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Published: Saturday, 7/18/2009

Summer series links Zen and creativity

BLADE RELIGION EDITOR

It's no coincidence that most Zen teachers are artists, whether they create music, poetry, painting, or pottery, according to Jay Weik.

"Since Zen has been in existence it has always been married to art - not that everybody who studies Zen has to suddenly become a pottery maker," he said.

But there's a strong connection between creativity and Zen meditation, he said, which will be explored in "The Artless Arts of Zen: A Summer Workshop Series," starting this weekend at the Toledo Zen Center, 6537 Angola Rd., Holland.

Mr. Weik and his wife, Karen, are bringing in renowned Zen teachers to lead workshops on everything from "slow food" to haiku.

"It is absolutely the biggest Zen program Toledo has ever hosted," Mr. Weik said. "This is the kind of thing that happens in New York City and Toledo is suddenly very much on the map of Zen because of this effort."

People from California to Chicago to Washington have signed up for the series, he said.

Mr. Weik added that Zen does not promote or require any religious doctrines, and although it is often linked with Buddhism it can be practiced by people of any religious tradition.

This morning's Zen workshop is titled "Just Eating: The Art of Oryoki with Slow Food Maumee."

"It's slow food, as opposed to fast food," Mr. Weik said. "It has to do with mindful eating and using the daily event of taking food as a creative art practice."

Oryoki was developed in the 11th century by Master Dogen, who felt that Buddhism in his home country of Japan had gotten shallow, formulaic, and ritualistic, Mr. Weik said.

Master Dogen created Oryoki to focus on eating as "a very conscious consecration of the meal to relieve suffering in the world," he said. "It's just a beautiful thing. It changed my perceptions of the normal everyday eating experience. The awareness gets into your cells."

For tomorrow's workshop, Mr. Weik will tap into his expertise as a musician.

In addition to being a Zen sensei and instructor of the martial art of Aikido, Mr. Weik is a jazz guitarist who teaches improvisation at the University of Toledo.

He will lead the workshop with John "Kyomon" Wieczorek, a New York drummer.

How does Zen affect musicianship?

"It has to do with directly developing the capacity to just be the music rather than just playing the music," Mr. Weik said. "And this is not something that you need to have 20 years of professional training before you are allowed to experience it."

In fact, he added, education too often impedes the Zen "flow state" in which the music and the musician are one.

"It's actually the case that the more training a person has, the further they can get away from that," Mr. Weik said. "What Zen does is basically take the flow state or the intimacy that happens at peak moments and you learn how to take that moment and basically have it all the time. When I'm driving a car and talking with you, it's the same mental state that I have when I'm on stage."

The summer workshop series continues Aug. 1-2 with a program titled "Shaped by Earth: The Zen Art of Tea Bowls," led by Mitsuo Kakutani, originally of Hyogo, Japan.

"Mr. Kakutani is a much older gentleman whose works have been in museums across the country and around the world," Mr. Weik said, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York and the Haifa Museum in Israel.

"He is going to be talking about the art of making a tea bowl, taking the clay and spinning it and firing it, and how it relates to the tea ceremony."

Participants will get the chance to make their own tea bowls, he said.

On Aug. 8, Larry Smith, a professor at Bowling Green State University, will teach on "The Stone Woman Speaks: Poetry as Spiritual Practice." The Zen

For those who are interested in taking Zen to the next level, Mr. Weik said, he will be leading a Zen Practice Weekend Retreat on Aug. 21-23 at Lourdes College in Sylvania.

A workshop by calligraphy master Kaz Tanahashi that was scheduled for Aug. 15-16 has been postponed and will be rescheduled for early 2010.

Registration and information on "The Artless Arts of Zen: A Summer Workshop" are available online at ToledoZen.org or by calling 419-861-1163.

- David Yonke



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