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Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life Paperback – March 25, 2003

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Editorial Reviews Review

The paradox of Zen is that learning to just live in the present requires lots of hard work. In Being Zen, seasoned Zen teacher Ezra Bayda unpacks this paradox. He demonstrates the need to just be and then instructs us how to undertake the hard work with precision and persistence. Through personal anecdotes he shows us how we keep ourselves from living a genuine life. Instead, we maintain an ideal image of ourselves by creating strategies that depend on delusive self-images, blind spots, and knee-jerk reactions. He then shows how, by "living the practice life," we can relentlessly observe this process and transform our edifices into open spaces of natural awareness and innate compassion. Bayda offers specific practices for dealing with such automatic emotions as anger and fear, teaching how they can be dampened and eventually dissolved. A "how-to" book in the best sense of the word, Being Zen is about how to just live. --Brian Bruya --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Novice author and veteran meditator Bayda writes with exceptional clarity and simplicity about the awakened life. Bayda is a recognized teacher in the Ordinary Mind Zen School founded by Charlotte Joko Beck (who provides the foreword), and he has a gift for describing that "ordinary mind," or the customary thoughts, feelings and experiences of everyday life. His style is as plainspoken as Tibetan teacher Pema Ch”dr”n's; it's not surprising that she acknowledges his work in her latest book. Bayda's grounding in life as it's lived makes his teaching and writing unpretentious and inviting, as if ready to apply. Indeed, one of the book's strengths is the techniques and exercises that the meditation teacher describes. None of them is startlingly new, but his explanations are precise, discriminating among similar practices and noting how results change over time as the meditator grows more experienced with tools for inner inquiry. Meditation, after all, takes as much time as any other habit to acquire. The book breaks no new ground a big expectation, true, after 2,500 years of Buddhist teaching and practice and it's on the small side for its price point. But Bayda offers clear instruction, as a teacher pointing the way toward Ultimate Clarity should. He deserves membership in the ranks of respected meditation teacher-authors.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; First Paperback Edition edition (March 25, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590300130
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590300138
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #284,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ezra Bayda was born in 1944 in Atlantic City, New jersey. He graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in philosophy, and began practicing Zen meditation in 1970, receiving permission to teach in 1995. He now lives, writes and teaches at Zen Center San Diego with his wife and fellow teacher, Elizabeth Hamilton. He also leads a meditation group in Santa Rosa, Ca., and has been a hospice volunteer for over ten years. He is the author of five books, including his most recent, Beyond Happiness (Shambhala, 2010). For more information, go to

Customer Reviews

I will be reading it again--glad it's on the kindle.
Lucinda McKinney
Ezra Bayda I have not had the honor of meeting you personally yet I thank you most sincerely for the gift of your writings.
Truth Seeker
And he does so in a very clear and down-to-earth way, making this immediately accessible to the reader.
anna manchester

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

130 of 135 people found the following review helpful By Jenessa Bayda on November 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As my dad wrote BEING ZEN, he sent me one chapter at a time to proof-read and offer feedback. The information wasn't new to me, as we'd talked about the ideas and experiences mentioned in the book many times. And so I thought that once published, reading BEING ZEN would be like a review for me. However, each time I read a chapter, there was something new and helpful there, not because it was new information, but because my life and my relationship to everything in my life is always changing. I figure I could read this book 100 times and gain something new each time. I could turn to any page and find a reminder there that applies to my life and the issues and difficulties on my plate at any given moment. Most often, it's the last thing I want to do. My dad's "practice" is HARD!!! But I've seen it transform him and his life from one ruled by anger to one filled with love, compassion, and true happiness found in his wilingness to just BE with anything life presents. This book can help anyone who is willing to use it. And to all of you... you can either write-off my opinion as that of the biased daughter, or take it to heart from someone who has watched her father grow and change 180 degrees over the past 26 years and who has become her best friend and greatest teacher.
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67 of 70 people found the following review helpful By Barry Magid on March 18, 2002
Format: Hardcover
The emphasis in the title of Ezra Bayda's "Being Zen" is all on the word "being" - anyone who comes to this book looking for the Zen of dramtic satori experiences, paradoxical koans and teachers challenging their students with slaps and shouts may come away asking themselves, "Where's the Zen?" Ezra Bayda is the real thing, but his "Zen" is so plain and unobstrusive and everyday that it frustrates at every turn any craving for something exotic, esoteric or even apparently spiritual. "Being Zen" is about directly experiencing the life you already have, not transporting yourself to some higher "enlightened" realm. Using poignant examples of what its been like to cope with his own chronic autimmune illness and his experience working with hospice patients, Bayda shows us how we habitually turn away from life as it is - out of fear, out of anger - often in the guise of turning our life into something special, something spiritual. "Being Zen" offers simple, practical meditational techniques to help us see that our emotional problems and our physical pain are not obstacles on our path, but the path itself. The vignettes of his hospice work are especially poignant precisely because they they don't culminate in dramatic insights or breakthroughs - instead two human beings face their mortality together as best they can, each fearful, each defensive, each human to the end.
If you're just starting out on the path of practice, this book will give you a clear and firm foundation. If you've practiced for many years, it will challenge you to bring your practice firmly down to earth, rooted in everyday emotional reality.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By MLS on May 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
Bayda sucessfully merges a bit of Zen and a bit of Vipassana-style mindfulness into a way of meditation practice and life practice. The book is stripped of almost all Buddhist terminology. There is no mention of karma, reincarnation, codependent origination, and any other Buddhist terms. What you get is a manual for learning to see yourself plainly and non-judgmentally without our usual hidden agendas, strategies, ego clinging, duplicity. Especially helpful are the chapters on Practicing with Fear, Practicing with Distress, Practicing with Anger. I tried the methods outlined in "Practicing with Distress" on a day when a small catastrophe popped up at work. I stayed with my breath and tried to notice the physical reactions going on. When you do that, you can actually begin to non-judgmentally notice the mind churning out thoughts.
The chapter about Bayda's experience working with hospice patients was very moving, but they weren't just an anecdote. He successfully pointed how the experiences deepened his practice.
The chapter on loving kindness meditation was also interesting. It's more commonly used by teachers in the Vipassana tradition, like Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield, Sylvia Boorstein, so I was suprised to see it here. Bayda uses the method not to create some special mind-state, but to see where he has blocked off his being from experiencing what's going on in the moment.
In summary, this is a good book if you are new to meditation and are looking for a way to approach spiritual practice that is free of Buddhist terms. I think people of any religion find this book useful. It outlines tools for seeing the reactive patterns and habits that narrow our lives and that inhibit meaningful interactions with the world.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Truth Seeker on January 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
For over three years I've been studying Buddhism and Zen. During that time I've ordered many books within the different Buddhist schools. There are many fine authors out there that explain the tenets and fine workings of Buddhism as well as Zen. I believe a solid background in Buddhism background is essential in understanding Buddha's message to mankind. However, the true "nuts and bolts" of Buddhism practice can be found most directly in Zen.

It is one thing to know something about a religion or way of life yet it is another to be able to apply it. Ezra Bayda has most succinctly given the best instruction of how to apply Zen to one's life where we need it the most; during those moments when we are gripped with our core pain. Core pain is comprised of our anger, traumas, sadness, feelings of inferiority, etc. It is this core pain that can make our life a living hell. Ezra examines these emotions and teaches us how we can mindfully learn to transform them in a way that truly works. Instead of denying them or trying to escape them we learn that they are part of our path in life. And while it takes courage to be present with these emotions we learn that they are but old programs and often ancient belief systems that take us away from the genuine life we all deserve.

At least one reader has referred to this as being like a self-help book. Yet anytime we look for truth whether it be in religion or psychology, aren't we looking for something to help us. Ezra offers us the tools to achieve transformation in our life. When I ordered this book I had hoped it would teach me how to truly apply Zen teachings to my life. What I didn't realize is that the information this book contains would exceed anything I have read in any religious book, psychology book, or college text.
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