The Art of Simple Living Book Summary - The Art of Simple Living Book explained in key points
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The Art of Simple Living summary

Shunmyo Masuno

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

4.6 (540 ratings)
20 mins
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    The Art of Simple Living
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    Transforming your own attitudes is the key to getting along with people. 

    Is there anything more complicated than other people? Whether you’re dealing with a rude coworker or a critical parent, some human relationships are far from simple. So how can we bring a sense of calm to even the most strained interactions? 

    The key message here is: Transforming your own attitudes is the key to getting along with people. 

    But what does this mean? Well, it starts by changing where you put your focus. 

    All too often, we concentrate on someone’s bad points. But what if you focused on his good qualities instead? When it comes to making character assessments, take your inspiration from the way in which the author – a Zen gardener – thinks about trees. When he considers where to plant a tree in his garden, he considers that tree as an individual with its own identity. He looks at how the tree bendsand asks himself what mood the tree evokes. Finally, he decides where to place it in relation to his garden’s other elements, so that its unique beauty will be revealed. 

    The author understands that the features in a Zen garden must be placed in a particular way if they are to exist in harmony. In the same way, if you want a harmonious relationship, you must appreciate the other person’s unique qualities, and learn how they interact with your own. 

    Of course, to understand someone, we must take the time to get to know him. Unfortunately, in the modern world, we tend to concentrate on the sheer number of people that we loosely know. We feel good about the breadth of our social network, rather than the depth

    But Zen Buddhism teaches us a more joyful approach to relationships.   

    Ichi-go ichi-e is a saying in Zen philosophy. It translates as once in a lifetime, and means that every social encounter is precious, because you may never see that person again. With this in mind, you should concentrate on deepening your connection with each person you meet. After all, it may be your only chance to get to know him. 

    But there will always be some people you don’t get along with. Even in a Zen temple, there are monks who dislike each other. When you find a connection faltering, don’t try too hard to make it work. Instead, remember that when a tree comes into blossom, the birds are attracted to its branches. If you are happy and blossoming, the right people will come to you. 

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    What is The Art of Simple Living about?

    The Art of Simple Living (2019) explores the little habits that will make a big difference in your daily life. It explains the teachings of Zen Buddhism and reveals how to put them into practice. Packed with useful tips, this is your how-to guide for a more tranquil life. 

    Best quote from The Art of Simple Living

    In the landscape paintings of Sesshu, the waves of blurred ink contain the essence of his spirit.

    —Shunmyo Masuno
    example alt text

    Who should read The Art of Simple Living?

    • Anyone interested in Buddhist philosophy
    • Minimalists looking for a new angle
    • Self-help buffs seeking a fresh perspective

    About the Author

    Shunmyo Masuno is a Japanese Zen monk and a celebrated garden designer. Not only is Masuno the head priest of the Zen Buddhist temple Kenko-ji, he is also a professor of Environmental Design at Tokyo’s Tama Art University. 

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