Year of the Earth Dog

Welcome to 2018!

This year is going to be a busy one. I'm always looking for teaching opportunities and I continue to teach at East Wind Ottawa and the Ottawa School of Art. I've also decided to devote serious effort to producing new works and to find ways of onnecting with people who are interested in them.  I love to create and Sumi-e is my genre.  I'm stretching the traditional boundaries to make things that appeal to our contemporary lifestyles but that still carry the traditional elements that are so recognizable as being part of the Zen legacy. Stay tuned for that.

Do you have a favourite hobby or special talent?  How much time do you spend doing it?  In 2017, I took a long look at what I have been doing that brings me joy, and made a commitment to doing more of it in 2018.  I began to reduce and eliminate stuff that was getting in my way. What about you?  Can you spend a little more time with the things in your life that truly bring you joy?  Do that today.

Things to do today: breathe.

If, like me, you are a working person and have responsibilities to home, family, pets, etc., then we must try to remind ourselves each day that we are not just people attached to daily to-do lists. We are also made up of many intangibles - things we can't always put into words easily, but which are intrinsic to our very natures.

What is in your heart today? Out of each 24 hours, is it possible to take five, ten or even fifteen minutes to sit quietly without interruption in order to listen?  By practicing inner listening, we can maintain our connection with our intangibles and nourish them.

In sumi-e or calligraphy, practicing just five minutes of quiet listening before making your ink calms the mind, helps to focus attention and refine intent for painting. The results of your practice are a direct manifestation of your preparation. Please try it.

always still learning....

In my own shodo journey, I hope to be a student forever. It is a lifetime of self-discovery, an embrace of both discipline and freedom, the highs of success and frustrating lows of endless practice when you get 'stuck'. But then, suddenly - another leap forward!  There will never be enough time... I love the answer Sensei Tanahashi gives when asked how long he has been studying calligraphy:  "Eighteen ......hundred years."

Beginner's Mind

"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few". Shunryu Suzuki.

I think it's important to remember this concept when we learn something new as adults. The biggest obstacle I encounter when teaching adults is to help them unlearn self-defeating behaviours. The inability to just let yourself 'practice' without the expectation of achievement right away is the number one hindrance to progress.