Ellen Birx has a Ph.D. in psychiatric nursing and for the past 27 years has been a professor at Radford University. She is a Zen teacher and cofounder of New River Zen Teachers Association. She is the author of Healing Zen and the coauthor with her husband of Waking Up Together.
In a homey definition of meditation, Birx calls it "a way to stop the habit of mental hoarding and regain some spaciousness and mental clarity. It is like cleaning house, and letting in a breath of fresh air." She then launches into a deeper assessment of this widespread spiritual practice which enables individuals to realize they are not their thoughts or feelings; there is no spectator, commentator, or witness to life; there is no point in trying to separate ourselves from others; and we can experience the unity of our common humanity.
Birx concludes that meditation is a perfect way to get in touch with your original self which is beyond forms and words. For her, not knowing is a major part of contemporary spirituality. She writes cogently about unbounded love, unconditional love, wise love, embodied love, and the art of loving life. In the end, all of these variations combine into a selfless love that takes care of others and is nurturing of one's self as well.
Birx's mix of the wisdom of Zen Buddhism with the Christian way of love is very appealing. So are the poems which are scattered throughout the book as little seedlings for our souls. Here is an example of one of them:
"Without human affection,
we wither and die of thirst.
A whisper, a glance, a smile
refreshes like a glass of cool water.
Life flows back into us.
In the giving and in the receiving
we are the love we need."