This year just following New Year’s Day, at the Tao Sangha Centre in Toronto, we did Kakizome, the first calligraphy of the year*. For over 2 hours, children and adults alike used brushes and ink to write aspiring word(s) they chose to help motivate themselves throughout 2015.
Near the end of the session, I prepared to write the Japanese word kiku, meaning “to listen”. The word had actually come to me in the fall of 2014, after much contemplation. Interestingly enough, just before starting to write, something stirred my imagination and I felt compelled to change the word… until I really looked into my heart and listened…
“It has to be kiku,” I decided and asked my friend Mogi to help me practice it… And this is where it became very interesting, because my friend proceeded to write the kanji the more basic Japanese way, 聞 く、and then he wrote it in a more traditional way, 聴.
The composition of the second way of writing includes the characters for ear 耳 , and fourteen 十四, hearts 心.
Being attracted to the importance of the heart, I chose to write the Japanese character, with 14 hearts (these hearts are listed below, next to my Kakizome calligraphy). However delving more deeply into the origins of this character I found many possible ways to explain and write this character. Actually, the traditional Chinese way of writing “to listen” (ting) is different from the Japanese character. It includes ear 耳, and heart 心, as in the Japanese Kanji, however it differs in that it also includes king 王, and can be read as listening with ‘ten eyes’ and ‘one heart’, suggesting that besides using ones ears, we should use our eyes and heart, and respect the speaker as a king. Another way to write this character would be without the character for king, while still another explanation for the origin of this character is based on the character for virtue or toku 徳.
In whatever way we chose to write and interpret the character(s), the importance of truly ‘listening’ should not be missed. We should all understanding that listening is a whole body experience, a complete act involving the physical body as well as the heart (spirit). And listening should not only be focused on others. I strongly believe in the universe giving us great gifts all of the time, and if we are open and listening with all of our hearts, we will not let these gifts slip past! I constantly remind myself that I have received, and every moment continue to receive these ‘gifts’, from family and friends, from my environment, from the universe. My Kakizome reminds me to listen with empathy, to put myself in other people’s shoes and listen with benevolence. This year’s kakizome reminds me to not just ‘hear others,’ 聞 く, but to truly listen 聴, to others and the world around me, with undivided attention and a heart of gratitude.
“Let’s listen to each other and build good relationships,
Let’s listen to our environment and help the earth,
Let’s listen to the universe and receive the gifts the universe has to offer!”
One of the explanations of this Kanji’s origin is,
Listen with your ears (耳) and with fourteen (十四) hearts (心):
美: with a beautiful heart
新: with a new heart
広: with a wide heart
楽: with an enjoying heart
嬉: with a pleased, happy heart
面: with interest
笑: with a smiling heart
晴: with a bright heart
悲: with empathy to sadness
苦: with empathy to pain
愛: with a tender heart
労: with a kind heart
憂: with a concerned heart
謝: with a heart of gratitude
* For more pictures from this year’s Kakizome event, please click here