Waking Up to What You Do – Be a lighthouse

Waking Up to What You Do by Diane Eshin Rizzetto is not one of my old books just hanging out on the shelf. It’s a “new to me” book that I found while perusing a thrift store. It was written in 2005, though… which… hmmm… I wonder…

I might – one day – take an average of the years in which my self-help books are written and see if there’s a particularly prolific year… because it feels like it *may be* 1995 to 2005. I don’t know why that crossed my mind right now, but it did. More on that later (next week, year, or never).

Waking Up to What You Do is a neat book. I was drawn to it because the cover says it meets every situation with intelligence and compassion. You know, not all self-help books proclaim that, though I suppose it’s (kinda) implied? I mean, no one sets out to write a self-help book that’s ignorant and hateful. But not all of them talk about intelligence or compassion, either. Ahem. Me and my rabbit trails… er, digressions.

Diane Eshin Rizzetto is the Abbess (a woman who is the head of an abbey of nuns – you’re welcome. I had to look it up, so… ) and Guiding Teacher of the Bay Zen Center in Oakland, California. Sounds relaxing, already.

This book is an introduction to the precepts of Zen Buddhism, so that we may be a beacon to others. Rizzetto writes: “A precept can be thought of as a beacon of light, much like a lighthouse beacon that warns sailors that they are entering dangerous waters and guides them on course. It can show us the way but also warns us to Pay Attention! Look! Listen! Sometimes we will change course, other times, if we must reach shore, we will proceed with caution.”

I got a little confused about the precepts that are vitally important to Zen practice. In the book, they are listed as:

  • I take up the way of speaking truthfully
  • I take up the way of speaking of others with openness and possibility
  • I take up the way of meeting others on equal ground
  • I take up the way of cultivating a clear mind
  • I take up the way of taking only what is freely given and giving freely of all that I can
  • I take up the way of engaging in sexual intimately respectfully and with an open heart
  • I take of the way of letting go of anger
  • I take up the way of supporting life

But when I did a little research online, I found all sorts of different “Precepts” and frankly, none that read exactly as they do in this book. Rizzetto does explain the possible difference. She says they were originally intended to support monks and nuns in monastic practice. As Buddhism spread, the precepts were adapted to include laypersons. Perhaps that explains it? Not really sure. Still, they are good precepts, me thinks. 🙂

The book is set up into two sections. The first part is about the precepts and the second part is each one, explained and discussed.

At the end of the book, there is a lovely Appendix: A primer in awareness practice. And once again – and you know how much I love this – there’s meditation.

Someone is trying to tell me something! Ugh. Ha!

Can I share something I heard a few weeks ago? Totally unrelated to this book but about mediation. Assuming the positive… lol… someone told me that listening to music, becoming the notes (not thinking about anything but the notes) is the same thing as meditating… I mean, to your brain and body. I liked that. Like, maybe I’ve been too hard on myself with all that “listen to your breathing” stuff? Just something to consider…

Anyway, this book is wonderful and totally worth the read. Rizzetto writes well and it feels like a conversation between friends. I really liked it.


  1. Nah. Just stop thinking about stopping thinking. Let the thoughts come and go. Every time one does, say to yourself, “Oh — there’s a thought!” And go back to your mantra. It really is that simple.

    Liked by 1 person

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