Book review Book reviews

#TuesdayBookBlog A MONK’S GUIDE TO A CLEAN HOUSE AND MIND by Shoukei Matsumoto (@PenguinUKBooks). A guide to dusting your heart and clearing out your soul. Simple and beautiful #Bookreview #Zen

Hi all:
This one is a peculiar choice for me but, here it is.

A Monk's Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto
A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto

A Monk’s Guide to a Clean House and Mind by Shoukei Matsumoto

Cleanliness is next to enlightenment. In this Japanese bestseller, a Buddhist monk explains the traditional cleaning techniques that will help cleanse not only your house – but your soul.

‘We remove dust to sweep away our worldly desires. We scrub dirt to free ourselves of attachments. We live simply and take time to contemplate the self, mindfully living each moment. It’s not just monks that need to live this way. Everyone in today’s busy world today needs it.

The Zen sect of Buddhism is renowned for the cleanliness of its monks, but cleaning is greatly valued in Japanese Buddhism in general as a way to cultivate the mind. In this book, I introduce everyday cleaning methods typically employed in temples, while sharing what it’s like to be a monk in training.

This book will improve the condition not just of your own mind, but also the people around you. I hope readers will discover that cleanliness is an opportunity to contemplate oneself.’

Press Review

The most unusual self-help book of 2018 … There is something surprisingly calming about just reading the book, hearing Matsumoto’s simple instructions and admiring the clean pen drawings of Japanese sandals and brooms (Jane Fryer Daily Mail)

Shoukei Matsumoto
Shoukei Matsumoto

About the Author

Shoukei Matsumoto is a Buddhist monk at the Komyoji Temple in Tokyo, Japan. Since entering the Temple in 2003, his days begin with cleaning. Cleaning is greatly valued in Japanese Buddhism as a way to cultivate the mind. In this book, a bestseller in Japan and Europe, Shoukei Matsumoto offers up the cleaning practices of Buddhist monks, to help us all live simply and mindfully in each moment.

Here an article on Shoukei Matsumoto that you might find interesting:

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Penguin UK for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Sometimes I read the title and the description of a book in one of my favourite genres and it is intriguing enough or it has something that makes me want to read it. But sometimes I see a book that is completely different to what I normally read but still, it seems to call me and this is one of those books.

As I am about to move (houses and countries), I thought a book about cleaning (not only our houses but also our minds) might be an asset. And, oh boy, was I right!

This book does what it says on the tin. I can’t guarantee you that you’ll end up cleaning more if you read it, but I’d be surprised if it doesn’t make you think about the process.

Photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash
Photo by Jennifer Burk on Unsplash

I don’t know how accurate a translation of the original this is, but I loved the simple style of writing. Although the sentences are not elaborate or complex, and the ideas it contains seem extremely simple, they are beautiful in their simplicity and unassuming. This is not a book of advice that will quote analytics, statistics, and numbers of followers. It just explains what life for Zen monks living at a temple is like, and explains their philosophy.

I am not very house-proud and I can’t claim to spend a lot of time cleaning (and even less thinking about cleaning), but there are some chores that I do enjoy, and some whose mechanics can free my mind and make me forget the things around me. Although this is not what the book is about (it is a way of life and it is very specific and ordered), I think most of us will identify with some of the thoughts behind it.

The book highlights the importance of respecting nature, our bodies, our possessions (and we don’t need many), all life, and each other. It is a short book and it is also a relaxing read that will make you look at things differently and give you some pause. And, as I said, you don’t need to be big on cleaning to enjoy it.

Photo by Pawel Nolbert on Unsplash
Photo by Pawel Nolbert on Unsplash

I thought I’d share some examples of passages I highlighted from the book, so you can get an idea of what to expect:

I hope you enjoy applying the cleaning techniques introduced here in your home. There’s nothing complicated about them. All you need is a will to sweep the dust off our heart.

‘Zengosaidan’ is a Zen expression meaning that we must put all our efforts into each day so we have no regrets, and that we must not grieve for the past or worry about the future.

It goes without saying that dust will accumulate in a home that is never cleaned. Just as you have finished raking the leaves, more are sure to fall. It is the same with your mind. Right when you think you have cleaned out all the cobwebs, more begin to form. Adherence to the past and misgivings about the future will fill your head, wresting your mind from the present. This is why we monks pour ourselves heart and soul into polishing floors. Cleaning is training for staying in the now. Therein lies the reason for being particular about cleanliness.

I hate ironing. I must say that after reading this I know what I’ll think about when I have to iron something from now on:

How to Iron. When ironing, visualize yourself ironing out the wrinkles in your heart.

Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash
Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash

By letting go of everything, you can open up a universe of unlimited possibilities.

A lovely book, a deep book, and a simple book. I kept thinking of friends and relatives who might enjoy/benefit from it (and I don’ t mean because of the state their houses are in!). And I am sure many of you would enjoy it too. Just try it and see.

Thanks to the author and translator, to NetGalley, and to Penguin UK for the book, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to like, share, comment, click, and REVIEW! 

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By OlgaNunez

I was born in Barcelona and after living in the UK for many years have now returned home. I teach English, volunteer at Sants 3 Ràdio, a local radio station, I'm a writer, translator (English-Spanish and vice-versa) and I'm a medical doctor and worked in Forensic Psychiatry many years. I also have a BA and a PhD in American Literature and Film, and a Masters in Criminology. I've always loved books and apart from writing them I review them often.
I write a bit of everything, check my books for more information and my about page for links.
My blog is bilingual, English and Spanish.

18 replies on “#TuesdayBookBlog A MONK’S GUIDE TO A CLEAN HOUSE AND MIND by Shoukei Matsumoto (@PenguinUKBooks). A guide to dusting your heart and clearing out your soul. Simple and beautiful #Bookreview #Zen”

He’s right about those leaves, both in my mind, and all around the garden…As for ironing, I reckon he needs a steam generator ,(and you too) as they do the job with no effort, and in a quarter of the time. (I could never go back to a normal iron)
This sounds like one of those quirky books that will become a number one bestseller. 🙂
Best wishes, Pete.

Thanks, Pete. It is quirky, and I can’t see many people following the advice (at least not all of it), but it is so positive and unassuming that it is a joy to read. Considering some of the bestsellers around, at least it would be a step in the right direction. Have a great Tuesday!

What a great philosophy. I’ve always felt a connection with cleaning and rearranging furniture. I used to tell my kids that it was a way to rearrange my karma. LOL! Mindfulness is everywhere. My rune stones shared a brilliant passage: “Be content to do your task for the task’s sake.” This books sounds like a fabulous read. Thanks, Olga. <3

Thanks, Colleen. I think you’ll love it. It has simple but beautiful drawings too. It is one of those books that I can see myself picking up and reading a passage at random at any moment, for inspiration. I love the passage. Sometimes we forget the joy of doing a task for the task’s sake and it is a great way to liberate our minds. Thanks, Colleen.

I love Zen principles so much. Last year I (finally! after 12 years in the US) visited the Providence Zen Center, which is the Kwan Um School of Zen HQ for the Americas and the first Zen center established in the United States.

I stayed for a lecture on meditation and then joined their meditation practice, which includes a lot of chanting. At the end I decided that wasn’t something I wanted to practice regularly. At least not with the chanting. I do try to mediate regularly [but I need silence 🙂 ] I try to incorporate some zen principles into my daily life.

I love the quote “When ironing, visualize yourself ironing out the wrinkles in your heart.” because I hate ironing too! 🙂

Thanks, Daniela. Your experience sounds fascinating (although I’m not sure how I’d feel about chanting myself. I do enjoy guided meditations, though). I attended a course on Mindfulness for psychiatrists a few years back and although I was skeptical before that, I have tried and establish a routine of meditation and I can see the benefits of it.
I hate ironing and I’m dangerous at it (I burn myself or drop the iron regularly) but I loved that quote.
Thanks for the comments.

Thanks for this, Olga. The title intrigued me instantly — though I wondered whether it was a quirky fiction or self help. I think it’s good to occasionally read something outside one’s normal type.
I’m right behind you with what you said about being “house proud”… and my constant trying to relocate has that kind of cleaning on my mind too.
Unfortunately my Amazon doesn’t have it (yet?). I’ll try and remember to keep an eye out. It sounds like a worthwhile read.
Wishing you a smooth relocation. I know all too well the work involved. Hugs.

Thanks, Teagan. Yes, I know what you mean. Yesterday I was sorting through old pictures (I was relieved now they all fit on the computer) and it was a trip down memory lane, although it also confirmed that I’m terrible at taking pictures (they were some true stinkers!).
I am sure the book will make it to the States, especially considering the author studied in the US. I think you would enjoy it too.
Have a lovely and clutter-free Thursday.

It is very true what is said in the quotes, Olga. We have to continuously clear out our minds of the accumulation of clutter and sometimes negative thoughts that could take over if left.

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