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.
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.
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.
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.