This week I started practicing Shodo, the art of Japanese calligraphy. I am using the book Shodo by Rie Takeda, and her Domestika course.
It’s been something I’ve always wanted to practice, and as a former designer, it’s been a long time since I’ve actually sat down and done any kind of visual art. Most recently I’ve noticed that sketches I’ve produced have a very rough quality to them, and I attribute that to lack of practice and the loss of control of the tools that I used to have before we went all digital. Even my handwriting has gotten pretty illegible!
The book Shodo goes into the art, but it also goes into the mental aspects which then made me hyper aware of not only my rusty tool use, but my mental, emotional, and even spiritual state when I am practicing. You can see all that in the spirals I posted below.
A simple warm-up exercise, but intensely revealing.
Where is the control good and where is it not so good? It always seems to be in one place.
How does the drawing reflect my mental state as I draw a particular spiral? And even within a spiral?
Where is my attention on the tool? The brush is not a pencil! What happens to the stroke when my attention is not on the tip and when it is?
What state of mind produces the most desirable spirals versus ones that are erratic and messy?
What other thoughts are floating around – judgement? Frustration? Patience?
And given all that, how do I want to change that? How do I want to show up today with this brush and pen before me?
All from just spending about 20 minutes this morning making spirals on a page.
As a mindfulness practice, it is doing extremely well for me in that regard.
These days mindfulness can be a contentious concept. For most people, mindfulness equates to “I must meditate!” which then brings up the image of people sitting cross legged listening to recordings from popular apps.
If you read my previous post, I rarely meditate in that classic sense. However, it doesn’t mean I am not practicing mindfulness. Consider my Shodo practice; it is EXTREMELY meditative but not your typical meditation. And it creates within me great amounts of mindfulness and awareness, and brings me to the present and only what’s in front of me.
It is also an activity that brings me joy. Where is that in a mindfulness practice you might pick?
So mindfulness can occur in other ways beyond meditation, even if meditation can be a great way to develop more mindfulness. If meditation isn’t for you, how else might you develop your mindfulness? What if it was a practice that you exactly enjoyed instead of one that feels forced? And if you found something that works for you, what has it revealed to you about yourself and your place in this world?