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Lions Roar : July 2012
What a radical rupture, I used to think, going from would- be meditator to foreign correspondent. Now, more than twelve years after making that choice, I’ve reconsidered. I see that the lure and life of the microphone were, in fact, very similar to those of the meditation mat. In 2000 I was a young man eager to leap into the unknown, to push myself to my limits, to pull a Jonathan Livingston Seagull on the world’s sorry backside, so to speak. Buddhism, especially via a long retreat, would have provided that leap. Instead, the NPR gig gave it to me. Boy, did it give it to me. I flew away from my comfortable life to invent a highly unconventional one, reporting from parts of the world with which I was barely famil- iar, living out of hotels on good nights, sleeping on floors or in hammocks on better ones. In some fundamental way there had been no fork in the road, as I’d believed. The choices before me had offered essentially the same thing, at least for a young man at that point in his life. And looking at the bigger picture, I now see that there are deeper, more enduring similarities between journalism and Buddhism, both in how they’re practiced and in their goals. Journalism, at its finest, is nothing less than a pursuit of the truth. I’ll capitalize it, because the Truth is a reporter’s ideal. It’s their Holy Grail, whose ensnaring alone might guarantee that justice is done, that wrongs are righted, that harmony is achieved. The meditator’s equivalent might be the search for the self—whether you call it soul or ego or the smallest particle— some indestructible, nondependent pillar of existence from which springs all of the world’s beauty and nonsense. Both reporters and meditators are on quests. As the years pass, both will likely realize, if they’re doing their work well—bravely, wholeheartedly, applying themselves with diligence—that their quests are in vain. Reporters will realize they can never seem to find a story with a simple, discernable truth behind it, a clear right and wrong. The story is always nuanced, multifaceted, changing. And yet with each new assignment they set off after an ideal they know they’ll never find, never nail down, and in that there is a great thing to be learned. It is no less great for meditators, this lesson, as they sit watch- ing their thoughts hour after hour, day after day. How they arise, hang around for a while, fade away. Over and over. Looking and looking to test whether the teachings are right; if it’s really the case that there is no smallest particle to find, no soul, no ego, ultimately, to cling to. When they have caught a glimpse of this emptiness they keep on meditating because, like reporters, they’ve also learned the journey has no end. The big difference of course is that while journalists may reach the end of their days and be considered wise in the ways of the world, without the dharma they’ll leave this world as ignorant as they came into it. Which is why I must start meditating again. Why I pray to the buddhas that I may sit my sorry backside back down on the mat. ♦ Full-time, Part-time, Continuing Education, and Online Opportunities Available; Apply Now! scholarship. meditation. service 1119 SE Market Street | Portland, Oregon 97214 telephone: 503-235-2477 | email: