What happens when a free-spirited, modern American girl goes on a spiritual quest into structured, traditional Japanese Zen life?
Gesshin Claire Greenwood was a liberal, free-spirited American girl who found meaning and freedom in disciplined, traditional Japanese Zen life. However, she came to question not only contemporary American values but also traditional monastic ones.
This book is about becoming an adult—about sexuality, religion, work, ethics, and individuality—but it is also about being a human being trying to be happy. Questioning is a theme that runs throughout the book: how can I be happy? What is true? What is authentic? The reader is invited along a journey that is difficult, inspiring, sad, funny, and sincere.
“Gesshin Greenwood is the real deal. That’s what makes this book so valuable. It’s rare that someone from the West does any of this stuff, rarer still when they write about it, and yet even more rare that their writing is as good as Gesshin’s is. This is a truly unique document of a truly unique lived experience.”
– from the foreword by Brad Warner, author of Hardcore Zen and Don’t Be A Jerk
“A delightful personal account of cultures clashing in the midst of authentic Zen training. Trained in Japan and with some of the most important teachers of the day, Gesshin Greenwood breathes a fresh breath into an ancient way. This is a book for the beginning and for those of us well into the way. I highly recommend it.”
– James Ishmael Ford, author of Introduction to Zen Koans
“Bow First is a witty, wise, engaging story about a young woman’s experience of Zen practice in Japan. What could possibly go wrong when an attractive 20-something California girl meets the mundane and the ecstatic in both the zendo and the Kyoto night scene? We soon find out, as the author freely shares her personal struggles with sex, love, money, power and women’s rights—all in the context of her Zen practice.”
– Grace Schireson, author of Zen Women
"Only a fierce and brilliant woman could have produced this deliciously written account. It's honest, genuinely helpful, and earnest without sentimentality. Punchy and eloquent, Gesshin Greenwood sets a new standard for cool.”
– Bonnie Myotai Treace, author of Empty Branches
“When the reader is ready, the right book comes along; Bow First, Ask Questions Later is that book. With rigor, honesty, hilarity and joy, Gesshin shows us how to grapple with the great matter of life and death—as well as with lesser matters, like capitalism, sexism, religious dogma, sex, love, fashion and Kyoto nightclubs. The result is an inspiring book that I couldn't put down, even when I’d finished reading it.”