Hammamatsu of Enshu
is a tea-growing district.
I want to marry off
my daughter there,
to pick fine tea leaves.
from Penetrating Laughter: Hakuin’s Zen & Art by Kazuaki Tanahashi
day this is!
Some of you may remember the 108Buddhas series of last year. 108 days before the anniversary of this blog, I committed to 108 brush paintings of “Buddha” in Kanji script. That turned out to be a fascinating practice in patience and the willingness to be with the eternal uncertainty of the creative process. This year I feel the need to practice with wholeness and what better teacher of wholeness than the Enso.
So let me introduce you to Enso1. For those of you with children, you may know that Red is Best; a delightful children’s story that my daughter and I now use to signal absolute perfection (regardless of the colour we’re perceiving). Red is like that. So is the enso. It becomes a signifier of all that is.
Enso paintings act as visual and poetic koans – apparently paradoxical statements, questions, or demonstrations that point to or suggest the nature of reality. They reflect the artist’s understanding that, at their best, words and images cannot express the truth completely.
from Foreword by John Daido Loori in Enso: Zen circles of enlightenment by Audrey Yoshiko Seo
Seo explains that how the enso is drawn exposes the character of the artist. In that case, this enso likely says a lot about my need for perfection and completeness. Some call it closure. Inevitably – and probably for the good – my brush-mind has other ideas. It leaves a space for coming and going and yet… and yet, it respects my anxieties by filling that space with little islands of tenderness. And there were other lessons. Frank proclaimed that this was not his favourite of the three I showed him. I protested. My favourite has to be his favourite, I proclaimed. That’s what husbands are for.
It’s not only the drawing of the enso that teaches me about my character. It is also all that went before and comes after.
Join me in these 108 days by taking a moment in your day to visit yourself. Hold up the mirror and look into the circle of enlightenment. Nothing fancy required. A pencil, a finger dipped in tea, a brush wet only with water. A circle drawn in the air.