Raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, the 11 men and women profiled in A Different Kind of Luxury have all made the transition to sustainable, fulfilling lives. Based on Andy Couturier's popular articles in The Japan Times, this lushly designed volume has a wealth of stories about real people who have created an abundance of time for contemplation, connecting with the natural world, and contributing to their communities. In their success is a lesson for us all: live a life that matters. Read an excerpt of the book here or here. Read a review of the book here, here, or here.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

From Jonathan Richman to Russian Zen Monks to Writers Living in Vietnam

I've received a LOT of wonderful emails and letters about  A Different Kind of Luxury.  Each one has been so meaningful.  When I get them, I feel something I find hard to describe, but it is like "That intuition I had when I met these people in 1990--the intuition that their way of life is important to share, and that this book, when I write it, will make a difference to people", I feel that this intuition has been justified.  

And more than book sales or any recognition of myself, it is this feeling that is important.   If we can find deep satisfaction inside, a richness, that doesn't destroy the earth, then maybe we can live in perpetuity here.  It takes more than a book of course, but this is a great way to start.  As someone I overheard in a bookstore said yesterday, "We can live sustainably and well."

Mt Fuji: Watercolor by Akira Ito

Do you believe that?  And if you have found some clues to living that way in A Different Kind of Luxury, please share this blog address with your friends.  Or perhaps even buy them a book.  You can also share it on facebook here.

by Akira Ito
This first letter is something I got as an actual handwritten letter, from one of my heroes, Jonathan Richman.  He's got such fantastic songs, simple songs, about "Affection" and about "Vincent Van Gogh" and "A New Kind of Neighborhood."  I gave him my book at a concert and got this letter:
It's time I wrote you to tell you how much I like the book you gave me a few months ago in Santa Cruz.  Did you know when you gave me that book that it would be "right up my alley"?  I want to live like them !
Yours Truly
Jonathan Richman
This letter came to me with a Russian name in the email: 

Hello Andy!
My name is Michael Dubovik, I am a jazz piano teacher from Moscow, Russian Federation. 2 years ago I stayed for a couple of weeks in Tahoma Zen Monastery in Seattle and I saw your book "A different kinf of luxury" by one of the disciples there. I bought it by Amazon and I want to deeply thank you for what you have written in it.
I think it is important for everyone to find his own way of living. I was attracted to Zen practice at one point when I discovered that my musical development is slow because of me having a lot of thoughts during piano practice. I started meditating in a group, but now I have switched to yoga practice. All the way through I am trying to incorporate some wisdom of these traditions into my life and into my piano practice. I have firmly understood that I cannot be neither a zen monk, nor a professional yogi, and I don't feel that switching to "natural" living is my way. But what your book does - it explores the ways of how a western person can adapt eastern wisdom to his life, in the interviews you have been asking questions I have been asking to myself. So this is a rare opportunity for me to get a friendly and deep answer and to keep on going.
Thank you!
Sincerely yours,
Michael Dubovik

And this one came because a friend of mine, Jane Brunette, who teaches writing in Bali and remotely, shared how much she loved the book on her facebook page.  One of her students read the book, and found it "inspiring to me on so many levels."

Dear Mr. Couturier,
Despite the fact that I have only thus far read one chapter of your book A Different Kind of Luxury, I feel compelled to write you already and tell you how marvelous I think your book is. I find it so inspiring to me on so many levels. The writing itself is luminous, but it goes beyond that: your ability to draw us into the narrative of the person, and your personal experience of them in the moment allows the insights to reverberate deep within us. You talk of how San Oizumi's way of speaking brings out a level of self reflection in you as you listen. This happens in your writing as well, but not as a fast-thinking analytic response to what I am reading, more like a still reflection slowly appearing in a pool when the wind dies. Your humble attitude through the whole experience is as beautiful example to the reader as the words and lives of those you write about. 
Multi Grain Meal
at Wakako and Masnori's House

I am also inspired because, having lived in Vietnam for the last 15 years, much of what you say resonates on other levels, regarding the bravery of these people to dare to be themselves and follow their principles. Here in Vietnam, under the mass, high of an influx of cash and opportunities and fast-paced change, it is remarkable to meet people who are not caught up in this development, but at the same time, are not simply holding on to the past, or making tepid, trendy criticisms of the government with slick artworks in exchange for lots of cash, as some very talented artists here are tending to do as the market begins to open more to them.  It is very challenging under the current government system here for anyone to openly stand out and do so without some kind of protective backing. Those that I have met have humbled me, but I doubt I could ever convey this so well as you have. 
Vietnam has taught me many things about mindfulness and living simply which I am nervous and eager to attempt applying when I return to live in the Bay Area at the end of this year. Since I will also be bringing with me a nearly finished novel set in a mountain village of Vietnam, I am also excited to hear about your book completion course. I am happy to have that to look forward to, especially from someone with your background.
Thank you so much for writing A Different Kind of Luxury. I can't wait to read more! My best wishes to you.
Suzi Garner

Mineral colored painting by Jinko Kaneko
So if you have been reading this blog because you love the book, why not tell people about it?  This may seem self serving, but this book is NOT about me, it is about these fantastic and wise people, and even more about the values they live out humbly.  In fact, authors make almost nothing for each book sale: it mostly goes to others.  I put my life into this book project, and it took 15 years, and now I continue to try to let people know about it.  I count on people to tell others in their network so that the book continues to reach new people.  Thank you for your help

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