Book review: The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno

100 Daily Practices form a Japanese Zen Monk for a Lifetime of Calm and Joy

This straightforward, unpretentious, quick read should be on everybody’s TBR stack because with just subtle shifts in your habits and perspective you’ll be able to live simply. The author is the head priest at a 450-year-old Zen Buddhist temple in Japan and separated his book into four parts:

  1. 30 ways to energize your “present self”—Try making a subtle shift in your habits.
  2. 30 ways to inspire confidence and courage for living—Try changing your perspective.
  3. 20 ways to eliminate confusion and worry—Try to change how you interact with others.
  4. 20 ways to make any day the best day—Try shifting your attention to the present moment.

It begins by reminding us of how we felt the first time we stood on a mountain top and looked out at the great expanse or staring out across the ocean at the horizon. It’s a sense of being refreshed where your heart feels lighter, worries vanish, and you feel more alive.

Our daily life is full of accumulating stress, worries, and feeling burdened. But how do we change our world? That is a monumental task. So, better yet, let’s change ourselves. It only requires slight changes in habits or a subtle shift in your perspective. The author shows us how to do this with the help of Zen which is about habits, ideas, and hints for living a happy life: deep, yet simple life wisdom. He begins by telling us that we shouldn’t be swayed by the values of others, troubled by unnecessary concerns, or place value on wasteful things.

Here are some of the book’s insights:

  • Make time for emptiness by first observing yourself. Be with yourself as you are, but without haste, without impatience.
  • Savor the morning air. The monk’s secret to life is found here. Each day is not the same.
  • Discard what you don’t need. It will refresh your mind. Part with old things before acquiring new ones.
  • Organize your desktop. Cleaning hones the mind. Your desk is a mirror that reflects you inner mind.
  • Exhale deeply. How to eliminate negative emotions. Improve your breathing and your mind will improve, too.
  • Sit Zazen. The effects of sitting and thinking. Human beings are not capable of deep reflection while we are moving.
  • Don’t waste time worrying about things you cannot control. What does it mean to be spiritually lighter? The moment when you suddenly leave yourself behind.
  • Don’t think of unpleasant things right before bed. A five-minute “bed zazen” before going to sleep. Time to reset your mind.
  • Don’t be troubled by things that have not yet happened. Anxiety is intangible. Where does it actually exist?
  • Simply immerse yourself. The tremendous power of being unfettered. Empty your mind, and do not let it settle anywhere or wander.
  • Do not fear change. Cast off your attachment to the past. There is beauty to be found in change.
  • Cast away the three poisons: greed, anger, and ignorance to being a Zen mind-se into your life. Keep your desires and anger in check and strive to understand the nature of things.
  • Notice the changes of the season. It will inspire you to go on. Herin lies the only truth in the world.

This would make a nice bedside table read to page through occasionally to recall it’s insights. To read it in its entirety, go here.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Anxiety Causes and Things I Had to Do to Lessen It

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

Please note that I didn’t write to cure it because for some people there is no cure. Anxiety may be in part genetic. So, what are some other causes: alcohol and drug abuse, chronic pain or injury, stressors or uncertainties, personality, unhealthy eating and little to no exercise, traumatic events, or diabetes, cancer, or other physical medical conditions like thyroid disorder.

So, according to my therapist, what are some things I tried that alleviate anxiety?

  1. Deep breathing
  2. Progressive muscle relaxation or the body scan from head to toe
  3. Taking a walk even around the block to begin
  4. Listening to soothing or upbeat music
  5. Drinking chamomile tea
  6. Practicing yoga or stretching
  7. Journaling
  8. Limiting caffeine & avoiding alcohol and/or nicotine
  9. Exercise such as running or swimming
  10. Get plenty of sleep by aiming for 7-8 hours in a room without electronics, preferably dark (for melatonin) and slightly on the cool side
  11. Meditation by either sitting on a chair, on the floor, or laying down to get the incredible benefits for reducing and managing anxiety
  12. Questioning your worries by asking: Is this thing that I fear likely to happen? How can I be sure? What evidence do I have? If it does happen, how does this affect me? How would someone else view this worry? Is there another possible outcome or explanation? Is this fear solvable? What can I do to solve it at soon as possible?
  13. Immerse yourself in nature by getting daily doses of fresh air and sunshine
  14. Aerobic exercise reduces cortisol levels (stress hormone) and anxious thoughts thereby making you feel happier and calmer.
  15. Give up on perfectionism by setting goals and striving for completion with the time allotted. Then submit and move on. No looking back.
  16. Cut back on sugar, which can cause or contribute to many health issues and chronic diseases, including mental health disorders like making anxiety or depression worse. Remember, sugar quickly releases energy, but it is followed by a sudden crash, which brings on even more sugar craving.
  17. Eat an antianxiety diet such as vegetables and whole grains that give a slow release of energy and are stable on blood sugar, helping to control your sugar cravings.
  18. Avoid foods from conventional farming that use chemicals such as pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and other toxins that your body needs to eliminate. Visit a farmer’s market.
  19. Avoiding processed foods are loaded with additives, preservatives, colorings, flavorings, and other chemicals that also cause a lot of extra work for your detox organs.
  20. Detoxify your body with techniques that include eating plenty of high fiber foods, i.e., root vegetables and whole grains, Epsom salt baths, quality sleep, sauna sweating, drinking enough water, hot shower for five minutes then immediately followed by a brief cold shower.
  21. Eat a healthy and balanced meal, i.e., that avoids essential nutrient deficiencies with B vitamins, Vitamin A and C, magnesium, zinc, iron and selenium, and omega 3 fatty acids that aid the body and mind in functioning correctly.
%d bloggers like this: