art is a living thing

A Living Thing:
Entering the Gate of Art Practice

An art retreat at Zen Mountain Monastery with Mn. Hojin Kimmel, Dec 10 – 12


Art practice is a process, a living thing; it breathes with our breath. It moves with our movement. It is an act of love, a gift of life. The tool of creative expression is given to us to undo the web of knowing that is woven around our brain, mind, and heart. It is this web of conditioning that pressures us to yield to an expected result, to adhere to a blueprint of a projected life.

Zazen is what helps us to see this, helping us to quiet down and become secure enough to jump into ourselves without knowing where we will land and without the illusion of a safety net. We can explore, right here on the spot, the present.

In this retreat we’ll use drawing materials, words, and our body to directly experience ourselves in the world at this particular moment and then give expression to this experience. We’ll observe it thoroughly opening our senses and meticulously practicing to release our grasp on thinking about the experience, about art or the creative process, about the purpose or goal of our efforts, or about what others may think of our work.

Seeing things clearly for what they are—rather than what we want them to be or think about them—we may experience our inherent freedom and set things free to be what they truly are as well.

All levels of experience welcome and materials will be supplied.

Source – Zen Mountain Monastery website

zen arts

seeing without shadows

the artless arts of zen

The arts of Zen are not intended for utilitarian purposes, or for purely aesthetic enjoyment,
but are meant to train the mind, indeed, to bring it into contact with ultimate reality.

– D.T. Suzuki


ensoThe Artless Arts of Zen:  Zen Aesthetic and Your Everyday Life
A retreat at Zen Mountain Monastery with John Stevens:  July 10-12

The creative process, like a spiritual journey, is intuitive, non-linear, and experiential.  It points us towards our essential nature, which is a reflection of the boundless creativity of the universe.  Zen Buddhism and, particularly, the Zen arts are a rich source of teachings to help us understand and cultivate our creativity.  They contain a treasure house of techniques and insight into the creative process.  And they point to a way of living that is simple, spontaneous, and vital.

Although Zen mind is expressed in many art forms, the primary vehicle for manifesting the Zen spirit is calligraphy and painting.  There are few teachers in the West more capable in transmitting the spirit of this artless art of Zen than John Stevens.  The main themes of Zen calligraphy and painting will be discussed and we will have a look at numerous examples of Zen art, past and present.  The afternoon sessions will be hands on.  We will brush most of the “one-word barriers” central to the Zen tradition: ichi (one), mu (no!), do (way), ku (empty), shin (heart), and others.  The characters themselves are simple to learn — most of them belong to the group of kanji taught to Japanese first graders — but profound in meaning from the Zen perspective.  There will also be a chance to practice brushing enso (Zen circles), paintings of Mount Fuji, and creating portraits of Bodhidharma.  At the conclusion of the retreat, each participant will brush a subject of his or her choosing on clean white paper to serve as an object of personal reflection — even a single brushwork perfectly reflects one’s state of mind.

From the Zen Mountain Monastery website.