Monday 22 December 2008


When I was an artist in residence at a Korean University and, as a result of my curiosity, I used to visit a Buddhist temple each Sunday evening. The temple presented a weekly meditation plus talk in English for foreigners. This was followed by a discussion and cup of tea. Since most foreigners were tourists they would come to this evening maybe once or twice. However, I kept up my visits for half a year. This is how I came to the attention of the head monk. And he, sensing my interest in Zen Buddhism, invited me, at the end of my stay in Korea, to a one-to-one audience with the Zen Master.

This, I knew, was very special. The head-monk prepped me on what to do, how to sit and behave. He also told me I was able to ask just one question. (It is useful to pause here and consider what it is you would ask) I would have to go in, sit down in front of the Master and not say anything, until he indicated that I could ask my question.

The day arrived when the Zen Master held his audiences. There were a number of Korean people waiting in line. One after one they went in. Some took longer than others. When it was my turn I entered the space with due reverence, bowed and took my seat on a cushion in front of the master. I sat as properly as I could with my legs knotted into a pretzel shape and waited. After a while the master gave an almost imperceptible nod with his head, indicating that I could now ask my question. I asked: “How may I become a better artist”. Nothing happened for a period of time. “Attention” he then barked at me, upon which I sat up even straighter, thinking I was not sitting properly. Then with a small gesture of his hand he dismissed me. A one word answer to my one question.

It took me a while to figure this advice. But I now know, that we are able to make anything special by giving it our attention. If, however, we are able to give something, or someone, our concentrated attention we are able to find the magic which is inherent in all things. (think here of being in love, for instance)

To test this theory, if something is not working for you. Give it your total attention and see what happens.

Make your work movements as unhurried as caresses

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