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Shodo brushing the curves of 有無 Umu

3 June 2021

Shodo brushing the curves of 有無 Umu

Our May Zen Brush was very relaxed and an enjoyable time brushing together. We worked with two characters u mu 有無, which together can be translated as something like – ‘nature of being is free and untethered’. We brushed them in the kaisho style, tried out the gyosho and with extra time on the curvy sosho style – they are fun and dynamic to brush together in the looser cursive styles.

The kanji and term comes up in zen writings and can be expressed as a middle way between views of being or non being. Mu is sometimes thought of in a negative way but Blair showed old examples of the kanji Chinese character going back to the very pictorial old oracle shell and bone style, and the tensho style, of the dancing person with ceremonial wood which gives a more open and positive expression of the character, and helps to engage with the kanji with the shodo practice.

Shodo brushing the curves of 有無 Umu

Here is the poem Blair read by zen master Dogen (translation by Heine), one of his favourites, which the group enjoyed listening to whilst brushing –

Treading along in this dreamlike, illusory realm,
Without looking for the traces I may have left;
A cuckoo’s song beckons me to return home;
Hearing this, I tilt my head to see
Who has told me to turn back;
But do not ask me where I am going,
As I travel in this limitless world,
Where every step I take is my home.

It was super to see the group enjoying working on the three styles and finding it peaceful to practice. Thanks for taking part and also to those who sent their images for this blogpost 😊

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