Title/Author: Senbazuru: One Thousand Steps to Happiness, Fold by Fold by Michael James Wong
Publisher: Chronicle Books
In a nutshell (Publisher):
Fold your way to happiness through the inspiring philosophy of Senbazuru—the tradition of folding one thousand paper cranes—with a leading voice in the global mindfulness movement as your guide.
In Japan, the paper crane is a symbol of peace, hope, and healing. It is considered the “bird of happiness,” a mystical and majestic creature that according to myth can live for a thousand years. Tradition has it that if a person were to fold one thousand paper cranes in a single year, they would be gifted one special wish that would grant long life, healing from illness or injury, and eternal happiness. The tradition of folding one thousand paper cranes is called Senbazuru (“sen” meaning “one thousand” and “orizuru” meaning “paper crane”). In this book, renowned yoga and meditation teacher Michael James Wong brings Senbazuru to life as an inspiring philosophy that encourages slowing down and taking many small steps on our own personal path. This is a book of small steps and gentle wisdoms to heal your soul and help you find your own path to happiness.
FOR READERS OF: Ikigai and Dot Journaling, and fans of mindful craft like coloring books and puzzles.
ORIGAMI IS THE NEW MINDFUL CRAFT: Fans of coloring books and puzzles will flock to this trend for its ease, versatility, and affordability.
FOR FANS OF JAPANESE CULTURE: This will appeal to readers of books like Ikigai and A Little Book of Japanese Contentments.
EXPERT AUTHOR: Wong is the founder of Just Breathe, an organization focused on bringing mindfulness into the real world. He hosts events; speaks regularly in the UK, Australia, and California; and partners with brands like Rituals and international festivals like Wanderlust. He has nearly 40,000 followers on Instagram, and his work has been featured in The Telegraph, BBC Radio, Mind Body Green, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Yahoo! News, Well + Good, and more.
CHARITY PROJECT: Through Michael’s charity partnership, Cranes of Hope, his corporate sponsors will donate £1 to a COVID relief fund for everyone who makes and sends in a paper crane. The cranes are going to be built into an amazing installation in St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, where an event will be held to mourn those lost to COVID and bring hope for the future. Details on U.S. events to come.
A PRACTICE OF PATIENCE FOR HEALING AND WELLNESS: As we’ve had to take a step back from socializing and cancel plans during the pandemic, we have all been reminded of what it means to really slow down. The origami practice is not, like most things today, a work of self-gratification but rather a work of patience and discovery. Wong’s origami technique forces readers to breathe deeply and slow down, soothing the mind and soul.
Perfect for: enthusiasts of mindfulness, wellness, yoga, origami; coloring book / puzzle aficionados; parents
Digital audio edition introduction read by the author.
I used to read self-help books but not as often these days, because I think they pretty much sing the same song, only differently. This book, I decided to give it a gander, simply because I was curious as to how, folding a crane can help with mindfulness and meditation. Also, there were those beautiful hand-painted illustrations (my Archilles heel, as you can see how much I fell in love with this book) which accompanied the stories and words of wisdom (in forms of poems and quotes) throughout.
The book was divided into three sections: Hope, Heal, and Happiness, with subtopics ranging from Gentleness, Courage to Forgiveness and Gratitude, and for those who wish to fold a crane, follow through the step-by-step (8 in total) guide, if not, the reader can “open to any page, and wherever you are, there you will be.”
Senbazuru means one thousand origami cranes (“sen” meaning “one thousand” and “orizuru” meaning “paper crane”), and it is believed by folding one thousand in a year, you’d have one wish come true. In Japan, the paper crane is a symbol of peace, hope, and healing. So how does the art folding paper help with learning about finding peace and focus? The author quoted his mother, who taught him how to fold paper at a very young age, ‘“Slow down. Don’t think about where you end up. Just focus on the fold, that is all that matters.” In time, I found my way; I built resilience in defeat, learned to let go of perfection.’”
I had many pages marked throughout the book, one of them was a section about gentleness, which the author listed as one of the four qualities of hope, on top of inspiration, courage, and intention. The author was fifteen when he wanted to try meditating. But because his will to succeed was so strong, he totally missed the experience and the point of meditating, to put his mind, body and soul at peace and in a calm state, as a Buddhist monk put it, “This is not the practice, you have let your ambitions steal this moment. Even in meditation, you are trying to succeed.” Just, be gentle with yourself.
I’ve tried meditating before, nope, not at fifteen, but just like the author, I ended up not ‘enjoying’ it because I was too busy telling myself to clear my mind and stay in the moment. I had, however, some time ago, felt that ‘blissful‘ moment, when I felt time stood still and nothing else mattered. With my phone put aside, TV turned off, daughter kept occupied, I nursed my little one, just enjoying our moment together. I felt that calm and serenity that some nursing mothers have talked about, albeit briefly, was amazing; an immense unexplainable joy washed over me, one that made my heart feel open and light.
Another part of the book that resonated with me also, was the section on ‘Healing’, about seeking support. I’ve been brought up to believe that asking for help will cause inconvenience to the other person, having to sacrifice their time to help. Therefore, I still find it hard to ask for help even when things are desperate, to the point where I feel totally consumed by everything. I know it’s something I really need to work on. Ever felt the same way too?
I can see how folding cranes can be therapeutic, if one were not to rush the process. I mean, I think any mindful art can be, i.e. coloring, painting, dancing, singing, etc, just as long as we learn to do it with mindfulness. As in the case of the crane, by folding and tugging the corners, appreciating each line and fold and just let the process ‘be’; let go of that ego to succeed, and just appreciate and pay attention to each step.
If you follow the guide closely using the author’s instructions, you’d find that it’s almost like you’re in a yoga class, only this time, you’re folding a crane accompanied by encouragement/commentary from the author. In yoga, each position has a name, in this case, each step is named. An example, this step is called ‘Diagonal Fold’.
“Run your fingers along the long edge firmly, slowly, and intentionally. And then unfold the paper and lay it flat on the table. You are committed, so dive in wholeheartedly. The first step is complete. It has begun. You are on your way.”
Iif you intend to explore senbazuru and see it helps you in any way, give this book a try. The whole idea of senbazuru is to commit your thoughts into folding the cranes, as you put your wishes, desires and hopes into it, hoping they’ll come to reality. One has to be mindful of each step, of each folding and tugging. The author shared what it is to have a “meaningful crease” or fold. There are 3 stages: the intention (beginning) – what we do and how we want to fold, the action (middle) – when one requires focus and attention, and the commitment (end) – when we will see the outcome.
I tried following each step followed by the stories in between but found it to be a little distracting. So, halfway through, I decided to read the stories and fold the crane separately and just keep my mind focused one thing at a time.
The outcome? Pictured above, and as you can see, very imperfect. I must admit, I wasn’t fully committed; I just wanted my first paper crane done. If you’re interested in folding your first senbazuru, you can get any sort of paper, but the measurement shouldn’t be bigger than 8.5in x 8.5in. Any designs would do too. The first picture shown in this post is just some traditional examples.
What I enjoyed most were the author’s personal stories. As for attempting senbazuru, I’d probably try it one day. I think this book would make a great gift, especially to someone who loves beautifully illustrated self-help books and is curious about the art of senbazuru; or to anyone seeking calm and peace, folding one thousand cranes in a year might be another alternative if you’ve tried yoga, puzzles or even coloring, and would love to try something new. And if you enjoyed The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, you might enjoy this too. My review here.
Also, here’s an interesting article on mindfulness and that it’s the key to happiness, while highlighting the difference between the Western and Eastern way of enlightenment.
Have you folded paper cranes before? Or even attempted senbazuru? Let me know your thoughts!
Thank you, Chronicle Books and Wunderkind PR, for the copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine.
10 Comments Add yours
I love the sound of this Jee, a quiet mind is a beautiful thing to have. I thought your crane looked lovely.
Thank you so much, Rosie!
A lovely and thoughtful review, Jee 🙂 The illustrations do look beautiful. I think your first paper crane looks very good!
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Thank you, NS! Yes, I love those illustrations. If only they had them in postcards too!
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I think many of us are mindful or mindfulNESS as a phenomena in our culture that has only come about within my lifetime. I can hear my dad say, “I was too busy putting bread on the table for my family–I didn’t have time for such nonsense!” LOL But your generation and those in mine who are open minded ask the question, “But was he happy?” ALL of us are striving for Happiness in our own way. I enjoyed the article and was impressed by the grasshopper meme. Thanks for sharing.
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Thank you for reading, Rae! And yeah, ultimately, we are all just searching for happiness 🙂
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Wonderful review, Jee! 😍
*sing the same song, only differently… 😂
The same reason I don’t prefer reading self-help books. But I’m interested in a select few, depending on the kind of help they offer…
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Yeah, especially when we have so many books to read and so little time! 😉
I’ve given up entirely on self-help books. For me they just don’t work. I can see how origami may help you to find inner peace the same way yoga can. On the other hand, I’ve never been good at yoga, I just don’t have the patience. Kick boxing is more my thing ;-). So I don’t know how I would do with crane folding. No doubt, it would be good for me to try!