Tidying Up: Zen Practice

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Tidying Up: Zen Practice
Author: Shunmyō Masuno
Specifications: ISBN  978-4309414065
181 pages
10.4 x 15.0 cm / 4.1 x 5.9 in (WxH)
Category: Religion & Spirituality
Publisher: Kawade Shobo Shinsha, Publishers
Tokyo, 2015
Buy now: amazon.co.jp


We all live surrounded by countless material things. Sometimes the accumulation of unnecessary stuff cluttering up our living spaces makes it difficult to find the items we really need. In this book a Zen priest presents the perspectives of Zen on ways in which kempt surroundings can contribute to a greater sense of well-being and more fulfilling days, and offers practical suggestions for how to achieve that kind of order.

In Zen, cleaning and tidying one’s surroundings is seen as equivalent to cleansing one’s heart, and it is therefore considered an important discipline in a monk’s training. As trainee monks condition themselves both in body and spirit through every activity of their daily lives, they make do with very few possessions. Simple living allows them to focus on spiritual growth and draw nearer to the truth. Being surrounded by unnecessary material things causes one’s heart to become burdened with undesirable emotions and fatigue.

Author Shunmyō Masuno urges readers to begin with a systematic, all-at-once “reset” of their living spaces. He stresses the importance of not getting sidetracked or losing steam partway through the task, and of undertaking the process personally rather than entrusting it to an outside party. Zen urges immediate action over studied deliberation. The question of whether to throw this or that away should not be put off, but rather decided promptly based on your image of the living spaces you wish to occupy. It is an approach that harmonizes with living fully in the moment.

Once the desired level of order is achieved, then it is important to maintain that state by establishing a daily routine for tidying. This does not mean everything must be returned to perfect condition every day. Rather, simply dedicate five minutes each morning to straightening things up, pushing everything else out of your mind to concentrate on the task of cleaning. Continue this for 100 days and it becomes established as a natural habit. Even when you are too busy, always do a little something, such as clearing off the kitchen table or putting away those clothes that have been sitting out. If you set aside all other distractions and focus wholly on tidying the mess in front of you, then the task of cleaning becomes not a chore but a path to new awareness.

A room that has been freshly aired and set aright provides a supremely relaxing place for zazen meditation. An illustrated guide to the correct way to sit in zazen is included at the end of the volume.

Masuno says, “When you simplify, it allows you to recover your true self.” He urges those who wish to make a change in their lives not to look for something new and different to rely on, but rather to dispose of what they already have but don’t need. Zen offers a guide to a simpler yet more abundant life.