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 (704 ratings)
20 mins

Brief summary

The Art of Simple Living by Shunmyo Masuno is a guidebook to living a more mindful and fulfilling life through Japanese Zen teachings. It offers practical tips and exercises for decluttering the mind and home to achieve a state of calm and inner peace.

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    The Art of Simple Living
    Summary of 7 key ideas

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    Key idea 1 of 7

    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. 

    The Art of Simple Living Review

    The Art of Simple Living (2019) explores the wisdom of Zen monk Shunmyo Masuno, sharing practical insights for embracing simplicity in our everyday lives. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • It offers a wealth of practical advice, guiding readers on how to simplify their surroundings, thoughts, and actions to find peace and clarity.
    • With its blend of ancient wisdom and modern relevance, the book strikes a perfect balance, making it accessible and applicable to a wide audience.
    • Through its thought-provoking insights and inspiring anecdotes, the book captures our attention, showcasing the beauty and power of simplicity.

    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
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    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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    The Art of Simple Living FAQs 

    What is the main message of The Art of Simple Living?

    The main message of The Art of Simple Living is to find joy and peace in simplicity and minimalism.

    How long does it take to read The Art of Simple Living?

    The reading time for The Art of Simple Living varies, but it can be read in a few hours. The Blinkist summary takes approximately 15 minutes.

    Is The Art of Simple Living a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The Art of Simple Living is worth reading for its practical and insightful advice on living a more meaningful and fulfilling life.

    Who is the author of The Art of Simple Living?

    The author of The Art of Simple Living is Shunmyo Masuno.

    What to read after The Art of Simple Living?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The Art of Simple Living, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki
    • Gemba Kaizen by Masaaki Imai
    • The Book of Joy by Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu
    • Buddhism – Plain and Simple by Steve Hagen
    • The Way of Zen by Alan W. Watts
    • The Urban Monk by Pedram Shojai
    • Atomic Habits by James Clear
    • Ikigai by Hector Garcia Puigcerver and Francesc Miralles
    • The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh
    • A Really Good Day by Ayelet Waldman