In a Nutshell: Norman Fischer presents an accessible and profound overview of the essentials of spiritual maturity that enables us to grow naturally into our true selves. This ongoing process sprouts from the soil of listening, being persistent, making connections, meditating, vowing, and engaging in right conduct. It is not a private matter, but something achieved in community and with the cooperation of others. It requires practice, and it takes a long time.

About the Author: Norman Fischer is a Zen priest, teacher, poet, former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center, and founder of The Everyday Zen Foundation, an organization created to broaden the reach of engaged Buddhist practice. He is the author of Opening to You: Zen-Inspired Translations of the Psalms, and has published several books of poetry. In addition to giving Zen lectures and retreats, he leads Jewish meditation classes and is actively involved in interfaith dialogue.

Sum and Substance: Many people have a resistance to the cultural ideal of growing up, usually seen as accepting responsibilities, setting aside play and humor, and being disciplined by the challenges of adulthood. Fischer sees maturity as an adventure closely linked to spiritual practices that enable us to unleash the fullness of our humanity. Everyday life is a training ground for developing character.

Listening, for example, is an essential mark of maturity since it involves a radical openness to others. Persistence is another virtue that can be cultivated and developed in the pursuit of stability and responsibility. Connecting to our own suffering enables us to love others and be compassionate toward their flaws and failures. Meditation -- the practice of fundamental awareness -- is a practice that promotes engagement with life.

Fischer also shows how vows and ethical conduct can deepen our maturity. Throughout the book, the author discusses a project he undertook to mentor four adolescent boys in his Zen community. This sheds even more light on the complicated and valiant nature of our struggle to grow up and become all we were meant to be.

Quotes To Go

"Although the process of maturing is endless, and all of us are in the midst of it, we can help each other through our human feeling, which is always wiser than we are."

"Maturity can't be hurried or produced on schedule. Growth takes time. We have to steep ourselves for a while, like a good cup of tea. We need to go through what's necessary for us to endure. We need time and commitment. Probably we also need some luck."

"To be truly mature is to always make the effort to conduct and express ourselves with kindness, clarity, wisdom and beauty."

"Really growing up, becoming truly yourself — this takes openness and receptivity, inspiration, a loving heart, stability and persistence, trust in the world and in yourself."

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