This is one of the most pithy books I've ever read. But then, it's written by a Zen teacher so I suppose that's to be expected.
What do I mean by pithy? Well, I found myself saying "YES! That! So much that!" to most of it - and writing a lot of pointed lines down in my journal or on my arm. Writing dharma on my arm is something I've been doing for about three years now. It's like ultimate reminders of practice tools. I feel like there's something about the physical act of putting it on my skin that helps me become saturated with dharma so I don't have any excuses when something is up for me.
But I digress.
This book is all about practice - not practice as in knowing how to do a particular technique but the actual application of teachings in our lives in any given moment so there can be real transformation. It's not for the faint of heart. It's not for anyone looking to transcend the difficulties of their life or use meditation to 'feel good.'
This is a very cutting book that really asks you to work with your own mind.
Some pithiness from this book:
"Enlightenment is not something you achieve."
"No matter what the work is, it should be done with effort and total attention to what's in front of our nose."
"When you sit, don't expect to be noble."
"Life is the way it is."
"If we understand that each moment of our life is the teacher, we can't avoid practice."
"There's nothing wrong with our self-centred thoughts except that we identify with them."
"Trusting in things being as they are is the secret of life."
"There is no special time or place for great realisation."
"We can't love something we need."
"All I can be is who I am right now; I can experience that and work with it. That's all I can do."
"Always the practice effort is to see what life requires us to give as opposed to what we personally want to give - which is not easy."
"It isn't important that we are upset; what is important is our ability to observe the upset."
"The quality of our practice is always reflected in the quality of our life."
"...searching outside ourselves is not the way."
"All of practice is to return ourselves to pure experiencing."
"Love expects nothing."
"If life were not impermanent it wouldn't be the wonder that it is."
"Expect nothing from life and you will enjoy it."
"Any aspect of ourselves that is not observed will remain muddy, confusing, mysterious."
"We only know our lives when we experience them directly."
"To look outside of ourselves for true peace and satisfaction is hopeless."
"When we are attached to the way we think we should be or the way we thing anyone else should be, we can have very little appreciation of life as it is."
"So our practice is about making fear conscious, instead of running around inside our cell of fear, trying to make it look better and feel better."
"Life is not a problem."
"In times of confusion or depression the worst thing we can do is try to be some other way."
"Sadly enough, some of us die without ever having lived because we're so obsessed with trying to avoid being hurt."
"The strength in our practice, and the ability to communicate our practice to others, lies in being ourselves."
"If I feel completely muddled, it isn't that there's a problem that I have to find some way to solve; I just don't know who I am in connection to that problem."
"Freedom is the willingness to risk being vulnerable to life."
"True commitment and true love have no 'ifs'."
"What we expect we rarely get."
"The more we are aware of our expectations, the more we see that our urge is to manipulate life rather than live it just as it is."
If even just one of these lines resonates with you or sparks your curiosity, please read this book. Really, really. And then I recommend moving onto 'Glimpses of Mahayana' - which is another superbly pithy, pointed book. I've just realised I've never written a review of it and I feel I should. Next blog post... I promise.