I’ve decided to slip in a few reviews of wellbeing-based books into the blog. (This is mainly because I’m my own boss and I’m doing what I’m told for a change). I’ve been writing content recently so reading has been a mindful way to rest. I love reading but over the last few years my capacity for reading has shrunk, so this is a way for me to give myself a gentle kick up the bum to pick up those books and to make sure I make the time for it. So here goes…
A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto is a concise and spare way to get me into the reviewing lark. He offers a Buddhist perspective on what most of us would feel is chore and drudgery. Matsumoto describes in detail how a Buddhist monk would take care of and clean various parts of a house. He also discusses the reflection this cleanliness (or lack of) on the state of your heart and mind. We are encouraged to be mindful on each aspect of the task.
In the process of reading, it can feel a little overwhelming. The precision of the description and instruction can feel intimidating to someone in a busy home. However, if you let that overwhelm go, there are some beautiful, mindful and thought-provoking moments.
The theme of relationships runs through the section on ‘Repairs’. Matsumoto writes, in magnificent simplicity:
‘Rather than chasing after the new, live a life in which you use the same objects for a long time. If you do this, you naturally be able to care for and treasure the people around you as well.’
Words can be simple but the sentiment behind them takes work.
This aspect of caring for and being mindful of things, people and the world is a welcome perspective adding to the growing feeling that we need to challenge to throw-away culture we have been living in.
As a sidebar, the illustrations by Kikue Tamura, are utterly beguiling, and are a deceptively simple addition which makes the text sing.
You could read this as a cleaning manual. In reality, for most of us not living the austere and purposeful life in a monastery, it is an opportunity to question how we treat our belongings, homes and loved ones. And what we do in, and how we clean the toilet. Yes, really.