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Lions Roar : July 2012
PHOTOBYGERRYHADDEN But First the News... While making plans to do a long retreat, GERRY HADDEN was offered a job at NPR. A reporter, he discovered, is a lot like a meditator. Both are on a quest for truth. And ultimately neither finds it. WHEN I WAS THIRTY-THREE I BUILT a house in Seattle, Washington. It stood on a steep, wooded hill, and had one bed- room, one bathroom, and a big open living room and kitchen. But its most exciting feature was its dedicated Buddhist shrine room. I was so thrilled to have a whole room just for my medi- tation practice. When you build your own house you can design things like that. I lived there for exactly one day. Then I locked the door and never went back. It was 2000 and NPR had hired me to be its correspondent for Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. I set up a shrine room in my new digs in Mexico City, but I soon realized I wasn’t going to be meditating much. The problem was that I was traveling all the time, sometimes on the road for weeks. All right, I thought, I’ll get a travel Buddha. One that’ll fit in my pocket. The little guy was easy enough to find. But although I’d set him up in hotel rooms—on top of the mini-fridge, for exam- ple—I still didn’t meditate very often. I was just too tired after my long, occasionally harrowing, days of reporting. In Seattle I’d built the shrine room in part because I’d had my sights set on a three-year meditation retreat and needed to ramp up my practice, to log more hours on the mat. I spent many hours imagining how the retreat would be: mind-blow- ing, life-changing, ego-destroying. I set out asking my teacher, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, for permission. It took longer than I’d anticipated to get a yes out of him, but once his bless- ing was in hand there was no stopping me. Or so I thought. For the next four years with NPR I would look back on that untaken retreat like a man gazing across at himself in some parallel, unreachable life. I’d been so sure that that was my path, had felt so passionate about it, and now I was losing my ability to practice even basic sitting meditation. I fretted over this—in the Lacandona Jungle, the Galapagos Islands, Port-au- Prince, San Salvador, and Guatemala City—even lying in my own bed in Mexico City, just feet from the mat. I loved my job, and had no regrets about having accepted it, but it was also true that I’d paid a price: I’d lost my spiritual way. I’d left it behind in my untested little house in the northwest. SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2012 29