In One Hundred Days of Solitude: Losing My Self and Finding Grace on a Zen Retreat, American teacher of Korean Zen Jane Dobisz (Zen Master Bon Yeon), recalls her first solitary meditation stint in the woods. Luckily, this is not just a recounting of a winter's worth of cabin fever. Instead, Dobisz takes us into her cabin, and into her mind, as she tries--at least temporarily--to live a Walden-like existence.
All the bowing and meditating and wood-chopping that is part and parcel of her retreat is hardly first nature, but the good-humored and tenacious Dobisz is able to adapt, and to relate her hundred days with moving insight and humanity. Her Solitude in fact offers us all a chance to commune with her and to look inside and rediscover our own grace.
Jane Dobisz (Zen Master Bon Yeon) is a Guiding Teacher of the Cambridge Zen Center, where she was Abbot for four years and where she lived for ten years. A student of Zen Master Seung Sahn since 1982, she has practiced extensively in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. An advisor in the financial services industry, she lives in the Boston area with her husband and daughter.
"For 100 days of a snowy New England winter, Dobisz lived alone in a tiny cabin in the woods, adhering to a highly regimented schedule of sitting, walking, chanting, bowing, and chopping wood. She had no contact with the outside world. The experience gave her opportunity to see in a new light things most of us take for granted: keeping warm, taking a bath, getting a drink of water. Everything there was elemental. More than once, she asked herself what utter madness brought her there. Yet she writes luminously about the spectacle of nature, the sensual pleasure of a hot bath, the simple joy of silence. She isn't all wide-eyed wonder, though. She can be quite funny recounting such happenstances as, while out walking, coming upon a parked car, picnic basket in the backseat, full of goodies, including several Lorna Doones...(She scarfed them down.) After her time in the woods, Dobisz went home the same person and yet, in the way of Zen, not quite the same person."
"Splendidly candid and beautifully written... There have been plenty of other books about solitude and the refreshments emerging out of silence and communion with the natural world but this one is special because of its radiant glints of wisdom about Zen."
– Spirituality & Practice
"Good, level-headed stuff. Dobisz is a teacher and writer of strength and experience. With wit, seriousness, and freshness, she gives a powerful account of facing life and reality head-on."
– Steve Hagen, author of Buddhism is Not What You Think
"A fine job of capturing an experience that is so extraordinary in our too-busy, too noisy lives."
– Albuquerque Journal
"A deep bow of appreciation to Jane Dobisz for this lovely reminder--especially welcome in our contemporary culture of seemingly endless stimulus seductions--that the peaceful mind rejoices at the sound of melting snow."
– Sylvia Boorstein, author of It's Easier than You Think
"Rich with humility and humor--Dobisz finds lessons in Zen and life in everything from the frozen rock-solid contents of her chamber pot to the temptations in a package of Lorna Doones."
– Vermont Quarterly
"Dobisz's book describes how loneliness and discomfort evolved into joy as, forced by the absence of distraction and the repetition of simple activities, she learned to focus on each moment--the essence of Zen teaching--and came to treasure life in a way many people don't."
– Boston Globe
"Jane Dobisz, as so many students of Buddhism have done, decided to live a solitary life with nature for a time, 100 days to be exact, during the winter and spring months so that she could experience the harshness of winter and then the jubilation of spring. As I allowed myself to enter her world and release my cynical ponderings, the book began to calm me... This is not really a book to be read in one or two sittings. It is one of those books that you leave by your bedside. You pick it up, and randomly choose a chapter. The quote, the lesson of each small chapter will embrace you, and provide you with a small Zen moment to relax with after a long hard day."
"Down-to-earth, humorous, and easy to follow. This is the story of real practice, as far from a scholarly treatise on Buddhism as possible, and is filled with wonderful teachings and quotes from the great Zen practitioners of all time."
– Primary Point
"Lovely brushstrokes of Zen heart/mind emerging out of intrepid Zen practice. Having trained under the same teacher, it was particularly delightful to feel the vitality of Seung Sahn's teachings brought to life in such a down-to-earth and poetic way."
– Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Wherever You Go, There You Are and Coming to Our Senses