The Barn at the End of the World: The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd
The Barn at the End of the World The Apprenticeship of a Quaker Buddhist Shepherd Author:Mary Rose O'Reilley Transcendence can come in many forms. For Mary Rose O'Reilley a year tending sheep seemed a way to seek a spirituality based not on climbing out of the body but rather on existing fully in the world, at least if she could overlook some of its earthier aspects. The Barn at the End of the World follows O'Reilley in her sometimes funny, sometimes m... more »oving quest. Though small in stature, she learns to flip very large sheep and help them lamb. She also visits a Buddhist monastery in France, where she studies the practice of Mahayana Buddhism, dividing her spare time between meditation and dreaming of French pastries.« less
Mary Rose O'Reilley must be one fascinating lady!! Someone who can move easily between the world of her Catholic past, to a year spent taking care of sheep, into Plum Village Buddhist monastery with Thich N'hat Hanh, to the classroom as an English teacher, and home again to her Quaker community. Her book, which has been called a cross between Katheen Norris and James Herriot, is filled with insights about the spiritual journey -- but it's a journey that is firmly grounded in the not always neat and tidy business of living intentionally wherever you happen to be. As a matter of fact you won't find much in this book about out of body experiences, but you'll find plenty of information about what it's like to muck around in sheep pens. And that's really the whole point. She makes it clear that living a spiritual life is a simply matter of paying attention to what's going on here and now and recognizing the significance of it.
Author Mary Rose O'Reilley is decidedly eclectic. She confidently blends sheep tending with her Quaker background as well as her passion for Mahayana Buddhism (a form of Buddhism taught by Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh). This may sound like the recipe for a soup of spiritual mush, but nothing could be further from the truth. Like Anne Lamott, O'Reilley also happens to be a hysterically funny storyteller who understands the importance of humility when writing spiritual autobiography. (One reviewer called O'Reilley a "social anthropologist from the Planet Mongo, a stand-up mystic going for the belly laugh...")
Whether she's talking about grief over dying lambs, the plague of Monkey Mind, flipping sheep, or a barnyard fashion crisis, O'Reilley keeps her metaphors down to earth and her epiphanies humble. The structure is especially inviting: a collection of brief essays of only about three to five pages each. But this collection also reads like a journey with a beginning and an end. It starts with O'Reilley as a college professor who decides to try some part-time animal husbandry at a local farm and ends with her finding a new direction in life that we can only hope will inspire her to write a sequel.