Tending the Fire:
An Introspective Guide to Zen Awakening
by Dale & Barbara Verkuilen Firethroat Press

"We may also need to work a lifetime to cut the threads of the tight weave of our karma before the design of our life can begin to take on a new pattern. And really, we need to do all of this at the same time."

To the Western mind, it seems odd to talk about sitting still as a way to move forward. Longtime Zen Buddhist meditation practitioners Dale and Barbara Verkuilen aim to bring the concepts together in this thoughtful, well-researched guide. The Verkuilens seek to integrate the Buddhist tradition of Zazen–sitting meditation–with the more psychological perspective of teacher and therapist David Grove, who created the innovative Metaphor Therapy popular in the 1980s. Both use introspection and inquiry to root out the causes of conditioned responses that affect us in our daily lives, often without our conscious knowledge. Tending the Fire combines the two and extends their reach with additional tools for overcoming conditioned responses and recreating an awakened self.

If this all sounds a little bit abstract, it is. Much of the Verkuilens' writing is dense with complex concepts that require deliberate reading. They pack a lot of meaning into sentences like, "The fundamental misperception is that we experience ourselves as permanent entities separate from the world." Fortunately, the Verkuilens also illustrate each concept in a variety of ways, including diagrams, stories, excerpts from Zen masters' texts, and step-by-step instructions for personal practice. The second half of the book offers more concrete examples, with stories illustrating the use of the Verkuilens' process in everyday life. These case studies help to solidify some of the more esoteric concepts. Appendices with more examples and an excellent reference list offer resources for further study.

This is a book to be studied over time, as part of a personal meditation practice. Teachers, students, and therapists can all benefit from this gentle approach to overcoming the past and enjoying freedom in the future.

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