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One Hundred Days of Solitude: Losing Myself and Finding Grace on a Zen Retreat Paperback – December 26, 2007

4.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"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." (Booklist)

"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." (PopMatters.com)

"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)

About the Author

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.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Wisdom Publications; First Trade Paper Edition edition (December 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0861715381
  • ISBN-13: 978-0861715381
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #385,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By L. Young VINE VOICE on April 28, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Zen student, Jane Dobisz decides to deepen her practice by spending one hundred days in solitude in a tiny 150 square foot cabin in the deep woods during a New England winter. She takes along the most basic of items -an ax, barley tea, rice, miso, beans, and one hundred pieces of dried fruit, one piece for each day of her retreat. The cabin is heated with a wood stove and has no plumbing or electricity. She must chop wood for heat each day, as well as drag water from a well a half mile away. She sets before herself a stringent Zen regimen. Up at 3:15 am every morning to spend the rest of the day at meditative practices - bowing, sitting, walking, chanting, work period, on and on until sleep at 9:3opm.

Through her days alone she experiences despair, desire, day dreaming, exhiliration,loneliness and hunger. She experiences the joy of feeding a chickadee from her fingers and experiences wisdom from a tiny mouse who decides to camp out in the excrement in her chamber pot. Practicing mindfulness - fully focused moment by moment awareness brings an aliveness to every moment of life.

Dobisz' book is wise, refreshing and most of all inspiring.
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Why would you wantto spend 100 days by yourself in the woods? I couldn't imagine doing such a thing, but as a spiritual seeker I was curious what someone would get out of it. Jane Dobisz has written a book with such clarity, honesty, humility and humor that I understood not only the challenges of making a retreat but also the benefits. I was (almost) convinced to try it myself. I particularly appreciate the metaphors she uses to explain zen principles. For example, when she compares being on a zen retreat to boiling a pot of water it becomes clear why she is there.

If you want to read a great book that helps you understand what a real 100 day zen retreat would be like to the body, mind and soul of an American - read Jane Dobisz's book.
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If you have ever imagined taking a solitary retreat, this book is an opportunity to live it vicariously. The author is engaging, honest, and inspiring -- she makes you feel as though you are experiencing the retreat directly rather than just reading about it. Be forewarned, however, that this is a reissue of her prior book published under the title "The Wisdom of Solitude." So, if you already own that one, there is no need to purchase this one.
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I loved this book. Only I read it as The Wisdom of Solitude....I think that was a much better title and wish she wouldn't have changed it. I bought the book and read it twice. Then I went on my own solo meditation retreat. She inspired me in a huge way to move to the next level. I needed running water, heat and a lock on the door though. I gave the book away; then decided I needed to read it again. So purchased another copy and read it several more times. Fun, uplifting and intelligently written, I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in meditation and self exploration.
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I doubt this book will be of interest to anyone who isn't curious or engaged in Zen philosophy. For those that are, the author is able to describe what it's like to be completely alone for 100 days in a forest cabin with no electricity. She structures her days to wake up at 3.30am, spend time meditating and working. Work consists of chopping wood, keeping the stove burning with firewood, getting water. She doesn't hunt, but she does everything else necessary to keep her body healthy. I read this book about 4 months ago, and i still think of it when i wake up on cold mornings. She has a lot of determination to get out of a sleeping bag at 3.30am in the morning, when it's black, cold and lonely. She has to get the fire started, and then begin some exercises. I hope one day to spend 5 or 7 days in a cabin alone. I won't do 100 until i'm more developed emotionally.
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ZM Jane Dobisz is a great teacher. Her teachings are unpretentious and easy to understand. She studied with the same teacher my teacher received dharma transmission from; the Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn. I would suggest looking up some of her dharma talks on YouTube if you have the time.
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By john wozny on December 20, 2010
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What a delightful book! I found there where actually three levels to this text. On the surface, Zen master Jane Dobisz has written an easy reading account of her experiences while on a personal solo 100 day zen retreat. Get a little farther into the book, and you see that with each anecdote, Jane is illuminating a very specific angle of zen practice she wants the reader to understand. In a simple but profound way, she covers many facets of the basic philosophy of Zen.
Go beyond the stories and the philosophy, and what you start to feel is that this is actually a real life zen master reaching out with her own unique zen lesson for the reader. It's as if Jane is showing us the answer to the Koan "how does one teach zen through a book?". if you are interested in zen, dont miss this one!
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