Culture and Society,  Reading Books,  Roque Recommends

Roqué’s Sunday Book Review: A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind

I found this week’s selection in a lovely used bookstore, and it is one of the best purchases I have made recently. A Zen buddhist monk named Shoukei Matsumoto wrote it, and the book is entitled A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind. Before you run off screaming or rolling your eyes, I should preface this recommendation by saying that over the years I have become more and more enamored of Japanese culture—particularly the parts of it that deeply integrate Zen Buddhism. If this is a sensibility that you share with me, then you will thoroughly enjoy this book.

Originally published in 2011, the English version I found was released by Penguin Books in 2018. I have found that this book could have been written 50 years ago, and it could still be relevant to our modern lives today.   

So, what are the polka dot pros? 

  • Clear and gentle writing style.  Whoever wrote the English translation of this book must have taken a few notes from the sweet and magnetic Marie Kondo. There is a disarming and friendly voice that speaks through its pages.  The writing has a smooth flow that is not judgmental or pretentious in its tone.
  • Whimsical illustrations. As a visual artist, I can appreciate the extra effort it takes to add illustrations to a book. The drawings are adorable and effectively reinforce each kernel of wisdom that Matsumoto offers. 
  • Applicable to real daily life. There is nothing in this book that is impractical or obtuse.  Matsumoto explains how to carry out each practice and the underlying philosophy that is its cornerstone.

Of course, not everyone can live like a monk, and there are many people who would not want to. That is actually not the point of this book.  One of its basic tenets is that one’s home is an extension of one’s physical body. As such, one should take care of one’s home as one does with his or her body. It contends that one’s mental health and wellbeing have a lot to do with how a person manages her or his surroundings.  This book does not just show people how to clean a home. It presents a lifestyle that cultivates one’s values and priorities through daily practices and intentionality.

I, for one, loved everything about this book, and I have already started to implementing a few of its recommendations.  

Do I want to live like a monk? 

Maybe?

Do I want to mold a more calm and meaningful life for myself?

Absolutely.

If someone offers you a piece of wisdom, it is often wise to take it.  

I am so glad that I bought this book.

—Roqué

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