Untrain Your Parrot: And Other No-Nonsense Instructions on the Path of Zen

Elizabeth Hamilton, Author . Shambhala $14 (207p) ISBN 978-1-59030-363-4

This debut book by San Diego Zen teacher Hamilton boasts a quirky, appropriately Zen-ish title and a foreword from, surprisingly, the late civil rights activist Rosa Parks, with whom the author worked during Parks's later life. It offers plenty of meditation exercises with easy-to-follow directions. It thoroughly translates what can be the culturally foreign characteristics of Japanese Zen into contemporary American parlance and life situations. All these things commend the book to a beginner, but it's too often unclear and could have used more work. The diction is occasionally foggy (“both tinged with some degree of narcissistic attachment to a truncated self”). Attempts to simplify aspire to easy-to-remember lists, but these come out idiosyncratically obscure (“BBSTSBB is a palindrome composed of the first letters of seven words that beckon our awareness”). It is interesting that the center of a person's chest includes the acupuncture point Conception Vessel 17, but there is such a thing as too much information, particularly for beginners. Hamilton is very likely a good Zen teacher, funny and imaginative, but that doesn't automatically translate onto the page. (Aug. 14)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2007
Release date: 08/01/2007
Genre: Nonfiction
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