Diane Eshin Rizzetto's Waking Up to What You Do is subtitled "A Zen Practice for Meeting Every Situation with Intelligence and Compassion". It's due back at the public library, and though I'm not finished with it I clearly need to get my own copy. It focuses on a modernized version of "The Precepts", guidelines for morality and skillful living. In Rizzetto's telling, they are:
Waking Up has clunky bits, but it has far more thought-provoking ones. Chapter 3, "The Dead Spot", builds a powerful metaphor (returned to again and again throughout the book) of a trapeze artist who has an instant, at the peak of her swing, in which to make a choice. From the subsection "Just This":
What if even for the briefest of moments, we take pause in the dead spot, that moment of nonaction, before we react, we step through the door marked Enter Here and meet life just as it is, in just this moment. It is this moment of Just This that the trapeze artist finds the most power and creativity. In Just This we meet the power and creativity to break away from our habitual thoughts, emotional matrix, body patterns, and energy that fuel and direct our reactions. So, for example, when someone insults us, with practice we can more quickly turn our awareness to our experience—to thoughts like, Who does she think she is talking to me that way? We can breathe in the presence of the tightening in the shoulders and neck, the heat in the face, the words wanting to form in outrage. Just This is exactly what the words suggest—there is only this right now. As one teacher has said, "Wherever you go, there you are." This is the core of our awareness practice—to challenge us to question our assumptions about what makes the world real to us. It turns us toward the realization that any assumption of permanence is exactly that—an assumption. That in truth, Truth can only be expressed as Just This.
There's more Good Stuff in Waking Up, including a short appendix called "A Primer in Awareness Practice" that's a brilliant quick-start guide to mindfulness meditation. There are also echoes of other self-improvement guidebooks. More to follow ...
(cf. Karma (2009-07-15), ...) - ^z - 2010-03-21