This book is a profound collection of 16 essays that explores numerous aspects of life, existence, and our spiritual journey. Here is a concise summary of the book and its essays:
The Spirit of Zen
Watts discusses the spirit of Zen, explaining that Zen is not a system of thought, but rather an experience that transcends dualistic, conceptual thinking.
Zen and the Mental Health
Here, Watts points out the Western misconception that Zen is a form of psychotherapy. He argues that Zen does not solve neurotic problems; instead, it dissolves them by shifting the way we perceive reality.
In this essay, Watts presents the Taoist philosophy, emphasising the natural flow of life, the Tao, and the importance of living in harmony with it.
Watts talks about ‘Jnana Yoga’, the Yoga of knowledge and insight. He argues that this intellectual approach to spiritual exploration can lead to self-realisation.
The Practice of Meditation
Watts explains that the goal of meditation is not to reach a state of clarity or tranquillity, but to recognise and fully experience the present moment.
On Not Forcing It
Here, Watts emphasises the importance of not forcing things, of letting life flow naturally.
The Finger and the Moon
Watts uses the metaphor of pointing to the moon. He notes that religious and spiritual teachings are only pointers to the truth, not the truth itself.
Religion and Sexuality
Watts explores the intersection of religion and sexuality, arguing that they should not be separate or opposing forces.
Work as Play
Watts encourages readers to perceive work as play, arguing that this shift in mindset can make our tasks enjoyable and fulfilling.
Watts presents the non-dualistic view of reality. He argues that we are not separate from the world but intrinsically connected to it.
In this essay, Watts discusses how theology can limit our understanding of the divine, suggesting that the ultimate reality transcends any concept that we can formulate.
The Art of Contemplation
Watts presents contemplation as an art, suggesting that it can be a path to a deeper understanding of reality.
Watts discusses the notion of life as a cosmic drama, where each of us plays a vital role in the universe’s unfolding story.
The Spectrum of Love
Watts presents love as a spectrum, where even feelings of indifference or hatred have their place.
Watts discusses the paradox of trying to keep a secret from oneself and explores the notion of the ‘hidden self’.
In the final essay, Watts explores the idea of ‘making your own weather’, i.e., controlling your emotional and mental states.
Overall, “Become What You Are” emphasises the importance of living in the present, experiencing life as it unfolds, and recognising our interconnectedness with the world. It encourages us to shift our perception of reality, dissolve our dualistic thinking, and realise that we are not separate entities but an intrinsic part of the unfolding cosmic drama.
Daily Change Summary
Reading “Become What You Are” by Alan Watts offers us a shift in perspective. It can help us realise that we are more than just separate entities moving through life, but rather, integral parts of a cosmic play, interconnected with the universe. The book invites us to live in the present, to let life flow naturally, and to find joy in the process. It’s a call to break free from conventional thinking and to explore a more profound, authentic understanding of ourselves and the world. Through the insightful exploration of various aspects of existence, spirituality, and our self-concept, we can start embracing life more fully and become what we truly are.