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How do you put your spiritual practice to use in the face of danger? This is the fundamental question behind Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets WIldfire at the Gates of Tassajara, written by former Yoga Journal senior editor Colleen Morton Bush.
The book tells the tale of California wildfires that swept through California’s Ventana Wilderness surrounding Tassajara Zen Center. When the fires threatened to destroy the property, the center was quickly evacuated. Five monks, however, decided to risk their lives and stay.
With meticulous detail and an open heart, Busch recounts the story of how these senior monks applied their Zen training, using mindfulness, presence, intuition, and faith to stay and guide the fire, in spite of grave danger.
We talked to Busch, a longtime Zen and yoga practitioner, about what she learned in recreating this emotional story, a process that generated more than 100 hours of interviews. “Zen is more about unlearning than learning, getting back to our innate clarity, compassion, and wholeness,” she says. “In working on a project that involved so many people, what I practiced with the most was how our relationships with one another are just as essential, and every bit as dynamic, as our relationship with our own minds on the meditation cushion.”