David Chadwick started studying with Zen master Shunryu Suzuki in 1966 at the age of 21 and was ordained by him as a Buddhist priest in 1971. After spending four years in Japan, the author returned to America and eventually wrote Crooked Cucumber: The Life and Teachings of Shunryu Suzuki (1999).

This delightful, thought-provoking, and eminently wise collection of teachings from Shunryu Suzuki (1904-1971) has been gathered from his students and others involved with him at the San Francisco Zen Center and the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. One of my favorites beautifully demonstrates the paradoxical side of Zen: "One morning when we were all sitting zazen, Suzuki Roshi gave a brief impromptu talk in which he said, 'Each of you is perfect the way you are . . . and you can use a little improvement.' " We can almost see the twinkle in the Zen master's eye.

Many of us have trouble staying in the present moment. We want to slip back into the past or zip into the future. In these teachings, Suzuki Roshi challenges students to stay with the here and now. He illustrates this with the following story: "During a formal silent lunch in the zendo, a young woman with a soup tureen stopped in front of Suzuki Roshi, gave him two ladles full, and blurted out, 'Suzuki Roshi, when I'm serving you soup, what is it like for you?' He said, 'It's like you're serving your whole being to me in this bowl.' " Other quotes by this Zen master, who died in 1971, focus on the spiritual practices of being present, kindness, and you.

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