zen moments in a nutshell
A few decades ago, the term Zen moment was quite unknown in the West. Today it has become a “consumer item” and similar to the pair of terms feng shui 風水, most people do not understand what it is actually about. In fact, it’s rather annoying how twisted the Western approach to the subject can often be. (Actually, the term “zen moment” does not exist in either the Japanese or the Chinese language).
I don’t want to destroy illusions, nor do I want to imply that my view is absolutely correct – although I also think that my understanding can be helpful – at least for those who want to understand my pictures better. My understanding of the matter has nothing to do with incense sticks, YouTube Reiki music, and herbal tea.
Before I go into more detail, I would like to explain why I am even broaching the subject. Well, mainly because for decades, interrupted by sometimes longer breaks, I have tried again and again to depict Zen ideas visually or to make progress in the effort to approach Zen.
In Zen philosophy, only the moment is real. What has passed can no longer be influenced and what the future will bring cannot be said. Only the moment, “the very now” is real and contains everything. With the help of meditation, we learn not to let our thoughts wander, to let the horde of frolicking monkeys rest in our heads, and to understand ourselves in the “here and now”. It’s very difficult sometimes, and it doesn’t always work out, but when we get to the point we’re filled with something hard to put into words, the “Zen moment”. So I try to express it with painting.
A little help to visualize what zen moments can be (we had loads of them when we were little kids).
1) Imagine you are still a little baby at 9 months and standing in your cot. You heard noises and right, suddenly your father is standing in front of your cot, beaming at you and you know what is coming: he grabs your armpits and with a swing he pulls you out of the bed into the air, twirling you in circles before he hugs you to his chest: that’s a Zen moment.
2) You are c. 8-9 years. Your best friend wants to go swimming with you today and you might even catch a fish. You step into the garden early in the morning, and the dew is still glistening in a spider’s web. You realize that you are now on vacation and the whole day is yours. As if to reinforce it, your neighbor’s rooster belts out his “Cock-a-doodle-doo” in the early morning: that’s a Zen moment. In these moments you are completely yourself.
3) Once again a brief reference to our childhood days. You sit on a swing, you swing, and the swing reaches its highest point – before it swings back in the opposite direction: that small, short point where the swing stops in the air: that’s a Zen moment.
I know everyone now is asking themselves the question: Can a donkey have a zen moment too?
Yes, all he has to do is stand on his hind legs, gain momentum, jump in the air – and before he goes down again, he has his Zen moment. I tried to capture this reflection (in the Zen Buddhist tradition) on a sketch sheet, the donkey, and its Zen moment, so to speak. It’s as simple as that – at least in theory.
I probably succeeded best in capturing this moment in landscape painting. One of the early attempts was this:
Now, 30 years later, the topic is omnipresent again. I try to open up further levels I would like to add a few examples. First, two crops from a larger image that reflect zen moments – as I understand it – quite well.
Another part of the same painting: Lines of force already play an important role in the structure of the picture. They help to relate dynamics, movement, power, noise, etc. to their opposites (remember the swing example). 
Lastly, I want to show the picture as a whole. With what has been said so far, it should no longer be perceived as richly chaotic and the function of the first two excerpts should be more clearly recognizable. The line that forms the second row of brown dots reflects the shape of the mountain range, thus creating an additional sense of space. At the same time, these points cause the viewer to have a higher perspective. We look down on the points a bit. Still, confusing? 
As I have mentioned before, Chinese calligraphy plays a particularly important role for me. I couldn’t capture “Zen moments” without practicing calligraphy. Below are 3 characters for a better understanding of the idea behind it.
 I wrote about the importance of dots before. Someone (At Sunnyside – Where Truth and Beauty Meet) was kind enough to reblog it: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/80177655/posts/3828644374
 Try this: break away from the first impression and imagine that you are floating a few hundred meters above the earth, a little higher than the pinkish-brown spots. The moment you detach yourself from the frontal view of the picture and stand above it, you enter an abstract world that communicates with the realistic, with the landscape.
But this supra level also communicates within itself and thus becomes a level of perception that exists by itself. How does this communication take place? A look at a detail should illustrate this. If your eye follows the line of force, you will notice how long it is. The moment you give the viewer a long line of wandering. You zoom in on the scene, and the image looks powerful, almost as if the picture area were too small.
As a counterpoint to this dynamic scene, we find a static spot on the top left. It would only take a few strokes and a very lifelike bird would emerge. That’s what some viewers would expect. But that would have lost its appeal as a counterpoint.