When the first sentence in a book about Zen refers to Gene Kelly, you know you're not in for one hand clapping. Rather, it's both hands clapping for joy in The Zen Commandments by Dean Sluyter. … The commandments are in fact "suggestions," the author says, to help develop "a life of inner freedom." A "Singin' in the Rain" attitude — joyfully jumping in puddles — is what seekers should (though should isn't a useful attitude) be after. The book includes quotations from Zen masters and other sages, but there are also Willie Nelson, Miles Davis and Bob Dylan … and Homer Simpson. 

Meditation teacher Sluyter (Why the Chicken Crossed the Road and Other Hidden Enlightenment Teachings) draws 10 life "suggestions" from the world's religions, scriptures, philosophers, literature and popular culture (in his words, "any tradition that promotes compassionate outer behavior and enlightened inner awareness"). Sluyter's suggestions involve acting with kindness, noticing the moment, keeping things simple, blessing others and remaining devoted. His sources include Jesus and the Dalai Lama, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Bob Dylan, Monty Python and Ramana Maharshi, the Wizard of Oz and the Prajnaparamita Sutra. The strength of this eclecticism is that the book is extremely well written and joyously entertaining. … Sluyter's point — that we often make life too complex when we really need to just relax and be — is a simple one, as are pithy maxims such as "No Appointment, No Disappointment." For those who find simplicity hard to attain, his chapters also include exercises in meditation. The book enthusiastically suggests that readers experiment and adhere to anything that works for them "as if your life depended on it," because, according to Sluyter, it actually does. 

© 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc. 

From Spiritual Rx 

I got a kick out of Dean Sluyter's last book Why the Chicken Crossed the Road and Other Hidden Enlightenment Teachings from Buddha to Bebop to Mother Goose. As a leading innovator in the use of meditative techniques in education, he now has patched together some spiritual practices and propositions that can support the lurch we all have toward "a life of inner freedom." It will appeal to those who are uncomfortable around dogma. 

Sluyter quotes Lester Bangs: "I just like people with some Looney Tune in their souls." Not a bad description of the author, who playfully uses colorful illustrative material from Zen masters, Jesus, Tibetan meditators, Bob Dylan, Joyce Carol Oates, J. D. Salinger, and many others. In ten chapters, Sluyter presents spiffy suggestions for living a full life of integrity including rest in openness, notice the moment, keep it simple, be devoted, bless everyone, and be a mensch and enjoy the joke. 

At the outset, the author admonishes us to view all that he presents as "lab work" to be tried in the precincts of everyday life. But tapping into our inner boundlessness doesn't mean navel-gazing — it leads to concrete acts of kindness. While we are singing in the rain like Gene Kelly in the movie, we must remember to pass the umbrella to the stranger. "Kindness must be guided by alert intelligence; it must include consideration, the habit of considering the actual consequences of what we do." 

Check out The Zen Commandments by Dean Sluyter and you'll learn a lot about beauty, compassion, saints, teachers, being present, humility, simplicity, and devotion. 


In Dean Sluyter's clever The Zen Commandments, the author lays down 10 guidelines for living a more present life and experiencing moment-to-moment awareness. Some of his "commandments" are Zen interpretations of the 10 laws Moses brought down from Mount Sinai; others have nothing to do with the prophet's inscribed tablets. In one example, Sluyter takes the Fourth Commandment — Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy — and gives it a Zen twist: 

"The whole idea of Sabbath is a temporary withdrawal from limited worldly activities in order to connect to the limitlessness that some people call God. Here … we're learning to be in a state of utter rest seven days a week, 60 seconds a minute, transcending and silently witnessing all physical and mental activities, even while performing them." 

Through the moment-to-moment awareness that Zen demands, we constantly stay in touch with God, or the Infinite (or whatever individuals choose to call it), Sluyter reminds us. Other Zen commandments are more contemporary and have nothing to do with biblical precepts. Perhaps one of his most useful guidelines is his enjoinder to "Notice the Moment": 

"On our journey through life, we think of the time we spend walking down the hall from Office A to Office B as intermission, dead time, mere connective tissue. But there is no intermission. The show never stops. Every moment is the only moment." 

Sluyter sprinkles his chapters with eclectic quotes from Bob Dylan, Indian gurus, Miles Davis, Franz Kafka, even Bill Clinton. This is a lively book and one that will almost certainly give you pause in your day, whether it's to simply stop and take a breath while rushing through your morning routine, or to notice the roadside flowers while stalled in rush-hour traffic. 

– Demian McLean 


Gradually emerging as perhaps the most deeply transformative pathways are nondualistic approaches to spiritual meaning. These distillations of higher wisdom invariably conclude that the answers are within — that which you seek is you — but they must be pursued with rigor and clear intention. It's certainly not an original notion, but the difference now is growing openness to the direct-to-Divine message, especially when presented in jargon-free terms. … [Such a book] is the witty and wise The Zen Commandments: Ten Suggestions for a Life of Inner Freedom by Dean Sluyter. Sluyter turns those ten pesky demands into propositions while adding layers of meaning and insight gleaned from his years as a student of Western culture and Eastern mysticism. His goal sounds modest: "[To provide] skillful methods for making freedom and kindness vivid in your own life, by your own choice." But if that's the least that any of these books accomplishes, then it will be a beautiful thing indeed.