The Art of Simple Living

By Shunmyo Masuno

My rating: 6/10

Date read: 2020-09-12

Book on Amazon.com

Written by a Japanese Zen Priest, this book is itself like a Zen riddle. Don't expect step-by-step instructions or long chapters, but expect a lot of food for thought.

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If the world is not going the way you want it to, perhaps it is better to change yourself.

Try not to be swayed by the values of others, not to be troubled by unnecessary concerns, but to live an infinitely simple life, stripped of wasteful things. That is "Zen style".


1. Make time for emptiness.
First, observe yourself. Be with yourself as you are, but without haste, without impatience. Take 10 minutes for emptiness, for not doing or thinking anything.

2. Wake up fifteen minutes earlier.
Being busy makes you lose heart.

3. Savor the morning air.
Each day is not the same.

4. Line up your shoes when you take them off.
Little order will help.

5. Discard what you don't need.
It will refresh your mind.

6. Organize your desktop.
Cleaning hones the mind. The way to keep your mind energized is to first put the things around you in order.

7. Make a delicious cup of coffee.
The happiness to be found in taking your time.
When we eliminate time and effort, we eliminate life's pleasures.

8. Put pen to paper with care.
Pay attention to your inner self.

9. Try using loud voice.

10. Do not neglect your meals.
Make your meals about eating. Eat and drink with your whole heart.

11. When eating, pause after every bite.

12. Discover the benefits of a vegetable-centric diet.
Vegetarian fast is a "quick cleanse" for your mind and body.

13. Seek out your favorite words.

14. Pare down your belongings.
Acquire only what you need.

15. Arrange your room simply.
Determine what's necessary, and take good care of it.

16. Try going barefoot.
How to keep sickness away.

17. Exhale deeply.
Breathe from a point just below your navel (belly button).

18. Sit zazen.
Zazen – sitting meditation.
Humans are not capable of deep reflection while we are moving.

19. Try a standing practice.
Standing meditations. Stand, and focus on yourself and your breathing.

20. Don't waste your time worrying about things you cannot control.

21. Become adept at switching modes.
Create "gates" in your mind. Switch from "work" to "home", and to other modes, completely.

22. Breathe slowly.
Try 5 minute chair zazen.

23. Join your hands together.
Way to calm an irritable mind.

24. Make time to be alone.
First step toward simple living, Zen style.

25. Get in touch with nature.
Find the happiness that is right at hand.

26. Create a small garden on your balcony.

27. Seek out the sunset.

28. Don't put off what you can do today.
We should strive to achieve the things of which we are capable.

29. Don't think of unpleasant things right before bed.
A five-minute "bed zazen" before going to sleep.

30. Try your best to do what you can now.

31. Discover another you.
Find your inner protagonist. Your protagonist has boundless potential. Do your best to awaken it.

32. Don't be troubled by things that have not yet happened.
Almost all anxieties are the invention of your own mind.

33. Take pleasure in your work.

34. Simply immerse yourself.

35. Do not feel put out by the tasks before you.
Work is important for the mind.

36. Don't blame others.

37. Don't compare yourself to others.
In anything, the hard part is to keep going.

38. Seek not what you lack.
Be content with the here and now.

39. Every so often, try to stop thinking.
"Where ideas can be hiding." Try to have room in your mind.

40. Make distinctions.
At work it's time to work. At home it's time to relax.

41. Try attending a zazen sitting.

42. Plant a single flower.
No day is more important than today.
In the world of nature, every day is a new day.

43. Make a proper start.
Create an "upward spiral".

44. Cherish your own self.
The meaning of carrying an amulet – it represents you. Take care of it.

45. Think simple.
If you have choice you can't make – try to choose the simplest one.

46. Do not fear change.

47. Notice changes.
Monks live very regular lifestyle to be attuned to subtle changes in the mind and body.
Conscientious living begins with early to bed, early to rise.

48. Feel instead of think.
Hone your senses.

49. Don't let things go to waste.

50. Don't be bound by a single perspective.
There is more than just "the proper way".

51. Think with your own head.
Be skeptical of common sense.

52. Believe in yourself.
When you give up, your potential drops to zero. Possibility springs from confidence.
Do not fear moving forward.

53. Instead of worrying, get moving.
Instead of worrying, just start, one step at a time.

54. Maintain a supple (flexible) mind.

55. Get active.
Experience things for yourself.

56. Wait for the right opportunity.
When things don't go the way you want.

57. Appreciate your connection with things.
Recognize the luxury of not having things.
Appreciation for things is an appreciation for yourself.

58. Try just sitting quietly in nature.

59. Try clearing your head.
Become aware of which senses are being stimulated. Do less, not more.
Just look at the clouds.

60. Enjoy a zen garden.
Zen gardens are expressions of the creator's mastery of a Zen state.

61. Serve people.
The starting point for a contented life.

62. Cast away the "three poisons".
Get rid of greed, anger, and ignorance. Whenever you notice them, try to calm your mind and breathe.

63. Cultivate your sense of gratitude.

64. Demonstrate, rather than assert, how you feel.
For example, doing something to express gratitude tells more than just saying it.

65. Express your mind, but not in words.
What you can see is not all there is.

66. Focus on others' merits.

67. Deepen your connection with someone.

68. Fine-tune your timing.
In relationships and work, timing matters.

69. Give up the need to be liked by everyone.

70. Don't fixate on the right and wrong.
This is about compromise. There is the beauty in gray too.

71. See things for what they are.
Likes and dislikes, ups and downs are products of our mind.

72. Skillfully detach.
Paying no attention to something is also an important skill.

73. Don't think in terms of loss and gain.

74. Do not get caught up with mere words.
The importance of reading others' feelings.
Consider what others say with empathy.

75. Do not be swayed by the opinions of others.
Trust in yourself.

76. Have faith.
Find wisdom in the stories of older people.

77. Have a conversation with a garden.

78. Make someone happy.
Incorporate a sense of flow of time in your meals – serve something in season.

79. Find occasions to get together with family.

80. Appreciate all the people who came before you.

81. Be here now.
The you of a moment ago is the past you.

82. Be grateful for every day, even the most ordinary.
The happiness to be found in the unremarkable.

83. Recognize that you are protected.
We are all in the palm of the Buddha. So take heart and keep going!

84. Be positive.
All days are good days.

85. Do not covet (yearn to possess).
Wanting more leads to suffering.

86. Do not divide things into good and bad.

87. Accept reality for what it is.
"I am now living happily with my cancer"

88. There is not just one answer.

89. There is not just one way, either.

90. Don't be a show-off.

91. Free yourself from money.

92. Believe in yourself, especially when you feel anxious.
You have made it this far already, haven't you?

93. Notice the changes of the season.

94. Try taking care of something.

95. Listen to the voice of your true self.

96. Cherish being alive, every single day.
Life really does go by in the blink of an eye.
What kind of day should we make today?

97. Put your everything into the here and now.

98. Make every preparation.
Whether you are able to make the most of an opportunity will depend upon long-standing dedication and preparedness.

99. Contemplate how to die.
What would you do if you learned that you will die in a year?

100. Make the most of life.
How will you use your life today?

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