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The Zen Mind in East Asian Calligraphy / Shodo

- East Asian Calligraphy Foundation Course

Suitable for beginners – A journey to understanding and experiencing personal presence through the aesthetics and philosophy of East Asian Calligraphy / Ink Brush Practice

Introduction to East Asian Calligraphy/Ink Brush Practice with Tai Qi & Zen meditation

Duration: 6 weeks (Saturday mornings).

Date: 17th & 24th September; 1st, 8th, 15th & 22nd October, 2022.

Time: 9.30am - 12.30pm (3 hours)

Online Course: meeting link will be sent out a week before the first class.

* An Ink Brush Kit (worh €50 is included in this course).


This Oriental Brush Course will involve an in-depth study of East Asian calligraphy strokes and ideographs through mindfulness, presence and awareness. We will learn to trust the flow of Qi (ch'i, life-force) through our brush, and onto the paper, and likewise how we can bring awareness and joy into our everyday activities. By the end of this course, you will have a thorough understanding of the eight fundamental brush strokes as well as a firm grasp of the East Asian writing system.

“An old saying affirms that those who are immersed in calligraphy practice have deep life experience because life created by the touch of the brush strengthens life itself.”

To help you relax and cultivate the concentrated mindset, each session will begin with some simpleTai Chi movement followed by a short zazen (sitting meditation) led by Sensei Mary Soshin Laheen (Earth+Sky Zen Dublin). The word ‘zen’ means meditation and ‘zazen’ means sitting meditation. It is a body-mind practice that enables us to let go of the chattering mind and become more calm and focussed. As Norman Fischer says in What is Zen?:

“It is radically simple and easy to do. You can practice it whether you are a Zen practitioner, a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a secular humanist, or none of the above.”

Your Ink Brush Journey

In each session we will learn a single stroke and be guided through a close study of an ancient calligraphy masterpiece. Each stroke is demonstrated multiple times (and from several camera angles) to give us a clear sense of the brush movement, and each session ends with suggestions for home study designed to help you cultivate your own calligraphy practice.

Lesson 1: Breathing

We will see how to set up our workspace and do some basic brush movements as we learn posture, and how to hold and use our brush.

Lesson 2: Grounding

We explore how to connect our brush movement with our body and breath; we will learn some new strokes and do a close study of the ideograph “Human”.

Lesson 3: Bring Heaven to Earth

We combine the strokes we have been practicing and gain an understanding of the connections of this system of writing; we will do a close study of the ideograph “Heaven”.

Lesson 4: Being Centered

We identify the different types of East Asian calligraphy scripts; explore how our body interprets the brush flow and how this transforms our brush movements. We are introduced to applied strokes in semi-cursive and cursive scripts, and do a close study of the ideograph “Tree”.

Lesson 5: Creativity

We will learn new strokes, do a close study of the ideograph “Moon” and explore through practice all three scripts: formal, semi-cursive, and cursive.

Lesson 6: Rejoicing

We study the ideograph “Eternity”. This character is very important in East Asian calligraphy because it includes all eight of the most basic brush movements. With all the practice and understanding we have built in the last sessions, we will find ourselves more confident and joy with our brush work as we continue to practice all three scripts: formal, semi-cursive, and cursive.



  • UNDERSTAND the philosophy and deep meaning of East Asian brush practice with Zen meditation.

  • CULTIVATE the foundational practice through body posture, breathing and brush movement.

  • LEARN 8 calligraphy strokes and 6 ideographs.

  • CLOSE study of classical calligraphy works in 3 writing styles.

  • DEVELOP embodiment practices to remain present in everyday life.

  • PREPARE the foundation for further ink painting practice.


Course Schedule

Each session last for 3 hours with a tea break

  • Tai Qi Movements & Zazen (Zen meditation) - 20 mins

  • Ink Brush Practice - 60 mins

  • Tea Break - 20 mins

  • Tai Qi Movements & Zazen (Zen meditation) - 20 mins

  • Ink Brush Practice - 45 mins

  • Q & A - 15 mins



Yingge Xu Art of the Brush

Yingge Xu

From an early age Yingge Xu learned Tai Chi, meditation and calligraphy alongside her father while receiving a traditional education in China. Later she trained at the Chinese Flower and Bird Painting Institute and continued her learning with ink brush artists from both China and Japan.

Moving to Ireland in 2015, Yinnge has been teaching meditative brush painting workshops and retreats in meditation centres, art studios and schools across Ireland.

Mary Soshin Laheen

Mary Soshin Laheen is a Zen Teacher in the White Plum Asanga - an association of Zen teachers in the lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi, based generally in the Americas and Europe -. She has practiced zen since the 1990s and is the spiritual director of Earth+Sky Zen Dublin Dojo at 1 Upper Gardiner Street, in Dublin’s city centre. Mary is also an architect and

teaches Architecture at University College Dublin.



"This is a course for anyone, not just Artists and Creative people. It combines very mindful practices with relaxed enjoyment and is totally non-judgemental. Give it a go and believe that something wonderful will happen! "

-- Clare Hoffman, Ireland, May 2021

“... every week I have been enjoying learning these wonderful practices and I feel them influencing me in my other moments, massive enjoyment of the breath rising up, slowing down my perceptions and every moment lasting that little bit longer than before. I am so happy and grateful for your instruction… Thank you for sharing your beautiful wisdom, “

-- Mary, May 2021


Tools & Materials

This course includes an Oriental Brush Kit - Initual:

  • Chinese/Japanese ink brush

  • Black ink

  • Ink container & Brush rester

  • Magic Writing Mat (a reusable eco-friendly practicing mat)

* No one should be turned away for financial reasons.

Please write to us to request a reduced payment or to discuss flexible payment options.

We look forward to seeing you on-line!

Have questions? Contact me here.

Background of Oriental Brushwork

Oriental brush practice, which has been well known as East Asian calligraphy and ink painting or sumi-e in Zen tradition, have always been closely related to mindful art practice and meditation. This three-thousand-year-old art form, which originated in China has commonly been appreciated and practiced in most parts of East Asia and been introduced to the world.

Holding a brush and practicing calligraphy is a relaxing and joyful experience. Each moment of practice is a moment of learning. As a calligraphy master said “calligraphy is not a goal-oriented task but, rather, a path for deepening your way of life’’.



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