Category Archives: Daily Practice

The Birthday Cigarette

On Sunday the singer-song writer Leonard Cohen turned 80. While his friends and family were lighting the candles on his cake, Mr. Cohen was lighting a cigarette. A year ago he promised that when he turned 80 he would start smoking again after thirty years. Why not? If you’ve made it this far, you can…

Breathing with the Dolphin

“Remember to breathe.” I often say this to people under stress—whether it’s distress or eustress. It’s something I have to tell myself. We don’t have to think to breathe. If we did, we’d fall asleep at night and suffocate in our beds. But like all gifts, autonomic breathing also holds liabilities. We can go months,…

Raids on the Unspeakable

One of the gifts of vacation is to change up one’s prayer ritual. Normally, Pam and I sit for prayer in a corner of our bedroom. There are two chairs, a small table for an oil lamp, a few sacred books, and a timer that sounds a Tibetan prayer bell when our orison is over….

Two Words and a Wedding

  Tonight I will officiate at my second wedding in a week. I like weddings, but I always struggle with what to say. At baptisms, the parents in the front pews listen even though they’re often tussling with older siblings of the one in white. At funerals, people listen intently. Their stare—both skeptical and desperate—says:…

Monastic Gin

I am sitting with my father, playing gin rummy, but I might as well be sitting in a monastery or any retreat house. I am here for a week. Our days are simple and highly ritualized. Breakfast is at 8:30. (Two eggs on an English muffin, daily, for him.) We may converse for a while…