Shōdō is the Japanese word for the art of calligraphy. It’s a fascinating word. Sho can mean “to write,” “to draw,” or “to paint”, the lines between these practices being blurred and porous. Equally blurred is the border between art and meditation. The sinograph dō 道 (dao in Chinese) indicates the philosophical and meditative orientation of the practices.
Ancient Chinese philosophy is quite resourceful for anyone looking for a healthier way of life. And Confucian practices are deeply connected with the arts in Japan. For centuries, the Japanese posited a far deeper connection between art and the life of the mind than their Western contemporaries. Dō does not only indicate a religious source – Daoist-informed Buddhism – but it can also be roughly translated as “way”, “path”. The arts are ways of living, practices of self-cultivation. Shodō (calligraphy), kadō (or ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement), jūdō (no translation needed) or the broader term for aesthetic practices geidō all share the same connotation.
So, What Is Mindful Drawing?
It’s a drawing exercise where the artist moves according to the dao. That is, the world moves the artist as much as the artist moves in the world. Don’t think about past judgments or future intentions. Stay in the present moment. Your body should become mindfully continuous with the motions of the world. What is really at stake in mindful drawing is being one with Nature.
Looking For Guidance
Sesshū Tōyō shows extraordinary mastery of this practice in his most celebrated work, the so-called “Splashed ink landscape” of 1495. As Yukio Lippit writes, “Splashed Ink Landscape showcases a mode of ink painting that projects both cultivated artistic agency and a state of subjectlessness.” Mindful drawing leads you towards achieving “non-self.” That doesn’t mean turning off your personality or turning away from examining what you are. It’s the understanding that a fixed “self,” as most of us conceive it, is far too limiting a concept to encompass what you truly are.
Move Through Resistance
As you start practicing drawing meditation, there will always be times when you really don’t want to continue. Maybe you’re not getting the results that you want, maybe your judgmental self is telling you that you’re just terrible at it. Don’t let those feelings of resistance fool you into thinking that you shouldn’t be drawing in the first place. Instead, resistance just needs to be met with more curiosity and softness.
How To Start Mindful Drawing
Practice begins with a series of small rituals. Arranging the materials and grinding the ink are by themselves opportunities to start to focus, practice attention, and relax. Take then a few minutes to center yourself. Probably the most known mindful drawing technique is the ensō (or Zen circles) practice. Although it may seem incredibly simple to create a circle, creating one properly takes time and practice. Excellent ensō art is considered a sign of having successfully mastered Zen. Like much art, it can’t be explained, it has to be experienced.
The ensō and shodō practices and meditation are ways and paths for personal transformation. Ultimately, I believe, that’s why we practice art. And through the practice of mindful drawing, you’ll find more harmony and peace of mind.