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The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  478 ratings  ·  42 reviews
For many of us, the return of Zen conjures up images of rock gardens and gently flowing waterfalls. We think of mindfulness and meditation, immersion in a state of being where meaning is found through simplicity. Zen lore has been absorbed by Western practitioners and pop culture alike, yet there is a specific area of this ancient tradition that hasn’t been fully explored ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published May 31st 2005 by Ballantine Books (first published June 8th 2004)
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Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Oct 09, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: creativity, zen
Sometimes it's nice to take a step back and look at the whole picture. That's what happened when I read this book. Instead of focusing on creating something I focused on getting into that place where creating happens. It was a good break and I think I will take that shift into my everyday life. ...more
Sarah Booth
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
a fantastic book about the creative process and how to cultivate it. Having been lucky enough to have met this man before he died I thought he was an individual of great integrity and knew what he was talking about. You never feel feel as if someone is trying to sell you some snake oil. I enjoyed the writing and found the material greatly inspiring. I plan on reading it again. I gave a couple of people a copy of this book.
May 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Keenan
Recommended to Valerie by: Dad
This book came to me at a time when I needed to rethink my creative life -- I was putting tremendous "effort" into my writing, but little was working. This book had a quieting effect on me and taught me something about the intangible creative process as well as patience (at least where my process is concerned). Excellent, too, for anyone interested in Zen Buddhism. ...more
Feb 22, 2014 rated it liked it
I read The Zen of Creativity over a period of a year. Quiet and thoughtful, John Daido Loori brought a sense of wonder into my processes of art.
Sep 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Rather than write a critical review, I have instead listed notes taken during my reading of this book. Perhaps this will help others determine whether or not the book is a good personal fit.

Author attended photography workshop led by Minor White.

Page 55 - Still point - being in the moment
“The first step to access the still point is simply to quiet down. We are constantly talking to ourselves. We spend our time preoccupied with the past, which doesn’t exist — it’s already happened. Or we are preo
Apr 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
I think this is a book geared toward the artist who is just starting out or perhaps an artist who needs a kick-start for their work.

The book seems to fall into three sections: looking at your art in a different way, how to meditate, and Zen koans.

If you are searching with your art work and have a spiritual bent you may enjoy this book.
Elizabeth Andrew
Dec 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-on-writing
To tell you the truth, I don't completely read the vast majority of writing texts I pick up. Because I write them myself, I feel some obligation to follow what other writers say about process and craft. But I've read so many, and not found my writing much improved nor have I learned anything significantly new for it,that I dread reading most titles that cross my desk. At the same time, I'm constantly hoping for a writing text that can shed light on how and why writing is a transformational act, ...more
This is one of those books you don't really appreciate until you actually have had time to marinate the ideas set forth and put some of them to use. If anything, I've become more aware and appreciative of the small and seemingly unimportant things around me; I've been believing in myself more as I have been letting ideas flow without prejudice; and I have newfound artistic inspiration, which hasn't happened in a long long time. Now I just need to dig out my art supplies and visit the art store. ...more
Dwan Dawson-Tape
Jan 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art, zen, buddhist
Such a strong contrast to the last Zen book I read (Everyday Zen, by Joko Beck). It will definitely affect my approach to both my Zen practice and my creative explorations.

That said, this is ultimately a Zen text - in other locations I've seen reviewers complain that it wasn't what they were expecting, but in each of these cases, as best I can determine, the reviewer was more interested in exploring his or her creativity and was not interested in deepening his/her understanding of Zen.
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really really really enjoyed this. It worked like a koan. It stirred up an understanding in me that goes beyond words.

I wish the images were reproduced better, however, because they are such an intrinsic part of what he is talking about.
Apr 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I don't read hardly any books two times, but I would
give this a try. In a way, the statement is simple -
get the clutter of your life tamed and experience
the present moment. Theory and execution, however,
are two different things.
Mar 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Comprehensive and delightful overview of the Zen creative arts and the key philosophical concepts behind them (e.g. wabi, sabi, aware, yugen, simplicity, emptiness, completeness, nonduality, no mind). I see this book as an invitation to live life more freely and embrace the ineffable through cultivating a deep trust in your spiritual practice, the creative process, and yourself.

A couple of my favorite quotes:

"Naturalness, spontaneity, and playfulness are all aspects of the ordinary mind that cat
Apr 06, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: creativity
I appreciated the author’s clear explanations of some key concepts like still point, playfulness, and simplicity as these ideas apply to creativity. I enjoyed his personal stories, and I appreciated being able to see his photographs because I had absolutely no idea what he meant when he was describing how he learned to take photos mindfully.

I used to think I wanted to really study the Japanese tea ceremony. However, having read about it in this book, I haven’t got even a remote interest in imme
Katrina Sark
May 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
p.21 – “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

p.54 – “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” (Nelson Mandela)

p.84 – Each artist expresses through art his unique way of experiencing life. This is the essence of creation. Through our art we bring into existence something that did not previously exist. We enlarge the universe.

The act of creation begins with the need to express on
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book has changed my approach to art practice, as well as directed me in new ways of looking at my business work. Loori speaks softly, but his words have this crushing power that moves cogs in our brains when we need to have some of them moved. I think that it's also one of better introductions to Zen in the context of art — as Loori was a photographer himself (do check his work out), his vocabulary and sense of aesthetics would appeal to a serious image-maker. ...more
Feb 13, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Unpretentious and unfrivolous intersection of art and zen, beginning with Loori's own journey from photographer to priest. A fine angle to introduce buddhist approaches to calm, impermanence, direct experience; or approach it as a varied source of creative inspiration, every couple pages has a beautiful reproduction to go with meditative practices. ...more
Jim Ringel
Apr 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
You do not need to be a Zen practitioner to benefit from John Daido Loori’s insights. But if you’re pursuing the artist’s path—whether in visual, musical, or the written arts—you may be half-way there already.
John Daido Loori was himself a photographer and founder of Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt Tremper, NY. His observations in The Zen of Creativity: Cultivating Your Artistic Life, along with writings and artwork from others, and the meditation exercises Loori provides throughout the book, are
David Guy
Mar 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
My wife had bought this book because of her interest in visual arts, and I had always avoided it because I think the subject is a little hokey and overworked. But Loori began as a photographer and only later became a Zen priest; he does know the tradition very well, and is completely devoted to Zen practice. There is probably still a little too much John Daido Loori in this book, but I thought it was an interesting treatise about the Zen arts, and the connection of art and Zen in general.
May 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: buddhism
Beautiful and insightful. Wonderful illustrations. I was disappointed that Loori didn't shed more light on the relationship between creativity and ego... to creator addiction ... as described in the following verse:

The artist limits time and space
In hopes of setting up a place
Where he defines the world anew.
And, God-like, grants himself the grace
To pardon
And be pardoned too. (Kido, ~1981)

Jul 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Carole by: Karen Schulman
Shelves: photography, buddhism
This is a series of essays on creativity in general and how Daido Loori teaches creativity and photography. The later essays deal more specifically on the creative arts in Zen with brief and lucid discussions of calligraphy, different styles of painting, and poetry. The books is illustrated with wonderful examples of works that he describes.
Jan 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school
A surprisingly good read. The illustrations and the fact that a lot of his travels I have been to as well allowed me to really get into this book.
Short chapters that flowed nicely and some humor added to an enjoyable read.
Jul 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Not my cup of green tea. This book seems more about the author's perspective vs. igniting any creativity in the reader. If you are looking for a book to throw your creativity in gear, read

You won't be sorry!
May 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Difficult read. Some sentences or stories are really thoughtful and very powerful, but I found that most of it was too loose... I know that depending on one's mindset a book can be either a must or a non-sense, so perhaps I should give it another chance and read it again in the future.
Jul 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fivestars
I need to get my Zen groove back.
Feb 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I've read this twice in two years, taking notes each time. It not only clearly lays out the basics of Zen practice but also how they intersect with the practice of art. It's wise and luminous. ...more
Feb 21, 2008 is currently reading it
Just starting this one. need for class in March 2008
Aug 31, 2010 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
If you come upon the Buddha, kill the Buddha.
Jun 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is one to continue to return to.
Jun 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
I had to read this for one of my courses and quite frankly, all I have to say is that it just wasn't for me. ...more
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“If I was asked to get rid of the Zen aesthetic and just keep one quality necessary to create art, I would say it’s trust. When you learn to trust yourself implicitly, you no longer need to prove something through your art. You simply allow it to come out, to be as it is. This is when creating art becomes effortless. It happens just as you grow your hair. It grows.” 3 likes
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