Book of Charlotte Joko Beck: Everyday Zen: Love and Work
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Simple, direct, unadorned truth
Charlotte Joko Beck's thesis is a simple one: That life, just as it is at any moment, is all that it can be and therefore is perfect. Pointing again and again to the troubles we cause ourselves by living life not in the moment, but out of a confused fog of fantasies and "what ifs," Beck challenges us to divest ourselves of our mental defense mechanisms and dare to be OK with life as it is. Yet she is a compassionate teacher, intimately familiar with human weaknesses and struggles, and she extends one hand of comfort even as the other hand pulls the rug out from under our feet. Perhaps the only shortcoming of this book is that it is much more clear about the "deconstructive" aspect of Zen practice than about exploring the ultimate manifestations and benefits of enlightenment. Knowing her aversion to "holding out cookies," however, this absence is understandable.
Best introduction to Zen for Americans!
I've read quite a few books over the past few months in my search to "understand Zen" (yes, I *know* that's a contradiction in terms!). But "Everyday Zen" is really the first that helped me see how Zen can operate in the midst of my modern American life -- outside of a monastic environment, dealing with business and family and the other assorted miseries of the late 20th century. Her style is forthright and no-nonsense; excuse the sexism, but it's almost as if you had a plain-spoken old aunt who simply told you the truth about the birds and the bees when everyone else was hemming and hawing and quoting Robert Browning. I recommend this book HIGHLY to anyone new to Zen who struggles, as I do, with how to place it into a modern context.