In The Authentic Life, an honest and daring book, Bayda states that we are all skating on thin ice. The older we get, the more we come face-to-face with unwanted and surprising changes in our health, finances. or relationships. Our spiritual practice is tested as we respond to "life's blows, including our own physical and emotional difficulties." Part of our maturation process is learning to square off against these obstacles and to see them as our path.
The rocky road of life, according to Bayda, challenges us to be more alert to the depth of waking sleep, underestimating resistance, and wanting to feel a particular way. He then moves on to a discussion of five questions which can open new doors into reality. Three examples of authentic living from a Zen perspective are transforming energy, being generous, and trying not to be seen as special.
The last practice is given a thorough assessment by Byda as he challenges us to drop our facades, our selfish habits, and the stories we tell ourselves. What is left once this is all removed? The spiritual practice of just being.
In another poignant chapter titled "Who's Who in the Zoo," the author tracks down a handful of belief-based strategies which dictate how we live. All have both positive and negative sides. These survival tactics have the potential to lead to a dead end in the same way that having expectations results in disappointment. Here is an example how he develops two of them:
"Tryikng to make the world a better place, trying to make things right. The most significant self-concept is, 'I live from conscience.' The positive side is obviously the belief that things can be made better. The negative side is that this impulse can become very self-righteous and moralistic. The underlying motivation may be the wish to avoid the fear that things will never be right, particularly that 'I' will never be right. This is the basic strategy of perfectionism."
"Observing and understanding the world, with the goal of maintaining order and self-sufficiency. The primary self-concept is, 'I'm the one who knows.' The positive side is the ability to see reality objectively and clearly. The negative side is the tendency to hold oneself back and shut life out or withdraw, partly to ward off the fear of danger and chaos. This is the strategy of the observer.
Anyone seriously pursuing the authentic life must come to terms with anger and fear. While many of us have been trained in a competitive culture to run away from fear, the author counsels us to say yes to it. He gives a searing personal account of surgery for kidney cancer followed by a series of very difficult postoperative complications. He writes:
"The more deeply we understand what it means to say yes, the less we need to push away fear when it arises. Not having to be free from fear is a gateway to ultimate freedom, and it is what allows us to live most genuinely."
No wonder the closing chapters read like they are infused with vital energy! Bayda salutes letting go of the blaming game, the idea of control, the sense of helplessness, and wasting time on unnecessary things! Instead, he encourages us to live from the awakened heart which enables us to see the bigger picture, to do regular devotional practices, and to enjoy the ride. The Authentic Life is another wise, profound and generous work by a Zen master who always has much to share with the interspirituality community.