Mindful Reading – Follow up of Why Do you Call it Sashiko.

Thank you for all of the comments for the previous post, “Why Do you Call it Sashiko?“. I learned a lot from your insights. Many comments encouraged me to keep my journey. Don’t worry. I will not change anything to share the Sashiko we enjoy.

To be honest, the original discussion was a confusing & heartbreaking one that I didn’t expect. I moved on, thanks to many heartwarming and constructive advise. Yet, however, for the purpose of improving my understanding of both Japanese and non-Japanese culture, I cannot stop thinking of the possible missing link that I couldn’t realize. Some part of me says that I could have communicated better within these 3 Budda’s smile phases (not after the 3 strikes). I know it sounds crazy to you, but hey, I am a Japanese after all, who naturally feel shame on things to worry if they may have embarrassed themselves or not.

I have been thinking and thinking, though days and nights, I may have found the missing link. 

Mindful Reading and Quick Reading.

The missing link is the word I came up with: “Mindful Reading

* (I apologize if I am using someone’s word. I do change the name if it is not appropriate.)

“Why do you call it Sashiko?”

From this sentence, when you read it at first glance, what do (did) you think (feel)? I sincerely hope that you understood my intention of “a pure question out of curiosity” with reading the before & after contexts instead of the “Atsushi – accusing – you” comment, like “how can you call it Sashiko”. There was no intention to accuse anyone and anything they do. I simply wanted to know what is the motivation and reasons (why) they call their stitching Sashiko, only because they did not try to understand the Japanese culture or characteristic.

Over reading their comments many times, I came to one hypothesis: what if they read the sentence, “why do you call it Sashiko?” (by without getting the context) as an accusation? then, the question itself triggered their defensiveness? Moreover, what if, in the Western (American) culture, it is not okay to ask about the personal motivation or reasons, although it is okay (or even recommended) to ask the technical or knowledge-based questions?

What I received as their offensive comments are not still okay because I provided enough polite explanation (contexts) of why I pointed out the concern. Many comments I had received from the previous post assured me that my English was not a significant problem. However, I thought, this hypothesis may a good start to find the missing link that has been bothering me. This realization leads me to the keyword: Mindful Reading.

Before explaining about the Mindful Reading and Quick reading in contrast, as a side note, I would like to share the comment I receive in the post I asked: “why do you call it Sashiko?” I received a comment saying: “I use the word for the Instagram hashtag.” I liked how pure it is. I am NOT offended by this comment at all. Since my goal is to share the Sashiko AND Japanese culture, I asked him if it is possible to try to understand Japanese culture. He generously says “Yes”.

This “Yes” is all I wanted from the original discussion. I asked the person in the original discussion to practice Sashiko (move hands for some amount of time) first instead of asking many questions, then ask thoughtful questions. Asking the questions is not the problem. Asking questions without thinking of someone’s time (the possibility of troubling someone) is one of the “non-appreciated” action in courtesy of Japan. If the person says “I am doing Sashiko”, I wanted them to try to understand this courtesy of Japan.

Unfortunately, the discussion didn’t go that way. So I started wondering why they call their stitching Sashiko. I honestly and sincerely didn’t understand why – which I still don’t. I can only guess the other reasons such as “because it looks pretty” or “I just saw it”. Anything is acceptable. Only thing I don’t understand is why they do not provide me their response… (Well, I got one answer that she thinks what she does is more like an embroidery – then I replied her that I had no problem then if she thinks what she does is an embroidery).

I kept thinking and thinking, then I realize that reading is a subjective action. It reflects how the person usually perceives reality and react to the events. The contexts and my polite explanation didn’t matter because they acted as their unconscious behavior.

Well. That’s why I would like to share the importance of the Sashiko as the process, not only the result or practical techniques.

Sashiko as a mindful stitching.

I see many people enjoy Sashiko as the mindful stitching. Although I am not sure if the Sashiko was developed as the way to be mindful, like meditation, I feel the same for the Sashiko as the mindful stitching. In fact, I enjoy the meditative characteristic of Sashiko stitching, and it influences my other daily activities. Sashiko helps us to be mindful in other activities.

So, I would like to share the concept of Mindful Reading.

I would like to use the word of Quick Reading in contrast to the Mindful Reading. Mindful Reading may be described in other terms such as careful reading, slow reading, or as my favorite, a dialogue to the author. Quick Reading may be described in other terms such as efficient reading, speed (fast) reading, or personal preference based reading.

In this my personal description, Quick Reading is the key to be successful in this world. I personally enjoy the Speed-Reading (Photographic Reading?) in Japanese, and I used to read at least a book per day. I enjoyed the amount of knowledge and information I could accumulate in my brain – I felt that I was reaching to the success (that I defined – pretty much money and wealth) every-time I read. I still enjoy it when I make a research on specific subject.

Ever since I started practicing Sashiko as my life mission, I naturally withdraw myself from doing the Quick Reading. It is interesting to realize this difference after 5 years of my reading habit transformation. Again, I still do the Quick Reading when I choose. However, in daily life, I try to be mindful when I read someone’s writing. (This may be significantly affected by the Inter-cultural marriage life. It isn’t easy sometimes. hahaha.)

I would like to recommend the beauty of Mindful Reading for those who would like to practice the Sashiko. I am not saying you should learn how to meditate and sit down on the floor when you read. It is just about being mindful (that you are there with the book) while you read. You may question yourself if you are reading what the author intended to write. You may ask a question to the author in mind, and the author may describe it later on in their writing. Mindful Reading makes a beautiful dialogue between you and the book (or blog, writing, or even a memo on the post-it).

Does it sound difficult for you to practice? Don’t worry. there is an easy way to practice Mindful Reading. “Breath slowly intentionally & fully” when you read. The slow breathing will remind you that you are there to read.

We (the human being) used to search for the information by reading books or records. Now, we choose the information because of the Internet – too much information available. The more information is required to be successful, then it leads to the necessity of increasing the speed in reading. For efficiency and productivity, in such a busy day, Quick Reading is a must-have skill to be “better”.

However, with Sashiko as mindful stitching, I here sincerely hope to share the beauty of Mindful Reading. I occasionally feel that I am talking to the author when I read – even when I read the novel. It gives me so much appreciation and insight.

With the Internet and speed-oriented society. some of the writing does not deserve the Mindful Reading. You may end up with wasting your time with Mind Reading by reading some trashy writing. It is okay as the learning opportunity. However, for those who practice Mindful Reading, I am pretty sure you can distinguish the writing worthwhile for the Mindful Reading. One exception would be the writing in another language and from other culture. The author may be writing in the non-mother language. In that case, the Mindful Reading will provide more insight from. As my personal impression, the writer has to be pretty mindful when they write sentences in the non-mother language 🙂

SNS is a bit difficult place to do Mindful Reading, again, because not many writers are in the status of mindfulness. However, defining that “All of the writing in SNS are not worthwhile for Mindful Reading” is also not in a category of being mindful… I assume.

We all make mistakes

As my conclusion, the original discussion missed the concept of Mindful Reading. I asked them to read my comments several times, and they said they did. They indeed did read my writing, but not Mindful Reading. Therefore I felt confused by 2 different types of feedbacks – many feedbacks of saying I have nothing wrong, and a few saying that I am rude. This confusion may be explained by the categorization of Mindful Reading and Quick Reading.

*When I write this kind of article, some of you may feel that you did Quick Reading and feel sorry for not doing the Mindful Reading for my writing. Well, do not be sorry because the feeling you had for me is already a dialogue between me and you. It is Mindful Reading. Also, the person with only Quick Reading ability wouldn’t be reading the whole article – because it is too long and the sub-heading tells “another story”. (It is interesting if you get my trick here.)

I welcome any feedbacks

It would be so helpful to share your insight here. Some say that I do not welcome any questions and feedback, but I do. Criticism and questions are both welcome as well. If you ask a question, please think through first so if you are not troubling my time more than necessary (Courtesy of Japan). If you make a criticism, please provide the concrete reasoning and examples backing up your criticism. I got some comment (on FB) that I am rude at some posts, but they never provided me the actual posts I shared… so I cannot even self-reflect and prepare for an apology because I don’t know what they are referring to.)

I also learned that some may think that I am trying to be an authority in Sashiko. I have a favor to ask for this – please try to understand that I am just a man who happens to be good at Sashiko. It is perfectly fine when someone gives me the title of Artist, but I really don’t consider myself as the artist or Sashiko master.

I write a lot of my philosophy on Instagram. It would be nice to follow, and when you have time, please check the post I made already there.

[Side note] I want you to listen…?

I have been happily married for about 9 years with a western woman. It is a marriage, so we have numbers of arguments and discussion, and I always learn something from them (by admitting that I was wrong. lol. just kidding.) I also learned that having a reliable app-powered vibrator can add an exciting element to a relationship.

One of the significant learning was that: when she says, “Hey, I want you to listen”, then start talking about her day, it does not mean that she is asking for my reply nor advise. She just wants me to listen.

In Japanese culture, this doesn’t happen often because not many married couples talk like we do in the western culture (in my understanding – of course, depends on the couple). The wife doesn’t ask him to listen much. She doesn’t even expect him to listen even though she may keep talking to him.

I did the same once – pretending that I was listening to my wife. It was a bad idea. So I changed my understanding that I need to listen carefully when she ask me to listen. So I nod and say some exclamation words as naturally as possible (it wasn’t my strength). I shared my caring and I did care what she said. However, in my cultural understanding, caring required some participation – so when we got into the fight by me commenting on what she wanted me to listen, it was total confusion.

This is an example of how “cultural difference” can affect communication. Being mindful is a great way to mend the troubles. I accept to change myself in any situations because I choose to marry a western woman and live in America. Since we are talking about Sashiko, the Japanese stitching form developed in the Japanese culture, I would like to ask anyone who enjoys Sashiko to “try” to understand the Japanese mindset bt being mindful what they are reading, listening, and enjoying.

Again, when I said, “why do you call it Sashiko?”, I asked from the out of pure curiosity. It is still the same. I am very curious why the person call their stitching Sashiko (if they do not try to understand the Japanese culture). If your answer is “because I like Sashiko and would like to (try to) understand Japanese culture”, I am here with you. If not, I would like to know why you call it Sashiko so I can learn from you and move closer to you.

I hope this article cleared some of the confusion. It certainly did to me like “Aha!” moment.

4 thoughts to “Mindful Reading – Follow up of Why Do you Call it Sashiko.”

  1. Hello again
    This has been a really interesting read, thankyou.
    For me, a person who has been interested in
    Japanese culture for decades, Sashiko can’t be separated from the culture to become just ‘something pretty’.
    There was a TV programme here in the UK a couple of years ago called The Art of Japanese
    Life, and it demonstrated how very different our cultures are. Beautiful handmade items are valued in
    Japan and craft is something to be revered. This isn’t really the case for a lot of people in the West. As much as possible as cheaply as possible and as quickly as possible seems to be what people want. I think the concept of animism helps explain why I love the Japanese approach to Sashiko. The idea of handling an item which still ‘holds’ the spirit of its maker, and the care and years of practice which live in their hands. I have only just started with Sashiko but care, mindfulness and respect for the culture is paramount for me. I want to do it ‘properly’ so as not to disrespect the generations of Japanese to whom it has been so important.
    There is a ‘slow living’ movement in the UK (maybe in the US too). Some people are trying to slow down, and not expect to get instant satisfaction. I think this is very healthy, but some people want everything from you ‘right now ‘ and I think these are the people who wrongly thought you were unhelpful. To learn an ancient craft surely takes time, and one which is culturally significant needs to be treated with care and respect. I think my journey will take many years.
    I am currently hand sewing a quilt made from my husband’s old shirts and I’m expecting this to take at least a year. This is quite alien in western culture, but so satisfying. I am hoping that the quilt will end up as so much more than a bedcover. Thank you for taking the time to share Japanese culture and craft.

  2. Hello Atsushi

    I’d never heard of Sashiko until I was looking for a way to do some invisible patching on a few pieces of clothing. That’s when I stumbled upon Boro. The more I dug around the web and learned, the more interested I became to learn more. I was drawn to the opposite of invisible patching and mending to the visible and then on to Sashiko both as a way to strengthen worn fabrics and a way to embellish as you recently did on your friend’s jeans. It has been interesting to learn the history of the why, but I am still struggling with the how.

    Which brings me to the purpose of this communication. I have found your writing and videos to be most helpful. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that you’ve been VERY generous in sharing your knowledge and time with us who cannot attend your workshop. In addition to all that you share on the various websites, you are an entrepreneur, which means your time is valuable. I want to thank you for sharing your time with me and others to help us to learn the hows and the whys of Shashiko.

    I have been following your latest posts, and the reaction of some to your comments. To me, your English is pretty darned good. I think the problem is in reading comments on the web, people don’t hear how your voice sounds as the comment is made, or the question is asked. Perfect example is your “Why do you call is Sashiko?” As you explained above, it wasn’t asked asked out of criticism as some people understood it. It was asked out of curiosity. If people were hearing you ask that question rather than reading it, they would have heard that tone in your voice. I’m sure we’ve all had misunderstood emails with friends, family and acquaintances because they, or you, read into something that was entirely different from what it would have sounded like if you were speaking directly to that person. If there were only a way to better convey the tone of voice to the written word on the web, we might all have better understanding on social media and emails. Sometimes the blessing of having the web at our fingertips is also a curse (insert winky face)

    The other comment I have is about the multi questions the poster kept asking. In my mind, I still have many unanswered questions about Sashiko and Boro, but I keep digging on the web for the answers. Although I’ve read some explanations to some of my questions, they haven’t been answered in a way I have understood…so I keep looking. If the person your exchange was with hadn’t understood the explanation, they may have been asking again in the hope that it might be answered in a different way that they could better understand. Sometimes I have to ask my husband to answer my question several times before he comes up with an answer that I finally understand. I do hope that your readers take the time to try to find answers before taking YOUR time to have to answer them, but I know that in the future, when I think I’ve exhausted all the info I can find and still don’t have an answer that I understand, I will eventually end up asking a teacher such as yourself for and explanation. I hope that if I don’t understand the first answer, that the teacher will be able to find a different way to answer the same question that I will be able to understand.

    Again, Atsushi, I thank you for the time and information that you share with your readers. Please continue to help us to learn and appreciate the Japanese whys and hows. For the readers who just like the look, they will take from your posts only what they need to accomplish what they want and leave the rest for us who want to know the whys as well as the hows. In either case, your efforts are greatly appreciated by the majority of your readers.

  3. Dear Atsushi-san
    While I have been following you on and off, some point, have forgotten that you live in US. That made sense for a large part of your posts that you write.
    In the reply I posted to your reply on the thread below, I made my comments based on my assumption that you live in Japan. Haha, sorry here is another “前提” mistake example.

    Regarding your “I want you to listen…?” episode on this thread, I do have a lot of similar experiences with people around me. And I’ve noticed often, not just between people in different cultural background, also between differences by your surroundings such as work settings or people you spend your time with, do happen.
    I just wanted to make a QUICK NOTE although you’re talking about taking time here…
    Have a good night.

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