Skip to main content

Calligratherapy is the combination of Chinese calligraphy and mindfulness practices – such as Carl Jung’s theory on connecting with inner thoughts for happiness and fulfilment, or James Nestor’s theory on breathing for greater calmness and well-being.

Chinese Calligraphy is a form of written pictures and has been practised for thousands of years for its artistic and healing properties. This traditional art form helps to bring awareness to the present moment, encouraging stillness and contemplation by focusing on one simple task to integrate body and mind. As the calligrapher draws/writes, their breathing becomes even, their heartbeat slows, and a sense of focus and clarity develops. It brings about a state of calm awareness and, over time, the calligrapher refines their temperament through the artistic representation of thought and consciousness.

According to Hue (2009), Chinese calligraphy practice promotes mindfulness in almost every single act involved. Everything that you see in front of you, the brushes, the ink and the inkstones, the paper (which we collectively refer to as the Four Treasures of the Study) can be considered an extension of yourself.

Actions such as flattening the rice paper, dripping water onto an ink stone, grinding an ink stick, softening a brush, gripping the brush etc will help to settle your breathing, and regulate your heartbeat and consequently your cortisol levels.

Because the practice emphasizes “presentism”, which keeps on whatever the writer does and thinks in the “here-and-now”, Hue (2009) asserts that calligraphy is an exercise to keep one’s mind calm and tranquil. He stated, “Chinese calligraphy is an art inextricably linked to the practice of mindfulness” (p.69). Other writers also recognized the spiritual values of Chinese calligraphy practice (Chang, 1992; Chiang, 1973; Chung, 2006; Shen, 2004; Terayama, 2004), suggesting that calligraphy is a spiritual process that leads to the cultivation and expression of an individual’s inner self.

But there is more. Based on Jung, Nestor and Hue’s theory, Xin Huang, a Chinese calligraphy master, and Leah De Wijze, a certified counsellor, together developed seven levels of calligratherapy practice: 

Level 1: Be present (mind)

Level 1 of calligratherapy is all about being present and clearing the mind. This can be done through deep breathing exercises with all five senses. The aim is to connect your mind to the present moment and focus on the task at hand. This helps to clear away distractions and allow for greater concentration and clarity.

Level 2: Grounding (mind and body)

Level 2 of calligratherapy is all about grounding yourself both mentally and physically. This can be done by setting up your workspace, posture and brush correctly. It is also important to be aware of your body and breath while you are doing so, as this will help to keep you calm and grounded. The ink-grinding mindfulness exercise is also a great way to focus on the present moment and connect with your body and surroundings.

Level 3: Ink, brush and paper interaction (mind and hand)

Level 3 of calligratherapy focuses on the interaction between ink, brush and paper. The basics strokes are important at this level as they help to shape your writing and create beautiful artwork. Connecting your brush movement with your breath is also key here, as it helps to bring a sense of peace and harmony while you write.

Level 4: Five different styles of calligraphy (mind, hand and body)

Level 4 of calligratherapy is all about exploring the different styles of Chinese calligraphy. This can be done by connecting your brush flow and movements with your breath for each different type of script. This helps to bring about greater control and confidence in your writing, as well as helps you find connections between each of the five scripts.

Level 5: Understand the meaning behind ( mind, hand, body, and heart )

Level 5 of calligratherapy is all about understanding the meaning behind Chinese characters. This can be done by studying the composition and ideology of Chinese characters and connecting your breath with the speed and pace of your brushwork to complete individual characters. It is important to focus on the feeling of the stroke and how it connects with the paper. This will help you to create beautiful and expressive calligraphy pieces that embody the meaning and spirit of the character.

Level 6: understand the philosophy behind (head, heart and mind)

Level 6 of calligratherapy requires you to study a phrase, understand the philosophical meaning behind it and reflect on your life experience.

By understanding the philosophy behind Chinese characters, you can begin to see how they relate to your own life. You can reflect on your own personal beliefs and how they connect with the meanings behind the characters. You will leave to connect brush movements between several characters and sync with your breathing cycle. 

Level 7: visualise your reflection (hand, heart, mind and soul​ )

Level 7 of calligratherapy is all about visualising your own reflection. This can be done by combining calligraphy with ink art to create pieces that reflect your personal beliefs and values. It is important to use the same brush stroke technique to create a sense of unity and cohesion between the two mediums. By doing so, you will be able to express yourself in a more creative and meaningful way.

With more practice, you will be able to engage your whole body and mind in physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects, which will give you an immediate feeling of well-being.

Leave a Reply