In this exercise, we will use simple drawing techniques to create a visual record of our meditation. Our
goal is to finish with a sense of serenity, and a finished piece of art that has meaning to you.
This practice is very similar to the use of mala or rosary beads, as an aid to meditation. We will simply
be replacing the pushing of beads with making marks on paper.
For the duration of the exercise, leave the voices of your inner critic at the door – don’t worry, they will
still be there later! 🙂 The purpose of doing this is to spend some time in the present moment. It’s an
opportunity for you to dedicate a little time to your well-being and to
the act of creativity (for many of us this is all too rare!).
What you will need:
Pen or pencil
Paper or sketchbook
Comfortable / quiet place to sit
20 – 60 minutes
Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take a moment to drop in, sitting with your spine straight. Notice
the breath, notice your environment. Settle down. Feel the effortlessness and calmness of your
awareness. Maintain a half-smile. Take a deep breath. Inhale. Exhale.
Now, with your eyes still closed, choose a word or short phrase that has a positive value to you. It can
also be an intention you would like to set. Take your time, but choose a single one. It can be “I love
you”, or “thank you”. You might decide on “I love Sarah”, or “ I forgive you”. “May all beings be free from
suffering” or simply “Om (ॐ)” Other possibilities are “I am an artist,” etc.. This will be your personal
mantra for this drawing.
Whatever you select, it should be free from negative or critical language. Try to use words other than
“can’t” and “don’t”.
When you’re ready, open your eyes and bring your attention to the pen and paper.
Next, you’ll choose a drawing stroke for your meditation. It can simply be a dot, a short line, a circle, or
a slightly more elaborate doodle or symbol. The key is to use the same mark throughout the meditation.
Choose an arbitrary or intentional point on the paper to begin. Concentrating on your chosen mantra,
make your first mark on the paper. Make a corresponding score with each recitation of your mantra (1
mark = 1 mantra repetition). Use your mind and hand simultaneously. It may be helpful to to break the mantra down, and make a separate mark for each syllable or segment.
Each time you say the mantra, make the corresponding stroke(s). You can intuitively place the new
marks throughout the paper, or choose to let the marks “grow” out of the previous mark organically, the way moss would grow across stone.
Proceed in this way, as you gradually fill the page. Remember to slow down. There is no rush, and little
to be gained from finishing quickly. Easily enter the here and now; enjoy and observe. Breathe.
Maintain a half-smile.
The mind may wander while you are working. This is completely fine. When you notice that you are no
longer paying attention, gently bring your focus back to the mantra and your drawing. Notice the tip of
the pen as it glides along the soft surface of the paper. Feel any emotions that arise. You may feel a
sense of gratitude, to be alive and awake, and to have this time to make art.
The marks may vary in size and shape slightly as you proceed. Each one is perfect, and you needn’t
worry much about the finished product. There is contentment in watching the art spring to life –
unexpected, spontaneous, satisfying, and interesting.
When you have completely filled the page (or feel pleased with the current form), it is finished! You now
have an image, a piece of artwork, that you have injected with intention and meaning. You can hang it
somewhere to remind you of your mantra, or give it to a loved one as a gift. You may want to stow it
away somewhere special, or even release it, and burn it as an exercise in non-attachment.
You are invited to make many drawings using this method, any time. Craft different personal mantras
and use various marks and symbols. Make huge, intricate drawings over the course of many days, or
make short, uncomplicated, zen ones with lots of negative space.
Thank you for taking this time. Enjoy!
“You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day, unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an
hour.” – Zen saying