Manfred Steger and Perle Besserman studied traditional Zen in Japan as well as with lay teacher Robert Aitken Roshi in Hawaii. For years they have been practicing "Grassroots Zen," which they define as "an egalitarian community of socially mobile members who place less emphasis upon transmission and hierarchy than on individual responsibility." Here the goal is to integrate 25 minutes of zazen each day with work, family, and social obligations.

Steger and Besserman clear up what they see as misconceptions about Zen in regard to its harshness, detachment, and subservience to Asian fatalism. The authors believe in a socially engaged practice of immersing themselves in the moment and being both caring and compassionate: "Zen people often talk about 'accepting the moment as it is.' That's okay, but what we like even better is 'caring for the moment' with the same lavish tenderness you'd bestow on a newborn."

I was very much taken with Steger and Besserman's discussion of ways to change our anxiety-ridden relationship with time that makes us greedy for special moments. I also like their emphasis upon living lightly on the earth, "unburdened by extraneous possessions, concepts, habits, and fears." Both of these lead into their tribute to the Zen beauty of constraint.

The real life Zen explored on these pages can be seen as an explication of the Zen saying "Inside and outside are one." Or as Steger and Besserman put it: "What we do and think and buy and eat aren't done in a vacuum." It's all of one piece.