In Zen painting it is important to learn a practice which puts one in the best possible position to relax. If we are in a relaxed and free attitude then our painting will reflect this. They will have a spirit of calm and spontaneity, freedom and abandonment. Also the painting will take on a childlike innocence sometimes because we have not worked from our ego.
If one works to Zen principles of letting go, non attachment, thankfulness, appreciation and being in the moment then our art will take on a new quality free from ego. Having said this it not an easy task because we often start from a standpoint of wanting to fulfill some goals and desires. This is not necessarily bad but it often gets us in conflict with the goal of living in the moment and being NOW, prime Zen principles of living fully.
So when we start to paint we have to give up ourselves and our painting efforts from the very beginning. We have to act with abandon, do without trying like a naught boy or girl. Most of all one has to enjoy being in the moment and do what we are doing now regardless of anything before or after this moment, free of any ulterior reason for not being here and now. It takes a disciplined mind to be like this. That is why my teacher always said SumiE is a powerful mental training.
The Taoists often use the idea of Wu Wei or doing by not doing. It does not mean that one doesn’t try but one has to let go of the tension in our mind and body while we are doing and to do the task with little mental of physical tension. There will always be some tension needed but it will be a well directed and focused energy full of creativity and joy.
Lao Tsu used to use the metaphor of the baby who cries all night and still can get up in the morning and smile at his mum. It can do this because the Ki is not obstructed from flowing up and down the spine and in the Tanden or Hara (below the navel) freely. Also the child only knows the NOW. If the Hara is relaxed then the mind will be also and the body too. If the breath is flowing freely the Ki will flow around the body well in the channels of energy called meridians.
If we work from this empty position in relation to our ego then our spirit will change and our True Nature will be revealed. The technique we learn will be useful and the mind is needed to focus but the most important development is that of the spirit or character within. In Zen its called our True Nature. Each person has his or her special Nature. This will give our art a special taste or flavour like nothing else in the universe. Most of all we can appreciate the joy of action for the sake of themselves only. This is very childlike but also wise. As Jesus said, “Be like a little child and the kingdom of heaven awaits.”