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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, & True Stories

Ambivalent Zen

Lawrence Shainberg’s interest in Zen began at age fifteen, when his father introduced him to the teachings of Alan Watts — and later introduced him to Watts himself. From this promising beginning, Shainberg went on to study with a long list of renowned spiritual teachers, each of them lacking in some fashion. Finally, he came across the obscure figure of Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi, the teacher at SoHo Zendo, an unassuming Manhattan meditation center whose students practiced a rigorous form of meditation called zazen. In Kyudo Roshi, Shainberg found a wise, paradoxical, often irritating personification of the spiritual practice he had followed most of his life.

Bleeding Dharma

It’s your anniversary. She’s been losing weight for weeks, carrying on about how to celebrate, and hinting that it might be time for you to buy her some new lingerie. All afternoon you miss her, counting the hours until she’ll be home. You play the CDs you both like and plan things to say to her; you’ll ask about her latest academic success, and what she thinks of your new painting. She has been promising you hot sex all weekend. You look forward to the little rituals you share each night when she comes in: playing with the dog, telling jokes, sipping coffee, recapping the day.

A Failed Divorce

Living beyond my means in a Manhattan apartment with two babies, no income, and a philandering husband, I suddenly found myself as vulnerable and dependent as any traditional suburban housewife.

My Parents’ Furniture

Fans of I Love Lucy will recall that, during the final season, the Ricardos move from their Manhattan apartment to an Early American farmhouse in Westport, Connecticut. When they are ready to move out, Lucy stands alone, surveying the old apartment’s living room. It is empty-looking despite the furniture, which she and Ricky have agreed to sell to the new tenants. Lucy is reluctant to leave, to let go, to say goodbye. She weeps softly. Then suddenly she masters her emotions, musters her forces, and straightens up like a soldier. She must move out, and she will, but not before reclaiming all the furniture, carrying it away, piece by piece.


The Birthday Present

The last time I’d seen Madame was right after I returned from Hazelden, a fancy drug- and alcohol-rehab center in Minnesota. lt was now a year later, and my birthday, but considering the circumstances you’d think I wouldn’t have to remind her not to buy me wine.


My father called two weeks ago and told me that my dog’s health was declining. Ringo has been blind for more than a year and generally sits on the porch smelling the world pass by, oblivious to the flies that dance across his useless eyes. He is incontinent and has to wear diapers when he comes in the house at night; Dad won’t leave him outside because mice chew on Ringo’s nose while he sleeps.

Readers Write

Moving Out

I believe in a God of moving, one who requires that you leave behind something as a sacrifice each time you leave a place. If you neglect to do so, he will take something anyhow, something precious.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


“Every parting gives a foretaste of death, every reunion a hint of the Resurrection.”

Arthur Schopenhauer

More Quotations ▸
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