Blowing Zen: Finding An Authentic Life Paperback – Jan 14 2000
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How does an electrical engineer from London find himself playing the flute on a hillside in Japan? Ray Brooks had had a piece of the good life, after all--high salary, late-night parties, fast cars. But in his late 20s, he did some soul searching, only to find that, spiritually speaking, the lights were on but no one was home. Some radical changes took him to Japan and a chance encounter with a master player of the shakuhachi, the Japanese vertical flute. He took it up and simultaneously absorbed the single-minded Zen discipline that seemed to imbue all facets of Japanese life. Brooks tells the story of his life in Japan, of his journey up the hill of gambatte (perseverance), and of his experiences in Japanese culture, such as his chat with a marathon monk and his not-quite-voluntary performance for members of the Japanese mafia. The title Blowing Zen refers to Zen monks who used flute playing as their meditative practice. One wishes more could have been made of this in Brook's memoir, of his own relationship to Zen and how exactly his life has become authentic. But perhaps this is too much to ask when the ineffability of music is coupled with the ineffability of Zen. --Brian Bruya
Top Customer Reviews
However, the book lacks all but a few comments on shakuhachi playing, and this is the reason I did not give it a higher score. I was hoping for more description of proper technique, the experience and process of learning, how it relates to Zen, and a bit of the "soul" of the art. These were almost completely lacking -- no more than a total of a few paragraphs in the entire book.
I also found it consistently surprising that Mr Brooks did not learn better Japanese after being in Japan for several years, or, at least, that's the impression his book gives! How much did he miss because he did not give more emphasis to learning his host country's language???
An easy-reading personal story, especially recommended for potential exchange students and others considering extended stays in Japan.
But there are moments of great beauty. One is on page 225 (of the paperback edition) where he is trying to convince Ozawa-san to do something about his existential angst. Here are the 4 sentences that leapt out at me: "If you are [getting some peculiar pleasure or some reward out of this destructive way you're living], you probably won't stop. You'll talk about change, make it into a hobby. You may even try to find someone to hep you, but deep down you won't change if you're not really serious. Seriousness is its own change."
"Blowing Zen" tells the story of one man's decision to leave behind his comfortable existence in London and to plunge, head first, into a radically different lifestyle in Japan. "Blowing Zen" flows wonderfully, almost like a stream of consciousness and yet, at the same time, is very straightforward in its message. Fortunately Brooks, unlike many other travel writers, avoids the temptation of navel gazing as he relates his encounters and experiences. The book is at turns: funny, touching, educative, thought provoking and inspirational.
Initially, I would be tempted to categorize "Blowing Zen" as a travel account, but would not be surprised to find it located in other sections of a bookstore (i.e. autobiography, spirituality, music, religion, or self help). It is said that the best authors write as if they are communicating with a close friend and I truly felt that with "Blowing Zen." I was thrilled to be both entertained and inspired in one siting. I am eagerly awaiting Brook's next book and kudos to the author for peaking my curiosity on a myriad of different topics.
Most recent customer reviews
Before buying brooks's book I had heard of him. He came to wide prominance as a musical thinker and as an exceptional shakuhachi player. I have his Cd hollow bell. Read morePublished on Nov. 2 2000
Ray Brooks combines music, travel and zen in a story which turns into
a journey of discovery for the author and reader. Read more
In superb Kerouacian fashion, Blowing Zen teaches the reader more about the incredible enlightment and joy of living in the moment than any textbook on zen or buddhism. Read morePublished on March 22 2000 by Micky J Roberto
Aside from the shakuhachi enthusiast reader, the experiences with the shakuhachi Brooks relays in the book, along with his minor forays into Zen philosophy, make the book an... Read morePublished on March 8 2000 by Smokin' Jones
"Blowing Zen" is a delightful and inspirational story of one man's discovery of the Japanese flute as a vehicle of awakening to a more soulful and authentic life. Read morePublished on March 6 2000 by Joshua Michaell
Brooks spent his early years in pubs and nightclubs, leading an empty life and questioning its meaning until he embarked on a world journey in search of self. Read morePublished on March 3 2000 by Midwest Book Review
This book is a truly refreashing account of a person who goes to Japan for a new experience in life. Read morePublished on Feb. 26 2000 by d. gessner
Blowing Zen. A book about one man's journey into the world of the Shakuhachi flute. An excellent and inspirational book. Read morePublished on Feb. 22 2000 by Jesse Lee
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