Give your senses a ‘Zen off’

      Many people think that Zen has to do with having a Chinese or Japanese flair to their furnishings, but nothing could be further from the truth.  While Zen was created and practiced in the Asian world, it is a principle of clean, peaceful living by surrounding your mind and life with peace, love and simplicity. 

     This does not mean that you have to have white bare walls with unappealing furnishings.  In fact, some of the most beautiful architectural designs are formed around Zen. Wide-open spaces set the mood for clear, calm and pure.  Think water and earth when decorating and use neutrals, blues and greens.  Do away with collectables, trinkets and colorful area rugs.  Clear the walls of pictures and hangings.  If this is beginning to sound a little bizarre, start with one room as a test. 

     After everything has been cleared from your room, notice the light.  If the space only has one tiny window, artificial light will have to do but should be balanced and ceiling mounted to mimic the sky’s bright light.  Wood floors are best in keeping with nature and the walls painted a pale natural color.  Furnishings should be sparse and straight-lined, nothing frilly or ornate. Decorate your space with a small pile of pebbles, a piece of driftwood, a single flower, or a picture of a waterfall or seascape, keeping away from bold colors. 

     Zen is all about creating a conscious awareness by keeping your mind open with few items to stimulate the senses.  Reducing the active décor in a home is a great way to start.  Natural unfussy materials will bring out the quality of your mind instead of the quantity that you feel necessary to achieve a goal. 

      Once your room is completed, have a few guests over to witness the reaction.  As soon as they enter, a feeling of calmness will overtake the senses.

     The seven ruling Zen principles to follow as guiding lights in design are:

     (1) Asymmetry (Fukinsei) creates a spontaneous creativity that is not allowed by the stiff, formal and artificial presence of symmetry.  It is okay to have three candlesticks grouped together, not two evenly divided.

     (2) Simplicity (Kanos) is key in Zen with undue need for the ornate, flowery coverings on every spot in the home.  Sparse, fresh and neat replace clutter and too much for the mind to conceive in one area.

     (3) Austerity (Koko) Zen requests if you do not like it or have no use for it, let it go.

     (4) Naturalness (Shizen) comes from the beginning of nature, bare wood, an unpolished stone, or untouched grasses.  Zen is artless but artful at the same time by using purity.

     (5) Subtle Profundity (Yugen) that is mysterious yet subtle can be created through modern lighting but the most pleasurable is by the use of natural sunlight or moonlight.  Skylights and floor to ceiling windows allow the energy to flow freely through a dwelling.

     (6) Freedom from Worldly Attachments (Datsuzoku) usually stops most people dead in their tracks.  As Buddha taught, “It is not a strong bond, say the wise that is made of iron, wood or hemp.  Far greater an attachment than that is the longing for jewels and ornaments, children and wives.”  Not keeping up with the Joneses is sometimes difficult to achieve.

     (7) Silence is bliss. Zen embraces the quiet calm of dawn, dusk, late autumn and early spring.

Asian face sculpture by Ruth Ko

     Practicing Zen can help develop a brighter attitude even though Buddhism may not be your religion of choice.  The principles that outline this belief can be applied to any type of faith.  Art in and around the home through Zen can lead to a more structured life and a feeling of well-being and pleasure.

Published by on November 2011. Filed under Archives, Art-to-Art Palette Journal, In-Out Design Section. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

1 Comment for “Give your senses a ‘Zen off’”

  1. Chevalier Tony Clark

    The article is soulful and direct like Zen itself. I really enjoyed seeing one of the works by Ruth KO. Please feature her. I love her centered vision

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