Tom Collings

Years of Zen meditation and mindfulness training in Japan and China seems an unlikely background for a street cop, but Tom Collings says it was “exactly what I needed to tame this wild mind.” His years traveling through Asia, studying with both Zen and martial arts masters was what he calls his essential “internal education.”

In DHARMA COP: Tales of Street Zen, Collings shares his 40 year quest to integrate these ancient disciplines into his work as a law enforcement officer, social worker and addiction counselor in New York’s roughest neighborhoods.

Can cops and first responders who routinely face danger and violence maintain their humanity? Can we act aggressively when needed without losing our compassion? In DHARMA COP: Tales of Street Zen Thomas Collings shares riveting stories of his 26 years working with convicts, addicts and the mentally ill as both a law enforcement officer and social worker. High stress encounters where split second life and death decisions are made. Finding conflict resolution in many potentially violent confrontations required all he learned in years of monastic training in Japan and China. As you read Tales of Street Zen you will find compassion, even in the midst of conflict. You will find peaceful resolution where others see no hope. These stories offer “soft power” strategies for success in high stress situations whether you are a cop, health care worker, teacher or anyone who faces stressful encounters.


A Message From T.B. Collings

Dharmic action and social work require empathy, caring, and selflessness. Whereas the gritty world of the peace officer is one of conflict, uncertainty, and danger, where self-preservation takes priority over selflessness. Living in both worlds is a sort of dual citizenship. While they seem dramatically divergent, even opposite, you may find as I have, they require the same qualities: mindful awareness, self-discipline, and compassion.

I expect some cops will find my approach to law enforcement overly sympathetic to criminals and my response to their aggressive behavior too “soft.” Fellow Buddhists may object to my irreverent approach to Dharma practice, lack of the obligatory “genteel manner,” and my aggressiveness in some situations. These reactions on “both sides of the aisle” let me know I have honestly presented a life that bridges both worlds.

These stories will hopefully encourage cops and first responders to discover and practice the skills of “soft power.” It is also a challenge to those who practice Dharma or other spiritual practices to take their practice into situations of high-stress service, where conflict with others will test your values, principles, and commitment “under fire” in the trenches of life. That is where your practice, with all its weaknesses and flaws, will serve others the most. Go get your hands dirty! It will be OK.

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