Creating the Profound Beauty of the Ensō, the Japanese Zen Circle

Turning over a new leaf, Starting New Artistic Practices

Blogs are supposed to start with sound examples about how the writer is an highly knowledgeable and a trusted source, you should be able to learn from the writers vast understanding. Well, to be honest, I am new to this practicing this art but I’d like you to join me and perhaps you too may get inspired by this mystical practice.

I’ve been painting Japanese zen circles for a few weeks. It’s fun, creative, profound, and a fascinating spiritual journey if you allow it. The practice may lead us to be more present, which may lead to helping you reach your potential.

The Origin Story

Enzo (thin) by Ron Braverman
Enzo (thin) by Ron Braverman

Around 8th or 9th grade I was fascinated with the idea of self realization, the fulfillment of one’s own potential. I was also fascinated by spontaneous human combustion but thankfully that interest has passed!

More recently, in an effort to reach my potential I have been exploring various forms of meditation, like Transcendental Meditation. I have made time each day to clear my mind as there is more and more scientific proof of the benefits of meditation.

A look around my Studio

After a relaxing meditation a few weeks ago, I emerged focused on the idea of a fresh start to my art so I looked around my studio.

A few things jumped out at me:
• A Buddha Board, a thoughtful gift from my Mother-in-law, a small board to paint on, using only water. Your bold black work is there for a moment, then as the water evaporates your masterpiece is gone. Reminding you again the Zen idea to live in the moment.
• A Japanese calligraphy pen,
• Books on zen like Zen Flesh Zen Bones and Peace is Every Step (which I review here),
• Some Japanese washi paper I used to make some recent sculptures
• A Chinese calligraphy set, like the gift from my mother 22 years ago

It seemed clear, I had the tools, interest and motivation to explore mediation, seek self realization and learn the Japanese zen art of the Enzō characterised by a minimalism with its roots in Japanese aesthetics.

The Way of the Brush

Hitsuzendō the “way of Zen through brush” is believed by Zen Buddhists to be a method of achieving samādhi, which is a unification with the highest reality.

Wikipedia

O.K. I know! REALLY!? Unifying with the highest reality? You may be thinking, that’s a bit far out, Ron! You may want to unify with the highest reality but right now you need to write those emails you’ve been putting off and get groceries.

I believe the effort and intention is the key. Don’t worry, you won’t be floating on the highest reality all the time! This is a practice, a ritual to work on daily if possible. This is a long term investment that should pay dividends over time.

Create Your Own Ensō

Most often drawn with black in on white paper the ensō is at once simple and complex, part of the beauty is the varieties of personal expression are endless. Ensō evoke power, dynamism, movement, stillness and so much more.

As noted on modernzen.org, the ensō can symbolize emptiness or fullness, presence or absence. All things might be contained within, or, conversely, excluded by its boundaries. It can symbolize infinity, the “no-thing”, the perfect meditative state, and Satori or enlightenment. 

Create your ensō in any color, size or style as long as you find peace in the practice and start creating from a heart free of disturbances.

Here’s a short video I’ve created to help inspire you to try creating your enzo.

 

The Enzō Symbol

Audrey Yoshiko Seo, author of Ensō: Zen Circles of Enlightenment notes, “The ensō has been subject to a rich variety of interpretations—seen as everything from a rice cake to a symbol of infinity. But regardless of how it is understood, the ensō is above all an expression of the mind of the artist who brushes it. It is said that the state of the Zen practitioner can be clearly read in his or her execution of the circle.

The process is meditative, the cost to start up is minimal and it’s a non-judgemental and satisfying exercise.

 

The Zen of Art

According to Wikipedia’s Hitsuzendō entry, “True creation must arise from mu-shin, the state of “no-mind,” in which thought, emotions, and expectations do not matter. Truly skilful Zen calligraphy is not the product of intense “practice;” rather, it is best achieved as the product of the “no-mind” state, a high level of spirituality and a heart free of disturbances. Becoming one with what you create, essentially, is the philosophy behind Zen Calligraphy and other Japanese arts.”

A Departure and Arrival

Unlike regular artworks, where you may be working on representational images, this meditative practice produces a relatively abstract work. This snapshot of the artists mind and the artists gesture is meditation with infinite possibilities.

You may draw an ensō series using a pen and small notebook quickly and simply. You may get the mop sized paintbrush and a canvas the size of a room or you may create something in between.

If you are interested in buying one of my ensō pieces please contact me for a list of the sizes, styles and prices.

Regardless of the size, tools and materials, please share your thoughts or links to your works in the comments below!

Good luck and have fun.


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