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  • Writer's pictureCharles Cherney

148: Ordinary Wonder

I recently read for the second time Charlotte Joko Beck's posthumous book Ordinary Wonder (2021).


Charlotte Joko Beck (1917 – 2011) was an American Zen teacher. Born in New Jersey, Beck 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 only began Zen practice in her 40s. She opened Zen Center San Diego in 1983, serving as its head teacher until 2006.


Much wisdom in Ordinary Wonder. Consider this quote:


Banging out a little tune. Doing the hard work. Not just thoughts, ideas, and theories. Experiencing.


And remembering that our true self – our true life – is not ME and MY STORY. As Joko Beck says, "awakening is, finally, nothing but being largely free of this self-centered dream we cook up."


"Who you are," says Joko Beck, "is life itself."


And, she notes, there is a difference between a self-centered and a life-centered effort.


A life-centered effort requires attention in the moment.

Banging out a little tune.

Doing the hard work.

Not just thoughts, ideas, and theories.

Experiencing.




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