Use the book to select one major theme and write a critical essay based on that theme.
Life is a gift unto itself. Living it will give us the satisfaction that we seek. There are no guarantees other than life is yours to live for as long as you have it. How you live it is your choice.
Before delving into the major theme of Beck's book, it might be helpful to understanding her positioning for the book to know something about her. Charlotte Joko is head of the Zen Center of San Diego. In the 1960s she trained under Hakuun Yasutani Roshi and Soen Nakagawa Roshi. In 1983 she became the 3rd Dharma heir of Hakuyu Maezumi Roshi of the Zen Center of Los Angeles. Currently she teaches in San Diego, USA.
The main theme behind Charlotte Joko Beck's book is that life is simple: Life just as it is at any moment, is all that it can be and therefore is perfect.
She recognizes the fact that life is precious and we have it for the moment. Pointing again and again to the troubles we cause ourselves by living life not in the moment, but out of a confused fog of fantasies and "what ifs," Beck challenges us to cleanse ourselves of our mental barriers that prevent us from enjoying life as we know it.
She does not state that life will be perfect but rather that it will just be what it is.
Charlotte is obviously a compassionate person, intimately familiar with human weaknesses and struggles. She soothes us through her words but at the same time wants to jerk our senses to realize what life holds for each and everyone of us. At times, she focuses on the "deconstructive" aspect of Zen practice rather than the ultimate manifestations and benefits of enlightenment.
The book is a great introductory resource on the art of Zen. She is able to take her premise about life being just that life and bring it alive for her readers outside the walls of a monastic environment. Her style is forthright and no-nonsense; she simply tells the truth about making the most of your life. In one part of her book, she states, "my dog doesn't worry about the meaning of life. She may worry about if she doesn't get her breakfast but we human beings are not like dogs. We have self-centered minds which get us into trouble. If we do not understand the error in the way we think, our self-awareness, which is our greatest blessing, is also our downfall."
Beck offers a warm, engaging, approach to using Zen to deal with the problems of daily living -- love, relationships, fear, ambition, suffering. Her ultimate goal is to show us all how to live each moment to the fullest by employing the awakened ways of Zen.
The Awakened Way is universal; the medium and methods of realization vary according to circumstances. The ways may apply diverse practice approaches and determine the structure that an individual may develop to facilitate practice. The key thing with Beck's theories and practices is that we are all ongoing students of life, and that the quality of our life is a direct results of how we "practice" that life. As ongoing students, we are open to the wisdom of the absolute that is manifested in our life.
Beck strongly believes that looking inward is the discipline to completing our lives. Too many of us look outside of ourselves and that does not bring inner peace or wholeness. Beck tries to bring us to a level of consciousness where we realize that life is already perfect, whole and complete. It is our own lack of self that leads us to disillusionment and dissatisfaction.
Beck states, "When you sit, don't expect to be noble. When we sit with what is, even for a few minutes, then this presence that we are is like a mirror. We see everything. We see what we are: our efforts to look good, to be first, or to be last. We see our anger, our anxiety, our pomposity, our so-called spirituality. Real spirituality is just being with…