Fishing. Another great summertime activity. This is my niece Megan fishing off the dock in front of her cottage on Lake Erie.

Megan doesn't really like to fish per se; she hates to touch the worms to bait the hook, and she hates to touch the fish to take them off the line, and she doesn't actually eat fish. But that isn't really what fishing is all about.

Fishing is about sitting around having an excuse to do nothing but hang out next to the water. Megan likes that. Don't we all?

Whenever I get home to my mother's house in Wadworth, Ohio, we pass a lot of time sitting on the front porch. Most places I live in don't even have front porches, so front porch sitting tends to be a vacation activity for me. Too bad, because it is quite enjoyable. People pass by walking their dogs or their kids and always say hello. I don't get by here very often, but whenever I do, I can count on the fact that I will be able to see the neighbors and catch up on the news. It helps to tie together the gaps that I create through my long absences.

I have returned to the United States, and now have time for some important things in life... spending time with my family. My nieces and nephews are growing up fast, but we still have time to get away to my brother's cottage on Lake Erie for a few days.

After a full day of swimming, boating, and biking, the kids have still not had enough. As the sun sets, we head out to the beach for one last time before the light fails for more swimming and to build yet another sand castle.

Here I am in front of the zendo at Tenryuji, sometime in the middle of my second Osseshin, with its 12 hours of meditation a day. The sign above the door, previously hidden, has been turned around so that it can be seen. It reads, "The Lion's Den." Yes, that's where I have been.

We went begging today, literally. Called "takuhatsu," the Buddha advised his monks to live on only what they could beg that day. The practice is kept alive here at Tenryu-sodo in Kyoto, begging door to door around town every two or three days. As Dominican (beggars ourselve) Thierry-Marie and I were excited about joining them.

Thierry-Marie and I received teihatsu, ritual head shaving, in preparation for another Ozesshin. Ozesshin is an intense retreat of sitting zazen for 10 hours a day in a zendo, interspersed with chanting sutras, walking meditations and a bit of work. Sitting on folded legs for so many hours every day is very painful, and one tries to use the pain to focus and clear the mind.

After working in the gardens, pulling weeds for a few hours, the monks all break for tea. It is hot, so we have iced tea. Very civilized. Even here, protocol is strictly observed, with the novice, Gyo-san, serving tea and cakes to everyone else. You don't reach for a cake or ask for more tea. Gyo-san keeps his eyes open and continues to serve.

As light fades, we head back to the zendo for evening zazen. Brother Andrew is one of the Christian monks here with me on this "Spiritual Exchange." He is wearing the traditional hakama skirt appropriate to a formal occasion such as Ozzeshin. We Christians have taken a break for the afternoon so that we can have Mass (our Christian prayer) and some conversation. Really, however, we take a break because we simply cannot stand the to sit so long. My knees are still hurting from this morning's sitting, and it is hours later!

The Ozesshion begins! The center of the Osession is time spent in zazen meditation in the zendo, pictured here. We sit zazen posture (cross-legged) in two main rows, facing each other, on the cushions you see here. We beginners are on a third row, behind the one on the right, so that our wiggling does not disturb the others.

In the front center is an altar to the Buddha, but you cannot see him from inside the zendo. You do not look at any particular thing so that you can focus on all things, or the essential thing.

Tonight our OSesshion retreat starts, so today we wait. We prepare as well, but mostly we wait. We learn a lot of rituals, how to eat, how to move, how to sleep during the retreat, but then we wait.