Karen Maezen Miller is a connoisseur of the commonplace as evidenced in her book Hand Wash Cold. She is a Zen Buddhist priest and teacher at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. She leads retreats around the country and can be visited at http://www.karenmaezenmiller.com.
When Miller and her family move into a house with a 100-year-old Japanese garden, it stirs within her a yearning to learn whatever wisdom she can from the garden, the rocks, the pond, the flowers, and the leaves. The more time she spends there getting her hands dirty and sweating in the sun, the more she realizes that she is a pilgrim receiving teachings and "making my way through a paradise hidden in plain sight."
In Zen Buddhism, the path is not a course of study or a means to an end. As Miller puts it, "the path isn't the way to get something; the path is the way to live." Miller recalls the lessons she learned from the giant oak tree in the garden that dropped two thousand acorns a year. After marveling at this ancient teacher, she recalls her Zen teacher Maezumi who was known for saying "Appreciate your life." What did he mean? Miller says we follow his advice by waking up and letting the meaning of life come to life in you. Maezumi practiced a lot; when someone asked him why, he responded, "To make my heart tender."
Miller tends her Zen garden and learns:
• It's not what you put in, it's what you take out.
• Forget what might have been and what might yet be. The past is gone and the future will arrive on schedule.
• Love is letting go.
• Make the effort of no effort.
• There is no end to getting rid of weeds.
By the end of this enchanting and honest paperback, we saw that Miller hopes that we can see that the chores and diversions and pleasures of everyday life can teach us in the same way that the Zen garden taught her. All we have to do is show up and be attentive.