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If You're Lucky, Your Heart Will Break: Field Notes from a Zen Life Paperback – August 28, 2012
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"Finally, a book that reveals to every seeker that the religious and spiritual paths can be one and the same! No one who is on a search for wholeness and meaning will be unaffected by these life-changing reflections of James Ishmael Ford." (Lee Barker, president, Meadville Lombard Theological School)
"Informative...down-to-earth...practical." (Publishers Weekly)
"Engaging, humorous, deep without being dry. I recommend it to Buddhists and also non-Buddhists." (OpenBuddha.com)
"Field Notes from a Zen Life is a sparklingly refreshing offering. Ford's mature, playful, multifaceted Zen has been slow-cooking for forty years and is now ready. Read and delight!" (Dosho Port, author of Keep Me in Your Heart a While)
"James Ford's Field Notes covers the spiritual turf from beginner to Zen master with honesty, clarity and beauty. We love seeing our UU minister and Zen master plotting murder while checking out of the supermarket, as much as we love his probing the depths of Zen wisdom. A book that sparkles with the complexities of humanity, ethical wisdom, and love--and also offers clear instructions for beginning a Zen practice." (Grace Schireson, author of Zen Women)
"James Ford shows us how take the initiative and to be ready to be surprised by joy, freedom, and the whole mess. A valuable companion filled with encouragement for beginners and experienced meditators alike." (Diane Eshin Rizzetto, author of Waking Up to What You Do)
"A must-read addition to the growing literature on 'Western Zen'--with an engaging clarity and informed easy-going sophistication." (Zoketsu Norman Fischer, author of Sailing Home: Using the Wisdom of Homer's Odyssey to Navigate Life's Perils and Pitfalls)
"A wonderful blend of story, advice, perspective, history, and instruction." (Sumi Loundon, author of Blue Jean Buddha)
About the Author
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Top Customer Reviews
There are books about the history of Buddhism, in general, and Zen, in particular, like Heinrich Dumoulin's A History of Zen Buddhism or Ford's own Zen Master Who?: A Guide to the People and Stories of Zen.
And there are books about Buddhist teachings, such as Walpola Rahula's What the Buddha Taught or, again, Ford's earlier In This Very Moment.
And there are books that combine personal memoir with direct teaching of the dharma, like Soko Morinaga's Novice to Master (which has my vote for the best subtitle of all time) or Janwillem VanDeWetering's The Empty Mirror.
What Ford -- a Soto Priest and Unitarian Universalist minister -- has managed to do here is to combine all three kinds of books into one, and he's done so in a way that is both accessible and original. As I look at my shelves containing multiple dozens of books on Buddhism and Zen I can honestly say that I have nothing else quite like this.
In the service of full disclosure I will note that I, like Ford, am a Unitarian Universalist minister. And, like him, I have been involved with Buddhism for quite a while now. Yet unlike Sensei Ford, my involvement has been much more of a study than a practice. I never, as he puts it, "threw myself into the Zen way to find out the most important things about who I am and what I might be." I am both personally and professionally grateful that I now have these "field notes from a Zen life" to help me see what I've been missing.
The chapters in If YOU'RE LUCKY are brief, yet full.Read more ›
Rev. Ford gives us the gift of his hard-won wisdom in such a tender manner that I could imagine him telling these stories to me over numerous cups of tea. His heartfelt desire to share the Dharma with us shines through. If you've never sat in meditation or if you've been around the cushion a few times, you will find new insights and new ways of pointing to reality through our every day lives in modern society.
But the most important and the strongest feeling I'm left with after closing Rev. Ford's unique book covers is to go to my own cushion and sit. He reminds me of one of my teachers, the late Zen Master Seung Sahn (about whom Rev. Ford references in the book) who said: "don't know; try, try, try for 10,000 years non-stop; keep a mind which is clear like space, soon get Enlightenment, and save all people from suffering." I am grateful for Rev. Ford's teachings in this illuminating book. May I break open again and again.
James Ishmael Ford unquestionablly has been practicing Zen Buddhism for a long time (as he informs us at numerus points in the book: "I've been walking the Zen way for the larger part of a lifetime." (p.11) "Many years ago I was living in a Zen Buddhist monastery in Oakland, California." (p.35) "A million years ago, or so, I decided to try Zen meditation." (p. 41) "[This led me to] years of watching my mind and its intimate workings" (p. 115)). His one or two brief chapters on Zen practice show a depth of personal experience with meditation.
But for Mr. Ford, Zen is simply the dominant flavor of an eclectic Unitarian stew. The book contains anecdotes from his Baptist upbringing, quotes from Jesus and Shakespeare, Aldous Huxley, Albert Einstein, Hindu stories of the goddess Kali, Zen stories. And ultimately, we never get far from Mr. Ford's synthesis of these sources. The intellectual heart of the book is Mr. Ford's own melding of the seven precepts of the Noahide Code, a Hebrew scripture with the five Buddhist precepts for lay practitioners. Mr. Ford ends up with his own seven precepts and devotes a chapter to each.
At the end, what we are left with is a lot of Mr. Ford, and not much Zen. The good of this is that Mr. Ford is a genial and intelligent writer and the book draws from various interesting sources -- always looking for parallels and not contrasts, in the Unitarian way. But if readers are looking for an introduction to Zen or Buddhism, they should look elsewhere.
Early in the book, Mr.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Have been practicing for over 25 yrs. this book inspires my continuing practice. Thank you.Published 15 days ago by Alan Hawkins
Clear and concise with no phony shortcuts or secret handshakes. Read it with no expectation of success, and you won't be disappointed.Published 18 months ago by Kindle Customer
This book is worth reading. The title touched me straightaway. I value "Buddhist writing" that describes something of the author's own struggles/insights. Read morePublished on December 15, 2013 by Peter King
With wit and grace, author James Ford takes us into his discovery of Zen and tells how Zen can give guidance in our day-to-day lives. Read morePublished on May 30, 2013 by Tony Allen
I finally got a hold of this book and read it. I nibbled it in bites and let it sink into me. The reason it took so long for me to get my hands on it is because my teenage son... Read morePublished on April 5, 2013 by Tandi K. Rogers-koerger
I don't want to be completely critical of this book, which is good in parts. But Ford's discussion of karma is in my view lacking in intellectual rigor. Read morePublished on December 23, 2012 by presence of mind
I like the information in here because it gives you a way of opening your mind and thinking of life's situations differently. Read morePublished on December 6, 2012 by BookLuver
This book is a beginners guide, an experts guide, to zen. It's told from the heart, and he wants us to live life fully, here, now. Read morePublished on November 29, 2012 by Derrick Mathieu
I tried reading this self-important, self-congratulatory book about a Unitarian view of what zen is. Read morePublished on November 25, 2012 by Neil A. Kelly