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Blowing Zen: Finding an Authentic Life Paperback – January 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: H.J. Kramer (January 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0915811855
  • ISBN-13: 978-0915811854
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,806,820 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

How does an electrical engineer from London find himself playing the flute on a hillside in Japan? Ray Brooks had had a piece of the good life, after all--high salary, late-night parties, fast cars. But in his late 20s, he did some soul searching, only to find that, spiritually speaking, the lights were on but no one was home. Some radical changes took him to Japan and a chance encounter with a master player of the shakuhachi, the Japanese vertical flute. He took it up and simultaneously absorbed the single-minded Zen discipline that seemed to imbue all facets of Japanese life. Brooks tells the story of his life in Japan, of his journey up the hill of gambatte (perseverance), and of his experiences in Japanese culture, such as his chat with a marathon monk and his not-quite-voluntary performance for members of the Japanese mafia. The title Blowing Zen refers to Zen monks who used flute playing as their meditative practice. One wishes more could have been made of this in Brook's memoir, of his own relationship to Zen and how exactly his life has become authentic. But perhaps this is too much to ask when the ineffability of music is coupled with the ineffability of Zen. --Brian Bruya

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 33 customer reviews
I highly recommend this interesting and enlightening read.
Patti Meadows
It's a good book packed with a lot of good stories, and well written with a lot of humour and style.
Shawn Klemmer
A book about one man's journey into the world of the Shakuhachi flute.
Jesse Lee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Micky J Roberto on March 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
In superb Kerouacian fashion, Blowing Zen teaches the reader more about the incredible enlightment and joy of living in the moment than any textbook on zen or buddhism. A must read for anyone itchy to travel but can't and for those who need to be reminded of why we're all here in the first place.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By acltaos on February 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was fortunate to meet Ray Brooks during a book signing event in Taos. I was touched by his warmth and by the almost palpable feeling of well-being that emanates from him. "Blowing Zen" tells the true story of how Ray found his bliss (and a new career) through "shakuhachi", the art of the Zen flute. The book is a great read, not only for Ray's account of his experiences, but also for his highly descriptive style that puts the reader right there with him. His sensitivity for foreign cultures and practices is refreshing. I recommend this book without reservation for its delightful style and uplifting message.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rob Annan on February 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
How do I describe "Blowing Zen"? Refreshing, evocative, profound and yet simple. It is about finding a truthful life amid the rush and alienation of modern life. In his search for authenticity, the author leaves the party circuit of London and travels to the Orient. While living in Japan,Brooks discovers temples, Buddhist monks, the Japanese mafia, and, perhaps most importantly, the shakahachi - a bamboo flute..
What makes "Blowing Zen" so thouroughly enjoyable is, not only is the book entertaining (I couldn't put it down) but it is also inherently satisfying and hopeful. Part travel account, part autobiography and part spiritual journey,"Blowing Zen"'s biggest strength lives in its timely message: one does not have to travel the world and play the shakuhachi to find an authentic life, it is simply necessary to look within.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Smokin' Jones on March 8, 2000
Format: Paperback
Aside from the shakuhachi enthusiast reader, the experiences with the shakuhachi Brooks relays in the book, along with his minor forays into Zen philosophy, make the book an interesting read for people unfamiliar with the shakuhachi. Blowing Zen is made considerably more interesting by the fact that Brooks didn't set out to explore either Zen or the shakuhachi. He's a bit more like someone who decided to go for a stroll, learned that a hiking staff made walking easier and then discovered (in both senses of the term) himself on a pilgrimage.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Joshua Michaell on March 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Blowing Zen" is a delightful and inspirational story of one man's discovery of the Japanese flute as a vehicle of awakening to a more soulful and authentic life. Written with grace, humor and charm, the book brings the reader so close to the author's experience that the subtle and wonderful world of Japan and it's characters comes vibrantly alive. This book is a tasty treat filled with wisdom that can be savored long after the last note has been played.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
A couple of days ago a friend recommended that I read "Blowing Zen", a new book written by author, Ray Brooks. I visited my local bookstore, picked up a copy, returned home and (much to my surprise) consumed the book in one sitting
"Blowing Zen" tells the story of one man's decision to leave behind his comfortable existence in London and to plunge, head first, into a radically different lifestyle in Japan. "Blowing Zen" flows wonderfully, almost like a stream of consciousness and yet, at the same time, is very straightforward in its message. Fortunately Brooks, unlike many other travel writers, avoids the temptation of navel gazing as he relates his encounters and experiences. The book is at turns: funny, touching, educative, thought provoking and inspirational.
Initially, I would be tempted to categorize "Blowing Zen" as a travel account, but would not be surprised to find it located in other sections of a bookstore (i.e. autobiography, spirituality, music, religion, or self help). It is said that the best authors write as if they are communicating with a close friend and I truly felt that with "Blowing Zen." I was thrilled to be both entertained and inspired in one siting. I am eagerly awaiting Brook's next book and kudos to the author for peaking my curiosity on a myriad of different topics.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Shawn Klemmer on February 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
First, it delivers as a "spiritual" book - insightful, thought-provoking, etc. Like the old Zen poets, Brooks practices outside the monastary, in backstreets, bars, mountain-shrines. He gives you a sense of Zen as an expanding experience of freedom. The book also seems to be a kind of parable about the courage it takes to live in a meaningful way. Brooks had the guts to bow out of Japan's cult of productivity to play music in the mountains. And he had the courage to let go of his old lifestyle and identity to build an "authentic" life - this from insights won inquiring into habits of mind. So it gets you thinking, maybe walking your "path" with a shift in attitude.
Secondly, the book is pretty entertaining. Brooks manages to meet a lot of intriguing characters and has a lot extraordinary experiences. It's a good book packed with a lot of good stories, and well written with a lot of humour and style.
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