The Truth of This Life: Zen Teachings on Loving the World as It Is

Accessible and elegant teachings from a well-loved and revered woman Zen teacher.

“The truth and joy of this life is that we cannot change things as they are.”

The import of those words can be found beautifully expressed in the work of the woman who spoke them, Katherine Thanas (1927–2012)—in her art, in her writing, and especially in her Zen teaching. Fearlessly direct and endlessly curious, Katherine’s understanding of Zen was inseparable from her affinity for the arts. She was an MFA student studying painting with Richard Diebenkorn, the preeminent Californian abstract painter, when she met Shunryu Suzuki, author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, in the sixties. Soon thereafter she decided to drop painting to dedicate herself to Zen, which she did for the last forty years of her life.

In these essential teachings taken from her dharma talks—which make up her only book—her love of art and literature shine through in her elegant prose and her vast references, from poets William Stafford and Naomi Shihab Nye to the Zen teachings of Dogen and Robert Aitken. Ranging on subjects from the practice of zazen to the meaning of life, Katherine urges us to “develop an insatiable appetite for inner awareness, to become proficient with this mind.” This slim volume is an important contribution by a well-loved and revered teacher.]

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What Comes With The Dust

A Review
“This is a simple and beautiful book. I read it over several weeks a chapter at a time. As I go about my days, I think about the teaching I have read. There are some profound insights here written in simple language.”

~ Ella S.

About Natalie Goldberg & Bill Anelli
Katherine Thanas was a renowned dharma teacher who was the founding teacher for the Monterey Bay Zen Center and abbot of the Santa Cruz Zen Center. Katherine was introduced to Zen by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi in 1967, and she trained with him at Sokoji, San Francisco Zen Center, Tassajara, and Green Gulch Farm. She received lay ordination from Suzuki Roshi, was ordained as a priest by Zentatsu Baker Roshi in 1975, and received shiho (dharma transmission) from Tenshin Reb Anderson in 1988. She died in 2012 at the age of 85.

A dedicated teacher, Natalie Goldberg has taught writing and literature for the last thirty-five years. She also leads national workshops and retreats, and her schedule can be accessed via her website:

In 2006, she completed with the filmmaker Mary Feidt a one-hour documentary, Tangled Up in Bob, about Bob Dylan’s childhood on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota. The film can be obtained on Amazon or the website

Goldberg has been a serious Zen practitioner since 1974 and studied with Katagiri Roshi from 1978 to 1984.

Bill Anelli is a professor of philosophy at Modesto Jr. College in the heart of California’s central valley and has been teaching a wide range of courses there since 2005. He has served on the board of the American Association of Philosophy Teachers and leads workshops and presentations on the teaching of philosophy as well as expertology. Locally Bill directed the Civic Engagement Project at MJC and recently completed a National Endowment for the Humanities’ project, In Search of Common Ground focused on the culture and politics of the central valley. Bill is also chapter leader for Citizens’ Climate Lobby for California’s 10th congressional district

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