Light Inside the Dark: Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life

Light Inside the Dark: Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life

by John Tarrant
     
 

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In this landmark guide to the spiritual journey, respected Zen teacher and psychotherapist John Tarrant brings together ancient Eastern traditions and the Western view of the soul to offer a new understanding and a vivid description of the depths and heights of our inner landscape.

The Light Inside the Dark shows us how we can look into our darkest

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Overview

In this landmark guide to the spiritual journey, respected Zen teacher and psychotherapist John Tarrant brings together ancient Eastern traditions and the Western view of the soul to offer a new understanding and a vivid description of the depths and heights of our inner landscape.

The Light Inside the Dark shows us how we can look into our darkest experiences and find the sources of joy there. In leading us on the journey of the interior life — the part of us that lies below the everyday life of work, family, and the physical world — Tarrant distinguishes between soul and spirit and shows how we can overcome the dichotomies of inner and outer, light and dark. To attain the deepest spirituality, he explains, no emotion need be denied: pleasure, anguish, desire, and contentment all form a part of the soul's great quest.

Using real life stories as well as the teachings of Zen Buddhist masters and the ancient Greeks to illuminate his discoveries, Tarrant shows us how to live fully through difficulty and discover deep happiness in all aspects of daily life.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
To accept Tarrant's invitation to search for "the light inside the dark" is to become swept up in a torrent of evocative and lyrical images which move seamlessly from the mythology of ancient Greece through the humorous asceticism of Zen masters to the passionate pain of modern psychotherapeutic patients. Tarrant, director of a Zen training group called the California Diamond Sangha, shows us how, through the Zen path, our souls can find insight and relief. Like Zen koans, Tarrant's stories of Zen students and his psychotherapy patients draw attention to questions we barely sense in ourselves. Tarrant's Haiku-like style relies on the juxtaposition of opposites, like light and dark, drawn from our day-to-day fears and joys, our nightly terrors and morning doubts, and the rich cultural myths of Eastern and Western religions. Tarrant's book is at once an intimate story of one man's struggle for meaning and a guide to the joys of the spiritual journey. (Sept.)
Library Journal
John Tarrant narrates this journey in which he describes the depths and heights of our inner landscape. As he begins, he explains, "I explore the inner life because it is what we as humans are for: consciousness, the inner voyage." Tarrant, a Zen teacher and psychotherapist at the University of Arizona, Tucson, teaches meditation to physicians. Here he weaves his knowledge of Eastern traditions with the Western view of the soul to offer an understanding of our inner selves. Tarrant talks about how we can overcome the dichotomies of inner and outer, light and dark. The light inside the dark is Tarrant's attempt to illustrate how we can look into our darkest experiences and find joy. Excellent audio quality, this program is digitally edited, mixed, and mastered using the Sonic Solutions system. Recommended for libraries with Eastern or meditation arts programs.-Ravonne A. Green, Blacksburg, VA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780694520244
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/01/1998
Edition description:
Abridged, 2 Cassettes
Product dimensions:
4.48(w) x 7.02(h) x 0.77(d)

Read an Excerpt


The Inward Voyage

How lovely!
Through the torn paper screen,
the Milky Way.
Issa

When we were children our days were full of wonder—the world unfolded itselfand ourselves at the same time. In such an eternal afternoon the grass hums,the ball flies into the blue, and the girl sings the skipping-rope song:
Cindereller dressed in yeller
went upstairs to kiss a feller;
made a mistake and kissed a snake.
How many doctors did it take?
imagining the time when she will be bitten by a life that is still beingdreamed and has not yet arrived—though it is clear to her father, watching,that life is here for her now, utterly complete.
Beneath or inside the life we lead every day is another life. This unseenlife runs like a river beneath the city, beneath work, family, ambition,beneath our pleasures and griefs. "There is another world," saysPaul Eluard, "and it is inside this one."
In the helter-skelter, in the rush to get an education, to make a career,to make a family, to find material success, to hurry, to do, to survive,this interior life is often subjugated or paved over. The life that in thechild is something vivid and whole goes further inward in the adult, whereit usually slumbers until it is called forth. But this life beneath or withinour ordinary life is irrepressible, unstoppable: it comes up in lovelinesslike jonquils out of fallen snow, it rises in supplication like hands outof gratings in a pavement in India, and it bursts upward through our chestsas the fountain of shock that is our reaction to evil news. It appears indreams, revery, memories of childhood, in what we find beautiful, and inwhat we find ugly as agargoyle, and appears too when we fall in love, whenwe fall ill, when we are lost on dark paths. It touches our pleasures withmelancholy and intermittently pierces our desperation with joy.
I have always loved to think of the old navigators—the small bands movingto a new continent over land bridges made by the ice age; the Polynesiancanoe masters, sailing into the vastness with a coconut shell half filledwith water, observation holes drilled into it near the rim; James Cook,who rose through the ranks to command the ship Endeavour, carrying JosephBanks to botanize through these same Pacific islands; and my own ancestors,transported in chains to the desolation of Botany Bay.
Whether or not our travels may eventually extend to the stars and thosebrave, hard-pressed voyages be repeated in some new form, our frontier nowis the inner life. In this book, two great lineages of inward explorationare brought together. The first is the Asian tradition with its long devotionto the arts of attention
and to a spiritual understanding based on inquiry and experience ratherthan dogma. The second is the Western method of work with the soul, withexploring the life of feeling, thought, and the stories and legends thatthe soul likes to tell, stories in which we trace our destiny through painand joy, to find out what happens next.
The inward voyage and the outer both have an heroic aspect. Outer voyagesmake new connections by which human beings achieve many ends—adventure,trade, conquest, and love. The inner voyage also makes new connections:it plunges us into an initiatory space, the way young boys were once thrustinto the forecastle of a sailing ship; then, as the world we have knowndisappears, we are rocked and whirled around until the ship anchors oncemore in a harbor. We step ashore in a land that is not externally new butthat our eyes, being changed, see in its primeval freshness. The interiorvoyage overcomes loneliness by offering us a place in the universe, wherewe can know ourselves in the midst of all changes.
If we respect the inner life, we find that it is also possible to reversethe whole relationship between inner and outer, beneath
and above, and make the inner life come first, as a garden that is tendedfor the tending's own sake. To cultivate, to know, to love this vast inscapeis the only way to be free in any circumstances, the only way to mend thepoverty of wasted years. We explore the interior realm because it is whatwe humans are for—consciousness, the marvelous voyage.
Much of the journey is about the ways we work with our attention, becauseattention gives us more life. It expands the register, bringing us to noticemore of the vividness and consolation of our dark lives, so that we canexist in our true range, and not go around missing things, as if we knewcountries only from their airports and hotels. Attention is the most basicform of love: through it we bless and are blessed. When we attend to theinterior life, we also connect with what surrounds us—the espresso machinehissing, the skipping rope with its two red handles in line and the ropecurling lazily out and back, the green points on the snowdrops nodding overthe cold ground. What was matter and merely inanimate becomes family, andwe, the children walking, walking, walking home. All wanting—for love,to be seen for who we are, for a new red car—is wanting to find and betaken into this mysterious depth in things. And it is this inner connectionthat resolves the problem of who we are and makes us at home in the world.For the interior life sweetens the humblest thing. It opens for us the magicin ordinary life.

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What People are saying about this

Jon Kabat Zinn
"This book invites superlatives. It is an exquisite mapping of the Buddhist and totally beyond Buddhist path of liberation, done with the lightest of touches, with perfect grace and clarity and warmth of heart, in a way that makes it so human, and so compelling, that it shows this path, and the work/play of meditation, to be nothing less than life itself, the human condition, offering anyone and everyone the actualities, the shadows, the blossoms, and the boundless, ever-present possibilities of a life lived in awareness, with nothing holding."
Jon Kabat-Zinn
This book invites superlatives. It is an exquisite mapping of the Buddhist and totally beyond Buddhist path of liberation, done with the lightest of touches, with perfect grace and clarity and warmth of heart."
Rachel Naomi Remen
"Simply the best book that I have read in the past ten years. The Light Inside the Dark cuts through the many contemporary illusions about the journey which is a life and offers a compass that can guide us to our true home. I want to give it to everyone I know."
Robert Hass
John Tarrant's subject is the unbearable lightness of being but also its inconsolable heaviness, and his thinking about the relation between these two poles of spirit and soul is extraordinarily rich. He inoculates one against the wish for a quick fix in the spiritual or imaginative life. His work is useful to poets in the way Bachelard's Poetics of Space or Hyde's The Gift is useful.
Andrew Weil
"Drawing on his experience as a psychotherapist, poet, and teacher of Zen Buddhism, John Tarrant weaves a rich tapestry of the contradictory and often paradoxical themes of existence. His insights on the soul's journey are unsparingly frank and oddly comforting."
Jack Kornfield
"An exquisite book which welcomes you in its arms and carries your deepest longings and loves with the lyrical voice of a nightingale. This is one of the best guides yet to the breaking open of the human heart, to vulnerability, eternal spirit, and the mountains dancing."
Rachel Ramen, M.D.
This is simply the best book that I have read in the past ten years. The Light Inside the Dark cuts through the many contemporary illusions about the journey which is a life and offers a compass that can guide us to our true home."
Clarissa Pinkola Estes
"John Tarrant offers us a way to gain access to the irrepressible seeds of hope which lie barren, yet ready to bloom, in fallow, and dark times. He does this by stretching the imagination of the Western mind to include--for soul's sake--not only its own stories of Greek gods and goddesses, the great fathers of the Hebrew Bible, and the redemption possible in Jesus's life, but also the great teachings of Zen Buddhist masters and the best spiritual exercises of the East."

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