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Lions Roar : January 2017
it would be better to do a retreat in person, I don’t really need to step outside of my life to do it the same way as people whose skills for concentration and solitude might not be as developed. I hope that doesn’t sound too egotistical. Not at all. Tell me about your meditation practice. I’m not always true to it. I fall off, and get back on. I am a hap- pier and nicer person when I’m meditating. Where did you get the sign in your office that says, “What good shall I do this day?” It was something that I saw in a camping catalogue. It reminded me of my sister, so I bought one for her and one for me. My sister and I are both non-practicing Catholics, but we do Lent and we always talk a lot about what we’re going to give up. We’re fantastic at giving things up. We love it! It’s our strength! A couple of years ago, my sister said, “Of course, I’m giving up sugar and flour, but I am also going to consciously do at least one good thing a day.” I thought that was great and said, “I’m going to do that, too.” In Buddhism and many other religions there is the ideal of service, which is beautiful and profound. But, as a feminist, it’s difficult to fully embrace this ideal because women in particular are so often pushed to serve. How do you work with this? It’s the great question of my life. There’s part of me that thinks that if I could be freed from the tyranny of good deeds, I could have greatness. But another larger part of me believes that if I were freed from the tyranny of good deeds, I’d have nothing at all. When I’m on book tour like I am now, I come home for two days a week and I’m so tired my gums are bleeding. But today I will meet with the son of my dearest friend and work on his college application essay with him. Yesterday, I spent a good chunk of the day writing a piece for my friend, who is an eighty-four-year old nun, to read at a funeral. So the timing isn’t the best to help my friends, but when is it ever the best? These are the people who love and support me. This is the moment they need my help. Humanity is something you either have or you don’t, and you don’t get to use it just when you’re well-rested. What have your nun friends taught you about service? They’re people who simply devoted their lives to good work. They did not get the $200 bottle of perfume. They did not get the Mercedes. They served the poor. They taught children to read. Having known them for so long, I can say that these women in their eighties are happy in a way that a lot of people aren’t. They’re happy because they have served. I believe that, even though I wish I didn’t have to work on this college appli- cation essay today! ♦ LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2017 18 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE