Charlie Badenhop’s new book, Pure Heart Simple Mind, has been my ideal reading companion this week on Tokyo’s efficient but sometimes overcrowded trains.
The book is only 130 pages and can be read in a few hours. However, just as the space within a tatami room adapts to fit the form required, some of these stories had a similar effect on my beliefs about life in Japan.
There’s much to ponder here and you could take almost any of these stories as a contemplation on life. Ten minutes spent doing so between Takadanobaba and Shibuya on the JR Yamanote line might a big change make.
The stories can also be enjoyed by themselves as fascinating glimpses into the lives of ordinary Japanese people. In that sense they are both interesting and educational. Of course, it helps that Charlie is an astute and patient observer of the world around him. He leaves judgment to others.
I have fond memories of the author’s Saturday afternoon workshops in Tokyo and his somatic wisdom has influenced my thinking since 2009. Looking back, I suspect the attention paid to breathing techniques in those classes, as a way of entering the body’s own wisdom space, led to my future interest in barefoot running and nasal breathing.
What is Pure Heart Simple Mind?
In the introduction (page five) Charlie describes the three Kanji characters that make up the name of his human potential discipline, sei-shin-do.
The first character he identifies with meansrefined and pure.
The second is heart but in a life-living sense, beyond the physical function of the organ itself.
And the third he borrows from the path or way that followers and practitioners of Judo, Chado (tea ceremony), Shodo (calligraphy) and Aikido know well.
Taken together, these three characters compose and create Charlie’s seishindo response to the reality of life.
A response he defines on page five as:
an artful path for discovering your pure heart, simple mind.
Now, as to the meaning of Pure Heart, Simple Mind?
I think this will be different for each reader.
There are no great secrets revealed in this book; the stories are taken from previously published Seishindo articles.
But discoveries wait to be made and although I’ve never studied Aikido, I was drawn to accounts of Charlie’s experiences with this discipline and was surprised to learn how strong, yet gentle, the ki appears to be.
My favorite passage from the book is on page 65, in a section dealing with peak performance, or no mind.
An architect is describing how he likes to be in this state and leaves Charlie with a quote from the Tao De Ching, a revered Chinese wisdom text. The quote reads:
Doors and windows are cut out from walls to form a room.
It is the emptiness that the walls, floor, and ceiling encompass, that provides a space to live in.
Thus, what we gain is Something, yet it is from the virtue of Nothing that this Something derives.
Associating this idea with the emptiness of a traditional Japanese room now has me thinking about my family and our six-mat tatami room.
The final line on this same page is a very beautiful thought to behold, and I’d like to quote it here:
The experience of emptiness is an invitation to empty one’s thinking mind, so that a new, innocent reality might appear.
Pure Heart, Simple Mind is a wonderful book for the whole soul.
Thank you, Charlie, for writing this fine body of work. (^__^)