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.

Book review for From Stress to Stillness: Tools for Inner Peace by Gina Lake

This self-help book starts out with how stress affects the body via the stress channel and goes into how to and not create stress which was very interesting. “Stress results from the negative stories (negative thoughts in our body that cause tension and a sense of contraction) that our egoic mind tell us about ourselves, life, others, the past, the present, or the future.” We think we need such thoughts when they interfere with handling life and making it less enjoyable. So how do we let go of mental baggage? Awareness and turning down the volume on the egoic mind’s radio station of relentless mind messages. Or at least change it to the stillness channel which expand us rather than contracts us. The more we tune into stillness the easier it becomes and the less compelling the egoic chatter is.

The different types of stressful thoughts are explained nicely: “I” thoughts, stories, judgments, “shoulds”, self-criticism, self-doubt, fears, worries, ideas of perfection, and thoughts about the past. That section is followed nicely by their antidotes, or ways to drop the mental baggage like accepting people for the way they are and not imposing our desires and expectations on them. Or when it’s not reminiscing it’s reliving and drudging up sour circumstances. Our memories don’t even accurately reflect what happened in the past.

Noticing, accepting, investigating, reframing, and letting go of stressful thoughts and feelings is the way to heal the scab of unresolved memories or negative thoughts. And reframing is a way to let go of ideas of perfection. The author describes in detail how to do this next. Being present, being in the body and senses, being willing to not know, being grateful, accepting life, breathing practices, meditation, and bridges to presence are ways to switch the egoic mind’s radio channel to stillness. This book is filled with dialogue to change from negative to positive as well as instruction on how to meditate.

Changing our lifestyle by making time for stillness, slowing down, realizing less is more, reassessing our relationship to the media, and making time for our heart’s desires was an interesting chapter. I particularly enjoyed the thought about reassessing our relationship to the media and instead slowing down and making time for what will really calm us, which is things like gratitude, compassion, meditation, and breathing practices.

Keys to changing our lifestyle:

  • Make peace and less stress a priority
  • Meditate daily
  • Do things more slowly and with more presence
  • Minimize multitasking
  • Unplug and walk in nature, listen to music, cook, play, or garden
  • Remove ourselves from negative situations and people
  • Eliminate soul-stripping or unnecessary activities
  • Be selective about television and the media
  • Consume fewer material goods

So realize the ego is often referred to by the term “false self” for a reason because it’s phony or false. Choose to eliminate that stress channel and tune into stillness by being present in the moment by letting go of that stressful thought the moment we recognize it. Stop. Take a deep breath. Switch the channel. Whatever our attention is focused on gains power. This book also notes Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D., author of The Biology of Belief which is a good choice to read. Keep in mind to slow down, be present, and follow our joy. Get the entire book 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.

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