on November 23, 2014
I really liked this book. I read it some time ago and so can't remember every detail but on the whole I can say that it was down to Earth, charming, and inspirational all in one go. Charlotte Beck was a Zen teacher who founded her own lineage. She had received Dharma Transmission from the alcoholic sex criminal Maezumi Roshi. After Maezumi was exposed she started her own school which was a good idea. Contrary to the conduct of Maezumi Roshi, Charlotte Beck seems like a pleasant, normal human being.
In this book you get the picture of someone deeply committed to the idea of week long sesshin retreats. That's one of the main points she hammers home again and again. Yet at the same time she talks about how her Zen practice has improved her daily life. She has gained more equanimity and acts less rashly. She also knows herself better. Joko never claims to be enlightened. This is a good book for anyone who wants to read about a contemporary North American regular person who deeply cultivates Soto Zen practice and yet fails to attain enlightenment.
on January 9, 2004
Back in the early 80's I read a few very scholarly volumes about Zen. They were great at giving a total novice some idea of the formation and history of Zen. They were full of very strict admonishments, you must live very austere existence, live off almost nothing, and be almost perfect before you even begin.
Twenty years on and I am interested again in Zen. This book is such a contrast to those early volumes. It teaches you that none of us are perfect, and each of us needs to move at a suitable pace for where we are now. It might be helpful if before reading this book you have some theoretical knowledge of how Zen came to be and what it's about, but I don't feel that is essential. If you are like me you will have decided you want to know about Zen or wish to begin practicing and you will find someone (a teacher) to help start you on the path, and they will recommend this book to you.
The writer seems to know EXACTLY how I'm feeling and writes in a style that speaks to the inner me, rather than talking to all the perfect people I envisaged would be the only ones to take up Zen practice...i.e. she de-esoteric-orises the subject. She also sounds like she must have experienced the doubts, the hopes, and all the other up's and downs that we all go through.
on October 13, 2001
I find the title of this book to be a bit misleading - it implies a sort of general applicability characteristic of perhaps the large majority of books on "zen" and "Buddhism" which have overwhelmed the market in recent years. Love and work, who wouldn't want to resolve these two koans. Joko Beck, in this book, gives us much more than a series of little chickensoup feel-good stories about love and work. In what is essentially a compilation of her talks for sesshin students, she tries to goad us into what really cannot be expressed, cannot be talked about - into the awareness of the moment. This book therefore cannot be *read*, it has to be *felt* with that mixture of gratitude, abandon, sensitivity and faith that one works on during the sesshin. One therefore cannot use it to "learn" something about zen. As a tool for zen practice, however, i have found it over the years to be invaluable. i come to this book again and again for inspiration and support - i 'd rank it, together with S. Suzuki's Beginner's Mind as the best book on zen practice available to us today. What (arguably) makes it even more valuable to us are its syncretic elements: Everyday Zen is written by a Westerner who sees her life from a perspective of an American, yet it also possesses the sensitivity to the workings of one's mind, the ferocity needed to face the mind's endless evasive maneouvers and a dedication to cultivation of awareness that matches that of any Japanese zen master, indeed, that of any spiritual master anywhere. In short, if you want to practice zen as opposed to "studying" it, this is a book for you.
on August 18, 2000
Dear readers, if you were drawn to this book as I was then you must also seek insight and a better quality of life. I have many books on Zen and books related to self-inquiry in general. Everything ranging from Thomas Cleary's translated classics to Allan Watts, D.T. Suzuki, Krishnamurti, to the mammoth book, Zen and the Brain. Not one of them spoke to me as intimately as this book did. This is wisdom for the people of our age. In some of the passages within this book, I found myself thinking "of course!! that makes so much sense!!" In summmarizing the book, its primary message is to just "live your life and do not seek the truth anywhere else." I especially admire Joko Beck's groundedness. She is not an egomaniac guru who puts herself upon a pedestal and challenges the words of other teachers. Her attitude is something like "Nothing to gain, nothing to lose. If you want to hear a little about the insight that I have then listen, if not, continue on to the next book. It's up to you." So if you have been searching as I have then please consider reading this book before spending another dollar on any Zen self-help book. I promise you that you will not be able to turn away from the priceless wisdom that are within these pages.
on May 3, 2000
I purchased this book back in 1992, got half-way through it, couldn't understand it, and put it down to read other things and go on with my life of everyday living, thinking, worrying, etc. that we all do in our lives. Not until a crisis of sorts came up in my life did I pick it up again. This time, it all made sense. Living life in the present moment, right here, now. Working at being less judgemental. Not looking for 'happiness' and instead finding joy in everyday life. I know it sounds like a lot of BS, but something changed after the second reading of this book, and now mundane aspects of my job are just me doing my work. I haven't changed religions, haven't joined a cult, haven't even attended a 'zendo' or 'sesshin.' But something has changed since reading this book. It could be the thing that changes your life, too. I know I've got a long way to go, but what a start! The companion second book by Joko is also highly recommended.
on October 11, 1999
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.
on July 28, 1996
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
on May 24, 2000
The book is organized in a series of talks where Joko shares her wisdom with her students. Unfortunately, I found that the tone of the talks lacked compassion and understanding for the complexity of the world. Thicht Nacht Han tells us not to create us/them dualities, but this book is replete with them. Further, the book overwhelmingly emphasizes the importance of sitting, but *ignores* the importance of everyday ethical practice in providing the groundwork for a joyful life of awareness. I find that it did not provide much help for ordinary people trying to deepen the practice of their everyday lives. Perhaps this is a problem with Zen Buddhism in general. A much better book is Sharon Salzberg's "Lovingkindness".
on November 13, 2002
I read this book after reading "Nothing Special". I like Joko's writing a lot, simple, direct to the points just as Zen should be simple. This book may be hard for people trying to understand Zen only (without practice) or beginners. But to people practicing sitting Zen daily I think it contains a lot of good advices which I can apply into living. I will read and read again both books by Joko. I have read many Zen books and found that this book and "Nothing Special" are among the best for me. Highly recommend both "Everyday Zen" and "Nothing Special".
on June 1, 2004
Having read a few of the negative reviews of Beck's original introduction to the Ordinary Mind philosophy and practice, I have to say that I was one who had no previous exposure to zen nor do I have a zen teacher. The clarity of the subjects covered through lecture and teacher-student interaction at the zen hall made it quite understandable to me. Of course I am talking clearly about the text and its absorbility. Now understanding the way of life through zen, THAT is the challenge - not the author's teachablity through this work. Outstanding work by the author.