ADDRESSES: Home—San Diego, CA. Office—Zen Center of San Diego, 2047 Felspar, San Diego, CA 92109. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Shambhala Publications, 300 Massachusetts Ave., Boston, MA 02115. E-mail—[email protected]
CAREER: Zen Center of San Diego, San Diego, CA, teacher; received formal dharma transmission from Charlotte Joko Beck, founder of the Ordinary Mind Zen School, 1998. Writer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Best Zen Book of 2002, Spirituality and Health, for Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life.
Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life, foreword by Charlotte Joko Beck, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 2002.
At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 2003.
Saying Yes to Life (Including the Hard Parts), foreword by Thomas Moore, Wisdom (Boston, MA), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Ezra Bayda is a Zen teacher and the author of volumes that include Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life, in which he applies Zen Buddhist principles to everyday life. Bayda, who meditated for three decades while writing his book, studied under Charlotte Joko Beck, who authored the book's foreword. He explains that all experiences, both positive and negative, enables one to follow the path to wisdom and an open heart. Bayda uses incidents in his own life to make his points, including the immune system disorder he and his wife suffered as the result of eating food they had grown in soil contaminated by DDT. Beginning their farming in the 1970s, they gardened organically for eleven years in northern California before the result of local insecticide and other chemical applications became apparent. As Bayda writes, "try as we will, there's no way we can strategize and control our world so that difficulties won't befall us. The real issue is whether we will learn from the helplessness that arises when our strategies fail."
A Publishers Weekly contributor felt that the exercises and techniques included in the book are among its best features, and said that "Bayda's grounding in life as it's lived makes his teaching and writing unpretentious and inviting, as if ready to apply."
The title of At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos is taken from a verse recited at Zen retreats: "May we exist like a lotus, / at home in the muddy water. / Thus we bow to life as it is." Bayda explains that the title reflects the spiritual life, in which one must be willing to open oneself to whatever life brings. Bayda's subjects include relationships, trust, and money. In one chapter, he notes his own expression of anger upon being informed that the decision to drop the atom bomb during World War II was not made to save American lives, but was rather a demonstration of power aimed at Russia. He writes that "genuine spiritual practice is never about fixing ourselves, because we are not broken. It's about becoming awake to who we really are, to the vastness of our True Nature, which includes even the parts of ourselves we label as 'bad.'"
Bayda told CA: "Saying Yes to Life (Including the Hard Parts) follows similar themes from my first two books, but in the form of pithy aphorisms and very short essays. I place particular emphasis on the need to stop playing it safe."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Bayda, Ezra, At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos, Shambhala (Boston, MA), 2003.
Library Journal, March 1, 2002, Annette Haines, review of Being Zen: Bringing Meditation to Life, p. 106.
Publishers Weekly, February 25, 2002, review of Being Zen, p. 62.
Spirituality & Health Web site, http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/ (March 25, 2005), Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, reviews of Being Zen and At Home in the Muddy Water: A Guide to Finding Peace within Everyday Chaos.