Sunday, June 1, 2008

An Excerpt from "Brush Meditation"

The website Michi Online ( offers an excerpt of Brush Meditation: A Japanese Way to Mind & Body Harmony. This book is out of print, but the complete book was recently reissued in H. E. Davey's new work The Japanese Way of the Artist. You can get your own copy of The Japanese Way of the Artist here:

To read the Michi Online excerpt of Brush Meditation go here:

Stephen Fabian Review of "Brush Mediation"

Brush Meditation: A Japanese Way to Mind & Body Harmony is out of print, but the complete book was recently reissued in H. E. Davey's new work The Japanese Way of the Artist. You can get your own copy of The Japanese Way of the Artist here:

Brush Meditation: A Japanese Way to Mind & Body Harmony

"Shodo ideally represents one of the greatest levels of harmony between thought and action: it both serves as a mechanism for depicting this unity and supplies a path for cultivating it."

H. E. Davey

This brief excerpted quote is a great summary of the focus of H. E. Davey's new book. In it, he not only describes how working with black ink, brush, and white paper reflects the level of personal integration and harmony, but how to use this medium to integrate and harmonize the self. His insights into these processes are rich and clearly expressed, and beautifully illustrated: readers can carry away both inspiring examples of quality shodo (Japanese calligraphy), and exercises with which to begin their own progress on this Way.

After a short preface and introductory linguistic orientation, the work unfolds in four chapters. The first, "The Language of Shodo," might be considered the roots: it traces the historical basis of Japanese writing and calligraphy, then explains several fundamental aesthetic principles and spiritual concepts--such as wabi, sabi, shibumi, shibui, ki, and hara--that underlie this and other traditional Japanese arts. Chapter 2, "Mind & Body Connection," is the central stem or trunk that grows from these roots and is the support or core from which the later material grows. In it are included specific "experiments" to help relax, focus, and connect our mental and physical abilities, critical for artistic expression via a brush with black ink on white paper.

Branching from this trunk is "Uniting Mind, Body & Brush" (Chapter 3) in which a further series of "experiments" walk us through preparations for actually putting ink on paper, including correct posture and manipulation of the artistic tools. The final chapter solidifies our understanding of how critical is a unity of mind, body, and medium in brush work, as we learn for ourselves that as a medium, black ink brushed on white paper is a valuable and incomparable insight into our very being. In this medium there is no going back, no alterations, no corrections: your character and artistry are starkly revealed with each stroke. From selecting the items to be used, to grinding your own ink, to instruction in the shape and flow of basic strokes, this chapter helps cultivate the reader's own blossoming in this meditative art. Sources for necessary materials and suggestions on finding a qualified instructor, glossary, index, and brief afterword round out the text.

The illustrations accompanying the text are certainly among its greatest attractions, and at the same time substantiate the advice Mr. Davey has to share with us: as an award-winning calligrapher, he can clearly "walk his talk." His illustrations are beautiful and inspirational, full of vibrant life and clarity. Their quality, as much as his compelling language, encourages us into a deeper unity of self as accomplished through regular study and practice of this traditional Japanese art. While I have some reservations about the direct correlation between an artist's character and the painted strokes on a page, it seems clear that challenging oneself along the "Way of Calligraphy" has many and deep benefits for artistic expression and the cultivation of self. Anyone interested in such pursuits should do him/herself a favor and read this book.

About the Reviewer: Dr. Stephen Fabian is the author of "Clearing Away Clouds: Nine Lessons for Life from the Martial Arts" (Weatherhill). Dr. Fabian's background is in anthropology. Having lived in Japan, he has had considerable exposure to Japanese culture, along with over two decades of training in Japanese and Korean martial arts and ways.

An Excerpt from "The Japanese Way of the Flower"

The website Michi Online ( offers the an excerpt of The Japanese Way of the Flower: Ikebana as Moving Meditation. This book is out of print, but the complete book was recently reissued in H. E. Davey's new work The Japanese Way of the Artist. You can get your own copy of The Japanese Way of the Artist here:

To read the Michi Online excerpt of The Japanese Way of the Flower go here:

Still Another Review of "Brush Meditation"

The website Spirituality & Practice ( offers the following review of Brush Meditation. Brush Meditation: A Japanese Way to Mind & Body Harmony is out of print, but the complete book was recently reissued in H. E. Davey's new work The Japanese Way of the Artist. You can get your own copy of The Japanese Way of the Artist here:

Reviewed By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Brush Meditation A Japanese Way to Mind and Body Harmony
H. E. Davey
Stone Bridge Press 06/99
ISBN: 1-880656-38-8

As D. T. Suzuki observed, "Art is studied in Japan not only for art's sake, but for spiritual enlightenment." When you practice "shodo" or the way of calligraphy, you also develop your mind in the Zen way. It is a path that enables one to cultivate calm and concentration.

H. E. Davey, the director of the Sennin Foundation for Japanese Cultural Arts in the San Francisco Bay Area, begins with a brief history of calligraphy and painting in Asia. According to the author, "Shodo allows the dynamic movement of the artist's ki (life energy or spirit) to become observable in the form of rich black ink. . . . Many practitioners of this art feel that the visible rhythm of Japanese calligraphy ultimately embodies a 'picture of the mind.' " That is the meaning of the saying "If your mind is correct, the brush will be correct." Davey explores the basic techniques of controlling the brush. This edifying paperback delivers the goods and makes crystal clear the close connection between art, meditation, and self-mastery.

More Reviews of "Brush Meditation"

Brush Meditation: A Japanese Way to Mind & Body Harmony is out of print, but the complete book was recently reissued in H. E. Davey's new work The Japanese Way of the Artist. You can get your own copy of The Japanese Way of the Artist here:
"Davey ... opens a joyful, participatory path toward mind-body-universe harmony, creating a pleasurable experience from first sight through continued touch. More than just an art adventure, this book introduces one to the spirit of Asian culture... Brush up on your own spirituality with simple step-by-step exercises that explore life's mysteries." -
The NAPRA ReView

"Davey's expert knowledge of Japan and meditation are evident as he introduces readers to Japanese calligraphy, one of the country's most interesting and intricate practices... A solid introduction for those who want to pursue brushwork studies, and an interesting read for students of Japanese meditation." -Today's Librarian

Michi Online Review of "Brush Meditation"

The website Michi Online ( offers the following review of Brush Meditation. This book is out of print, but the complete book was recently reissued in H. E. Davey's new work The Japanese Way of the Artist. You can get your own copy of The Japanese Way of the Artist here:

Review of Brush Meditation: A Japanese Way to Mind & Body Harmony, By H. E. Davey
Reviewed by Dave Lowry

Brush Meditation: A Japanese Way to Mind & Body Harmony (Stone Bridge Press), ISBN 1-880656-47-7, $16.95, soft cover, 144 pages, by H. E. Davey

Strike with the katana, the Japanese long sword. Arrange a blossom in that brief interval after it's been cut, before it withers. Whisk a bowl of tea into a perfect froth. Seemingly disparate activities, yet each demands a similar sense of irrevocable action; absolute commitment; total coordination of mind and body. Once begun, none can be retracted. The consequences of each are obvious: a blunder is, if anything, more manifest than a flawless execution. In perhaps no other Japanese form of creative impulse is this concept of ichi-go, ichi-e--"one encounter, one chance"--more dramatic or obvious than when the calligrapher first touches an ink-wet brush to the dry expanse of white paper before him. Shodo, the Way of the Brush, exemplifies the spirit of Japanese art. In its potential for artistic expression contained within the rigid demands of form lies the challenge and the infinite reward of all the classical Ways of Japan.

From the budo (martial arts) to kado (or ikebana) to chado, the discipline of the tea ceremony, the range of these traditional Japanese Ways introduced to the West in the past half century has been extensive. Shodo, for the most part, remains an exception. The elegant art of the Japanese brush has, in large degree, been overlooked by Westerners in pursuit of the various Ways.

Instruction outside Japan is limited. There are a few books on the subject; nearly all focussed on technical aspects of the art or else scholarly in direction, devoted to tracing the development of brush writing from its origins in China to its importation and evolution in Japan. In pleasant contrast, H. E. Davey's new book, Brush Meditation: A Japanese Way to Mind & Body Harmony, takes a unique approach in introducing shodo to the general public outside Japan. Quoting calligrapher Kobara Ranseki, who notes that "Every time I teach, I explain that art is balance," the author adopts a similar strategy in presenting shodo: a balanced one. The philosophical underpinnings of the craft are juxtaposed with practical advice on how to sit when practicing calligraphy, how to grasp the brush, what to look for in the shape and proper structure of the written character. Chapters are nicely balanced, with a history of ecriture in China and Japan, followed by an exploration of the mind-body connexions pursued by the student of calligraphy.

Then comes a chapter on the correct attitudes and habits of the shodoka ("calligrapher"), and finally one featuring instructions for calligraphic compositions and projects. The result is a well-organized, comprehensive introduction to the Way of the brush, with a number of points to recommend it.

As one reads through the book, another, incidentally, from Stone Bridge Press which is rapidly gaining a reputation as a quality purveyor of books about Japan, some observations occur. Included in the closing chapter are directions for brushing an enso, for example, the smooth circle of ink that is a provenance and signature of the Zen adept. Despite the do-it-yourself enso, Zen's overall contributions to shodo are given a mercifully short shrift here. The overemphasis on this sect of exoteric Buddhism in Western literature on all the Japanese Do ("Ways") has far eclipsed other equally important influences on them. Native Shinto sensibilities, Taoist cosmology, the arcane lore of mikkyo Buddhist teachings: all have been consistently ignored in the interpretation of Japan's arts. And so Davey's dismissal of all calligraphy produced by Zen adepts as being necessarily great or even competent is refreshing. On the other hand, a great deal is made in this book of the operation and importance of ki energies during shodo. This may irritate some readers impatient with the over-mystification of ki which has become practically a cottage industry among too many non-Japanese authors bent on draping Japan's artistic forms in impenetrable mysticism. In the author's defense, it must be noted that he is a no-nonsense pragmatist when it comes to ki. He is using the concept primarily as a way of explaining the control of energy, the conscious expression of spirit, the flow of intent from the mind of the shodoka to the brush in his hand to the flowering of the character on paper.

Davey struggles a bit when he explains the actual mechanics of making the three basic strokes of brush calligraphy. That is understandable. The simplest basic of any Do is impossible to describe through words alone. Ask the chajin (tea ceremony student), for instance, to try to write directions for the basics of fukusa-sabaki. These are techniques which, common to all the Ways, simply cannot be adequately explained in print, nor mastered unless one is directly under the tutelage of a teacher. This book introduces the skills and makes no claims to do more in that regard. As much as any "how-to" text, instructions for controlling the line and shape of written characters are clear, detailed, and sufficient to compel the reader to take out ink, brush, and paper, and to "give it a try." The book's usefulness and value, in addition to providing the technical basics of calligraphy, however, lies in the broader scope of rendering for the reader the process of undertaking shodo, or any of the Japanese artistic disciplines. Brush Meditation addresses a number of concepts that should occupy the calligrapher as well as anyone with an interest in these Ways. The author warns, for example, about the pitfalls of boredom, repetition, and the constant demand of systematic practice, and his comments on overcoming these are illuminating. His discussion of the spiritual component that elevates craft into art is informed and inspiring. He describes wonderfully the conflict between a natural spontaneity--which is the goal of anyone following a Do--and the vital adherence to a set form-which is vital to achieving that goal.

"If your mind is correct, the brush will be correct," the author reminds. The adage is equally valid contrapuntally. Beautiful calligraphy emanates from a correctly tuned mind. This is clearly Davey's motivation and intent for following in the path of the brush. His view of shodo is as a means of personal transformation and self-cultivation; his book is directed at sharing this perspective. Brush Meditation offers a splendid glimpse into the discipline of Japanese calligraphy as more than a purely artistic or communicative medium. It is an enjoyable read, one that educates as it stimulates the imagination, and is sure to be a welcome, quickly ink-stained addition to the library of those with a serious interest in the Ways of traditional Japan.

Dave Lowry
Mr. Dave Lowry literally grew up in the Japanese cultural arts. As a boy, he commenced a lifelong study of Yagyu Shinkage Ryu swordsmanship under a Japanese teacher who was living in Missouri. In 1985, Mr. Lowry's experiences growing up as a Westerner, who was deeply immersed in Japanese cultural and martial arts, formed the basis for Autumn Lightning (Shambhala), his first book, which was widely acclaimed. His sequel to this book, Persimmon Wind, was recently published by Tuttle.

In addition to Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, Mr. Lowry has trained in karate-do and a variety of modern martial ways. His current and primary martial arts activities are focused on Yagyu Shinkage Ryu, Shindo Muso Ryu (an old combative art utilizing a four-foot staff), and aikido.

He is heavily involved with the Japanese community in the St. Louis area, and he has practiced a wide variety of Japanese arts including go (an ancient Japanese game), shodo (calligraphy), kado (flower arrangement), and chado (tea ceremony). Mr. Lowry is also active in the organization and running of the St. Louis Japanese Festival, the largest such festival in North America. He is on the Executive Board of the St. Louis Japanese Festival as well, and he is the President of the St. Louis-Suwa Sister City Committee.

Mr. Dave Lowry has a degree in English, and works as a professional writer. He has authored numerous books, including Sword and Brush (Shambhala); his monthly columns appear in several martial arts magazines, and he is the restaurant critic for St. Louis Magazine.

Spirituality & Practice Review of "The Japanese Way of the Flower"

The website Spirituality & Practice ( offers the following review of The Japanese Way of the Flower. This book is out of print, but the complete book was recently reissued in H. E. Davey's new work The Japanese Way of the Artist. You can get your own copy of The Japanese Way of the Artist here:
The Japanese Way of the Flower: Ikebana as Moving Meditation
H. E. Davey, Ann Kameoka
Stone Bridge Press 09/00
Paperback $16.95
ISBN: 1-880656-47-7

According to an old Japanese legend, a young girl came to her local well to draw water, only to discover that a trailing vine had wound itself around the rope that pulled the bucket. Baking in the sunlight, a single blossom had opened itself to the day. The girl savored the flower's beauty for a few moments. Then, in order not to disturb the plant, she walked out of her way to the next well to draw her water. This is an example of union with the "flower heart."

In this sturdy and illuminating examination of kado, the Japanese art of flower arrangement, H. E. Davey, founder and director of the Sennin Foundation Center for Japanese Cultural Arts, and Ann Kameoka, a certified instructor in Ikenobo-style flower arranging, reveal how this way leads to personal transformation. The paperback begins with a history of the art and moves on to an exploration of the relationship between the mind and body of the kado student. The authors have included meditation exercises that can be used with flower arranging. They then present basic flower compositions with color photographs, diagrams, and step-by-step instructions. Sources for flower arrangement supplies are listed in the back of the book.

One of the most poignant chapters zeroes in on the fundamental principles of kado. They include harmony, asymmetrical balance, artlessness, impermanence, and oneness with the universe. Davey and Kameoka note: "What better art than kado to lead us to nonattachment as well as a profound awareness of the transient character of life? Flowers that you have painstakingly arranged will wither and die in a short time." The flower artist or sculptor turns his or her attention to these beauties and, in the process, experiences a unity with the natural world that is transformative.

Spirituality & Practice Review of "Living the Japanese Arts & Ways"

The website Spirituality & Practice ( offers the following review of Living the Japanese Arts & Ways. This book is going out of print, but the complete book was recently reissued in H. E. Davey's new work The Japanese Way of the Artist. You can get your own copy of The Japanese Way of the Artist here:

Book Review
By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Living the Japanese Arts & Ways 45 Paths to Meditation & Beauty
H. E. Davey
Stone Bridge Press 01/03
Paperback $18.95
ISBN: 1-880656-71-X

In a Nutshell: In this masterful work, H. E. Davey explicates the five central attributes at the heart of the Japanese Arts and Ways: harmony, asymmetrical balance, artlessness, impermanence, and unity with the universe. These are all evident in bonsai, tea ceremony, yoga, ikebana, the martial arts, and calligraphy. With lyricism and a deep love for the aesthetics and spirituality of these arts, the author discusses 45 concepts of the Japanese Ways, many of which have Taoist roots.

About the Author: H. E. Davey is Director of the Sennin Foundation Center for Japanese Cultural Arts. An accomplished practitioner and teacher of Japanese yoga, calligraphy, and martial arts. he holds the highest rank in Ranseki Sho Juku calligraphy and exhibits his work annually in Japan. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

Sum and Substance: "The ultimate aesthetic running through every Japanese Way is a naturalness in which the difference between the individual and the universal softens into oneness," writes H. E. Davey as he delineates the harmonizing of the mind and body that is central to so many martial ways, artistic ways, performing arts, and traditional crafts. The author's discussion of the spiritual dimension that permeates all of these endeavors is salutary and impressive.

Davey opens our eyes to the enticements of fuga, a profound appreciation and closeness to nature which Basho described as being "a companion of the four seasons"; shoshin, the beginner's mind that cherishes each moment as a fresh start; mono no aware, "an awareness of the fleeting and fragile nature of life, the fact that all created things deteriorate and dissolve back into the universe"; wabi-sabi, which honors the rustic and vulnerable aspect of aged objects; and ichi-go, ichi-e, "one encounter, one opportunity" wherein the present moment is savored as filled with riches. The practitioner of the Japanese arts demonstrates high regard for mystery, peaceful stillness, the rigors of training, detachment, and nonduality. Davey also defines essential terms such as ki (life energy), hara (abdominal centering), fudoshin (immovable mind), and others.

A Teaching Story: "The mind leads the body's actions. Not long ago I read about pianist Liu Chi Kung. In 1958, he placed second to Van Cliburn in a Tchaikovsky piano contest. Not long after, during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, he was imprisoned. He lived alone in a cell for seven years. When he was released, he almost immediately played a series of highly acclaimed concerts. The public was amazed that none of his virtuosity had been lost, despite seven years without a piano. When asked how he had retained such a high level of skill with no piano to practice on, he replied, 'I practiced every day in my mind.' ''

Quotes To Go:
"Furyu: From two words meaning, 'wind' and 'flowing.' It suggests an elegance both tangible and intangible, an inexpressible, ephemeral beauty that can be experienced only in the moment, for in the next instant it will dissolve like the morning mist."

"In the Ways, furyu describes an instant in which the mind experiences the poignancy of a brief moment of fragile beauty, a moment so overwhelming and intense that words can barely hint at it — cherry blossoms caught by the wind, and for the briefest moment . . . cascading . . . hanging in a cloud of pink."

"If the mind remains in the now, it's impossible to worry. People worry solely about an event that's come to pass or one that may take place in the future; the current moment contains no time or space for worry."

"When the mind is agitated, the spirit grows fatigued." (Chiei)