“Jesus said…Split a piece of wood. I am there. Lift up the stone and you will find me there.”—from logion 77 of the Gospel of Thomas1
There’s a tradition in Buddhism as it’s practiced in North America called the circle talk. It’s a ceremony of closure at the end of a meditation retreat, at least in the Zen and Vipassana traditions in which I’ve practiced. For those unfamiliar with them, retreats generally consist of multiple days spent sitting motionless on a meditation cushion mentally following one’s breath or concentrating on some confounding question like, “What is my face before my parents were born?” This punctuated only by short periods of walking, meals, work, and sleep during which an attempt is made to maintain the same quality of attention. The circle talk occurs at the end of the final period of “sitting” on the last day. Meditation cushions are drawn around into a circular formation, everyone takes a seat, and, going around the circle one by one, each retreatant is given a chance to say a few words. Because the idea of verbalizing the experience feels counterintuitive to me, and I’d usually prefer to say nothing at all, I’m amazed at the volume of words that gush forth from my co-retreatants. I take the impulse to “share the experience” in this way to be a particularly American phenomenon. I suspect they don’t do circle talks in Asia.