A guest post by Noch Noch
When I got ill 2 years ago, suffering from severe migraines and major depression, a friend suggested I try meditation. In fact, people along the way in the past few years have recommended meditation as a way to calm down, unwind, and de-stress. I tried a few times, but never really got the hang of mastering my mind. I was unable to sit still and as I was trying to focus on my breathing, all I could do was think of the million errands I had to run afterwards.
I gave up meditation – until I found calligraphy, and came to experience “going into my zone,” discovering my own way of meditation unexpectedly.
In the last year or so, when I could muster up some energy to leave the apartment, I started Chinese calligraphy lessons. It has always been something I wanted to do all along, and where better else to do so than now, living in Beijing? I would like to take lessons more regularly, but my migraines and low mood and motivation sometimes prevent me from pursuing the hobby, resulting in one class every three weeks.
My teacher is a patient one. Just being in his serene presence calms me down. At the start of every lesson, he tells me to sit, then breathe in through my nose, and breathe out through my mouth.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.
Then he instructs me, still with our eyes closed, to feel the sensation in my feet touching the ground, my hips touching the chair, the joints in my elbows, and to feel the flow of air (in Chinese we call it, the qi) as we breathe.
Was my mind cleared? Not quite.
Anyhow, under his guidance, I venture with the first few strokes with the calligraphy brush. My characters were somehow all wobbly. I could not comprehend what I had done wrong, for I knew the characters, the order of the strokes, and how to apply the ink.
Teacher made me stop and drink some Chinese tea. Then he told me to write again, this time, concentrating only on the stroke I was about he write. He said to me, “Noch, let you heart guide your brush, and your brush guide your hand. Forget what is in your head. You know already what you need to know. Don’t over think.”
With that direction, I tiptoed the brush into the ink and spread it across the sheet of paper again. This time, as my teacher gently reminded me, I thought only of the stroke I was going to write when I was writing it – not the one before, not the one after, just one stroke at a time. I concentrated on how the ink fanned out before my eyes and take shape as my hand followed the dance of the brush, applying pressure where needed naturally.
It was magical! My character transformed before my eyes without blemish.
More importantly, I felt a fresh sensation in my bones. My whole body felt as if it was floating ever so lightly in a vacuum of nothingness. I was at peace in my mind and heart. There was no external noise, no irrelevant thoughts.
For the first time in my life, my mind was clear.
As I practice each time I strive to reach this state where I go into my “zone”, and all I focus on is the stroke at hand. Every time after calligraphy, I feel as if I can see myself clearer.
Translating this into other activities I love to do, such as cooking or putting together jigsaw puzzles, I finally realized that as long as I just concentrate on the task and not worry about everything else I had to do afterwards, I could naturally clear my mind. It did not have to be sitting cross-legged in a studio with a meditation master, chanting, or listening to sounds of waves.
For some, meditation classes does wonders. For me, it didn’t, and I’m glad that I found my alternative way of meditating to empty my head of noise and to de-stress.
I define this as my own kind of meditation – to find an activity you love to do, and focus on only that for a certain amount of time, gradually entering our “zone” to clear our minds.
We just need to find something that suits us individually. Experiment. Clarity is one stroke away.
About the Author
Noch Noch worked as an international executive for 7 years after graduation, travelling the world and living the life she dreamt of, or so she thought. After an episode in stress-related major depression and other illnesses 2 years ago, she is redefining the priorities in life. As she battles with depression, Noch Noch is now on a quest for clarity and self-awareness to be true to herself, jotting down her reflections at Be Me. Be Natural.