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The Sun Magazine

Essays, Memoirs, and True Stories

The Art Of Living

Life is an art. The way we live our lives is an expression of our deepest understanding and our whole being. Many years ago, I met a young American named Jim Forest. Jim is an intelligent man, and he asked me to teach him about the practice of mindfulness. One time when we were together, I offered him a tangerine. Jim accepted the tangerine, but continued talking about the many projects he was involved in — his work for peace, social justice, and so on. He was eating, but, at the same time, he was thinking and talking. I was there with him. I was really there; that is why I was aware of what was going on. He peeled the tangerine and tossed the sections of it into his mouth, quickly chewing and swallowing.

Feast And Famine

I am eating lunch with my daughter at a fast-food restaurant, where I’m having a hamburger. She is here for the advertised toy they have set like bait in a circle of French fries, orange soda, and meat. As I read the newspaper, I see a picture of a starving child. I know, because I have made it my business to know, what is happening inside that child’s body: The sugar in her blood, the starches in her liver, the fat deposits in her tissue have been used up, leaving her skin loose and her eyes sunken. Her brain needs glucose, the only source of which is now her body’s protein. Already, the digestive enzymes in her stomach and pancreas have been sacrificed. Soon will follow the muscles in her arms, legs, and heart. She is consuming herself.

Living Well

My father sometimes charged us for food. I remember once deciding to pay a quarter — one week’s allowance — for a can of tuna. A quarter was a lot, but I was hungry, and I knew I could earn more by “payday,” Saturday, for cleaning the house. A chart hanging over the ironing board listed the wages my father would pay my three sisters and me: a penny each for closets, two cents for the little bathroom, three cents for the big bathroom, and five cents each for the three bedrooms, living room, sun room, kitchen, and laundry room. But a room could be cleaned only once a day, and there were four of us.

Fear Kills

There is a centuries-old Zen koan that has accumulated any number of answers through the years: How does the Buddha meditate when he is too hot or too cold? The ancient zendos made few concessions to the severe climate: there was no heat; you were given maybe one blanket, and you wore the same garment winter and summer. One answer was “Buddha hot, Buddha cold,” which meant: when you’re hot, sweat; when you’re cold, shiver — what’s the problem? Another seems at first glance to say the opposite: “Heat kills, cold kills.” It is not heat and cold themselves that kill, but our ideas about them. Heat and cold are not problems. They are just facts. It is what we do with them that creates problems.



Every night, as Joseph tried to sleep, he felt as though his body were becoming disconnected at the joints — his limbs flying off in all directions. The sensation started with a slight tingling in his elbows, and spread to his shoulders, hips, and legs, until it reached even the small bones of his feet. His eyes would fly open to make sure everything was still there. He imagined his limbs corroding, disappearing, leaving only the thick, dumb part of his body, unable to move.

Holy Ghost

Joshua wasn’t a guru when I married him. He was a tall man with good legs and thick blond hair that hung wild to his shoulders. He could stop a room, hold it there, and make the rest of the people in it look clumsy and wrong. For me, it was like discovering the most exciting human being on earth.

Selected Stories

I was having sex with a man, and I became frightened. So I got out of bed and covered him with potato chips.

*NOTE: Original copies of this issue are no longer available. Unbound, laser-printed copies will be provided for print orders.

Readers Write


“You’re not going to eat that, are you?” they asked, meaning the can of Spam given to me by a visitor to our commune. Though I knew that eating it would reveal me to be unevolved and unspiritual, I was nevertheless famished for protein, and covertly devoured the canned meat.

Personal Stories By Our Readers ▸


The most dangerous word in any human tongue is the word for brother. It’s inflammatory.

Tennessee Williams

More Quotations ▸
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