Ezra Bayda is one of our favorite Buddhist teachers. In his first two books, Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life and At Home in Muddy Water: The Zen of Living with Everyday Chaos, he demonstrated a keen ability to make spiritual practice out of any and all experiences. In this astonishing collection of sayings and short meditations, Bayda delivers profound Buddhist wisdom laced with simplicity, practicality, depth, and inspirational vitality. In true Zen spirit, he challenges us to use the difficulties, discomfort, insecurity, fear, and selfishness that wash over us day in and day out. This is very helpful since most of us still need to do much more inner work with these emotions and impulses.

Bayda has a lot to say about the stories we tell ourselves, the cherished ideas that animate our actions, the judgments we make, and the expectations we have about the way things will turn out. Again and again, he brings us back to the present moment and counsels us to practice open-hearted attention. Here are a few statements on this theme:

• "When our plans crumble and there seems to be nothing left, it is only by completely surrendering to what is that we can realize that what is left is more than enough."

• "Clinging to notions of how life ought to be, of what you want, of what you hate, always leads to suffering."

• "Perhaps it's the belief that we shouldn't have any problems, any discomfort, any pain, that makes modern life seem so distressing. Life doesn't match our image of how it should be, and we conclude life itself is wrong. We relate to everything from the narrow, fearful perspective of 'I want' — and what we want is to feel good. When our emotional distress does not feel good, we recoil from it. The resulting discomfort generates fear, then fear creates even more distress, and distress becomes our enemy, something to be rid of. Let us instead examine our basic requirement that life should be comfortable. This one assumption causes all of us endless difficulties."

There are many insightful passages in this paperback on anger, fear, and blaming-three ways we bring ourselves and others pain and disappointment. Bayda also sheds light on the strategies of the ego that lead to suffering and unhappiness. For instance: "One step toward awakening: drop the story-line of 'me.' " Easier said than done but you will discover many practices on these pages to cope with the wild assertiveness of arrogance and self-absorption. The author deals with the paradox of life- both the wonder and the joy of it all along with the messes and the misery.

Try a Spiritual Practice on Being Present