When I was in the thick of my relationship with Dr. T and really struggling to stay afloat, I turned (as I so often do) to books for comfort and inspiration. I discovered some great teachers during that time, including Cheri Huber. Cheri is a Zen teacher as well as the founder of the Zen Monastery Peace Center in Murphys, CA and the Mountain View Zen Center in Mountain View, CA. Cheri is also founder and executive director of Living Compassion, a non-profit organization whose mission is to cultivate conscious compassionate community from the inside out.
Cheri has written a number of books, including There is Nothing Wrong with You: Going Beyond Self-Hate (definitely one of my favorites!); When You’re Falling, Dive; The Depression Book; and several others. The great thing about Cheri’s books is that they’re extremely reader-friendly, written in straightforward language that is both warm and easy to understand. Most of the books are designed and illustrated by June Shiver, who handwrites each one, giving the books an air of childlike simplicity. But make no mistake: These books are deep.
Some of Cheri’s favorite topics include our conditioning (how we got to be the way we are), those pesky, judgmental voices in our heads, and, in particular, how to get from self-hate to self-acceptance and love. She writes a lot about mindfulness and staying present, and several of her books include basic meditation instruction.
Even though Cheri is a Zen teacher, her books don’t focus on spirituality—they focus on day-to-day life and living, making them accessible to pretty much anyone who’s interested in increasing their awareness, becoming more mindful, and finding relief from emotional turmoil.
When I first encountered Cheri’s writings, I was definitely needing relief from my own emotional turmoil. I dove into Cheri’s short but powerful book on fear, aptly titled The Fear Book: Facing Fear Once and for All. In it, Cheri explores the different ways we experience fear and how we can choose to meet fear—and all our feelings—with mindfulness and self-acceptance. Reading the book gave me a sense of comfort and relief and a feeling of being seen and understood, something I really needed. I saw much of myself and my history in Cheri’s descriptions of the fear-based patterns and habits that we all fall victim to. The book opened my eyes, not only to my own patterns and defenses, but also to the ways that fear operates and how we can develop a better relationship with it.
About fear, Cheri says:
“What most of us think of as fear is primarily a mental process of imagining situations that do not exist in the present moment… We could talk for hours, days, lifetimes, about what is wrong, what could happen, what won’t work. Don’t do it. Instead, take a step. Look around, see where you are, and see what your next step will be… Each step is part of a learning process, and since no matter what you do, you will learn something, there is no way to make a mistake. There is simply no reason to be afraid. Sitting around thinking about what won’t work is like a scientist deciding the result of an experiment beforehand—not a way to learn anything.”
The whole book, truly, is full of nuggets of Cheri’s wisdom. I could open it to any page and read something that makes my breath catch and roots me to the seat of my chair. That’s when I know I’m experiencing Truth. I feel that way frequently when reading Cheri’s books! She has an amazing way of shining a light on my patterns of thinking and behavior that leaves me feeling seen. And she does this with such empathy and compassion that, instead of feeling judged, I feel tenderly held and cared for. It’s powerful stuff.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing Cheri in person, when she gave a talk at the East Bay Open Circle in Berkeley. I enjoyed both her directness and her sense of humor and left the talk inspired to reread a few of her books. (I have seven, including her latest one, What You Practice Is What You Have: A Guide to Having the Life You Want—so yes, I really am a fan!)
Here are a few more nuggets from Cheri’s books:
From The Depression Book:
There is nothing in the universe that wants you to suffer.
Being depressed and unhappy sometimes is just part of life. It doesn’t mean that something has gone wrong with life any more than rain is something that has gone wrong with the weather or night is something that has gone wrong with day.
From There Is Nothing Wrong With You:
Any time a voice is talking to you that is not talking with love and compassion, don’t believe it! … Be suspicious of any voice, inside or outside, that says, “There is something wrong with you.” This voice does not like you and is not helpful… Don’t listen to it, don’t follow it, don’t believe it.
From That Which You Are Seeking Is Causing You To Seek:
It is far better to do something wrong than to live one’s life in fear of doing something wrong. There is no such thing as a mistake. “Mistake” is an idea we use to torture ourselves. When we pay attention, everything enlightens us.
Personally, I think Cheri is brilliant. I’ve read books by a number of renowned teachers, but not everyone can impart wisdom with the kind of simplicity, humor and gentleness that I’ve found in her books. May you find her teachings to be as helpful and inspirational as I have!
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I just want to let you know that I have a few of Cheri’s books on my Books & Media pages, which link to Amazon.com. Look for Cheri under the category heading Psychology, Personal Growth and Spirituality. (Category links are toward the top right of the page.)
© 2011 Kristi Coombs
A similar version of this post was simultaneously published on www.BreadandApples.com.