Zen: The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno [Book Summary – Review]

Life is full of stressful situations. We as competitive creatures always are under the false belief that we have to take risks, that we need to be successful and productive all the time. If we fail to fulfill this requirement, we are immediately overcome by mental duress, worry, plus the fear of failure. Isn’t there a way that will provide solutions for the negativity in our lives? A way that helps us keep calm and feel joyful?

You will discover 20 daily Zen Buddhism exercises that will motivate you to lead a happy and exciting life with this summary. Practicing these habits will motivate you to leave the habits plus judgments which result in your maelstrom. You will feel a sense of relief and contentment and you will learn what it means to change your outlook on life to lead a better life full of peace.

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Chapter 1 – Maintain good relationships by changing your perception.

People are the most complex beings in the universe. Dealing with rude coworkers or overly judgmental parents exhaust people with their complicated nature. We need to find a way to bring a feeling of calmness to even our most stressful interactions.

How can we accomplish this? Well, the first thing you need to do is change your focus.

Humans tend to focus on others’ bad characteristics. But we as a species should try our best to think about the good qualities of the people around us. Act as if you are a Zen groundsman when you try to analyze the characteristics of other people. One Zen groundsman regards a tree as its entity when the time comes to plant it into his yard. It is evaluated by him on the general features of the tree and contemplates what feelings the tree would evoke in people. He considers the other elements of the garden as well. Eventually, he makes a choice and plants the tree in a place that will be in harmony with others while also showing matchless glory.

The author is familiar with Zen gardens where all elements should be decorated in a way that will evoke a sense of harmony. The same situation applies to relationships as well: you need to appreciate the unique features of people and find ways to communicate with them accordingly.

We need to spend enough time with people to understand their character completely. And unfortunately, modern settings often pressure people into caring more about our number of friends rather than having a few close friends. We are conditioned to feel proud of how wide our social circle is, instead of focusing on the depth of our relationships.

However, Zen Buddhism provides a more entertaining approximation into relates.

The Zen philosophy focuses on the phrase ” one time, one meeting” that describes a Japanese four-character idiom. The phrase means one time during the entire existence, referring to the fact that each interaction we have is unique. You might never see a person you’ve interacted with again. Thus, it is important to focus on deepening the connection with the people you interact with. After all, you might never see them again.

Still, you will always encounter people you dislike. Even if you were a monk into one chapel of Zen, you would still have someone you didn’t like. Don’t dwell on interactions that are fading or interactions that negatively affect you. Think about blossoming trees instead. Birds love to perch on trees that blossom beautifully. So long as you feel delighted and beautified, the correct individuals will be attracted to you.

Chapter 2 – Keep in mind that what you have is precious. 

Everywhere we go, we come across shopping malls. We use our convenient credit cards for each purchase. The abundance of marts and plastic money (in other terms is credit cards) motivate us to spend excessively. Many people have celebrated over-consumption for years. However, another different path to incessant consumption helps you save money and feel more peaceful.

Buddhism argues that people get addicted to greed. Even if we obtain what we have desired, we won’t stay being glad for the duration. The thing that we are obligated is wanting more than what we have.

If your actions are motivated by feelings of greed, you will always experience stress. Leaving greed behind and opting for a simpler lifestyle will help you feel liberated and content.

Chisoku, meaning “be satisfied”, teaches how to cast greed aside from your life. The Buddhistic creed suggests that you should be grateful for what you own after you have enough to fulfill your needs. Tell yourself that “This is enough”. You cannot allow your wishes to dictate your actions. What is the heal-all is Chisoku when greed is the poison. The practice helps us understand that what we have is enough. Once you accept this discipline, you will feel more peaceful. 

Feeling dissatisfied? Think about all your desires and ask this question in front of a mirror: Is what I want an absolute necessity?

Of course, simple living does not equate to living frugally.

Buying cheap objects that you do not care about is what frugality is about. In contrast, one basic existence means you have the things that are required by you and that you are thankful for the things you have in your life. You might have a cup that is solely for coffee. And while it is the only cup you have it could be a really expensive one that cost you a hundred dollars. What matters is that the cup is going to be demanded, handled, plus you will feel satisfied. 

Lastly, a simple life does not equate to going to the mall each time you realize that something has been wanted by you. Rather, a simple life means you are imaginative with what you have and use what you already own for new purposes.

If you need to make use of everything you have, think about Kyoto’s Zen gardens. Famous for their dry scenery, it is impossible to see any water element in the Zen gardens. Still, each element is decorated in an immaculate way where the arrangement helps visitors imagine a water stream’s voice. The existence of such creative gardens proves that we can achieve many things just by being liberated and using our imagination. We don’t need credit cards to achieve what we desire.

Chapter 3 – Alterations in your diet will help you become more energized.

Do you ever wish that you were more energetic? Exhausting work hours, housework that needs to be done, and our hectic family lives may tire us immensely. How can we overcome the exhaustion from these commitments? You could not feel lucky enough to reduce either your caseload of you or go on a two-month vacation. Still, basic methods to feel more energetic towards life are found. 

A method to feel more energetic is to go barefoot. Take off footwear plus hosiery. It may sound weird at first but imitating the way of monks will help you get over your exhaustion immensely. With time, walking barefoot will show its benefits by strengthening the body. Monks are known to be resilient to colds. 

Of course, walking barefoot outside of your home might not be convenient for most of us, but you can still wear one couple of toe post leather when you need to leave your house.

Thong sandals have a lot of wellness advantages. Between the foot’s thumb and forefinger has a sensitive skin that also works as one compression dot to our internal organs. Going outside with the sandals helps the body by massaging the point.

Another way to gain your energy back is by reducing your meat intake.

Altering your diet to include more vegetables and throwing away meat and dairy products will help your mind feel soberer. Since the body and the mind share a strong connection, the derm of you is going to benefit from this as well. Eating too much meat, on the other hand, has negative effects on your mind. People who eat too much meat tend to be easily frustrated and more troubled. It is usually hard to cut down on your meat intake, but you can start by dedicating one day of the week to vegetable-based meals. Then, you can increase the number with time.

Do you still feel as if you lack energy? Then start exercising more. You may think that resting helps you store energy, but not being active enough can make you feel exhausted. 

Think about one glass of mocha you drink every morning. If you’re at home, then one mocha maker is used by you. When you’re commuting to your workplace, a coffee bar is visited by you, and order a cup of coffee. But what would happen if you had to work on your mocha? Let’s say you need to visit the forest between the lights and collect wood for the fire. You need to create the fire by yourself to boil the water. Imagine that you ground the coffee beans while the sunrise sun lights up your surroundings? Then the glass of mocha you drink would make you feel more refreshed. What is the reason? The reason that is you worked for each step until it was done. Living one crucial existence is similar, it demands you dedicate period, plus exertion.

Chapter 4 – Little alterations into your sunrise habit will help to become relaxed and concentrated.

Whenever someone wants to know how we are doing, we tend to emphasize how busy we are. Are we already able to get out of this constant state of being busy? The answer is: Of course, we may. The first step for that is setting an alarm for your watch.

You might think that you don’t have enough time to do all the things on your program. And that is why you are busy. But the reality is a little bit different. Let’s think about the interesting story behind the Japanese personality being occupied: the radicals used mean loss and heart. Thus, when you feel that your schedule is too busy for something, it means there is no added place in your breast. 

Fortunately, a small alteration can help you become more relaxed and freer. Changing your body clock to start a little bit early every dawn will help you feel less busy.

Wake up 15 mins early more than each day to have a nice glass of either rosie lee or mocha. If possible, enjoy your coffee next to a window. Hearing the chirping birds in the morning will help you start the day happily. Within just 15 mins it is going to be felt by you from your hectic life.

Another way to help you feel freer is by cleaning your room. That way your mind won’t be too foggy.

Think about the Buddhist monks that exist in the chapels of Zen. They clean their living place completely every morning. What cannot be dirty is the chapel, to begin with, but the occasion isn’t that. Monks use the cleaning ritual to clear their minds. Indeed, the Japanese character for enlightenment is made up of radicals that mean an obvious intellect. Each time the monk cleans the room with a broom, he also cleans his foggy mind. Buffing the floors helps the inherent essence of them to be polished as well. 

While you clean your space, pay extra attention to your footwear treasury.

In Zen Buddhism, recognizing our footsteps is an important practice. If we don’t acknowledge our footsteps, we wouldn’t be able to see what direction we are heading towards in life. Stand in line with your footwear to make sure your following move in life will be well-ordered. 

Chapter 5 – An easy but powerful method to enrich your life is being involved in artifice plus the art of nice writing.

The wondrous world of art can be quite terrifying with its art galleries and extravagant price tags. However, Zen Buddhism doesn’t advocate being an art connoisseur to integrate art into your life. You can use your imagination to become your artist.

Look at the acclaimed Zen artist to learn about how happy we can become simply by taking one pencil.

The individuals who are still acknowledged today for being extraordinary calligraphy and for their elegant art are Ikkyu and Sesshu who were Zen monks and lived in the 15th century. Their artworks are quite expensive nowadays, but they were not created to be acclaimed by other people. The reason these monks painted these masterpieces was to keep in touch with their inherent core. Indeed, the reason why Zen art is important lies in the fact that they help artists by stating the depths of their inner worlds.

You can start your self-discovery adventure by starting either art of nice writing or polishing. Assure yourself that nobody will glance at the thing that will be painted by you. Then, take a deep breath, concentrate, and let either the pencil or whisker guide you. It will be found out by you a lot about yourself while painting or doing calligraphy. 

What doesn’t require many tools is being a Zen painter, either.

Artists in the West may use the color spectrum in its entirely. In contrast, you only need an ink container for Zen art. Even the ocean or the sky can be indicated with black ink in Zen art. Using only one color does not mean the art is one-dimensional. The viewer is left to imagine all the colors in the painting. And imagination is the most colorful thing in the universe. 

Still, integrating art into your life does not always mean painting by yourself. Simply looking at art is also enough. 

The Japanese houses of the past used to have tokonoma. The tokonoma was a small room where Zen calligraphy art was hung onto the paries. People living in those houses would practice going to the niche used to display flower arrangements in a Japanese home to contemplate the calligraphy on the wall. You can imitate this practice by choosing a place to put a Zen art of calligraphy you like and reflect on it daily. You will benefit from the strong impact of Zen art in your life. 

Chapter 6 – Nature will bring joy to your per diem existence.

Do you remember the last time you walked aimlessly in either one wood or smelled a flower? Chances are you haven’t been to a forest for a long time. You’re not alone, though. Still, you might benefit from changing your habit per day a little bit to spare some time for nature. Zen Buddhism teaches us that people shouldn’t lose their connection together with the inartificial globe.

We may feel displeased with how monotone our lives are because of our office jobs. Every day is the same: the same route, the identical department, and usually, the identical job. However, if you spare some time for walking each morning, you can realize that each day is refreshingly different than the only unit era, even if you stick to the same path for your daily walking session.

The author chooses temple gardens for his daily walks. He experiences that in these gardens, nature is constantly fluctuating. The leaves of a tree change each week, one day is full of rain while the other is quite sunny. Everything changes— what cannot be anytime monotone is inartificial landscape. 

The ever-changing loops of the inartificial landscape teach us a lot about how to live our lives. 

Humans tend to think too much about the past. It is as if we are living in the past, rather than the present. We constantly think about how hurt we were in the past or what mistakes we did in the past. But nature is there to encourage us not to dwell on the past. What is the reason? The reason that every date gets its unique things. And we refresh ourselves with time, just like nature itself. We should try to imitate nature and stop dwelling on the past. 

There are also ways to embrace nature on smaller scales.

The author, also a well-known garden designer, teaches young children how to make small and tiny yards of themselves into small spaces such as shoeboxes. He motivates kids for dreaming about keeping in touch with the inartificial landscape. Later on, they are asked by him to recreate the scene they imagined as regulating the land, chains, and water. And the resulting product is a great representation of the children: serene, tiny gardens with grith.

Your miniature garden as well is able to be produced by you. A balcony provides more space than necessary for a miniature garden. Even the window ledges will be enough. You can imagine the scenery of spectacular mountains and flooding rivers to get inspired. And before you realize it, you will have changed a section of your house into the reproduction of the landscape that you imagined.

Chapter 7 – Use your opportunities and your time to their fullest, for they are limited.

Ask yourself this question: Once the occasion arrives at you, will you act on it?

In one Zen metaphor, a tale of two greengage trees is taught. The flowers of these trees needed hot summer wind for efflorescing. A of these trees grew its flowers throughout the winter. And once the aestival wind fanned, what came tree into flowers was the trees. However, the other trees waited until the arrival of the aestival light wind to grow their flowers. And when the flowers were prepared, what was long gone was the light wind.

Similarly, we usually retard our individual development. It’s a bad tendency of ours to assume that we will have time into the next and following times for our self-improvement. However, Zen Buddhists are aware that existence isn’t an infinite resource.

Shoji is the word that explains the Buddhist idea of dying and recreation. What teaches people to regard existence plus dying together, like both laterals of a coin. When you contemplate life, besides, death must be thought of by you.

The idea of thinking about your death might appear depressing but knowing that life is a limited resource motivates us to be our better selves. Suppose find out you just left 6 months to breathe. Were you going to waste these days as an unproductive person, staying as a couch potato and watching TV all day? Either were you going to make a list of things you want to do before the inevitable death and live your remaining life to its fullest? Hopefully, you’d choose the 2nd idea.

If we become aware of the certainty of death, we will understand the importance of becoming the initial greengage pawpaw —the one that started working early for its floral to come into flower.

At last, but not least, remind yourself daily that although your existence is owned by you to live, not something you can possess. This fact is demonstrated by jomyo that is a word of Buddhist —signifying a pre-determined lifespan.

We all have our jomyo—our lifespan that was established the moment we were born. Yet nobody knows the exact length of their jomyo. The belief of jomyo describes life as a gift presented to us, not something that belongs to us. While some people are given bigger gifts compared to other individuals, you are assured by Buddhists of Zen that it is not something to be worried about. At the end of the day, what is not determined by how long our life stands is the worth of our existence. What sort we spend the gift given to us is what is important.

You don’t have to spend a life fully together with anxiety plus hecticness. Each time you say, “The person who is very occupied is me,” you are embracing the business that you complain of. You can improve your life immensely by refraining from greed and living a simpler lifestyle. Don’t forget, what is quick is existence. Your gift might be shorter than others, so try to get the most of it. Start simplifying your life to become happier each day.

Realizable recommendation:

Concentrate on your nutrition.

Our food is frequently hurried by us. We grab a sandwich on our way to work as breakfast plus consume meals while watching the television. However, Zen Buddhism advocates the idea of “consume together with our entire breaths.” This teaching encourages us to focus on our dinners once consumed by us. On the coming date, you eat your meal, turn off the TV and focus on enjoying your food.

Zen: The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno Book Review

You don’t have to spend your life stressed and miserable. Each time you think, “I’m too busy”, keep in mind that you are the one who chose to live like that. You can better your life by abstaining from greed and living a simpler life. Remember, life is short. And you might not have much time left. Simplify your daily practices to become more content with life.

Focus on your food.

When it comes to food, we often care about convenience. We grab something to eat on our way to work in the mornings and eat dinner while watching the television. Zen Buddhism reminds us to “eat with our whole hearts.” They encourage us to focus on our meals without any disturbances while we eat. Thus, the next time you prepare your food, keep the TV turned off and enjoy your food in a peaceful silence instead.

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Savaş Ateş

I'm a software engineer. I like reading books and writing summaries. I like to play soccer too :) Good Reads Profile: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/106467014-sava-ate

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