THE ZEN PRACTICE OF CALLIGRAPHY
January 30, 2017
Article by Christine Fugate for Bodhi Tree
For cultures who believe in the value of calligraphy as a Zen practice, it’s the merger of art and language that creates access to the spiritual realm where one can worship, meditate and, perhaps, even heal one’s own body. The ritual of making the ink, painting a sacred text or tracing letters are thought to raise one’s level of consciousness and awaken a power that lies within.
Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, uses calligraphy as part of his meditation practice. He begins by sitting and drinking tea. He then takes the brush, dips it in his tea and makes strokes on the paper. “In my calligraphy, there is ink, tea, breathing, mindfulness and concentration,” the Zen master shares on his website. “Writing calligraphy is a practice of meditation. I write the words or sentences that can remind people about the practice. For instance, ‘breathe and enjoy the kingdom of God in the here and the now’ or ‘breathe and enjoy this wonderful moment.’ I think the word ‘wonderful’ means ‘full of wonders.’ If you are truly there in the moment, you can recognize so many wonders in that moment. The Kingdom of God, the Buddha land is there. So breathe in, bring your mind back to your body and you can touch many wonders in this moment.”
Some of his calligraphy work, available for purchase on the website for Buddhist magazine Lion’s Roar, has the following phrases: “be still and see,” “peace is every breath” and “no mud no lotus.”
copying sacred texts as a meditative practice
In many cultures around the world, using calligraphy to copy sacred texts has been an important spiritual and meditative practice. During the Middle Ages, monks used Western calligraphy to replicate the Bible. In Tibet, Buddhist texts, like those seen on prayer wheels, were written in a style of calligraphy that includes letters from the Dalai Lama. For Muslims, Islamic calligraphy, seen on the walls and ceilings of mosques as well as on many important religious texts, is considered the highest form of visual expression and art of the spiritual world. For Sufis, practitioners of the inner mystical dimension of Islam, verbal recitation of sacred texts is important, but it is the writing of sacred words that they believe brings one closer to Allah.
healing through the power of calligraphy
If calligraphy can bring us closer to mindfulness and our higher power, can it also aid in the healing of our body and soul? According Dr. and Master Zhi Gang Sha, a Tao master healer, spiritual teacher and New York Times best-selling author of 21 books, it can. Trained as an MD in Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine, Master Sha has devoted his life to healing others through the power of touch, chanting and, now, calligraphy.
In his 2013 book, Soul Healing Miracles: Ancient and New Sacred Wisdom, Knowledge, and Practical Techniques For Healing the Spiritual, Mental, Emotional and Spiritual Bodies, Master Sha offers Source Ling Guang (Soul Light) Calligraphy that, he believes, can transform the energy of the body, spirit and soul. In this healing practice, some people place the book right on the area of pain while meditating; others put one hand on the book and the other hand on the area of pain. Master Sha also recommends tracing the calligraphies that are in the book while chanting or meditating. Some of the Chinese calligraphy phrases are Guang Liang Hao Mei (“Transparent Light Bring Inner and Outer Beauty”), Da Ai (“Greatest Love”) and Da Kuan Shu (“Greatest Forgiveness”). According to Master Sha, these calligraphies have jing qi shen (“matter, energy, soul”) that carries a higher frequency and vibration than the jing qi shen of a human being. He believes this stronger jing qi shen can remove energy and matter blockages and allow the body and soul to heal.
using the brush to empty the mind
In Japan, elementary school students study Shodo, a Zen Buddhist calligraphy style meaning “the way of writing,” considered by many to create a meditative state of mind. To practice Shodo, one must clear the mind and let the brush flow, without thinking about the characters being painted. This state of mind is called Mushin (“no-mind state”) and is more about the spiritual experience than the physical. In Hitsuzendo (“the art of the brush”), practitioners work to attain samadhi, or in Japanese, samaai (“unification with the highest reality”), by standing up and painting with a large brush onto a newspaper roll. This practice allows the whole body to guide the brush as opposed to an arm on a table.
“When we paint, we want our whole body to be involved, so that the energy is vibrant,” says Alok Hsu Kwang-han, 78, an acclaimed Chinese Zen calligraphy teacher whose methods combine Mushin and Hitsuzendo. “You can allow your whole body to feel the energy and then there’s a smoothness.” Exiled from China in the late ’90s after publishing 20 popular books on meditation, Kwang-han moved to the United States, where he studied mathematics, Christian theology, sociology and pyschology before developing his calligraphy art into Zen calligraphic portraits for couples, individuals and corporations to help them find their “inner environments.”
People travel from around in the world to study with him at his studio and at Mii Amo Spa in Sedona, Arizona. There, he might ask students to “paint the energy of music, a Rumi poem, a partner acting like a wild animal, the sound of silence, the Lord of Chaos, or your heart’s desire,” says Kwang-han. “As your brush dances from emptiness, you will watch amazed, exuberant and grateful.”
The ancient art of calligraphy is still practiced by many cultures around the world. More than just a form of writing, the rituals involved in Zen calligrapy—making the ink and painting letters or sacred text—can transport one into a meditative and even a spiritual state. Ultimately, Zen calligraphy is about attaining a sense of authenticity of self without working to do so.
Three Ways That Handwriting With A Pen Positively Affects Your Brain
Stephen King purportedly wrote Dreamcatcher in longhand — using a Waterman cartridge pen. J. K. Rowling penned The Tales of Beedle the Bard — all 157 pages of it — in longhand, and the leather-bound tome sold for almost $4M at auction. F. Scott Fitzgerald did it, as did Hemingway, Kafka and countless others, each of whom had access to either a typewriter or, later, a computer. They all chose to put pen to paper and see where it took them. This is perhaps the true magic of a pen: It transports us to unexpected places, on wings that require no more than a timely shot of ink to keep them aloft, destination unknown. And in the process, the mindfulness writing engenders encourages calm and creativity. Here are three proven ways that handwriting is good for your brain…
1. Handwriting increases neural activity in certain sections of the brain, similar to meditation. According to a study performed at the Indiana University, the mere action of writing by hand unleashes creativity not easily accessed in any other way. And high-tech magnetic resonance imaging has indeed shown that low-tech writing by hand increases neural activity in certain sections of the brain, much like meditation.
2. Handwriting sharpens the brain and helps us learn. Writing is good for keeping one’s gray matter sharp and may even influence how we think, as in “more positively,” studies show. Apparently sequential hand movements, like those used in handwriting, activate large regions of the brain responsible for thinking, language, healing and working memory.
3. Handwriting forces us to slow down and smell the ink. Another often-overlooked benefit of writing by hand is that it just plain forces us to slow down and enjoy the moment — a novelty in today’s world where immediacy reigns. Mindful writing rests the brain, potentially sparking creativity, according to neuroscientist Dr. Claudia Aguirre.Today In: Lifestyle
Stephen King wrote ”Dreamcatcher” in longhand with a Waterman pen. (Photo credit: FRANK PERRY/AFP/Getty Images)
Sounds good, right? So why not find a good pen and some paper and get started? Sadly, we often become intimidated by bad penmanship or our lack of anything “meaningful” to write about. That’s why I prefer the write-just-because-you-like-it mentality that says that whatever you produce need never see the light of day, as long as it makes your spirit soar. Some might consider this journaling, but that can have headier overtones. So why bother to label?
Letter writing, too, has a profound effect on one’s brain and psyche — whether you’re the writer or the recipient. Who can argue the qualities of a handwritten note to bring people together? Consider the love letters of John and Abigail Adams, or Winston and Clementine Churchill, or Robert and Elizabeth Browning, which have captured our imaginations for decades.
But just as important as these torchy missives are the quotidian letters to and from family and friends. I came across a few of these not so long ago in a box in my attic. One was a chatty letter from my mother to her newly married-and-moved-away daughter (me). I remember how I’d look forward to those weekly letters in my mother’s uninhibited scrawl and the almost palpable affection tucked inside each one. Another note was from a high-school friend, also from a couple of decades ago, catching me up on all her day-to-day goings on, from career to kids to hobbies. It was written in perfect Catholic-girls-school Palmer penmanship. I think Virginia Woolf said it best when she called letter writing “the humane art.”
Writing by hand is a powerful tool for learning, relaxation, creativity and connection, and it’s an integral part of our culture. It offers insights and renewal, whether the writing is intended for anyone else’s eyes or not. National Book Award-winner Robert Stone said, “The pen compels lucidity.” And lucidity, I believe, offers a different and often clearer perspective of dreams, goals, challenges and life in general.Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Ja..efter en fin skrivarretreat under kunnig ledning av Åsa Stenvall-Albjerg fortsätter orden att lägga sig till vila i min skrivbok. Och jag finner en gammal artikel om Writing as meditation:
How to Use Writing as a Meditation Practice
By Jane Brunette, Contributor Writer and meditation teacher at flamingseed.com
Those who have a regular meditation practice can simply add the writing immediately following it, and those who find it difficult to do traditional meditation will find this practice fruitful as the writing gives your busy mind something to do.ByJane Brunette, ContributorWriter and meditation teacher at flamingseed.com10/08/2013 09:13am EDT | Updated December 8, 2013This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.
Writing can be a powerful meditation practice, helping us to integrate our active mind with the mind of meditation. By using it as a process of inquiry, it can help us track our progress in loosening attachments and habitual states of mind even as it sharpens our ability to attend to the present moment. As little as 10 minutes of writing practice a day can reap great benefits.
Those who have a regular meditation practice can simply add the writing immediately following it, and those who find it difficult to do traditional meditation will find this practice fruitful as the writing gives your busy mind something to do, curbing your restlessness as you cultivate awareness of your overall experience. Writers will particularly find this practice beneficial, as the resulting free writes will be rich with ideas and images to seed further work.
All you need to get started is a timer, notebook and pen. The practice can be done in five simple steps:
- Begin by settling into a contemplative space of silence by taking a minimum of 21 conscious breaths — or sitting in stillness for 5−15 minutes with your attention lightly on your breath, body sensations, or sounds in the room. Notice the atmosphere of your mind — whether soft and spacious or grim and tight — and set the intention to cultivate an atmosphere of warmth and openness toward yourself and your experience.
Set the timer for 10 minutes and free write without stopping, beginning with the prompt ”Right now…” Don’t stop to reflect, edit, try to make sense or write a ”piece.” Simply finish the sentence and keep going until you run out of things to say, then write the prompt again and finish the sentence, and so on, until the timer goes off. You don’t need to write fast — just without pausing to think. Be willing to let the words surprise you: The idea is to relax your mind so that you can source the layer under your discursive thoughts — though it is not ”wrong” to write your conscious thoughts and feelings if they are dominating. In fact, there is no way to do it wrong.When the timer goes off, take a few breaths and then read aloud what you wrote, listening deeply to yourself. Try to resist the temptation to read it back in your head — even whispering it aloud makes a difference. Notice what your mind does when you read it back — expectations, fears, pleasures and judgments will likely arise. Allow them to be just as they are in an atmosphere of warmth and openness. You might jot a few notes on what you notice at the end of your piece for later reference.THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO TAKING CARE OF YOUR MIND AND BODYSubscribe to HuffPost’s wellness emailThanks!You have been successfully signed up.Now scan through the writing and underline any phrases, sentences or sections that strike you as particularly alive or that intrigue you for some reason — you don’t need to know why. Any of these fragments can be used as a prompt for another piece of timed writing, either now or in your next session. When you do use these fragments as prompts, remember that you can always return to the prompt ”Right now…” at any time while doing a timed writing. This is the fundamental prompt for this practice. At the end of the session, share the benefits of the practice by making the wish that whatever insight you gained produce positive effects for yourself and all beings touched by you.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly and effortlessly a thick pile of freewrites will accumulate if you do this practice daily. From time to time, you can go through and re-read what you’ve underlined, noticing themes, modes of thinking, or repetitive thoughts.
As long as you are faithful to doing at least 21 conscious breaths before writing and sincerely setting your intention to cultivate warmth and openness toward yourself, you will notice over time that these writings evolve and are quite different than journal entries or ruminations. The intention brought to the writing creates the conditions where insights can arise as you uncover hidden obstacles and unwind your judging mind into greater warmth, spaciousness and acceptance of your writing and your experience. Keep at it and you will begin sourcing the work more and more from spontaneous presence.
The practice can be done anywhere, and varying location and time of day when using the prompt ”Right now…” can give you a fascinating glimpse into yourself as you go about your life, whether you sit for ten minutes with pen and paper under a tree or in a waiting room, in a hospital or at your kitchen table, at a posh resort or in a Bombay slum.
I invite your questions and responses to this practice both here and through my website, where you will find more resources to help you use writing as a tool of awakening: writingfromthesoul.net and flamingseed.com.
Varför är vi här? Varför på gudstjänst?
De flesta har ju slutat med det. Det är inte många av oss som har behov av prat och temasamlingar.
Varför är vi kvar? Leker kyrka? Gemenskap? Spelar liturgi?
Det är inget fel i sig med att leka kyrka, det finns till och med väsentliga drag av lek och spel i liturgin.
Men mässan skall väl vara en del av vägen mot det heliga, inte en sandlåda för oss självupptagna läsande och sjungande våra favoriter.
När liturgin avviker från att vara Gudscentrerad till att vara osscentrerad, då kommer underhållningsaspekten in och gestaltar vårt sätt.
Då måste varje gudstjänst bli upplyftande, uppmuntrande så att vi får något annat att tänka på och så får hjälp att fly ifrån Guds obegriplighet och helighetens svarta hål..
De första ögonblicken av en liturgi är vanligtvis en tecken på vad som komma skall.
”God morgon” signalerar något helt annorlunda än ”Herren vare med dig.”
Genom att komma till kyrkan byter vi perspektiv. Ifrån Godmorgon till Herren vare med dig. Vi sträcker oss inte ut efter ny kunskap, nya upplevelser, nya perspektiv, vi försöker inte med hjälp av våra sätt och våra förmågor skapa en God morgon för varandra (vilket inte är en dålig ide i sig). Inte nu. Nu är vi här för att ta emot det som kommer till oss genom springorna i våra livsstrategier, i läckagen mellan våra tankar och känslor.
Öppna, mottagliga, sårbara, för det för det som kommer till oss genom, upp ur, bortom orden vi hör, tecknen vi ser, gester vi uppfattar.
Men för det mesta har vår kultur, och vi i gudstjänsten, förlorat konsten att läsa djupen, förlorat förmågan att höra orden bortom, att erfara varat utanför.
Förlorat det annorlunda vetandet som härbärgeras i användningen av paradox, symbol och gest …. jaa a ”lyckliga gatan den finns icke mer”.
Bara genom att återerövra det gamla sättet att läsa och lyssna återerövrar vi mässan. Det sker genom att återerövra tystnaden. Och bara tystnaden kan lära oss att utan konstgjordhet läsa, tala långsamt, tydligt och meningsfullt. Slarvigt, snabbt tal kommunicerar slarvig, snabb religion och förstör all liturgi, oavsett hur noggrant det har utformats. Men den omvända vägen kan också vara en väg. Att läsa sig långsamt, tydligt och meningsfullt in i tystnaden.
En grupp slumbarn som ansågs vara omöjliga att utbilda och skola förändrade sina liv genom att läsa Shakespeare för kor.
Det är svårare att lära sig lyssna.
Den konsten växer fram naturligt när vi genom övning gjort oss hemma i vår inre tystnad och lär oss förmågan att skänka uppmärksamheten på ord, fraser eller liknelser som vi inte omedelbart förstår, tid. Mycket tid. Genom att ta emot dem, sitta med dem, tugga dem, låta dem sjunka, precis under medvetandenivå, och när de sedan läcker fram på nytt genom sprickorna av våra världsförklaringar så att vi kan ta emot dem som nya annorlunda och överraskande rika.
God liturgi välkomnar oss ut SKÅDANDETS vildmark, där vi ser hur riten som en gest alltid visat bortom, utanför oss själva, och där är vi förmögna att förstå vårt varande i Gud.
Det annorlunda vetandet
Det omvända perspektivet.