I APPROACHED MY FIRST COURSE IN VIPASSANA AS

a virtual neophyte, with a strong cynical streak about anything having to do with Eastern religions, mysticism, and gurus. I went because a girlfriend invited me to come along. I figured that once I got there I could

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I REMEMBER WALKING UP THE PATH TO THE MEDI-

tation hall at Bhavana Society on the evening of my first retreat. The forest was incredibly quiet; the only sounds were the crunch of my footsteps on the gravel path and the din from my pounding heart. I didn’t know what to expect or how I would possibly react to the rigors of a ten-day

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