Saturday, July 16, 2011

Zen Calligraphy and Healing

The last several days have been very difficult. The at-home nurses tell me, out of their extensive experience, that there is a trial-and-error period for new ileostomy patients like myself, while the stoma is still healing, changing size and shape, that involves finding the right appliances to use for the long term. Well, it has indeed been a trial full of many errors. In the past several days, the ostomy bags have come loose many times, leaked many times, needed to be replaced often, and I've lost sleep over it. This morning I really hit the exhaustion wall. I was so exhausted I couldn't even cry out my frustration anymore. Now, tonight, having rested all day long, I do feel better, and I'm hoping that I can get better sleep tonight, better than the past three days.

A few days into this trial, I pulled out the brushes and ink and brush pens, and sat down at my table on the porch to make some enso, to try and center and settle my mind. You can always tell how grounded and centered you are by drawing enso. Enso are circle cosmograms, that represent the circle of all things.

If you are grounded and centered, you will be able to draw a nearly perfect circle with a single stroke of the ink-filled brush. If your mind is not at ease, not empty, not in the state of no-mind, your enso circles will be imperfect, not circles, maybe not even round. I pulled out a stack of my good calligraphy cardstock paper, and made several enso. I started out poorly, and then gradually slowed down, took some breaths, and did some better enso. A kind of brush meditation.

Then it occurred to me that I also needed to do slogan practice. Slogan practice, used in both Japanese Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, is meditation on wisdom sayings. Slogans can be almost stereotypical, but contemplation of them can take you very deep, past the words, past the thought, into the being. So I took some of the enso that I had just made, changed brushes, and began filling them in with slogans and other sayings, and even a few drawings.

I realized that I needed to make art. But not just art to make art. When this healing process has setbacks like the drama I've been having around the ostomy bags failing for so many days and nights—setbacks that really frustrate, and more than once brought me to helpless tears—I thought I might take some of these enso and slogans and make them into a poster for myself.

I will put one or two of them up on the walls, where I can see them often, to remind me to find my center and return to my ground of being, when I fall off. Zen sayings as art posters to remind myself to return to center. To calm the mind. To let go of the suffering and just be in the moment.

Sometimes the frustration edges over into despair, and you feel like these trials will never be over. The nurses and doctors tell me they will, but not all of me believes that yet. I'm in the middle of this mess, it's my body, no one else's, and this has been really hard. My artist friend Alex, who has his own experience with bodily trials, reminds me that me feelings in this difficult time are legitimate and well-earned. He helped me today by validating what I was feeling, rather than trying to "fix" it.

So I will put up a couple of the most resonant of this Zen calligraphy enso drawings on my walls, where they will remind me to slow down, be patient, and go with the flow. Get through the process, don't fight it. Wisdom I very much need to hear right now.

I also remind myself that life will go on, even if right now it's not of very good quality. I will endure. I will not fade away. I will somehow make it through. How, and when, at this moment I cannot envision. All I really want right now is to catch up on the rest and recuperation that has eluded me these past few days.

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Blogger Glenn Ingersoll said...


11:12 PM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...


12:31 AM  

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