Living the Season by Ji Hyang Padma

Living the Season: Zen Practice for Transformative Times
Ji Hyang Padma
Quest Books, 2013


Review by Sharynne NicMhacha.

This lovely volume by American Buddhist teacher Ji Hyang Padma is a delightful and graceful exploration of the relevance and resonance of Zen teachings in modern times. Focusing on our interconnection with each other, and the importance of right relationship with the self, Padma divides the book into four seasons, with subtopics appropriate to the connection of cyclical existence in each section. Meditations and exercises appropriate to beginners and more advanced practitioners complete each topic section.

Part One: Winter — Finding Light in the Darkness,” explores centering, “sitting zen,” and the concept of nourishing one’s spirit with hope. She discusses bringing forth the wisdom that is within us, and the concept of the sacred circle.

In “Part Two: Spring — New Life Beginning,” Padma steps into power with her masterful chapter on “The Lion’s Roar.” Her chapter on Empathy, including empathy for oneself, contains a powerful Metta practice that is highly recommended. She also brings forth great power in the section on Cleaning House: Traveling Lightly, a practice that is highly relevant in these times.

Part Three: Summer — The Blossoming of True Nature,” explores the theme of creativity with great effectiveness and beauty. Also included in this ‘season’ are Authenticity, Ecology of Mind, and Encountering the Sacred Feminine, where she provides several wonderful stories of early Buddhist nuns and female practitioners. This section is rounded off with a chapter on Inyoun — the theory of cause and effect — which I really enjoyed, and a chapter on Listening, which contained a remarkable dream-teaching which I found on par with the teachings of the old masters. Also included in “Summer” were a chapter enticingly entitled “Dakini, Sky Dancer,” and chapters on applied Zen and interpersonal mindfulness.

Finally, in “Part Four: Autumn, Everything Changes,” the author discusses Wholeness as well as the importance of working with and meditating upon the “Great Questions,” which many of the elders have left for us to ponder. Other chapters explore impermanence, connectivity, reciprocity and gratitude, and Zen and the mind.

Throughout the book are personal stories and learning encounters Padma experienced along the way, as well teachings from her Buddhist teachers and others she met on the path. My favorite quote was in response to her earnest inquiry of the Dalai Lama, about what the one thing was we could do for world peace. He laughed and said, “It is not so simple. There is no one thing. But to do one thing — begin with ecology.” This is clearly one of her most sacred precepts, and one which we would do well to follow.

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