Reflections on Awakening & Maturity for Spiritual Companions

by Genjo Marinello

Reviewed by Pegge Erkeneff

Reflections on Awakening & Maturity for Spiritual Companions takes the reader on an autobiographical spiritual and psychological journey spanning sixty-five years. A spiritual guide, psychotherapist, Quaker, and Zen Master or Roshi, Genjo Marinello writes in the preface, “This book chronicles a bit of what I’ve learned from knowing and working with my most prominent spiritual companions…. Though I introduce many of them, and share some anecdotes about my journeys with them, mostly I share how these encounters became stepping-stones in the unfolding journey of my life. Each deep human encounter becomes a catalyst for our growth. This book reveals some of the lessons I’ve gleaned along the Way” (5).

The story covers Marinello’s early days; spiritual awakenings with the Quakers; Zen retreats; graduating from the Pacific Northwest Program in Spiritual Direction that some Spiritual Directors International (SDI) members will know as the Pacific Jubilee Program (PJP); graduate school; a journey with Roshi Joan Halifax, Roshi Bernie Glassman, and other teachers; and time in Japan, Seattle, India, and Africa. The reader is given a lens through the heart and lived experience of pain, loss, and trauma that is transformed and matured through seeking, reflection, and a deliberate yes to life.

Christian and Zen wisdom weave through the years. A nearly seventy-page section comparing Ten Zen Ox pictures with Teresa of Ávila’s The Interior Castle is insightful, fresh, and helpful for the reader who might be familiar with one but not the other. For example, I am very rooted in western Christian mysticism, and so I appreciated learning and being able to easily track and put into context the Buddhist path to spiritual awakening and maturity offered in the Ten Zen Ox pictures when blended with Teresa of Ávila’s seven mansions. Marinello writes, “I hope my enthusiasm and awe for how two sages, from two different cultures, times, genders and religions can and do speak so eloquently of the human spiritual journey, both skillfully using visualizations and metaphors to prod our own investigation” (64).

Along with dedicated spiritual practice, Marinello has a heart for action, volunteering, and advocacy, too. He writes, “Maturity is realizing the truth that we include all these different polarities all wrapped up in one package. Given this truth, where does that leave us? They can be explored in the meditation hall with contemplative prayer; however, deep testing can only happen in our daily life with our neighbors.… Without testing and expanding of our practice into the wider world deep religious or spiritual training can implode. Unfortunately, as I have learned, anything can be corrupted and the highest teaching can be brought low. Vigilance helps us to not be fooled by sake and mirrors” (207–8).

This book is ultimately about listening together. I appreciated the honest psychological reflections, the introduction of the Buddhist concept that distinguishes classes of consciousness, and what Marinello goes on to describe as “ten levels based on my own interior experience of consciousness that moves from what may be called relative awareness to absolute awareness, or from personal mind to universal Mind” (153). Closing pages include a helpful section with “Abbreviations and Glossary of Zen Terms,” a partial list of people mentioned in the book and page references, and a bibliography.

The gift of Reflections on Awakening & Maturity for Spiritual Companions is heard in Marinello’s insight, a true sign of maturity: “Whether I’m giving a Dharma interview in the Zen setting, leading Quaker workshop sharing, doing one-on-one psychotherapy or offering spiritual direction there is a dynamic, unpredictable, feedback loop process which blossoms in unexpected ways.… As the dialogue unfolds, and deepens, I learn from all the inner sages engaging in the conversation.… The dialogue feedback loop is a kind of cross-pollination where everybody wins” (281).

Reflections on Awakening & Maturity for Spiritual Companions

by Genjo Marinello

Bellevue, WA:

SDI Press, 2021

309 pages

CAD $25.35

GBP £14.75

USD $19.95


This Review Appears In


Vol. 28 | No. 1 | MARCH – 2022


Pegge Erkeneff

is an author, spiritual guide, coach, and director of communications for a school district in Alaska, USA. She received her spiritual director training in 1996 from the Formation Program for Spiritual Directors offered through the Center for Spirituality at Work in Denver, Colorado, USA, and taught in the program for several years.

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