Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

Upside-Down Zen - Praise

Finding the Marvelous in the Ordinary

“It’s a hundred times more difficult to find an insight than a fact, and a hundred times more difficult to find a subtle insight. This is a book full of subtle insights beautifully told.”—Thomas Moore, author of Dark Nights of the Soul

“Australian Zen teacher Susan Murphy navigates the landscape of the inner journey in a style that is both direct and poetic. A generous teacher, she shows us the human face of modern Dharma. She writes in a fresh, appealing manner without resorting to Zen clichés; when she illustrates traditional Zen Dharma points, we respond simply, Yes, that’s so, that is true, I understand. [...] Murphy is a good old-time storyteller. Lyrical, funny, warm and inclusive, she is rooting us, the readers.”—Inquiring Mind

“This is a wonderful book—offering not a reading of Zen but an experience of it. It’s playful, wise, elegant, and accessible.”—Stephanie Dowrick, author of Forgiveness and Other Acts of Love

“In Upside-Down Zen, Susan Murphy wiggles a finger at us, winks, and gently invites us into the ancient conspiracy. This is one of the best books on Zen you can hope to find.”—James Ishmael Ford, founding teacher of Boundless Way Zen, and author of Zen Master WHO?

“Susan Murphy is a Zen teacher (also a filmmaker, writer, and mother) in Australia. She writes exquisitely, and this book brings true Zen practice and insight vividly and richly to life (but you don’t have to be into formal Zen to appreciate and delight in her writing). She so beautifully captures the marriage of play and rigor, of commitment and letting go, of boundless eternity and the bones and breath of each unique and embodied moment. Subtle, passionate, wise, direct, and right to the heart of the matter. Very highly recommended.”—Joan Tollifson, author of Awake in the Heartland and Bare-Bones Meditation: Waking Up from the Story of My Life

“Susan Murphy is anchored in the old Asian tradition but she is also helpful if you have the courage to want more than that—a spirituality that is a creative force and useful each moment of your life. She brings her knowledge of myths and cultures to bear. She shows how Zen and the Western, along with the older, native traditions, illuminate each other. This book locates spiritual work where it has always really belonged—bang in the middle of whatever is happening. As well as being an excellent writer, Susan is a filmmaker by trade and here she shows a feeling for the value of the moment and the way a moment opens beyond itself into whatever is most loved in life. She is a poet as well as a storyteller, offering compelling images and subtle shifts of language.” —John Tarrant, author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros, from the foreword

”Zen teacher Murphy does creative work as a film director and writer, and it shows. Her eye picks up details, stories, and images in a rich, distinctive and demanding way: she describes abandoned urban lots as ‘richly art-directed by time,’ and cites Shakespeare, Dante, Buber and Raymond Carver in the span of five pages. […] Murphy has a deep feel for subtlety and enigma that is different from many other Zen writers, who often draw from the well of ancient Chinese and Japanese Zen masters. Murphy cites them too, but she also brings in elements from the aboriginal spirituality of Australia, her native country. [...] A dense, quirky and rewarding work.”—Publishers Weekly

“This always inventive and enlightening paperback holds up the upside-down wisdom of Zen where reason and predictability are set spinning in the face of life’s many surprises. Murphy examines Zen as a direct path into reality with its emphasis upon meditation and breathing, practice, koans, and the teacher-student relationship. She likes Zen’s playfulness and crazy wisdom. She hits high stride in a section where she relates this path to environmental awareness, aboriginal spirituality, and the presence of the feminine in Western Zen. Our favorite piece in the book is ‘The Hermitage in the Street.’ Here Murphy challenges us to find glints of meaning, beauty, and grace in an ordinary city street that may not seem to offer much but which beckons us to open our hearts, minds, and senses to the many mysteries going on beneath the surface of things. A walking meditation in the city can reveal ‘the marvelous in the ordinary.’ The last section of Upside-Down Zen zeroes in on a variety of fascinating and complex subjects including character, dealing with difficulties, mistakes and grace, viewing all days as good days, and living a scaled-down life. Murphy has a knack for making the most out of pithy bits of Zen wisdom such as ‘Accept all offers’ and ‘There is nothing I dislike.’ Judging from the few references to movies in this paperback, we would love to see how Murphy relates Zen to cinema. Perhaps this could be the focus of another book.”—Spirituality and Practice