Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden

Karen Maezen Miller. New World Library, $15.95 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-1-60868-252-2
House-hunting in suburban Los Angeles, Miller (Hand Wash Cold) was stunned to discover a 100-year-old Japanese backyard garden. “I was right where I belonged,” she recalls. The Zen priest and former student of the late Maezumi Roshi now draws on her 16 years tending this unruly bit of “paradise” to show how everyday experience can lead to timeless truths. “I realized that everything I want or need… is taught to me right here,” she writes, “no farther away than the ground beneath my feet.” To illustrate the Zen path—“the Way”—she skillfully weaves vivid details of nature with personal history and such gritty tasks as curbing running bamboo and raking endless sycamore leaves. Given the built-in difficulty of explaining Zen, it is perhaps not surprising that Miller’s conclusions can teeter on the border between profound and clichéd (“you already possess what you are looking for,” “love is letting go”) and her advice, while solidly grounded in Buddhist teachings, can sound obvious (be kind, forgive, don’t deceive yourself). However, Miller’s graceful writing, hard-learned wisdom, and heartfelt commitment to help her readers find their own bit of paradise here and now make this an inspiring guide. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/14/2014
Release date: 05/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 192 pages - 978-1-60868-253-9
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