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How Calligraphy can contribute to your well-being

... by making it part of your mindfulness practice!

Mindfulness has been a very popular word in the past few years, so much so that it is now becoming quite common to see the word mindfulness associated with various creative activities, calligraphy is one of them and rightfully if you ask me. There are a few calligraphy for mindfulness or mindfulness calligraphy workshops around and I

To understand such a keen interest in calligraphy for mindfulness or mindfulness calligraphy, we first need to look at them individually, what they actually are, to soon understand how they compliment one another so well.

Let's begin with Mindfulness.

I'm not sure there is one universal definition of Mindfulness, yet we can describe it as being aware of what is happening in the present moment within us and around us, or as it is often simplified as being fully present. It is recognised that practising Mindfulness, living in the present moment, has positive benefits on our general well-being:

  • it enhances attention,

  • improves emotion regulation and

  • reduces stress by its actions on different parts of the brain and the changes in connexion between regions of the brain.

Although being mindful may seem obvious and simple to do, let's acknowledge that it isn't. In the fast paced society we live in, we spend most of our time looking for ways to win time, execute tasks quicker and paradoxically we spend that “saved” time on social media, watching series, consuming tons of information and overstimulating our brains which can lead to more stress. As mindfulness can help reduce stress, it is maybe more important than ever to introduce mindfulness to our lives, even as short practices throughout the day, whether it is paying attention to the preparation of dinner, while we're eating, doing the dishes, making ourself a cup of tea, etc. Still it may not be so easy as for many of us these actions have become so natural that we do them on auto-pilot, without thinking about them, giving space for our mind to think or worry about something else.

So that's where Calligraphy comes into play! How? I hear you say.

Well, let's take a closer look at what calligraphy is.

Although calligraphy being defined as the art of beautiful writing, it is very different from our handwriting. Unlike handwriting in which letters are made of shapes of a consistent thickness , in calligraphy letters are made of a series of strokes (referred to as the basic strokes) varying in thickness using tools with a flexible nib. The rule being having a thin stroke when the pen goes in an upward direction and a thick stroke when going in a downward direction. Transition from thin to thick and vice versa, requires a deep focus and slow movement to apply the right pressure of the pen onto paper to obtain the correct thickness where need be and have consistency throughout – which implies being mindful of our action. Ta-da that's your mindfulness practice starting right there! That very same focus helps us relax and switch off from worries and any other mental chatter to bring us back to the present moment.

We can even put the mindfulness practice further even before putting ink to paper. I usually start every practice by thinking about my practice and its purpose: is it to practice some drills, is it in preparation of working on a commission, preparing a class, designing a new workbook. Then I consider the tools I'll be using, pointed pen and ink, brush pen, iPad, etc. Then I sit at my desk and consciously lay out my tools for comfort and easiness, pay attention to my posture with my feet flat on the floor and a straight back and relaxed shoulders, take a few slow deep breaths, set an intention for my practice and put pen to paper starting with some calligraphy drills to warm up and connect the strokes to my breathing (upstroke with inhale and downstroke with exhale) and do so for a few minutes. Doing so I'm also connecting my brain to my arm, wrist, hand and the pen and paper, which enhances a deep body-brain connexion, as well as a within and around connexion. Being aware of this helps to let go of any distraction and allows me to be fully in the present moment.

Our brain loves repetition, so a regular practice of calligraphy, as little as 10 minutes a day, will help you focus and bring a sense of calm while improving your calligraphy skills. I invite you to give it a try and make Calligraphy part of your daily Mindfulness practice. It will have a positive impact on your well-being while building muscle memory for more consistency in your calligraphy. Remember Practice makes Progress!

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