'Nothing Special' By Charlotte Joko Beck

'Nothing special' proposes an interesting approach to life, quite different from the general Western principle of seeking happiness: it's the Zen way.

As Charlotte Joko Beck explains, "We're far away from 'just living', as a natural man or woman would live. We're thinking about living all the time."

The Zen practice of direct experience brings us back to living.

'Nothing special' helps you to allow the present as it is. Through answering her students' questions, Charlotte Joko Beck gently shows us what Zen actually is.

The here and now

Charlotte Joko Beck states in 'Nothing special' that "Though there are certain formal activities that assist us in waking up (which we can call Zen practice if we want), real 'Zen practice' is just being here right now and not adding anything to this".

The thing is, most of us want happiness in our lives, and when the Now brings us an unpleasant experience, we resist it:

"We have many ways to cope with life, many ways to worship comfort and pleasantness. All are based on the same thing: the fear of encountering any kind of unpleasantness. If we must have absolute order and control, it's because we're trying to avoid any unpleasantness".

Zen invites us instead to feel that pain and experience that fear - only then the real joy comes: "That surrender and opening into something fresh and new is the consequence of experiencing pain, not a consequence of finding a place where we can shut the pain out".

Because, in truth, "The discomfort and pain are not the cause of our problems; the cause is that we don't know what to do about them".

Surrendering to the pain is the only option to finally meet the truth and grow out of the pain.

Zen practice

In this book Charlotte Joko Beck explains that "Practice is nothing abut that attitude of curiosity: 'What's going on here, now? What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What is life presenting to me? What am I doing with this?' [...]".

Zen practices takes place in the Here and Now.

However, in 'Nothing special' we are asked that we do not enter Zen with the intention that it will save us. Zen practice is not romantic or attractive, and it means that we sit with our discomfort.

Furthermore, "Practice has to be a process of endless disappointment. We have to see that everything we demand (and even get) eventually disappoints us. This discovery is our teacher."

Precisely because of sitting with our pain, Zen means a way of dealing with life in a calmer manner when things don't come our way.

We may still have preferences of how we want things to be, but we no longer resist what is. We simply accept it and live in the present.

Other bits and pieces

'Nothing special' touches on many topics - here are just three:

  • On anxiety: "Anxiety is always a gap between the way things are and the way we think they ought to be".

  • On seeking happiness through others: "We have the illusion that other people are going to make us happy, that they're going to make our lives work. Until we wear out that illusion, there will be no real solution".

  • On our insecurities: "Our sense of ownership arises because we're afraid and insecure - and so we want to own things. We want to own people. We want to own ideas. We want to own our opinions. We want to have a strategy for living".

My views

'Nothing special' offers a comprehensive approach to Zen. It allows for a way to find an inner center of peace by simply accepting what is, whether painful or pleasurable.

This approach is indeed very honest towards life and it's specially useful in difficult times.

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"Turning our lives of drama to lives of no drama means turning a life where we're constantly seeking, analyzing, hoping, and dreaming into one of just experiencing life as it appears, right now. The key factor is awareness, just experiencing the pain as it is. Paradoxically, this is joy. There is no other joy on this earth except this."

Charlotte Joko Beck

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Important: the fact that I've partnered with these retailers doesn't affect the review above. This review is simply my views of the book, and I write it in order to help you make a more informed choice.

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