The Intimate Way of Zen: Effort, Surrender, and Awakening on the Spiritual Journey (Paperback)

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An intimate mystery encompasses you and tugs upon your heart—what does it mean to follow that tug across the arc of a spiritual life?

Reflecting out of more than fifty years of practice in Zen Buddhism, Unitarian Universalism, and other contemplative traditions, James Ishmael Ford invites us into a journey through life's mysteries and the stages of spiritual development.

Lightly structured by the archetypal Buddhist oxherding images, Ford’s exploration is rooted in the Zen way while being deeply enriched by various strains of world mysticism. The book, sprinkled with insights and quotes from Buddhist, Daoist, and Christian traditions, serves as a map and a companion to spiritual seekers or pilgrims—whether within one religious tradition or cobbling together a way of one’s own. “Here is the most natural of all natural experiences,” writes Ford. “In the midst of our suffering, our longing, our desperation, we capture a glimpse. Something touches us. And with that, if we are lucky and really notice some movement of some spirit within us, we turn our attention to the intimate way.”

About the Author

JAMES ISHMAEL FORD has walked the spiritual path for more than fifty years. A Zen priest and a Unitarian Universalist minister, he has lived in monasteries and other spiritual communities, served as a parish minister and spiritual director, and has preached from the high pulpits of Old New England churches. His previous books include The Book of Mu, Zen Master Who?, and If You’re Lucky, Your Heart Will Break. His website is

Praise For…

“This book is about the messy path of Zen as lived and taught by James Ford. It tells no lies. Nothing linear or logical, no quick ecstatic fix, only a lifetime of longing and steadiness, of pilgrimage. If your life, too, is a pilgrimage, take The Intimate Way of Zen as guide and rudder. It will steer you through the vastness of Zen practice and show you how to live a life that isn’t just spiritual, but real.”
Eve Myonen Marko, co-author of The Book of Householder Koans: Waking Up in the Land of Attachments

The Intimate Way of Zen is a marvelous combination of stories, teachings, and practices that is part memoir and part storytelling about Zen, spirituality, philosophy, and life. It is such a well-rounded work because its author has tested his understanding against more than a half-century of life and practice that has shorn away both the illusions of this world and the illusions of an oversimplified view of Buddhism. To be savored, like fine wine, or if one prefers, fine tea.”
Mark Unno, author of Shingon Refractions and president of the Society for Buddhist-Christian Studies

“A gateway to awakening to be returned to and gnawed at the way a dog worries a bone, The Intimate Way of Zen illuminates Buddhist teachings in a quiet but compelling way. Reading it was like sipping bourbon around a fire with a beloved mentor who spoke intimately to my inner life with a depth and loving kindness that both comforts and disturbs. James Ishmael Ford opens readers to profound insight, and his hard-earned understanding shines from every page. Ford roams among wisdom traditions with spiritual fluency, maintaining their integrity while pointing to parallels and shared insights that illuminate human experience and Zen teachings. Both a spiritual memoir and a profound dharma teaching, The Intimate Way of Zen promises to become a classic—a portable Zen master for those far from community and a guidebook for friends walking the path together.”
Duane R. Bidwell, author of When One Religion Isn’t Enough: The Lives of Spiritually Fluid People

“The many spiritual transmissions and empowerments that Ford has received in his lifetime come through his words, and his words are wisdom. In The Intimate Way of Zen, his spiritual walk as a priest in the Buddha Way and a pilgrim in the Jesus Way inspires religious oneness and multiplicity. His love for both Christianity and Buddhism lands directly in the realm of faith. With this book, Ford, skillfully and with integrity, removes the illusionary gap between the teachings of ancient prophets and awakened ones while reminding us of our capacity for wholeness and interrelationship.”
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, author of Opening to Darkness and The Shamanic Bones of Zen

“Ford enriches traditional Zen teachings with philosophy, mythology, and Christian scripture. . . . A boon for the spiritually curious.”
Publishers Weekly

Product Details
ISBN: 9781645472186
ISBN-10: 1645472183
Publisher: Shambhala
Publication Date: July 23rd, 2024
Pages: 296
Language: English

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