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Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  313 ratings  ·  56 reviews
Come See the Garden That Is Your Life

When Zen teacher Karen Maezen Miller and her family land in a house with a hundred-year-old Japanese garden, she uses the paradise in her backyard to glean the living wisdom of our natural world. Through her eyes, rocks convey faith, ponds preach stillness, flowers give love, and leaves express the effortless ease of letting go. The
Paperback, 173 pages
Published April 29th 2014 by New World Library (first published April 15th 2014)
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Average rating 4.37  · 
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Story Circle Book Reviews
Jul 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reviewed
"Paradise is your back yard," Karen Maezen Miller says.

Miller and her husband discovered their garden in 1997 while on a house hunt in a suburb of Los Angeles. "It seemed like paradise with our name written all over it," she writes in the preface to Paradise in Plain Sight.

The garden was built in 1916 on a hillside in the small town of Sierra Madre. The designer was a gardener from Japan called Tokutaro Kato. It was part of a larger estate later subdivided into housing plots but the garden
Deirdre Keating
Apr 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, favorites
Love the magic of pre-ordering and then being surprised one day with the book I so needed in my mailbox. Everything on my nightstand will have to move over.

ETA...three months later: This might be the slowest I've ever read a book. Only 166 pages, but I've been reading it since April. Not because I couldn't get into it, but because ever time I picked it up, I'd reread to find where I left off (something I do with most books, and easily find my page) and would end up starting all over. Each time
Jun 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
This small beautiful book has become, since I finished it a week ago, necessary to me. I have marked so many places, that all I need to do is open its pages for a dose of wisdom.
Shari Strong
May 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, wow, wow. The most beautifully written, most meaningful book about spiritual things I've ever read. I am, in middle age, finally realizing how greatly I harm myself and those I love with my desire to control things (I want to keep everyone safe!), the assumptions I make, and the negative self talk in my head. Karen Maezen Miller points to the way through, which, she would say, is really the Way. Already I feel relief, feel my dark thoughts lifting, feel hope, and recognize a different truth ...more
Mar 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this little book quite a bit. I read a library copy, but I was constantly running by excerpts I wish I could have highlighted or underlined. I may buy a copy of it so I can revisit it again in the near future.

Miller's writing is simple, but insightful. This is easy to recommend to anyone who is interested in Zen Buddhism.

Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
A always Karen Maezen Miller steps quietly into your life and opens windows you did not know were there to show you your life as you had not imagined it. Magical and real and healing.
Randy Garry
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book might well be entitled "Zen Buddhist Principles for Beginners". It used gardening as an interesting tie-in, quite nicely.

I have a two-sided view of this book. The first view is that it presents some principles that although they sound deep and mystical, they seem more to be naive or even useless. Examples--- "All of time is contained in this moment." "There is one mind and we share it. One way and we walk it." "In birth there is nothing but birth. In death there is nothing but death."
Sep 19, 2015 marked it as to-read
This is a very special book for readers interested in slowing down. If you love employing metaphors then you'll love Miller's " Paradise in Plain Sight." Her writing is clear and her deep and personal knowledge of Zen, she is a Zen Priest, so if you're new to Zen teaching and philosophy or discovering it for the first time, this is the book for you. I know no more about gardening then I did when I picked up the book but I'm well reminded of my mindfulness practice, encouraged to go back to Yoga ...more
Chris Aylott
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
The core of Buddhism is simple. We make our own suffering by trying to force our lives into a certain shape; we let go of suffering by understanding life and accepting it for what it is. This is an easy principle to state, and to believe in. Remembering it and practicing it? That's the difficult part.

That's why I'm glad this book was recommended to me a few weeks ago. Miller deftly uses her history with her own garden to recall her teachers and her principles. As someone who loves gardens and
Harper Russet
Apr 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: spirituality
3.5 stars. I wrote down some great lines from this to remember in the days to come, but I had a hard time connecting to some of the teachings here. I was bummed at a line early on that discredited the use of antidepressants and medications for mental illnesses; I had just started medication a few days before starting this book, and it was discouraging. But the prose was very lovely and I took some good points from this. There were things I needed to hear out of this and many of them were ...more
Mar 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed it, although I did not finish it. I want to get back to it, but had to return it to the library. Full of great reflections in the story line.

A quote I have shared with a few people from page 4:... because for-and-against is a struggle we bring to everything we do. To prove it, just grab hold of what you think is your side of things, the right side, and tug. Wars like that can go on for oh, I dont know forever. Youre putting all your effort into pulling a rope and then blaming the
Nancy Alton
Apr 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I tried to read this slowly, but it was no use. I ate it up in less than 48 hours. Once again, this author was talking directly to me, it seems. This book is even more powerful than her other work. With beautiful and clear phrasing, Miller walks readers through Zen Buddhism and tells us both what we need to know and already know. The path is clear, we are ready to be awakened, we have all we need, and she is a lovely teacher. I am very glad to have this on my shelf to read again and again, ...more
May 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There is an indescribable beauty found within the pages of this book. It is filled with profound wisdom and life teachings and I found myself more and more moved as I read each chapter. This book is filled with such love, life, light and appreciation that I found myself exploring my own garden and humanity. I could feel Maezens presence as I read the words and was inspired and challenged by her insight and perception. My life has more color and gratitude after reading. ...more
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a special book. In the simplest of ways do we become reminded of the beauty of life and our place therein. I am grateful to have read an article in Shambhala Sun that led me to 'Paradise.' I took it with me everywhere until I finished it, and I was sad when I read the last word on the last page. A page-turner to say the least, essential to growth, and authentically poetic. Wise.

Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Miller writes beautifully and I adore her three books! Her simple and personal writing style is Zen in action. She successfully awakened me to the messy paradise in front of me; she's such a warm, gentle, and accessible teacher. I read many books about Buddhism and mindfulness, but this is one I will definitely return to again and again.
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc
There are times when a book comes across my lap and speaks to my soul from the first moment I crack open the binding to the last time I turn a page and Paradise in Plain Sight was just such a book. I loved each and every moment of reading this book and can't wait to read it once again!
Eden O'eary
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
As a gardener with an interest in Zen, I found this book enthralling. A rather small volume so can be read quickly, but I've already started re-reading passages that resonated with me.
Abbe Hoenscheid
Jul 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't recommend all of Karen Maezen Miller's work more. Simple and beautiful
Sep 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A book to be savoured, cherished and frequently re-read.
Aug 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Look at all the five star reviews. They are deserved. I've read quite a few books about Zen. I can't think of a better way to get a taste of what it might mean for you.
Kris Freedain
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely loved this book.
Alana Cash
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this book. I liked the author's poetic style of writing and the peaceful sense I got from the descriptions of the garden - which I would like to see. The author fluidly wove her life and garden with Zen teachings so that I felt I got a lesson by example.

There were certain things that sort of threw me - her daughter describing her as screaming a lot. What was that about? And I was a little confused about the gardener. He died. Then he was mentioned in a wheel chair. Were there
Sep 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Karen Maezen Millers writing on her garden is lovely. Her writing in general is beautiful: powerful imagery, no wasted words. But if you arent a Zen Buddhist, or a wannabe one, you might experience a bit of whiplash between loving some of her insight and bristling at some of the spiritual/philosophical concepts. Millers dismissal of antidepressants/ pain meds early on in the book is also problematic for the many people who might need these medications to even begin breathing. ...more
Nov 19, 2019 rated it liked it
This was recommended by a friend as a good introduction to Zen Buddism, and I enjoyed it in that capacity. The author describes the principles of Buddhism in the extended metaphor of her own lifetime of gardening, with chapters like "Weeds" and "Flowers", etc. This could get heavy-handed, but manages not to and is really helpful to hang on to the concepts.
Helen Lehndorf
Mar 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Calming, inspiring, beautiful.
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nature, buddhism
This book was so encouraging: "Deep down you already know how to live, and how not to live. You've already heard the truth, and you know a lie when you hear yourself tell one. You've already seen the Way, and you know when you have lost it... You have an intuitive guidance system, and it is flawless... You don't need directions, even though it can be useful to consult them until you no longer confuse the road map for the road."
This book reminded me about the time I stepped off the curb and into
Jun 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
In Karen Maezen Millers new book, Paradise in Plain Sight Lessons from a Zen Garden, the author uses nature to explain life as is the Buddhist way. Over sixteen years ago, Miller and her husband bought a home in California which had, as its most distinctive feature, an overgrown and long-neglected Zen garden and that element hooked the couple. Chapters with titles such as Path, Sun, Moon, Gate, Rocks, and Weeds neatly ordered by sections: Coming Here, Living Now and Letting Go, all serve as ...more
Nov 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In Karen Maezen Millers new book, Paradise in Plain Sight Lessons from a Zen Garden, the author uses nature to explain life as is the Buddhist way. Over sixteen years ago, Miller and her husband bought a home in California which had, as its most distinctive feature, an overgrown and long-neglected Zen garden and that element hooked the couple. Chapters with titles such as Path, Sun, Moon, Gate, Rocks, Path and Weeds neatly ordered by sections: Coming Here, Living Now and Letting Go, all serve as ...more
Paul Eckert
Jan 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
I'm new to Zen and its concepts, so I thought that this book might be an interesting introduction, even if it wasn't intended as such.

The book discusses Miller's attempt to rebuild a Zen garden in a newly bought house. She uses her experiences with the garden to illustrate different Zen concepts and how they have come to play in her life. She extends her Zen garden experiences into metaphors that demonstrate how everyday experiences can give you wisom for life.

There are lots of great insights
Starla King
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone open to the healing power of nature and/or zen buddhism
This book is an absolute gem. In a time full of "noise," Miller's quiet voice has been such a treat. I so appreciate her humble -- yet oh so human and vibrant -- energy, and her matter-of-fact way of presenting Zen buddhist ideas. I also appreciate that although she used her japanese garden as a metaphor, she didn't go metaphor crazy. Just enough to add understanding to the ideas and keep them fresh in my mind as I go through the day.

I also love the writing in this book. Clearly intelligent,
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Karen Maezen Miller is a Zen Buddhist priest and teacher at the Hazy Moon Zen Center in Los Angeles. She is the author of Paradise in Plain Sight: Lessons from a Zen Garden, Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life and Momma Zen: Walking the Crooked Path of Motherhood. She leads retreats around the country.

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