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Dancing with Your Books: The Zen Way of Studying.

This is not a book about Zen, but rather a text that applies a few Zen principles to the task of studying. And, although the title of book serves notice that its subject is studying, the philosophy and techniques discussed by the author are applicable to most activities.

Gibbs has been a college teacher for some two decades and has authored his book to help the student study and master new material in an "effortless way." He begins his discussion explicating the first fundamental of effective study: "the less the self is consciously present in the performance of schoolwork, or any other work, the more of the self there is available to do the work." (4-5) Living fully in the present moment, totally absorbed and completely focused on the task at hand, removes the self from the situation. Only then is it possible to establish the proper relationship: "The perfect relationship is one in which there is not separation between the person and the task. There is no person and there is no task. There is only the doing of the task in the moment.... There is no subject-object or person-task duality." (6)

From these ideas, Gibbs moves to such topics as the problems faced by students (e.g. time management), staying centered in the moment, concentration on the moment, ("letting go of what you are not doing at the moment," boredom, gaining control and freedom, relaxing, right effort, beginner's mind (approaching tasks without expectations or preconceptions), the tyranny of the ego, and the instability of goals as a foundation for action.

Gibbs next discusses techniques for clearing and calming the mind. Here he examines Zen meditation. This section is followed with discussions of barriers to studying and of the requisite skills for effective study. This is a remarkable book. Building on Zen ideas, Gibbs has successfully constructed a perspective regarding study that is both practical and effective. It is the dancing that's important -- wherein self and task become one in the doing.
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Coleman, William E., Jr.
Publication:ETC.: A Review of General Semantics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1993
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