Illustrative instruction for painting of a Carp by Johnson Su-sing Chow in his book Aquatic Life (V4) Vegetables, Fruits, Insects and Aquatic Life Paintings. The rendering is simple, elegant and complete.
Seek Out the State of Still Mind and Body in Motion
Some of the times I feel my greatest sense of peace is when my mind is still and my body is in motion.
Activities like painting, calligraphy, walking in nature, tai chi, yoga, and dancing all encourage this powerful combination of still mind and body in motion.
Avoid the Trappings of Modern Life
So many of the activities that we engage in as part of modern life are the opposite of still mind and body in motion. Driving to work, we are often listening to talk radio. Many of us work in offices and spend the large part of our day on phone calls, the computer or doing paperwork.
When we come home, we are tempted to turn on the television. It is easy to forget that the content that is common place on the television was considered offensive just a decade ago and shocking a decade before that. It seems that we all have dulled our awareness as a defense mechanism to skillfully crafted content that is used to engage our minds and send them into meaningless spirals of thinking that rob us of our peace and make us feel incomplete.
My mother, who is the model of the benefit of movement practicing painting, calligraphy, ballroom dancing, and yoga in her seventh decade of life, recently had to spend 6 weeks away from all of her movement activities to recovery from eye surgery. That short amount of time of immobility had such a drastic effect on her well being that she vows never again to stop activities that encourage her body to remain strong, flexible, nimble and aligned.
Easy Tricks to Still Your Mind
An easy trick to still your mind, is to think "what will my next thought be?" This has the effect of pausing your mind while it waits for instruction on what to focus on next. It is also evidence that there is something that is not your analytical mind that can actually direct your mind to focus on whatever you choose. This is an essential realization to developing the habit of being able to choose your focus and choose your thoughts.
Another easy way to still your mind is to close your eyes and focus on a soft repetitive sound. In almost any room that we are in there will be a subtle repetitive piece of white noise like the sound of a refrigerator or heater. If you are lucky to live in a place absent of this, you can always hum a note in your mind and focus on that hum.
Think of Painting or Calligraphy as Movement
Many of us don't paint or write as much as we should because we are overly concerned with producing quality art. This can be a chicken and egg trap as the path to producing quality art is painting or writing more.
A great way to get painting is to think of painting as a fun, interesting, low-impact way to exercise. Try getting a piece of magic paper and your favorite brush. If you don't have magic paper, just use your favorite practice paper and you can even paint with just water to take the pressure off even more. Or more exciting would be to use ink on your practice paper and see what appears.
Now instead of just moving your brush with your hand, wrist or even your arm, think of your arm as an extension of your body. Force yourself to move your whole body to move your brush. Take a step to the left and see brush go left. Take a step to the right and see the brush go right. Turn at the waist and see your brush move in a curve. Now combine these movements and imagine that you are dancing your brush. Doesn't that sound fun and easy!
If this is confusing, don't worry. We will be releasing an instructional video on this later this week. Until then we wish you a still mind and a body in motion!