects for creative renewal. Watch his views on taking time off at the TED conference. Stefan’s suggestion is outrageous for the working world, but not news in the spiritual. Retreat of some form seems to be a necessary component of contemplative practice. But how many of us as Western Buddhists can afford more than two weeks off for retreat, much less fifty two?

As Buddhism comes to the West, a major question on my mind is if the emphasis on retreat needs to change or if it is still a crucial component. In a certain sense, the retreat principle is in all forms of meditation. Even a few minutes a day is a kind of mini-retreat; of separating from both our daily, hectic schedule. But can we achieve anything from just an hour a day? For me personally, having day long and weekend long intensive practice sessions are significant experiences. I have no idea how to weigh their value vis-a-vis daily practice, but a day long takes me to a more subtle level.

What do you think? Can Western Buddhists be as successful a contemplative tradition, in the midst of busy lives? Or do you think it’s just always been this tough to retreat?

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