I just finished reading Zen Druidry: Living a Natural Life, with Full Awareness by Joanna van der Hoeven. The premise of this Pagan Portals volume is that “Zen teachings and Druidry can combine to create a peaceful life path that is completely and utterly dedicated to the here and now, to the earth and her rhythms, and to the flow that is life itself.” This book is a beautifully-written and well-thought-out weaving together of two traditions that might not seem, on the surface, to have much in common.
To begin, the author gives a brief yet comprehensive overview of Zen Buddhism, while pointing out that the precepts of Zen need not be associated with a particular religious tradition. She then takes a look at Druidry, including both ancient and modern aspects. Her simple and eloquent writing style is well-suited to her topic, and gave me a more holistic view of the basic tenets of each system.
She goes on to illustrate how Zen practices such as meditation fit well with living a life attuned to the seasons of the earth. Rather than going through the motions of ritual at particular times of the year, Druids (and other Pagans) can learn to listen deeply to what is happening in each moment. She offers ways to deepen our connection with the Earth and all her beings. Van der Hoeven describes how celebrating the eight Sabbats of the Druid year can be enhanced with the ethical practices of the Eightfold Path of Zen. She has obviously spent a lot of time and thought on how the Wheel of the Year and the Eightfold Path dovetail, and the system she lays out is both simple and meaningful.
She also details how the practice of Druidry, or I would add, any earth-based spiritual path, can be enriched through the use of mindfulness meditation and present-moment awareness. Being a Druid is all about relationship, and when you are living in the moment, aware of all that is going on around you, you’re much more able to be open to authentic relationships of all types: with nature, with other people, and with yourself. The tools presented here are universal, and by sharing examples from her own life, Van der Hoeven makes it clear how they can be adapted for use on the reader’s personal spiritual path.
After reading this book, I realized what a perfect and harmonious union these two systems create. It’s common sense, really. In my own eclectic Pagan practice, and thanks to my yoga teachers, I’ve embraced much Buddhist philosophy. I have frequently used the practice of mindfulness as part of my regular spiritual practice. Even though I had some previous experience of my own, seeing the basics of Zen and Druidry laid out clearly, side by side, in this book has helped me see the bigger picture of how they intertwine, one supporting the other. I highly recommend reading this short yet profound homage to the blending of Druidry and Zen, and implementing the author’s suggestions into your own spiritual practice.
~review by Nikki Starcat Shields
Author: Joanna van der Hoeven
Moon Books, 2013
pp. 74, $8.76