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Publish Date: July 2001
The Barn at the End of the World
The Apprenticeship of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd
BY Mary Rose O'Reilley
Deciding that her life was insufficiently grounded in real-world experience, Mary Rose OReilley, a Quaker reared as a Catholic, embarked on a year of tending sheep. In this often hilarious book, OReilley describes her year in the barn as well as an extended visit to a Buddhist monastery in France. She seeks, in both barn and monastery, a spirituality based not in “climbing out of the body” but rather in existing fully in the world.
For OReilley, a smallish woman, that means learning how to “flip” very large sheep, inoculate them, and help them lamb (among other, earthier things). It means absorbing the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh and the practice of Mayana Buddhism, which emphasizes social engagement, while also allowing herself to crave pastries, resent her roommate, and wish for more food.
"At the beginning of this year,” she writes, “I had no idea why I felt led to light out into the unfamiliar territory of sheep farming and Buddhist practice” By the end, she has found the “deep peace of animal creation” and a way to live consciously in the world.