Discover how the mysterious, powerful form of the koan—known for bringing about sudden enlightenment—can disrupt and illuminate your everyday understanding of life.
Traditionally, Zen koans—the teaching stories of Zen—are drawn from the words and teachings of ancient masters and primarily address the concerns of (male) monastic practitioners. In The Crow Flies Backward, Ross Bolleter changes all at. The 108 modern koans offered within address sexuality and childbirth, family, parenthood, work, money and even the nature time itself. These koans are drawn from a variety of modern sources: Western philosophy, the Bible, contemporary and classic literature from Proust to Lewis Carroll and Mary Oliver and Anne Carson, as well as stories provided by author’s encounters with his Zen students.
Bolleter’s commentaries provide guidance to the reader on how to engage with each koan and koans in general, and direct guidance in how to meditate with koans. An appendix offers rarely-seen intimate and in-depth accounts of the process of koan introspection, from four of the author’s senior students.
"Ross Bolleter’s book opens with perhaps the best written introduction to koan work I’ve encountered. He strips away unnecessary mystique and preserves the delights of their mystery and the seriousness of their play—and he anchors koans in our everyday experience. Ranging far and wide, it brings in topics which are rarely touched on in the traditional koan literature: sexual desire, the pain of childbirth; the enlightenment offered by a popular song. In doing so, he enlivens lay practice without diluting the discipline of traditional Zen forms. With warmth and humor leavening his erudition, Bolleter invites us to delve into intimacy and widen to wonder."
– Robert Rosenbaum, author of Walking the Way
“A touching and insightful read, filled with intimacy and deep humanity. Ross Bolleter reveals working with Zen koans as a creative and liberating practice.”