BookLife Talks with Ezra Bayda
A Sponsored Q&A with the author of 'Skating on Thin Ice: A Zen Path of Self-Realization'
Bayda’s latest work, Skating on Thin Ice: A Zen Path of Self-Realization, focuses on “the inherent uncertainty of life.” BookLife Reviews praised the title, writing that “Bayda’s winning combination of thoughtful analysis and down-to-earth practice will hit home.”
How is this book different from your other philosophical works?
I see myself as a practical philosopher, in that the writings are primarily on how to live. The philosophy presented in this book is the summation of my 55-year-long spiritual journey. I wrote it originally for me, as a reminder and an inspiration for whatever remains of my own path of self-realization. I have found that it is very easy to forget what I’ve learned—both big things and little things. I am at the point in my life where I don’t want to forget, especially those things that I believe to be most important.
Who is your ideal reader and why?
I wrote this book for those who have the feeling that something is missing—that there must be more to living than what has thus far been attained. This is not the desire to have more or be more in the ordinary sense. This is a unique kind of desire. It is a desire to fill an internal longing—a desire to find satisfaction beyond attaining money, security, good health, a family, and so on. It is the feeling that life seems vaguely out of sync, without knowing exactly what is missing. If someone has this feeling, and especially if they are open to learning, then I think this book would be helpful.
What’s your experience with Zen meditation?
This is a big question! Considering that I have been practicing Zen for a very long time, there is no one experience that can sum it up. When I began Zen, I had the belief that if I practiced long enough and hard enough, I could become free of the anxiety and fear that were so much a part of my life at the time. But even though I had many wonderful experiences of intensely following the breath, the anxiety and fear remained.
My meditation teacher at the time suggested that maybe I should stop seeing fear as the enemy—trying to confront it and eradicate it. Instead, she suggested that perhaps I could even be curious about it. She advised me to ask, whenever fear arose, “What is this experience right now?” And then to stay present with the fear to see what it really was and to say “Yes” to it. Saying “Yes” doesn’t mean you like it or accept it; it just means that “Yes,” you’re willing to face and feel what your present moment experience actually is. Learning to say “Yes” to my experience was crucial for me. As I got out of my head and surrendered to the present moment experience—said “Yes” to it—I learned to feel a deep gratitude for my life on a daily basis.
Can you explain how the title connects to the work?
The title reflects one of the main themes of the book—the inherent uncertainty of life. Aren’t we all just one doctor’s visit away from falling through thin ice? A main theme of the book is how to deal with the anxious quiver that we all feel in the face of life’s difficulties and uncertainties.
What’s next for you?
Honestly, I don’t know. I don’t even know what’s right around the corner. But at this point, living and enjoying one day at a time, and trying to live, as best I can, from kindness, gratitude, and love, seems like a good way to deal with whatever is next.