Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Art of Zen

Reya posted a marvelous piece called Just Passin' Through that reminded me of my Zen (or Buddha) Board, a small paper drawing board, square and framed, made of magic stuff. There is a tapered Chinese paintbrush near it and a shallow bowl that holds water. When you dip the brush and pull it slowly over the paper, the lines appear almost black. They gradually fade to grey and then disappear altogether. No matter what you paint there–a mistake or a masterpiece–the lines become paler and vanish. Nothing stays, no matter how unsatisfactory, no matter how perfect.

It’s a concept I struggle with, that of inevitable change. I don’t mind when the flawed pictures I make fade out of existence. In fact, the lines disappear so slowly that often I become impatient. When I create a thing of beauty, however, I am loath to see it recede. I am using the Zen Board to teach myself to let go of both with equal ease.

As beautiful as spring is, with its green days and fragrant flowers, or summer with its symphony of bird song and riotous colors, they too will pass away. Winter will draw new lines, starker ones, and paint the landscape in shades of grey, of deep purple and sable brown. Then, even as we watch, the dark marks made by the winter months will in turn fade and spring will take up the brush to paint the leaves and flowers anew.

If we let it, nature can show us that impermanence is not bad in and of itself. Knowing that something is fleeting can ease an intolerable situation and give us hope of respite. We may yearn for what has gone or wish for more time to savor what we don’t want to lose but we are also shown that we can treasure the moment. We can look around us and realize that now is the time to appreciate and that now includes the past and the future as well as the present.

Endings teach us about beginnings. Beginnings teach us that all things come to a close. As we cycle in and out of all our life stages, the lines we drew so darkly at first (as though they were permanent self-borders) become hazy, making way for new perspectives, new horizons. We find that our very lives are Zen Boards and the brush strokes that trace our thoughts will fade and be drawn again, over and over.


steven said...

pauline i remember seeing these boards some time ago. impermanence is something i didn't really understand inside until my dad flew away. one of many gifts his shifting scenes gave to me. steven

Molly said...

This made me remember reading about a sand mandala that was painstakingly made by Buddhist monks over several days. When it was finished they then shook it all up, making their intricate pattern disappear and demonstrating for onlookers how fleeting everything is, be it masterpiece or chicken scratchings....Food for thought certainly.

Marion said...

I own a board very similar to yours, called a Buddha board. Every day, I write my thank you's on it. The writing is fleeting, I watch it fade, but I know tomorrow once more my gratitude to Spirit will be written upon it.

I treasure the moment when I write those dark lines, knowing they will fade very quickly, yet knowing my gratitude in that moment has been heard. I feel by writing the same thing I'm letting go and letting God.

"We can look around us and realize that now is the time to appreciate and that now includes the past and the future as well as the present."

Beautiful post, Pauline, as always!

Jo said...

My goodness, the theme of your post is almost similar to mine today.

It's so true that all we have is right now. The past is gone, and the future is a mystery. I know so many people who live in the past, or "plan" for the future, so that they cannot appreciate the beauty of today -- even the small moments. What a sad life that must be, always living in limbo.

Jean said...

"...If we let it, nature can show us that impermanence is not bad in and of itself. ..."

Je pratique depuis des années un yoga proche du Zen .
Je suis heureux de lire votre article .

Pauline said...

Steven, nothing says impermanence more loudly than the passing of a loved one

Molly - I've watched Native Americans do the same

A great idea, Marion!

Jo - your take on the subject was thought provoking

Merci Jean - Je suis heureux l'article fait t'heureux

herhimnbryn said...

Like Molly I thought of sand mandalas. Thankyou for this Pauline, it is timely for me today.

Hilary said...

Another great post, Pauline. Everything truly is fleeting. Encouraging and sad at the same time.

Barbara said...

Buddhist teachings are so hard for us Westerners to process and practice. But in fact nothing is permanent. The present moment is all we have.

Anonymous said...

So true and so beautifully put!

slommler said...

Such a beautiful post Pauline...and congrats on your POTW!

Pauline said...

Thanks SueAnn - I trotted over to you site and found such inspiring artwork! Isn't blogland great?

deb said...

congrats on the POTW mention.

and this is right up with what I just posted about . ( not the POTW, but the recent one)

it is so so intriguing to me. I love the way you expressed it.

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Oh I would love to have such a board ... will try to search them out on the web.

This is a wonderful post - valuing impermanence is such a difficult task for ego-mind.

järnebrand said...

Ah, very beautiful and true... Congrats on the POTW, well deserved.
Love/ Jo.

Daryl said...

Congrats on the POTW mention from Hilary

Dianne said...

the next time I am anxious over some change (as is my way) I will think of your Zen Board and it will help

thanks for that

congrats on POTW

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, just beautiful.Ah, if only it were that simple to let go...what a wonderful world it would be.

blunoz said...

Beautifully written post, and well-deserving of POTW.

Pauline said...

I'm glad it resonated, HHB

Thank you Hilary and thanks for another POTW mention - I'm feeling quite set up!

Barbara - my brain knows that - my heart does not.

Thank you Ladyfi

and thank you Deb!

Bonnie - just google Zen Board!

järnebrand thanks! Glad you stopped by

Thanks Daryl. I'm feeling well patted on the back :)

Dianne - it's very therapeutic

It would indeed, Moannie

Thanks for stopping by Blunoz

CherylK said...

First of all, congratulations on POTW! This is a wonderful post and I'd like to print it up and hang it near my desk.

Second, I'm not familiar with Zen (or Buddha) boards but I'd love to have one...will be doing a search, today! Thank you for a very thoughtfully written piece.

Brian Miller said...

ah. i have one of those reteaches me often...congrats on the POTW!