Everyday Zen, Charlotte Joko Beck 1998

This is an interesting and thought-provoking book for the experienced meditator or anyone who is looking to get into meditation, Zen, or Eastern spirituality.  It’s not a ‘how to’ manual and gives little or no instruction on zazen (sitting meditation) or sesshin (multiple daylong retreat).  Rather it paints the picture of what Zen can mean for the individual and how the daily practice might enable one to achieve progress towards enlightenment, a goal that is aspirational not reachable.  Since the chapters on Beginnings, Practice, Feelings, Relationships, Suffering, Ideals, Boundaries, Choices and Service are compiled by an editor from dharma talks given by Beck, the writing is a bit stilted and choppy at times and the Q&A’s with ‘students’ are not very useful, but overall, this is a fine book for anyone interested in learning about Zen, the achievement of ‘no-self”, the elimination of ‘walls’ between one and the outside world and others, the recognition of impermanence and the inevitability of loss.  Attention, observation, and commitment to sitting for hours with nothing but one’s own mind, enables the Zen practitioner to know herself in a deeper way that enables the falling away of hope and striving and the acceptance (it’s OK) of the world and oneself as they are and a deep compassion for all living things.  This book, like most excellent books in this area, is filled with vivid metaphors and stories.  My favorite is the ’empty rowboat’ which points out that if your boat is struck by a rowboat and it is empty, there is nobody to get angry at; it just happened and IT”S OK!

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