Retreat in the desert ends in a grisly death

Fernanda Santos, New York Times: The rescuers had rappelled from a helicopter, swaying in the brisk April winds as they bore down on a cave 7,000 feet up in a rugged desert mountain on the edge of this rural hamlet. There had been a call for help. Inside, they found a jug with about an inch of water, browned by floating leaves and twigs. They found a woman, Christie McNally, thirsty and delirious. And they found her husband, Ian Thorson, dead.

The puzzle only deepened when the authorities realized that the couple had been expelled from a nearby Buddhist retreat in which dozens of …

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In the Arizona desert, Buddhists will embark on a three-year silent retreat

September 7, 2009

LA Times: Deep in a remote desert valley, where rattlesnakes lurk in the scrub, Stéphane Dreyfus and several dozen other Buddhists are preparing to undergo a mind-altering journey:

Three years, three months and three days of silence.

There will be no word from the outside world in the Great Retreat, only the deafening quiet of rock and cactus, with seemingly endless time to ponder the emptiness of life.

Dreyfus and his fellow adherents hope to find enlightenment in the silence, a gift they plan to share when they emerge from their long seclusion.

They know that outsiders might dismiss them as eccentrics on a strange utopian trip, but their resumes suggest otherwise. Among them are … Read more »