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Book Review: Jewish Dharma

Book Review: Jewish Dharma

Faith: Marriage in Trouble? Getting Divorced? Guide to Judiasm and Zen Can Help


    Maybe you're in a trouble relationship. Or perhaps you've just gone through a divorce. Practicing psychologist and psychotherapist Brenda Shoshanna thinks her most recent book, "Jewish Dharma: A Guide to the Practice of Judiasm and Zen," can help. The book, available on amazon.com , offers a spiritual approach to dealing with your relationship struggles.

Shoshanna, a Ph.D., who lives in New York, has spent more than 30 years helping singles and couples find happiness, with or without a partner. In her new book, Shoshanna, who grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home, explains the art of leaving the past behind you, giving up defensiveness, discovering yourself, building relationships and making peace with your family and your world to become more fulfilled in your life.

Divorce360.com: How can the practice of Judaism and Zen heal my life?  
Jewish and Zen practice offer a completely different way of viewing the main issues of your life, such as loneliness, relationships, restlessness, conflict, understanding, suffering and ways of making peace. When we change our view of the difficulties that confront us and apply a new way of responding to them, we will find all kinds of healing occurring naturally.  

Divorce360.com: What is the overall purpose of Jewish and Zen practice and how does it relate to me?  
Both Jewish and Zen practice focus upon healing ourselves and others. In Jewish practice this is called Tikkun Olam and in Zen, it is called the Bodhisattva’s vow. Jewish practice focuses upon deepening our relationship with a High Power and then expressing this relationship in our dealings with all aspects of life. Zen practice focuses upon first healing ourselves. Before we straighten another, we straighten ourselves. Zen is based upon zazen (Zen meditation and other mindfulness practices), so we can dissolve the scattered, frantic monkey mind within, and find clarity and peace.  

Divorce360.com: How do Jewish and Zen practice view suffering and how do they handle it?  
Both practices teach us that times of loneliness, confusion, doubt or separation come for a powerful reason – so we can stop our usual way of being and discover where true strength, connection and understanding lie. Both practices tell us that suffering is based upon alienation, loneliness, separation.

In Jewish practice it is said that we are separated from God, from our true purpose in life and from all the goodness that is here for us. Jewish practice provides many practices which heal this separation, guide us towards our true purpose, and allow us to acquire a larger view of ourselves and what we are doing in this world. Zen practice informs us that suffering is due to the three poisons that we all contain in varying degrees, based upon our karma; greed, anger and delusion. The practice helps us purify these poisons, let them go, and see the difference between medicine and poison. As we do so we become more awake, free of obstacles, and able to live from what is called our Buddha Nature – the natural beauty, wisdom and compassion within. 

Divorce360.com: How do Jewish and Zen practice view love, and how is it different from the way we usually think of love?  
From the Jewish point of view, love is not based upon a feeling, which can come, or go, but is built by actions, understanding and deeds of worth. When two people are married, it is not necessarily because they are at the peak of their love. Instead the marriage partner is viewed as someone who has been brought in order to teach what it means to love. 

From the Zen point of view, we cannot love another until we are able to fully know, accept and love ourselves and all beings. In Zen the practice of zazen (Zen meditation, teaches us how to let go of negativity and separation. We learn how to not lean on others or become attached but to receive a taste of a love that is unconditional and cannot falter, no matter what is going on. 

Divorce360.com: What are the causes of conflict in Jewish and Zen practice and how are they solved?           
Zen practice teaches that conflict arises from the war that goes on within and that is then projected out onto others. It is also due to our false which, which is based upon self centered obsession and living and cares only for itself. This false ego, created by illusions, enjoys negativity of all kinds. It always looks for a fight or struggle, wants to dominate and control, rather than being a loving friend. The practice of zazen melts this negative ego so that we can become warm, open, giving and non-defensive. As we grow in that state of being, conflicts dissolve naturally.           

Jewish practice teaches that conflict is inevitable in order for us to grow. At times we are being tested by the conflict, so that we can make proper choices. Other times the conflict is a way for us to learn how to be just, both with ourselves and others. Distinguishing between what is just and unjust is a deeply important aspect of Jewish practice. Many of the teachings show us how to respond justly under all circumstances, such as, communication, money, charity, relationships, sex and love. At other times we must learn how to respond to what seems like an injustice to us and grow to realize that everything that happens to us, can become a blessing and a source of growth.  

Divorce360.com: Who is wise, according to Judaism and Zen, and how does one become wise?                     
In response to that question Judaism says, “Who is wise? He who knows the consequences of his actions.” Wisdom is acquired through study of scripture on a daily basis. Study of Torah is a foundation of Jewish practice. First we must know what to do and then wisdom truly comes to us when we put our knowledge into action. When asked how we know if anything is true, Judaism teaches, “Do and you will see.” By doing we learn most fully.                

In Zen practice, the wise one is the one who has been enlightened (something that must take place over and over again). Enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, is not only the greatest healing possible (both for us and others), but is inevitable if you engage in the simple and daily practice of zazen. A great Zen Master, Soen Roshi said, “If you simply continue this practice, day by day, it is as inevitable that you will gain enlightenment as it is that the sun comes up in the morning.” This process is natural and available to all. 

Divorce360.com: What are two or three of the most important practices in Zen and Judaism that allow us to become balanced and positive, no matter what is going on?   
When asked what the heart of Zen was, a great Master said, “Attention, attention, attention.” Work with your focus and attention. Be mindful of all your words and deeds. Practice concentration and awareness. Still the scattered, destructive mind. Stay in the moment. So much of our suffering and foolish behavior is brought about by fantasies, memories and thoughts, which have no relation to this moment, or to present reality at all.                

In Judaism the greatest practice is that of kindness and deep concern for others. (This is true of Zen as well). Judaism offers many deeds, (mitzvot), which guide us to become aware of what is appro9priate, helpful, loving and sensitive to the needs of all. Practice treating every person who comes into your life as your dearest friend.           

A Jewish heart is warm, giving, devoted to family and friends; a Zen eye is fresh, direct, spontaneous and in the moment. These practices are like two wings of a bird. Both are needed to be able to fly.

Dr Brenda Shoshanna, psychologist, workshop leader, is the award-winning author of many books. To find out about her most recent book,"Jewish Dharma (Guide to the Practice of Judaism and Zen)," please go to her Web site at http://www.jewishdharma.com. She can be contacted at topspeaker@yahoo.com, To learn more about her, please view her Web site at www.brendashoshanna.com.

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