Quietly often watching good calligraphers is nothing but deceptive, as they tend to look very relaxed on what they’re doing, and also, make the process seem very easy to perform. If you’ll try it by yourself you’ll understand that shodo is more about calligraphy, rather than writing.
While practicing shodo one should look out for a sense of balance with his/her work, regarding the position of the characters on the page and their size and shape. While the work will have both thick and thin lines, there shouldn’t be uneven writing or excessive ink anywhere on the page. Each calligraphy sheet has to have, or it has to be the closest expression of your body-mind status in that particular moment.
You will find that shodo changes with the person’s learning curve, starting with “clear,” legible characters and ending up with an almost painting-like effect. In other words, one will evolve from a rigid to a more refined, natural kind of calligraphy practice.
If you plan to live in a Zen temple, shodo will be used intensively, especially during the sesshins and ordinations. From a personal point of view, this form of art will help you understand the balance between your body and mind, between the characters and the empty space around them, between fude and bokujyu, up to a point where these discriminations will fade away.
Practiced correctly shodo will enhance concentration and balance. Also practiced in a Zen context it will become complementary.
Just like in Zen, you should learn shodo and apply it to your everyday life. That’s the only way to understand the benefits of this amazing practice.
Images from calligrapher, Nakajima Hiroyuki.