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18 October 2000

Sometimes I lose my Way, The Way, the Tao. Like today. I can't remember who I am or what I am or what I'm supposed to be doing. Sometimes I can go through the motions; sometimes not. Some days are like that.

I have a lot of books. A lot. Fiction and non-fiction, they are almost all excellent resources. That's why I keep them. But, some books are more useful than others. When I lose the Way, I have two books I keep handy to help me find myself again. One is Tao te Ching translated by Stephen Mitchell, the other is Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo.

The Tao te Ching is excellent, but it is the essence, not the substance to me. For substance, I read Zen Guitar. Here is an excerpt:

"... Those who wish to earn the black belt here should accept, at minimum, five responsibilities:

A responsibility to yourself-- apply yourself and develop your talent to the fullest capacity.

A responsibility to your talent-- put your talent to good use, not bad, in the service of something outside yourself, and do nothing to waste it.

A responsibility to your art-- express your song truthfully, in the face of all opposition.

A responsibility to your audience-- respect those who come to you with open ears and foster a sense of community.

A responsibility to the Way-- act as sensei to those who sincerely seek to find their own path, and share with them what you know to be true. The Way is for everyone.

...Through the frustrations of learning a new skill, we learn humility-- how much we don't know.

Through the exploration of knowledge, we learn openness-- a willingness to try new things, to see things from another person's perspective.

Through playing with others, we learn generosity-- how to share and contribute to the good of the group.

The path to a black belt is not through becoming the best player, but the best person. Raise your living to the level of an art form, and your playing will reflect it. That is the Way of Zen Guitar."

The thing about the book Zen Guitar is this: you can substitute any word for "guitar" and the book reads just as true. Life. Writing. Art. Teaching. Programming. Selling. Housework. Knitting. Car Repair. You get the idea. It's an amazing book. I highly recommend it to you.

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Zen Guitar by Philip Toshio Sudo available from     Tao te Ching by Stephen Mitchell available from

The Official Zen Guitar Philosophy Statement
The Zen Guitar Philosophy.


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