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Summary: The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm in a Busy World by Haemin Sunim

  • Intriguing and deeply insightful, “The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down” by Haemin Sunim is a timeless guide to finding inner peace and mindfulness in our fast-paced lives.
  • Take the first step towards a more serene and meaningful existence. Dive into this book and embark on a journey to discover the hidden treasures that await when you slow down and savor the present moment.

The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down (2012) explains how our fast-paced world can easily become overwhelming. Even minor setbacks can seem catastrophic, making the bigger problems all the more devastating. By practicing mindfulness and compassion with ourselves and others, we allow ourselves the space necessary to slow down, breathe, and discover genuine, lasting happiness.

What’s inside?

A Zen Buddhist monk offers best-selling advice for developing loving relationships and achieving serenity.


Mindfulness, Happiness, Alternative Medicine, Self Help, Spirituality, Philosophy, Psychology, Personal Development, Religion, Buddhism, Mental Health, Inspirational

Introduction: Learn inspiring life lessons from one of the world’s most popular Buddhist meditation teachers.

We live in incredibly hectic times. Between work, family, friends, and the day-to-day drama that surrounds us, it’s all too easy to allow life to feel overwhelming. When’s the last time you took a moment to focus completely on yourself?

Too often, we allow outside forces to take control. But it isn’t really the world that’s moving too fast. It’s our minds. Our perception of the world governs how we see it. So if we can slow our minds down and allow ourselves the space to breathe, we’ll see that the world slows down right along with it. When that happens, we can see that the problems that once threatened to overwhelm us don’t seem quite as huge.

In these summaries, we’ll discover tips for dealing with self-esteem, relationships, and your career. We’ll cultivate such qualities as awareness, humility, trust, and confidence. There are many paths to enlightenment, but each of them begins in the same place: your mind.

[Book Summary] The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm in a Busy World

In these summaries, you’ll discover

  • why your friendships are like roaring fires;
  • how to calm a mind racing with negative thoughts; and
  • just how much other people think about you.

When your mind rests, the world rests.

Have you ever become so engrossed in a project that everything else ceases to exist? The rest of the world hasn’t gone away, of course. But our perspective has focused with such clarity that the project in front of us feels like the entire universe. This, for Buddhists, is just one example of how much our mind controls the world around us.

Our reality consists only of what our mind chooses to focus on at that moment. It isn’t the situation we find ourselves in that’s making us happy or unhappy, anxious, or relaxed. It’s our perspective on the situation that’s creating those feelings.

The key message here is: When your mind rests, the world rests.

More often than not, it’s our perception of things that happened in the past or things that may happen in the future that drives negative thoughts and emotions. But we can’t control or change the past or the future. So why worry about them? Why allow our perception of them to make us unhappy?

The only thing we can control is what’s happening right now. So release those thoughts of the past and future, and allow our waves of emotion to flow freely. They’ll heal themselves and disappear in due course.

Focusing on the present means practicing awareness. If you’re feeling stressed, be aware of that stress. If you’re feeling angry, be aware of your anger. It doesn’t do any good to bury it. Awareness brings clarity and purity back into our lives. Negative emotions are temporary. They dissipate quickly once we shine the light of awareness on them.

An excellent way to manage your stress level is to simply make a list of everything in your life that’s causing you anxiety. Write down everything you need to get done, from minor, everyday chores like washing the dishes to bigger goals like changing your career. Writing them down removes them from your mind and contains all of your worries on a single sheet of paper. Once you’ve written them down, go to bed and get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow, you can begin to tackle them one by one.

Self-awareness must come from within. Reframing our perception of the world to focus on the here and now is the first step on the journey toward enlightenment.

You are not your feelings.

It isn’t easy to be aware of our emotions, especially the negative ones. When we feel them churn up, we want to control them, tamp them back down and make them go away. This is the wrong approach. We need to be aware of them, befriend them, allow them to flow naturally through us. However, we cannot allow them to define us.

The key message here is: You are not your feelings.

Imagine a fish tank with a layer of mud at the bottom. If you agitate the water, the mud churns up and swirls around. To get the mud to settle, do you plunge your hands into the water and try to push it back down to the bottom of the tank? Of course not. Left alone, the mud will settle back on the bottom where it belongs all on its own.

Negative emotions are the mud in your mind. They have many names: anger, disappointment, jealousy, hatred. But these are just words, and they aren’t very helpful. Instead of focusing on the labels, focus on the energy that’s behind those emotions and try to figure out where it’s coming from. In time, that energy changes. It ebbs and flows until, sooner or later, it’s replaced by something else. Don’t try to assign it a value. Just simply be aware of the energy without any judgment.

When you’re feeling low, take just three minutes to sit quietly with your feelings. Simply observe them without trying to change them or assign a value to them. You’ll soon feel the energy behind those feelings changing. You can’t control your feelings any more than you can control the weather. Even the worst storm eventually passes.

In the same way, you are not defined by your feelings any more than the sky is defined by a thunderstorm. You are the conscious being who is aware of these emotions, who sees them approach and inevitably disappear.

Once we see how our emotional energy changes, we can realize that change is inevitable in all things. Just think about all of the things you cared about the most when you were a child. Now think about what you care about today. We change without even realizing it. Change is neither good nor bad. It just is.

Unfortunately, most people live their lives resisting change and the way things are. When we resist, we’re constantly trying to adjust ourselves to fit the world. But if we simply accept the way things are, we can relax. Let the world change. You can’t stop it. You can only be a part of it.

Choose happiness, not success.

No matter what we do for a living, we all want to be a success. But what exactly does success mean? Are we pursuing money? Power? A bigger office? Or is your ultimate goal something that lasts longer but is more intangible?

The key message here is: Choose happiness, not success.

Chasing success often looks like this: Imagine you’ve been hired at a job you really love. You’re passionate about the work and want to impress your bosses and colleagues. So you go all in, working all hours, taking every chance to display how much you care. It’s only natural, but it comes with problems.

Sometimes, our passion gets in the way of doing the work well. This is especially true if you’re not taking into account the needs of others. For example, imagine you’re a brand new teacher on the first day of class. You’ve been working toward this for years and you’re eager to impart everything you’ve learned to your students. So you create a syllabus that includes as much material as you can possibly cover, scheduling what you believe will be challenging projects, stimulating reading material, and outside fieldwork.

But after about six weeks, you notice that your students are lagging behind. Assignments are turned in late, and no one is participating in the extra work outside of class at all. You’ve failed to take into account that this is just one class of many for your students. Your passion is not their passion. Not yet, anyway.

In other words, your eagerness does not necessarily equal effectiveness. And if we are not effective in our jobs, we can’t be happy. We must combine both passion and wisdom to work effectively with others.

So chasing success can bring problems; it’s also never-ending. Whenever we chase success, we’re using an arbitrary benchmark that was handed to us by someone else. If we achieve it, what happens next? There’s always another goal to chase on the horizon.

Happiness, on the other hand, is a goal we define ourselves. Only you can decide what makes you truly happy. And when you receive enjoyment from your work, other people see it. Would you rather work with someone who enjoys what they do or with someone who seems miserable whether or not they get the job done?

At the end of the day, don’t worry about what the world says you should do to be happy. No one can define that but you. Stay true to yourself, figure out what you really want out of life, and pursue it.

Love without ego and selfishness.

Our pursuit of happiness should never place wealth and physical things ahead of forging meaningful, long-lasting relationships with our families, our friends, and our partners. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to maintain harmony in our relationships.

The key message here is: Love without ego and selfishness.

So how do we do that?

Here are some tips, starting with how we can communicate our true feelings.

Too many of us fall into the trap of saying things we don’t really mean. Politicians do this all the time. They say whatever sounds good in an effort to get people to like them. When we do this, we’re speaking from the head, not the heart.

When we speak from the heart, we speak with words that are simple and pure, as long as our hearts are guided by equality, humility, and honesty. Because our message is simple, there’s no fear that we will be misunderstood.

Next, how do you deal with people with whom you’d much rather not have to deal?

When we’re confronted by someone we dislike, we have a tendency to step up to the challenge and push back. Why do we do this? We’re only extending the amount of time we have to spend with this disagreeable person. Instead, take a deep breath, wait 30 seconds, and simply walk away.

From time to time, even our dearest friends will rub us the wrong way. A healthy relationship is like a roaring campfire. It provides heat and light even on the darkest night. But if we sit too close to it for too long, we’ll get uncomfortable and maybe even burned. After we step away for a while, we welcome the fire’s warmth. In other words, every relationship requires some space if we’re to reap its full benefits.

Finally, how do we deal with relationships that end?

It’s always painful when a relationship ends. The best thing we can do is be aware of our feelings of hurt and anger, then, when we’re ready, forgive the other person and let them go. You’re not doing this for them. You’re doing it for yourself, so you can be free and go on with your life.

Forgiveness requires absolute humility and empathy. Swallowing your pride is never easy, but it’s necessary in order to let go of the negative energy before it consumes you.

Give your life purpose by living with confidence and conviction.

We all want to give our lives meaning. But too often, we look outside ourselves for satisfaction. We look to our careers or our relationships with others. But real fulfillment comes from within. Real fulfillment requires strength, courage, and self-awareness.

The key message here is: Give your life purpose by living with confidence and conviction.

When you reflect on your life, it’s natural to focus solely on the highs and the lows. But think about what you did over the last week. Perhaps you had a major victory or a catastrophic loss. But you also waited in line at the store, you commuted back and forth to work, you washed the dishes and brushed your teeth. The point is that there are far more ordinary hours in a day than extraordinary ones. Real, lasting happiness requires us to look for joy in these mundane, everyday activities.

We can begin to find these moments of joy if we take ownership of everything we do. If you see litter, pick it up. If someone asks for your opinion, give it honestly. Taking ownership of these small moments adds to our feeling of importance and self-worth.

Also, stop caring what other people think. We spend too much time worrying about this. This fear prevents us from living with conviction and taking ownership of our lives. First off, you need to realize that people are not as interested in you as you think. Can you remember what your best friend wore last week or exactly what your spouse ordered the last time you went out to dinner? We think about other people all the time. But it’s usually just for a few minutes, and then our minds move on to something else.

Second, one of the most liberating gifts you can give yourself is the realization that not everyone has to like you. If you’re being honest with yourself, you realize there are certain people that you simply don’t get along with, whether it’s a colleague, a family member, or even a public figure. And that’s perfectly fine. You can’t control what other people think about you. Let them have their opinion and move on.

Once we stop worrying about what other people think, we can look within ourselves and ask what we really want. Remember to find joy in the steps we take to achieve our goals, not only in the end results. And when you meet someone pursuing their dreams, treat them as you would hope to be treated yourself. Just a simple act of encouragement, kindness, and hope can change someone’s life forever.

Final Summary

The key message in these summaries is:

The demands of the modern world don’t have to overwhelm us. Through mindfulness and self-awareness, we can alter our perspective and recognize that we are just one small part of a much bigger universe. Delight in your corner of that universe, take ownership of it and remember that long-term happiness is more important, and more attainable, than immediate success.

Actionable advice:

Find your calling.

If your job makes you unhappy, it’s possible that you just haven’t found the right path. Expose yourself to as many different experiences as possible, whether it’s by volunteering in different projects or organizations or simply by reading. By cultivating new relationships, you’ll gain additional self-awareness of your strengths, your interests, and the possibilities that exist for you.

About the author

Haemin Sunim is one of the most influential Zen Buddhist teachers and writers in the world. Born in South Korea, he came to the United States to study film, only to find himself pulled into the spiritual life. Educated at UC Berkeley, Harvard, and Princeton, he received formal monastic training in Korea and taught Buddhism at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He has more than a million followers on Twitter (@haeminsunim) and Facebook and is one of Spirituality & Health’s Top 10 Spiritual Leaders of the Next 20 Years and one of Greatist’s 100 Most Influential People in Health and Fitness. His books—The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down, which has been published in more than thirty languages, and Love for Imperfect Things—have sold more than four million copies and are popular as guides not only to meditation but also to overcoming the challenges of everyday life. When not traveling to share his teachings, Haemin Sunim lives in Seoul, where he founded the School of Broken Hearts, a nonprofit that offers group counseling and meditation for people experiencing challenges in life.

Chi-Young Kim (co-translator) is the translator of the New York Times bestselling Korean novel Please Look After Mom by Kyung-sook Shin, for which she received the Man Asian Literary Prize, and the Korean contemporary classic The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

Youngcheol Lee (illustrations) is a Korean artist. His paintings have been shown in more than 150 exhibitions and are admired for their idyllic quality. You can see more of his artwork at

Table of Contents

About the Author
Title page

Why Am I So Busy?
When Life Disappoints, Rest a Moment

Befriend Your Emotions
When You Are Feeling Low

Temper Your Eagerness
Being Right Isn’t Important; Being Happy Together Is

The Art of Maintaining a Good Relationship
The Journey of Forgiveness

First Love
I Love Your Ordinariness

Do You Know Kung Fu?
Three Liberating Insights

The Future
One Word of Encouragement Can Change the Future
When You Look for Your Calling

Long-Lost Cousins
Two Spiritual Paths in One Family

Your Original Face


“The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down” by Haemin Sunim is a profound and enlightening book that delves into the art of mindfulness and the pursuit of inner peace in our fast-paced and chaotic world. Haemin Sunim, a Korean Buddhist monk and meditation teacher, offers readers a treasure trove of wisdom, practical advice, and contemplative insights on how to find calm and contentment amidst the hustle and bustle of modern life.

The book is divided into several sections, each of which addresses a different aspect of life and the human experience. Sunim guides readers through the journey of self-discovery, encouraging them to slow down, reflect, and appreciate the present moment. He explores topics such as love, relationships, work, and the importance of self-care. Throughout the book, he shares anecdotes, parables, and personal stories that resonate deeply with readers, making the wisdom he imparts relatable and accessible.

Sunim’s writing is beautifully simple and poetic, making it easy for readers to grasp the concepts and ideas he presents. He emphasizes the value of mindfulness and meditation as tools to cultivate calmness, resilience, and a deeper connection to the world around us. The book doesn’t offer quick fixes or one-size-fits-all solutions but rather encourages readers to embark on a personal journey of self-discovery and transformation.

“The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down” is a gem of a book that invites readers to pause and contemplate the meaningful aspects of life that often get overshadowed by the noise and distractions of our modern world. Haemin Sunim’s insights are not only enlightening but also practical, providing readers with guidance on how to incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives.

What sets this book apart is Sunim’s ability to bridge the gap between Eastern wisdom and Western readers, making profound spiritual concepts easily digestible for a broader audience. The book is a comforting and reassuring read, reminding us that in the midst of our chaotic lives, there’s an oasis of tranquility and clarity within our reach.

In a world where stress and anxiety are prevalent, “The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down” offers a valuable alternative—a path towards calmness, self-awareness, and a deeper appreciation of life’s simple pleasures. It’s a must-read for anyone seeking solace and guidance in a busy world.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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