At six weeks of isolation I’m restless, uneasy, bored. Feelings are surfacing. I know ultimately this is good, they’re feelings I need to feel, feelings I would normally avoid by keeping myself busy… filling all the empty spaces in my life with friends, drinks, exercise, shopping, social media, nature, food, Netflix, and any other instantly gratifying distractions. Some healthy, some not.
I promised myself I’d use this time as a way to really look at the behaviours and habits that have been holding me back. It’s the perfect opportunity for self-reflection and enquiry, almost as though some greater force is asking it of me … and yet, I keep resisting.
The simple and strangely arresting image of an Ensō catches my eye from my newsfeed, and I think back to a retreat I went on where we brushed on this beautifully poetic meditation practise.
The practise of Ensō (pronounced ‘en-zoh’ or ‘en-soh’) is a traditional Zen Buddhist meditation that involves drawing a circle, traditionally with a brush, in one fully embodied and uninterrupted stroke. It can also be referred to as the Zen Circle, the Infinity Circle, or the Circle of Enlightenment. The two Kanji symbols that make up the word Ensō translate as Mutual Circle or Circle of Togetherness.
It’s just a circle, I think, as an impulse tells me to keep scrolling, yet a gentle internal tug begs me to make a different choice …
I find a brush and a piece of blank paper. I take a moment to find my centre. Brush poised above paper, I check my posture, close my eyes, breathe … One stroke. One chance. No fixing. No correcting. Do it with reverence and let it be done. Embrace the ‘wabi-sabi’ – the perfection in the imperfect – as the Japanese so eloquently coin it.
As I exhale, my brush sweeps across the page, guided by a graceful and intense energy from within my core. I relinquish all desire for a particular result. Blissful carefreeness replaces my usual rigid perfectionism. This, I realise, is a true celebration of process. “I’m just drawing a circle” says my mind. “Do it like your life depends on it”, says my heart.
My Evolution with the Revolution
I remain inwards for a moment, reflecting upon the beauty of this simple act and the subsequent from that lay before me. It had felt like a prayer. An intention from my soul to participate with pure presence of heart, and simultaneously, complete non-attachment. A loving embrace and a letting go. A liberation of ties paradoxically intertwined with the thread of utmost care. The Ensō.
As I look upon the simple shape, a galaxy of ideas are evoked from within these great empty holes. Vast caverns of ideology and questions I had not before noticed in my busyness. The recurring presence of an unassuming symbol stirred a symphony I had not known was always playing gently in the background.
I See Emptiness and Fullness
The space within. The emptiness, the void. And all that is contained within it. I so easily forget the potential in the ‘nothingness.’ But it is ever-present, in this circle and in life. We are nothingness! Broken down, bit by bit, to our most intrinsic form, our truest essence. We are space. And with that comes unfathomable potential, for what exactly, is of our own deciding. Vastness captured in cells, organs, bone, muscles, skin. Uncontainable limitlessness, contained here in this vessel. This body, this circle. The space between these lungs and that breath. The space between those words and this sentence. So much potential. So many possibilities. Such a perfect paradox.
I See No Beginning and No End
Sometimes the two ends of the Ensō circle meet. No beginning, no end. Only completion. Like the enlightened one. Sometimes the ends are reaching for each other, like lovers misaligned. A broken circle, perhaps, but aren’t the cracks where the light gets in? Incomplete, like life’s journey itself. A state of suspended arrival and departure…
I See The Wheel
Like time itself, yet another construction, all that is just circles back, circles back, circles back; perhaps I have been tricked into a false sense of progression? Instead, bound to monotony disguised as a new day. Day in day out, the wheel continues turning and I continue learning from this perpetual karmic round-about.
I See Karma
The full circle. The fruit born from our actions. A tribute to that which came before it. A continuation. The thread of a story, weaving and woven. Glimmers of that same colour coming back to visit me in an outfit I must now adorn. I can only hope I will like what I see in the mirror …
I See Presence and Absence
Presence of thought, absence of mind, or presence of mind, absence of thought? A solid, black stroke, a demanding presence. The space holding it asserting its absence… Or is the space present and the circle absent? And where do I fit, in the circle or the space?
I See Nature and Life
The moon. The sun. The Earth. The planets. Perfect spheres. Whole and complete in their comfortingly edgeless form. And we cannot forget nature’s non-visual cycles that communicate this subtle sense of perpetual roundedness. Infinite beginnings, infinite endings. The rotation of our planet on its axis. The unfurling of a fern frond. The age-telling rings of a tree’s stump. The rhythmic cycle of the seasons. The gestation period of each and every creature that walks, flies and swims. ‘Round and ‘round and around we go. A never-ending cylindrical dance, inherent to this mysterious existence.
But … What is the Answer?
I come back into my body, admiring the cyclical omnipresence I now see in all things, with their subtle hints of that which is utterly elusive and simultaneously all-encompassing. My short journey has come full circle and I feel a comforting sense of awe for this life, with all of its wonderful mysteries. This practise has reminded me to keep my eyes, mind, and heart open and curious but to always return home to rest in the not-knowing.
I can’t help but wonder if this moment in human history is simply part of some divine, cyclical plan. And even if it’s not, I feel reassured knowing that, as with the well-rounded nature of all things … This too shall pass.
What have you been doing to ground yourself or to fill in the gaps during this time? Have you ever tried this Ensō drawing meditation? If so, or if you feel inspired to, we would love to hear about it below. What did it bring up for you? What did you see? Feel? Discover? Ponder?
May Ensō arms embrace you and may revolutions of love keep you warm.
One of the most beautiful meditations I have ever read. Spectacular! For a few seconds, I was in touch with the infinite.
Healer in Jerusalem
I sure am going to try this
This is my first time hearing of Enso, what a wonderful practice. And I loved all the relationships you mentioned in your writing. I create art inspired by circles (mandalas & such) and share a process of creating called the creative circle. Your words have inspired me. Thank you.
Thanks I see those circles wiht my eyes fibrating over the flowers at the park and white, blue colours fibrating as circles, like in the image of Andrew Preble I use to have this seeing— after my special mental chi kung practice outdoor. I bless the earth and sky and birds and flowe while practicing my chi kung movements. I think this blessing is connected with seeing that fibrational beauty.