Nothing Special - Living Zen cover image

Nothing Special - Living Zen

By Charlotte Joko Beck
Harper and Collins


Charlotte Joko Beck was an American Zen teacher. Born in New Jersey, she studied music at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and worked for some time as a pianist and piano teacher. She married and raised a family of four children, then separated from her husband and worked as a teacher, secretary, and assistant in a university department. She began Zen practice in her 40s with Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi in Los Angeles, and later with Hakuun Yasutani and Soen Nakagawa. Having received Dharma transmission from Taizan Maezumi Roshi, she opened the Zen Center San Diego in 1983, serving as its head teacher until July 2006. Beck was responsible for a number of important innovations in Zen teaching. In particular, she taught students to work with the emotions of everyday life rather than attempting to avoid or escape them. Because she was adept at teaching students to work with their psychological states, she attracted a number of students who were interested in the relationship between Zen and modern psychology. Several of her Dharma heirs are practicing psychologists/psychiatrists. In 1995 Joko, along with three of her Dharma heirs, founded the Ordinary Mind Zen School. “Most of our difficulties, our hopes, and our worries are empty fantasies. Nothing has ever existed except this moment. That's all there is. That's all we are. Yet most human beings spend 50 to 90 percent or more of their time in their imagination, living in fantasy. We think about what has happened to us, what might have happened, how we feel about it, how we should be different, how others should be different, how it's all a shame, and on and on; it's all fantasy, all imagination. Memory is imagination. Every memory that we stick to devastates our life.”

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