Elizabeth Hamilton teaches at the Zen Center of San Diego with her husband and practice partner Ezra Bayda. She leads retreats and Zen programs throughout the United States and Hawaii, Australia and Canada. In her first book, Hamilton explores the five dimensions of the heartmind: the physical, the mental, the emotional, open awareness, and full-empty. This 30-year practitioner of Zen is a superb teacher who has peppered these meditations with stories, colorful anecdotes, exercises and imaginative phrases, and ways of organizing material. For example, Hamilton uses now, vow, bow, and how as seedbeds for the practice of being present:
"When we lose track of the now, vow, bow, and how that keep the way of awakening comprehensive, we might envision four interweaving strands of a braid. The strands form a whole that includes, but isn't limited to the following:
• Now means activating open awareness.
• Vow means remembering what's most important, starting with awakening wholeheartedly to what life really is and living in accord with our interconnectedness in each moment.
• Bow means cultivating the seeds of awakening heartmind to activate our innate capacity for gratitude and the ability to appreciate anything perhaps even everything.
• How means having a blueprint for a comprehensive practice, grounded in the five dimensions of heartmind."
In her discussion of the physical aspect of heartmind, Hamilton notes that in the West there is a negative image of the body. We could use a fresh perspective, she says. She recalls a morning salutation she learned from Cherokee elders: "Getting up this morning, I put on my real body, the world." For those who want to reframe some of their ideas and behaviors connecting with their flesh she suggests:
"Delete possessive pronouns periodically, replacing the phrase 'my body' with 'this body' but not aloud. You may be surprised to discover how much tension accompanies the notions of ownership and doer-ship that this language reflects."
In probing the mental aspects of heartmind, Hamilton presents a worksheet of "Tangled Thinking:" which includes these elements:
• Past think (memory)
• Future think (planning)
• Novocain mind (using thinking to blot out unfavorable sensations or emotions)
• Chat Room (focusing on personal conversations)
• "And that's bad" (leaving an often-unspoken negative PS tailing after an opinion)
Equally on target are the author's commentaries on what she calls "the many me's of identity;" our default setting, which is often stuck on "the bad me"; emotions as a path of awakening; and anger, fear, disheartenment, pain and other challenges; and forgiveness and service practice. Many of us still fall into emotional mismanagement traps, and these are elucidated with great panache. Hamilton helps us examine in fresh ways the warps of the conditioned mind. She also provides many practices that you will want to try as you attempt to live a life of wholeheartedness.