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Story pick: Shut up, already!

A thought for the beach-bound: There’s more to disconnecting than stashing the BlackBerry in your sock drawer for a day. In this age of e-addiction (e-diction? Is that taken?), we’ve recently seen a spate of self-denial exercises as writers try to sever, temporarily, their many links to the electronic whole. Particularly, the week in which my colleagues here at Story Lab turned off B’berrys, email and text functions for a few days was hilarious (most of them were able to rationalize ways in which a week could be redefined as three or four days. Three or four looooong days).

Well, for a little perspective on those feeble attempts, Gillian Kendall really went into silent mode. In this illuminating piece in the literary magazine the Sun, Kendall describes her week at a silent meditation retreat in California that required her to turn off not just her cell phone but her voice. And further, unknown to her when she started, this silence would require no reading, no writing and, gulp, no eye contact with her fellow inmates.

A thin, dark-haired man named Mark Coleman unfolded himself from the lotus position, sighed thoughtfully, and said, in a disarming Irish accent, that writing can work in two ways: it can distract us from our practice, or it can deepen it. He implied that the latter was rare, and he suggested that we limit ourselves to “minimal writing, perhaps haiku journaling.”

In the next twenty-four hours, I would write about 150 haiku.

Kendall, a cheerful cheater, is a good guide to the fascinating world of meditation retreats, which are growing in popularity as people feel increasingly overwhelmed by the exploding volubility of the world. She writes plenty, talks some and reveals what’s hard, as well as healing, about a little time under the ultimate off switch. The piece here is a long excerpt; reading the full article requires a paid subscription to the Sun.

By Steve Hendrix  | July 12, 2010; 8:50 AM ET
Categories:  Story Picks  
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