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12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

12 Pieces of
Buddhist Wisdom
That Will Transform
Your Life
By Matt Valentine

When I was little, my grandma had this little green Buddha statue.
It wasnt a statue of the original Buddha, but rather a statue of
whats generally considered Maitreya, the future Buddha,
usually represented as a hefty man1 sitting with his robe partly
opened and often with beads around his neck. This particular
statue was a pretty common image, one where his belly protruded
out to reveal his belly button.
My grandma would always tell me, Rub his tummy and youll have
good luck! So naturally, as a kid, I rubbed his tummy every chance
I got. I was supposed to rub his bellybutton specifically, as I

12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

remember trying to lay my finger on his tiny belly button and rub in
a circle, despite the fact that the belly button was a fraction of a
millimeter in diameter.
I, like many others in the West, grew up with a pretty distorted
image of Buddhism. I thought the Buddha was a god, that it was
just a bunch of charms and superstition for people trying to amass
riches and other misguided pursuits, and I thought meditation was
only for people who were interested in learning human levitation or
something crazy like that.
But I also, like many others, had heard many a number of insightful
Buddha quotes and sayings growing up that seemed to pull me
in, and almost always ring a response like, Exactly! or, Thats so
Its because of this that despite all my negative misconceptions, I
continued to be interested in Buddhism growing up, until one day I
actually picked up a book, stopped learning from the collective
misconceptions of the Western consciousness, and began learning
from the real thing.
Buddhism holds within it a treasure trove of wisdom, not to
mention wisdom easily applicable in ones everyday life and by all
people of various backgrounds, beliefs, and preferences.
Thich Nhat Hanh has said, Buddhism is made up of all nonBuddhist elements. And this couldnt be truer. When it comes

12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

down to it, Buddhism is really just a collection of methods and
ways of realizing the ultimate truths of this life, and the path to
discovering true peace and happiness.
Whether Buddhist, a collector of universal wisdom, or just
someone interested in finding practical ways to improve their life,
this list presents 12 powerful and potentially transformative pieces
of Buddhist wisdom which you can benefit from.

12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

12 Pieces of Buddhist
Wisdom That Will
Transform Your Life
1. Live with compassion
Compassion is one of the most revered qualities in Buddhism and
great compassion is a sign of a highly realized human being.
Compassion doesnt just help the world at large, and it isnt just
about the fact that its the right thing to do. Compassion, and
seeking to understand those around you, can transform your life for
a number of reasons.
First, self-compassion is altogether critical towards finding peace
within yourself. By learning to forgive yourself and accepting that
youre human you can heal deep wounds bring yourself back from
difficult challenges.
Next, we can often be tortured because of the fact that we dont
completely understand why people do certain things.
Compassion is understanding the basic goodness in all people and
then seeking to discover that basic goodness in specific people.

12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

Because of this, it helps you from going through the often mental
torture we experience because we dont understand the actions of
But even more than that, expressing compassion is the very act of
connecting wholeheartedly with others, and simply connecting in
this way can be a great source of joy for us.
The reasons for practicing compassion are numerous and powerful.
Seek to live in a way that you treat everyone you meet as you
would yourself. Once you begin trying to do this, it will seem
altogether impossible. But keep at it, and youll realize the full
power of living with compassion.

Workbook Exercise:
Think of someone you dont like. This could be someone you hate,
someone you generally dislike, or someone whom youve only
recently had an argument with.
Whoever they are, sit and meditate on this person. To do this, hold
the person in your mind. This of course isnt possible, but youre
holding as much of the person you know, your perception of the
person, within your mind.
Once you have this picture, do these three things:

12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

1. Realize that this very picture in your head, this perception, is
what youre drawing judgment based off of. Not off of the real
person, but off of your interpretation of that person.
2. Now think of something which that person does or has done
which you disapprove of and think of what logical reasons
they might have done or be doing said thing. If the person said
something hurtful to you, start throwing possibilities out there:
maybe something is stressing them badly and they dont
know how to deal with it, maybe they had a tragedy recently
or were hurt and dont know how to deal with the anger and
sadness theyre feeling, or something else. Whatever it is, start
thinking of specific possibilities that could be making them act
this way. Think of as many as you can.
3. Lastly, take a step back and review these many possibilities
which youve brainstormed. Realize that the reason for their
hurtful behavior is two things: 1) not originating from or
because of you, and 2) simply from something which theyre
experiencing which they dont know how to deal with.
Once youve done this, youll see that theres more to the person
than meets the eye. Conflict usually involves one or more people
using anger to cause hurt, if you can realize that the reason this
person acted out with anger and aggression wasnt because of
you, but because of something deep within themselves that theyre
hurting from, you can learn to cultivate a great amount of

12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

compassion for that person as well as alleviate your own feelings
of anger.
This is a very healing exercise which can be done at any time of
day and in any situation.

12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

2. Connect with others

and nurture those
In Buddhism, a community of practitioners is called a sangha. A
sangha is a community of monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen
who practice together in peace towards the united goal of
realizing greater awakening, not only for themselves but for all
The sangha is a principle which much of the world can greatly
benefit from. People come together in groups all the time, but its
usually for the purpose of creating monetary riches or obtaining
substantial power and rarely towards the united goal o1f attaining
peace, happiness, and realizing greater wisdom.
The principle of the sangha can be expressed in your own life in
many ways. The sangha is ultimately just one way of looking at life,
through the lens of the individual expressions of the totality.
By living in a way that youre fully aware of the power of
connecting with others, whether its one person or a group of 100,
and seeking to nurture those relationships in the

12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

appropriate way, you can transform your life in ways that will pay
dividends for years to come.

Workbook Exercise:
Have one mindful conversation every day for the next 7 days.
To do this, when you have a conversation with, say, your best
friend, be fully present for the conversation by putting down your
phone, turning to look them straight in their eye and turning off and
away from any additional potential distractions.
Be fully present for the words theyre speaking and the thoughts
arising in your mind as a result of their words. If you speak during
the conversation, speak carefully and compassionately, staying
mindful of where you stand or sit and the fact that youre right here
in this moment having a conversation with your best friend.
One of the most powerful things we can do to improve our
relationships is simply to be fully present for the other person.
Attention and awareness are your primary tools in both connecting
with and nurturing others. Use them wisely.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

3. Wake up
One of the most powerful points on this list, the power of simply
living in a way that youre fully awake to every moment of your life
pretty much couldnt be exaggerated even if I tried.
Mindfulness, greater awareness, paying attention, whatever you
want to call it- it changes every facet of your life and in every
way. Its as simple as that.
Strive to live fully awake to each moment of your daily life and
overcome your greatest personal struggles, find a great sense of
peace and joy, and realize the greatest lessons life can teach you
as a result of living fully awake to the present moment.

Workbook Exercise:
Mindfulness is the primary tool used in realizing any level of
awakening. This was the foundation of the Buddhas teaching.
Mindfulness can be practiced any time of day and in any situation.
In the beginning, mindfulness is a rather progressive practice.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

By that I mean youll begin with a basic mindful breathing exercise
or something like it and gradually expand to more and different
varied mindfulness practices such as mindful eating, driving,
walking, and conversing like the one I mentioned in the last
workbook exercise.
To practice mindful breathing, you dont have to sit cross-legged or
do anything special. Simply stop what youre doing and turn your
awareness to your breath. Dont attempt to control your breath,
simply observe it.
You might be surprised to see how short and inconsistent your
breath is. This is normal, we often breathe this way and dont even
notice it. This greatly affects how we feel and act, and so mindful
breathing in this can completely transform how we feel on a dayto-day basis.
Count each in breath and out breath as one. So breathe in one,
breathe out - two, breathe in three, etc. Do this until you get to 10
or until you become distracted by a thought, feeling, or sensation.
Hint: you wont get to 10.
In the beginning, it will be very difficult to count to 10 like this
without getting becoming interrupted. But these interruptions
arent a bad thing, so make sure not to label them as such.
When you notice a distraction arise, be it a thought, feeling, or
sensation- and they will be plentiful- simply acknowledge it


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

without thinking anything about it (accept it openly as you would a
loved one coming into your arms) and then gently direct you
awareness back to your breath.
For a full-fledged, thorough, and yet simple and straightforward
guide to creating a daily practice of mindfulness and meditation Id
suggest my book, Zen for Everyday Life.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

4. Live deeply
To live deeply, in a way that you become keenly aware of the
precious nature of life, is to begin down the path of true peace and
Why? Because to live in this way is to gradually become aware of
the true nature of the world. This will happen essentially in
sections of the whole, such as realizing your interconnectedness
(you begin to see how everything is connected to everything else)
and impermanence (you begin to see how everything is everchanging, constantly dying only to be reborn in another form).
These realizations are the bread and butter of Buddhism and all
spiritual practice. These sections of the whole are fragments of
the ultimate realization, ways for us to understand that which cant
be fully understood in the traditional sense.
By living in a way that you seek to realize these various qualities of
the ultimate you find greater and greater peace in realizing the
natural way of things. This cultivates in us the ability to savor every
moment of life, to find peace in even the most mundane activities,
as well as the ability to transform your typically negative
experiences into something altogether nourishing and healing.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

Workbook Exercise:
Pick an object, any object. Preferably an object you have near you
and can sit down and look at.
Think about that object deeply, imagining the huge amount of total
work- of manpower, machine power, technology, knowledge, and
time- that it took to bring that object in front of you as it is in that
Continue further and imagine what that object was before it was
the object. If its a machine imagine all the various pieces which had
to be created, manufactured, and pieced together in order to
create the object in front of you.
Now imagine what allowed that object to come to be, realize that
the object was a very part of the world around you before it took
the form of the machine in front of you. Take this meditation as far
as it will go, eventually arriving at the realization that this object
was once in the soil, in the sky, and in the ocean in a very real and
tangible way.
You can meditate on any object in this way, so go wild! This
meditation can be the source of significant insights which lead to a
great sense of peace, joy, and a reverence for life.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

5. Change yourself,
change the world
Buddhists understand that you can hardly help another before you
help yourself. But this isnt referring to you gaining power or riches
before you can help others, or living in a way that you ignore
This is mostly referring to the fact that because were all
interconnected, by you helping yourself you create an
exponentially positive effect on the rest of the world.
If you want to make an impact on the world, dont falsely convince
yourself that its you or them1. You dont need to drag yourself
through the mud to help those around you. If you do this, youll
greatly hamper your ability to create a positive impact.
At the deepest level of understanding, by making it about you
youre also making it about them because you know theres no
separating you and them.
Take care of yourself and seek to be more than just a help, but an
example of how to live for others to follow and youll create waves
of exponential possibility that inspires others to do the same.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

Workbook Exercise:
This entire workbook is about working on yourself, which in turn
helps others in the ways described above. So take a moment to
meditate on exactly how by changing each of these things you
change the world around you.
By living with compassion, how do you help others?
By connecting with others and nurturing your relationships, how do
you help others?
By waking up and realizing your true nature, how do you help
By living deeply, seeing the interconnected nature of all things and
how what you do affects all things and how what all things do
affects you, how do you help others?
You get the idea, continue to do this for the remaining points in
order to fully realize just how changing your own life will change
the world.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

6. Embrace death
Death is an often taboo topic in Western society. We do everything
we can to not only avoid the subject, but pretend that it doesnt
even exist.
The reality is, this is really unfortunate and in no way helps us lead
better lives. Becoming keenly aware of your own impermanence
and deeply understanding the nature of death with regards to our
interconnectedness are both things which can help us find great
In Buddhism, students in many sects at one point or another
meditate on the corpse as it were (a practice which is said to have
originated at least as far back as the Buddhas lifetime).
This is literally what it sounds like. They meditate on the image of a
corpse slowing decomposing and imagine that process through to
its end, eventually resulting in a deep and profound realization on
the true nature of death.
That might sound a little intense to you, but the truth is, if you live
youre entire life acting as if youre never going to die or ignoring
your own impermanence then you wont ever be able to find true
peace within yourself.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

You dont necessarily have to meditate on the image of a corpse,
but simply opening up to yourself about death so that youre no
longer shielding it from your mind (which youre likely doing
unconsciously, as thats how most of us were brought up in the
West) can begin to be a great source of peace and help you
appreciate the many joys in your everyday life.
A true appreciation for life can never be fully realized until you
come face-to-face with your own impermanence. But once you do
this, the world opens up in a new and profound way.

Workbook Exercise:
Im not going to ask you to meditate on the image of a corpse, so
dont worry. But I will ask that you meditate on the idea of death
Imagine youre viewing the events leading up to your own death
and beyond from a third-person perspective, looking down upon
the various events.
Imagine you getting sick, going through treatment, getting worse,
finally passing, your funeral, and then take this as far as it will go. By
that I mean meditate on the idea of being dead itself. Specifically, I
want you to meditate on the idea of going to sleep and never


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

waking up. When it comes down to it, thats really what were afraid
of when we think of death.
Meditate on this for as long as you feel is necessary, until you crack
through your old beliefs about death and begin realizing the truth
about death itself. Theres no telling how long this will take, but
meditations such as this should be taken as far as they can go in
order to fully realize the insights which can come from them.
If this gets a little intense and you find it difficult to move forward,
Im always here to talk to. You can email me here and I can work
you through what youre feeling and attempt to help you move
beyond any barriers you may have arrived at.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

7. Your food is (very)

Meditative practice offers the ability to transform every experience
in your everyday life, which I discuss in my forthcoming book Zen
for Everyday Life, and food is one of those everyday experiences
which is greatly transformed and often in very interesting and
rewarding ways.
Buddhist meditative practice, particularly mindfulness and
contemplation, helps you realize the precious nature of the food in
front of you. Indeed, with how integral a part food plays in our
lives, to transform our relationship with food is to transform a key
aspect of our entire lives, both now and in the future.
By contemplating on the food in front of us, for example, we can
come to realize the vast system of interconnectedness that is our
life, and how our food coming to be on our dinner plate as it is
depended on numerous elements coming to be.
This helps us to deepen our relationship with food, cultivate a deep
sense of gratitude before each meal, and learn to respect the
delicate but ever-pressing balance that is life.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

Workbook Exercise:
For this exercise, you can do very much the same as we did in #4,
but in this case meditating on a piece of food. I tend to pick whole
foods like fruits and vegetables because theyre easier to visualize.
You can pick whatever youd like though. J
When it comes to food, imagine where the food came from and
what the food was before it sprouted into the fruit, vegetable, or
what it is. Think about where it came from before then and what
made it what it is.
This can be a rather involved exercise, so you might not want to do
it before every meal, but its very beneficial to do regularly.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

8. Understand the nature

of giving
Giving is more than the act of giving Christmas and Birthday gifts,
its also about those gifts which we give each and every day which
we dont typically see as gifts at all.
Buddhists hold a very deep understanding of the nature of giving,
particularly in that life is a constant play between the act of giving
and receiving. This doesnt just help us find peace in understanding
the way of the world around us, but helps us realize the amazing
gifts we all have within us that we can give others in every
moment, such as our love, compassion, and presence.

Workbook Exercise:
Think about what you do on an everyday basis and how that is a
form of giving:
Home life
Interacting in various ways with friends, family, and strangers
Just being you


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

By taking a moment to really think of your life from the perspective
that everything we do is a constant relationship between gift, giver,
and receiver we can transform our everyday lives from that of just
another day to one of infinite fascination, gratitude, and joy.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

9. Work to disarm the

The easiest way to sum up all spiritual practice is this: spirituality is
the act of coming in touch with the ultimate reality or the ground of
being, and as a result spiritual practice is the act of overcoming
those obstacles which keep us from realizing that.
The primary obstacle in our way? The ego.
To put it short and sweet, the reason the ego is the major obstacle
in spiritual practice, or simply the practice of finding true peace and
happiness (whatever you choose to call it, its all the same), is
because its very function is to pull you away from the ground of
your being by convincing you that youre this separate self.
The process of unraveling the ego can take time, as its something
which has been with us, intertwined with us, for years. But its
infinitely rewarding and altogether necessary if we want to realize
our best life.

Workbook Exercise:


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

Theres about as many ways to begin disarming or dissipating the
ego as there is colors in the color spectrum, so it will largely be up
to you as to how you go about doing this.
The most basic way to begin disarming the ego is by simply asking
the question, Who is [your name]? So if your name is Janice you
can ask yourself, Who is Janice? It might seem a little funny to ask
yourself a question like that, but its effective in getting you to turn
inward and begin really questioning who the you is that you
consider and visualize yourself to be.
Really, who are you? Are you just a body, a system of veins,
arteries, intestines, organs, nerves, and a brain that happen to
constitute the thinking and feeling you that goes to work every day,
loves your family, and has dreams and desires?
Or are you more than just that? Is your body you? Is it not you? Is it
finite, or does it really expand outward beyond what you can see?
Are all 5 of your senses all that can be sensed? Is there more (think
heat vision) which we cant typically see with just our eyes and
other senses?
Start asking yourself as many of these seemingly odd questions as
you can, and really delve deeply here.
Question everything, and draw no conclusions. It doesnt matter
what you think about what insights you come to, what matters is
what happens right in front of your eyes and within the present


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

moment itself. Experience everything in mindfulness and draw no
judgment either way.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

10. Remove the 3

Life is filled with vices, things which attempt to bind us to
unwholesome ways of living and therefore do the very opposite of
cultivate peace, joy, and greater realization in our lives. Among
these, the 3 poisons are some of the most powerful. The 3 poisons
1. Greed
2. Hatred
3. Delusion
Together, these 3 poisons are responsible for the majority of the
pain and suffering we experience as a collective species. Its
perfectly normal to be affected by each of these poisons
throughout your life, so dont knock yourself for falling for them.
Instead, simply accept that theyre something youre experiencing
and begin working to remove them from your life. This can take
time, but its a key aspect on the path towards realizing true peace
and happiness.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

Workbook Exercise:
Your mindfulness practice will allow you to notice when youre
succumbing to the three poisons. Keep in mind these three poisons
cover a wide range of topics.
Greed isnt just monetary greed but the general feverish desiring of
things which we so often fall into. Ultimately this means attaching
ourselves to the idea that we need to acquire more in order to cure
ourselves, when in reality this cure is a poison that just continues to
make us suffer. Be mindful of when you desire something,
anything, and simply observe that desire without yet interjecting.
Once youve done so you can see with clarity how that desire is
effecting your thoughts and actions and be able to make a change.
Hatred covers anger, aggression, envy, and the like. Be mindful of
any moment in which you feel dislike for another or get angry and
ask yourself why these feelings have arisen. As always, go deep
here and dont just readily accept to first answer that arises.
Delusion refers to wrong perceptions and is about identifying those
things which keep us from seeing with clarity. Here, you should
begin to become mindful of your opinions about things, particularly
your strong opinions, and simply observe your feelings with
mindfulness. What does how you feel about the topic tell you? This
sense of conflict is a good identifier that you should look more
closely at whatever it is.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

11. Right livelihood

We should all strive to work and make our living in a way thats
more conscious or aware. This generally means not selling
harmful items such as guns, drugs, and services that harm other
people, but it goes deeper than that.
Theres ultimately two aspects to this: making a living by doing
something which doesnt inhibit your own ability to realize peace
and making a living doing something which doesnt inhibit others
ability to realize peace.
Facing this can lead to some interesting situations for some people,
and as Thich Nhat Hanh has mentioned this is a collective effort as
opposed to a solely personal one (the butcher isnt a butcher only
because he decided to be, but because there is a demand from
people for meat to be neatly packaged and made available for
them to be purchased from supermarkets), but you should strive to
do your best.
Following the teaching on right livelihood can help you realize the
harmful effect that your own work is having on you and therefore
coming up with a solution can result in a largely positive shift in
your life as a whole. Only you can decide if a change needs to
happen though.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

Whatever the case, seek to make a living doing something that
promotes the peace and happiness of yourself and those around
you as much as possible.

Workbook Exercise:
Become mindful of how you feel while at work and begin
contemplating how you feel about your work in general and how
your work affects the world around you.
Doing so is the foundation of discovering whether you need to
make a change or not. If something makes you feel uncomfortable,
explore the feelings further.
If you discover that your livelihood is less-than preferable, and that
you can and should make a change, do so carefully. Dont jump to
leaving your job or closing your business though, understand that
whats really important here is understanding deeply how what you
do and what your company does affects all living and non-living
You cant always do something about your position, but you can
become more aware and compassionate and seek to do things to
offset the imbalance.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

12. Realize nonattachment

This is a difficult point to put into so few words, but a profound one
I felt would be greatly beneficial to mention nonetheless.
To realize non-attachment in a Buddhist sense doesnt mean to
abandon your friends and family and live alone for the rest of your
life, never truly living again just so that you dont become attached
to these desires.
Non-attachment refers to living in a way that you exist in the
natural flow of life and generally living a typical modern life,
building a family, working, etc., while simultaneously not being
attached to any of these things. It simply means to live in a way that
youve become aware of and accepted the impermanence of all
things in this life and live in a way that youre ever-aware of this
Its perfectly normal for a Zen student in Japan, once having
completed his training, to actually de-robe and go back into the
world so to speak. This is because, once theyve reached this level
of realization, they see the beauty in all things and are compelled
to live fully absorbed in all the beauty and wonders of this life.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

From this point on, they can truly live life to the fullest, while not
clinging to any of these things.
Keep in mind, this doesnt mean that you stop feeling emotions. On
the contrary, these emotions are welcomed and expected, and
fully experienced with mindfulness in the moment of their impact.
But this is simply the natural course of things.
Once these emotions subside though, and when we have no
mental formations or obstructions to block our path, a natural
healing process takes place that heals the wound and allows us to
continue on living in peace and joy instead of dragging us down
into darkness.
Strive to live free, fully aware of the wonders of life and in the very
midst of all of those wonders, while not clinging to any of it. To do
this is to realize the greatest joy life has to offer.

Workbook Exercise:
For this exercise, I want you to ask yourself one simple
question: What can I not live without?
And I dont mean what do you need in order to live, the
basic necessities, I mean what are those things you love or like
too much that you could never see being able to give them up
or be without. This is a simple exercise which can help shed
light on some of the attachments you hold.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

Keep in mind though that attachment, and the process of
letting go, could be an entire book in itself. This will be a
process, and includes everything from material vices to
intellectual ideas. For more information on the subject Id
suggest reading The Beginners Guide to Letting Go and
Becoming Enlightened Through Non-Attachment.


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

More from Matt Valentine

and Buddhaimonia


12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

Zen for Everyday Life

Zen for Everyday Life: How to
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Chaos of Everyday Life is my
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and much more.

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and show you step-by-step how to truly deepen your momentto-moment experience of daily life. You can learn more about Zen
for Everyday Life by clicking the link below:

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12 Pieces of Buddhist Wisdom Workbook Guide

Living Zen SpiritComing in

My next book is officially titled,
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this coming January of 2016.
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its very essence stripped of rituals
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If youd like to be notified when
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