and the Art of Anything

Third Edition

By Hal W. French
Illustrations by Marianne Rankin

Copyright © 1999, 2001, 2009 by Hal W. French, Illustrations Copyright © 1999, 2001, 2009 by Marianne Rankin
All rights reserved.

170 pages (includes 16 illustrations and bibliography) ISBN 0963923188, Softcover, $14.95

If shelf and cerebral space allowed for only one book on personal spirituality, self-knowledge, or improvement, it could easily be Dr. Hal French’s Zen and the Art of Anything.

The Star Reporter, Columbia, S.C.

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Table of Contents

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About the Book


Simply put, Zen is mindfulness—extracting the most from a given moment. You are invited, through this book, to understand Zen.

Zen is not exotic or difficult to attain. Rather, Zen is basic and available to anyone wishing to have a more fulfilling life. Think of everyday activities: breathing and speaking, waking and sleeping, moving and staying, eating and drinking, working and playing, caring and loving, thriving and surviving. If we are truly mindful in our daily living, thereby practicing Zen, we can elevate the most fundamental activities to art forms.

Through Dr. French’s charming and mindful writing, you can actually find the keys to a more authentic and meaningful life. The simple act of reading his thoughts and words, filled with so many elegant and artful insights, enables Zen.


About the Author

Hal W. French (Ph.D. McMaster University) is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of South Carolina. He has taught at the University of South Carolina since 1972, serving as Chair of the Religious Studies Department from 1989-1995, and is currently dividing his time (in semi-retirement) between teaching part-time and several other activities, including teaching the religion courses for the University of Pittsburgh's Semester at Sea program. He has also taught workshops at the Esalen Institute in California, the Chautauqua Institution in New York, and the Ammerdown Retreat Center near Bath, England. His published works include several books and numerous articles, mostly on Asian religion, and he has won a number of teaching awards.

About the Illustrator

Marianne Rankin received a masters degree in the Study of Religion at Oxford University and is the Chair of the Alister Hardy Society, supporting the work of the Religious Experience Research Centre at the University of Wales, Lampeter. In 2008 she published An Introduction to Religious and Spiritual Experience (Continuum), bringing the subject to the general reader. She has also written on Dame Cicely Saunders and the Modern Hospice Movement, which she founded. Ms. Rankin studied painting under
Chew Choon in Singapore and Waina Cheng in Oxford.


This book simply flows, flows simply, and gently cleanses away the daily eddies of hustle and bustle.

—Kuang-ming Wu, author of
The Butterfly as Companion

Zen and the Art of Anything changed my life. After reading it a few times, I began to try some of its suggestions. Before long, I wasn’t merely “trying” them; I was practicing them. I began to meditate daily. I began to perform tasks that people often think of as “small,” with mindfulness and care. (And, I did so as well with the “big” tasks and found that they were infused with even more quality than before). I began to consider the notion of exhaling as giving life to others, and of speaking as thoughtfully giving life to others. Negative thoughts, anger, pain—they were drowned out by the fascination of being alive and of being blessed with consciousness. I was seeing that ceaseless flow—and wanting more. 

All of these practices made me realize that I will “never find myself yawning at life.” Largely, mine is a generation that glamorizes boredom, shallowness, and even depression. I fail to understand these world views, although I try to empathize with those who suffer. 

These things have been on my mind lately more than ever, and Zen has become ever significant to my life’s path. I am growing in the practice of Zen. I have become a calmer, happier person because of it, and I have Zen and the Art of Anything to thank for this. Zen and the Art of Anything taught me how to live—and how to love it! 

And what could be more important than that? 

P.S.  There is one more dimension of Zen and the Art of Anything I would like to mention. From the standpoint of a composition instructor, the book is excellent. I often tell my freshman writers, “Do not try to find the longest word; try to find the best word.” Hal French’s writing style exemplifies this practice. Also, I use the chapter beginnings as examples of excellent transitions. I love how one chapter just flows into the next (a Zen quality), paradoxically creating a seamless break (a break that is not a break) between each new topic. This paradox—a koan flowing from one chapter to the next—demonstrates a Zen style of writing with focus on the present.  Zen and the Art of Anything, true to its own counsel, catches the ceaseless flow of quality in the passing of every page. 

Christopher Altman



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Revised: August 08, 2009