Tag Archives: mental health

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

June 20, 2021

Culture and Society / Reading Books / Roque Recommends

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? 


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


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

I am so glad that I bought this book.


Caring for Oneself in these Trying Times

October 5, 2020

Culture and Society

I have to admit that all of this is getting to me. In the last two weeks alone, there have been thousands of more Coronavirus deaths, a massively chaotic presidential debate, a terrible outcome in the Breonna Tayler case, the untimely death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, millions of acres of California burning in flames, thousands of more jobs lost after businesses have closed or downsized, and the October surprise of the US president testing positive for Covid-19. I am also feeling more anxiety as the US presidential election approaches on November 3rd of next month, and I have finally been able to admit to myself that I have been experiencing a low-grade depression for the last few weeks.

Yes, all of it is getting to me.

What bothers me the most is a feeling of powerlessness amid all of this death, injustice, and chaos. What is there to be done?

I wake up some mornings feeling drained and unmotivated. I sigh when I come across another news headline of something terrible. All of this is impossibly sad and frustrating.

I have been alive long enough on this planet to know that I need to take responsibility for my own wellbeing. I cannot keep spiraling down this path. I cannot let all of this gloom and doom get the best of me.

With this in mind, here is what I am planning to do:

  1. Acknowledge my emotions whether they be sadness, anger, frustration, or any form of depression. It is important to sit with these feelings and hear them out. Denying that they exist will only do greater harm. Writing this blog post is one way of dealing with this, and another is taking some quiet time to myself to think about it all.
  2. Exercise outdoors on a regular basis. I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog that I have been going on long walks every day. I will continue doing this, and maybe find other places to walk for a change of scenery.
  3. Stay hydrated and eat healthy. I am blessed to have access to homegrown food every day from our garden. I’ve been avoiding sugar since January 1st of this year. Thankfully, I am well-positioned for this part of my plan.
  4. Handle my daily frustrations with kid gloves. Whenever I am feeling aggravated about a mistake I made or something I utterly failed at, I will be gentle with myself. Take a step back. Take a deep breathe. Maybe take a nap or step outside. I won’t be so hard on myself.
  5. Connect with friends and loved ones. I do not have to experience the troubles of this world alone. I will reach out and stay connected with others, even though the dominant introverted part of me finds that difficult.
  6. Seek out opportunities to laugh as much as possible. Laughter is healing, and so I am on the hunt for the best comedic films to watch. I am open to suggestions.

This plan does not seem like much, but I have always believed that incremental changes across a long period of time make the most substantive and deep shifts.

2020 is far from over, and there will quite likely be more chaos and trouble to come. I am trying to figure out a way to cope with it all.

One way or another, I will simply do the best I can. This is all I can do,

My Social Media Problem That Needs Fixing

August 31, 2020

Culture and Society

I have a big problem with social media. It is a dilemma that I have been grappling with for a while. I have not found any solutions yet, but I have devised a few options.

Here is the problem:


Okay so, on the surface, this seems fairly straightforward and simple. The next logical step down this rabbit hole would be to deactivate my Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and all other social media accounts forever.

The dilemma I have is that this is actually not so simple for two reasons:

  1. I use social media to promote my films, music, and all other creative projects.
  2. I stay connected with friends and relatives all over the world.

It does not help that there are no monetary fees attached to using social media and that I can store literally countless terabytes of data, videos, and photos on their platforms. The powers that be behind these internet behemoths have made it all too convenient and inescapable to inhabit their ecosystems.

Personally though, there are trade-offs that I have become increasingly dissatisfied with:

  1. There is a constant bombardment of advertising on these sites that continues to fuel a culture of consumerism and capitalism.
  2. These platforms utilize incredibly sophisticated technology and algorithms that capitalize on your usage habits, sensibilities, and history to tailor its advertising strategies. This encroaches on personal privacy and feels incredibly manipulative.
  3. These sites are designed to be highly addictive. I have lost valuable time scrolling through my Instagram and Facebook feeds and losing track of my day and priorities.
  4. Negativity, amid national and worldwide catastrophes like police brutality and climate change, has become the predominant currency of social media. The onslaught of negative posts and arguing induces anxiety and depression. This does not serve my mental health well at all.
  5. It is now well documented that Russia used Facebook to influence the last US election for president, and its efforts were successful. There is no justification for this under any circumstances.

I could go on and on, but these issues stand foremost in my mind.

Simply put, social media takes up mental space in my brain that I want to utilize for other priorities. I do not want to be brainwashed by advertising or a foreign country. I do not want to have a philosophical argument with a Trump supporter who won’t comprehend anything I say. I do not want to waste precious hours of my life staring at so much detritus on my computer screen.

Clearly, the trade-offs far outweigh the benefits that I derive from social media. At this point in my thinking, I feel like I need to take some sort of action. If I do not get rid of social media entirely, what is the middle ground that would make me feel better?

Here are some steps I am contemplating toward limiting my social media usage:

  • Whittle down the number of sites I use to one platform. In my case, I get the most engagement from Facebook. I could simply stop using Instagram and Twitter and focus on Facebook exclusively.
  • Remove social media apps from my phone and restrict usage to only my laptop.
  • Restrict usage of social media to specific times of the day and week. Perhaps only engage on the weekdays as if it were a job, for example.
  • Have a long term goal of phasing out Facebook by slowly migrating my audience to my website, blog, e-newsletter, and Youtube channel.

The truth is that I love using social media to create free and easy access to my creative work, and I love being able to check in on my friends all over the world whenever I want. However, I am simply not willing to tolerate the trade-offs anymore. I have reached an impasse, and I do not know what to do.

This post is a call for help and suggestions. What do you do to mitigate the impact of social media on your mental health and well being? Given the reasons and thoughts shared above, what do you think I should do?

Feel free to leave a comment below or on social media where I share this post. I could truly use some good guidance on this problem.

Thanks for reading, and please have a calm and joyful week ahead.

PS: I released a new film last Friday for my birthday. It is called “The Preservation of Self”. It is my first original work of art exploring colonialism. You can watch the full short film right here: