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Book Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Everything Is the Way
Ordinary Mind Zen
Elihu Genmyo Smith
Shambhala Books 06/12 Paperback $17.95
ISBN: 9781590309728

Elihu Genmyo Smith is resident teacher of the Prairie Zen Center in Champaign, Illinois. A cofounder of the Ordinary Mind Zen school, he is a dharma heir of Charlotte Joko Beck. "Everything Is the Way" is a wonderful title for a book about this Zen way.

Smith begins with some pithy wisdom quotations from spiritual seers. Suzuki Roshi who reminds us, "You are perfect as you are, and you can use some improvement." Which is to say, perfection is as perfection does: practice is ever done.

Smith bows to Maezumi Roshi who counseled: "Appreciate your life." The author reminds us that this does not mean change your life but be grateful for all you have and for whatever shows up for you.

Other wisdom bits come from Charlotte Joko Beck and her student Alan Kaprow, who wrote The Four Practical Principles. The two we relish are "Each moment, life as it is, the only teacher" (There are classes every day) and "Being just this moment, compassion's way." (Don't try to escape to the past or the future.)

Master Hsuansha said: "The whole universe is one bright pearl." If we polish it, this jewel's glow increases. But we are probably better off just marveling at its beauty. There is nothing lacking, nothing to be given or taken away from the pearl: no need to change anything about it. Just gaze upon it.

This astonishing collection of essays succeeds in his mission to show us how everything is the Way. Here you will find cogent insights into practice, impermanence, non-self, being transparency, and receiving the precepts.

Again and again, while reading Smith's book, we found ourselves, in the author's phrase "stopping and popping" into the present moment, immersing ourselves in the words and commentaries. We hope you will do the same.


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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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