First, let me start by saying I know very little about Zen — and even less about practicing it. This is one of my thrift store books — when my wife and I go to thrift stores, I always pore over the shelves to find interesting books to read — especially about topics I know little about.
Even though this book is about koans — those philosophical questions that when truly contemplated lead to valuable insights — it’s really about current people with current problems. It’s about finding ways to handle change, deal with uncertainity and how to thrive in our day-to-day existence. Zen, as part of the Buddhist tradition, sees life as suffering and seeks to comes to term with what is — in the moment — by learning not so much how to change things, but how to become what is.
…there’s a difference between coping with the ebb and flow of our lifes and becoming the ebb and flow. We suffer most when we buck up against changing circumstances, but once we own them, dropping our bodies and minds into them, even changes that are hardest to take can release us from suffering.
As you may expect, this is the theme the book keeps coming back to — owning your situation. In many ways, this book offers no answers and it definitely places the ultimately responsibility of living a fulfilled life on you the reader, but the author does keep leading the reader into a deeper understanding of the benefits of Zen practice.
She does this without being preachy — just practical. Near the end of the book, she notes,
Life’s toughest moments — the ones that toss us the changes we don’t want — offer the best opportunities for spiritual insight, provided, of course, if we are ready to own them.