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Imagine this: An editor, known for orchestrating the rapid-fire pace of breaking news at The New York Times, turns off his phone and embraces a week of utter silence at a serene meditation retreat. Can the relentless buzz of current events coexist with the profound quiet of meditation? This is the journey of Patrick LaForge, the Express team editor at The New York Times, who swapped headlines for mindfulness in the tranquil Hudson Valley.

Unplugging from the Fast Lane

At the crack of dawn, in a rustic barn, Patrick joined a group of dedicated meditators. The usual cacophony of news alerts and tweets was replaced by the symphony of nature. 

This retreat marked a stark contrast to his daily life, where Patrick leads a global team of 23 journalists at The New York Times, constantly tuned into the pulse of breaking news. From covering global tragedies to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, his team is always on the front lines, delivering news as it unfolds. 

Patrick’s journey into meditation began in 2015, coinciding with his appointment as the Express team editor. The relentless news cycle, often filled with stories of distress and turmoil, led him to seek solace in Zen meditation. He started attending retreats organized by a small Zen center in Manhattan, seeking a respite from the ever-present screen and the incessant pings of modern-day journalism.

The Challenge of Stillness

Stepping away from the 24/7 news cycle felt like leaping off a metaphorical 100-foot pole into the unknown. It was exhilarating yet daunting for Patrick to disconnect completely. The news, however, continued. During his retreats, major events unfolded – mass shootings, natural disasters, political upheavals. Yet, he learned to trust in the ability of his team and the resilience of the news process.

For seven days, Patrick immersed himself in the disciplined routine of meditation. Long hours of sitting still, punctuated by walking meditations and silent meals, formed the crux of his days. He embraced the mundane tasks of salad making and timekeeping with a meditative focus, finding peace in these simple acts.

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Contrary to popular belief, meditation isn’t a serene escape but a practice of intense mental and physical discipline. It involves battling discomfort, confronting a barrage of thoughts and emotions, and learning the art of letting them pass without engagement. It’s akin to leaving your front and back doors open, allowing thoughts to drift in and out without entertaining them, as Zen master Shunryu Suzuki advised.

Meditation also became a tool for Patrick to navigate the stresses of the newsroom, especially during the tumultuous times of the Covid-19 pandemic. It provided him with a moment to pause amidst the chaos, aiding in maintaining a semblance of calm in the storm of breaking news.

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The Return to Reality

As his retreat concluded, Patrick found himself slipping away from thoughts of work and deadlines. He even found relevance in a quote from a Science Times column reflecting on the impermanence of the universe, a concept resonating deeply with his meditative practice. The return journey from the retreat left him feeling calm yet energized, unfazed by the impending rush of emails and news awaiting him.

In a world where headlines are constantly screaming for attention, finding a moment of tranquility can seem like an impossible task. Patrick LaForge’s experience shows that it’s not only possible but also essential for maintaining balance in the face of unending news cycles. 

As he reentered the world of breaking news, he carried with him a sense of peace, a reminder that amidst the chaos, there’s always a space for mindfulness. So, in a world that never stops talking, can we all find a moment of silence?


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