I was at an art retreat with Stephen Addiss at Zen Mountain Monastery. We practiced with the kanji character for mu and I was having all kinds of trouble. Of course you were, you say. That’s just who mu is.
If you’ve seen the formal script for Mu, you’ll know there are four lines in the middle and four dots at the base. For whatever the reason, I just couldn’t get the lines to look like lines. Now that may seem very strange because, after all, how hard can it be to just draw four tilted lines. Well it was until I figured out that there was some trust that had to be placed into the relationship I have with the observers of my efforts.
That they would perceive whatever line and tilt was necessary to facilitate our ongoing dance with each other.
art is such a tricky practice and for that reason such a good practice. all we do is laid out before us. as I was painting away the other day I was reminded of how it is so important to keep going until the judgmental eye, lets go, to work past all the points of “not good enough” until I have completely given up. and even that offers no guarantees of beauty, only freedom.
It’s likely the most powerful practice because so much is immediately available to the six senses. In shodo, copying the masters is considered an honour and a deep practice. So I spent a bit of time trying to faithfully copy the lines in your exquisite Buddha. You need never worry that I will forge your paintings and sell them for millions as an art scam! (Or if I do, I shall split the earnings with you!) 😈