Monday, December 31, 2007

Some Peace and Quiet
"Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind"
by Shunryu Suzuki

I've been trying to expand my horizons, philosophically speaking. This year I took a short class on meditation that I really enjoyed, and I've been reading into existentialism and other philosophies and religions. It should come as no surprise to those who know me that Zen would enter at some point.

George Lucas used Zen as the basis for much of the Force in the Star Wars films, so I knew it would agree with me.

Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind is a series of talks transcribed by students of Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki on Zen practice, meditation, and mindfulness. It's a fascinating book that offers insights and advice on leading a zen life. No matter what your belief system, if you subscribe to a religion, even the tenets of Zen stand to add a little more to your spirituality. Zen is an outlook more than it is a religion. It is a practice and, more than anything, a philosophy of the world.

Everything is connected, everything affects everything else, and the point of all this is to rise above the everyday tasks and get your head above the clouds, so to speak, so that you can have a clear view of life. Even if Zen isn't for you, it's hard not to find the words here insightful and provocative:
You know how to rest physically. You do not know how to rest mentally. Even though you lie in your bed your mind is still busy; even if you sleep you mind is busy dreaming. Your mind is always in intense activity. This is not so good. We should know how to give up our thinking mind, our busy mind.
It's easy to find those words comforting, because it's the truth. I've heard many great things about meditation, about leading a Zen life, and the class I took on meditation was in the middle of this book, and while the teacher was not teaching Zen, many of the points he made coincided with what I was reading. The benefits are worth it, I think, and this book is a true classic. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to enhance their personal and/or spiritual growth.

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