There is Life After the Thesis

After chronicling my thoughts, feelings, ideas, and experiences throughout the thesis process on this blog (formerly entitled Rites of a Thesis), it seemed odd to me to simply let the blog go just because I had turned in my thesis and graduated. I don't want to merely "shelve" my thesis nor do I want all that I got from my time at Naropa to lie dormant. I want my thesis to continue to live and breathe and become, and I would like all the teachings and experiences I had during my time at Naropa to do the same. So I am keeping the blog (changing the title), and am commiting to myself to (w)rite on as I journey forward.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Circle Game: Enso as a New Inner Method


We can't return, we can only look, behind from where we came ~ and go round and round and round in the circle game ~ Joni Mitchell

I am so often caught up in what was or what will be, that remaining present, and simply being in the moment is a constant practice for me. I revel in the times that I am in the here and now without even thinking about it, but more often than not, it is with vigilant attention that I am able to be open to any present moment.

In this process of "The Thesis," it is easy for me to think about what I should have done, or what I need to be doing, or what I'm going to do when...I am much more at peace, much more centered when I am able to see the goal (as my thesis advisor encouraged: "picture yourself in June, in Boulder, presenting your thesis") and yet remain present to do the step-by-step work that is in front of me today.

Last summer I purchased Audrey Yoshiko Seo's book, Enso: Zen Circles of Enlightenment, as well as two special brushes and some paint. My intent: to incorporate enso practice into my daily life. Yesterday, Sunday, February 14, I still had not picked up book or brush. Inspired to "center" myself and refocus my attention after an amazingly busy week, as well as with the incentive of this week's Thesis Seminar discussion topic, I picked up my "tools" and made a beginning.

I re-read the Forward in Seo's book. I set up my art pad, paint, and brush. I pulled out my Enso hand-out from Alexandra's Aesthetics class, and took my position on the floor. I spent three minutes in meditation prior to lifting my brush. I then brought my awareness to the brush itself: feeling first the bristles, and then the wooden handle. I then dipped the brush in my black paint-water mixture and carefully smoothed the paint on the bristles into a tip.

Placing my left hand, palm flat on my art pad, I inhaled as I lifted my right hand above the paper, brush held between my thumb and fingers. As I set the brush down on paper, I allowed it to linger for a moment, before exhaling and sweeping my brush clock-wise from the lower left corner and around, and finally off the paper.

I allowed my breath to move in and out of my body as I sat quietly with my brush in hand. After a few moments, I returned the brush to its resting spot on a paper towel to the right of my art pad. I sat quietly, attending to my breath as my eyes took in the circle I had just made. No judgement. It was simply a circle, created moments prior.

"[Enso] is a direct expression of thusness or this-moment-as-it-is...it is believed that the character of the artist is fully exposed in how she or he draws an enso...Some artists practice drawing an enso daily as a spiritual exercise" (John Daido Loori, in the Foreward to Seo's book, 2006).

I have posted a photo of my first enso above. The text reads: "To start in the middle is to have beginner's mind." My prayer for the day: to remain open, to begin anew, and as Pema Chodron says, "To start where you are."

1 comment:

Griffin said...

Enso! Oh, my! How revealing is that!

It's amazing how intimidating it is at first, how perfect I want it to come out... the circle, that is.

Then I remember,
it's not about the circle...
it's about the circling...
the process,
the movement...

the attention to the moment,
to the paper
and the paint
and the brush...

all connected together,
connect with me...
one being,
one community,
one organism...
at the exclusion of all else.

then,
it's centering,
grounding...
then,
it's peaceful inside...
because I let go...
into the present moment...

It's like practicing how to enter "the zone"...
"be in the flow"
on command,
rather than by chance...

And YOU describe the process soooooooooooo beautifully, step-by-step...

Thank you!
I'd forgotten it!

PS... my red enso from graduation is hanging framed in red on my living room wall... how could I forget????