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What is Meditation Calligraphy?

An interview with Eri Fukuse Luman

photo of meditation calligraphy teacher, Eri Fukuse Luman

I first met Eri at a Jikiden Reiki Congress in Barcelona. We hit it off immediately and I felt that buzz of friendship and connection as we shared stories of how we came to be there. She intrigued me, I wanted to get to know her more, but it was a couple of years later, at the next congress, in Kyoto, before our paths crossed again. I was delighted to see her. Eri is one of those people who shines from the inside out, and her anchored presence conveys a sense of wellbeing and of someone you can trust. Each time we meet, I feel as though our souls are excited to say hello!

It’s no wonder, given who she is, that from the heart of Eri, incredible art springs into being. When Silke Kleemann and I were thinking about the cover and the calligraphy inside our book, Women in Reiki, it was a no-brainer that Eri should be the person we asked. There’s something about the brush strokes she produces that isn’t present in other calligraphy I have seen. I decided to chat to her and try to learn about why that might be.

When did you start to learn calligraphy?

I was seven years old when I first began to learn, but I didn’t really like it! My teacher was an old man who I thought looked like a wizard because he had one long fingernail on his pinky and he used it to fold and separate the layers of tissue paper. I was fascinated by him but scared at the same time. I gave up after a while and focused on learning other things instead, like tennis and naginata {naginata is like a cross between a sword and a spear, with a curved blade at the end that Japanese women warriors used to use in battle}.

Later, my friend persuaded me to start calligraphy again because she wanted someone to do it with her. I still wasn’t keen but did it for her really. Now I’m happy I did because it led me to meditation calligraphy.

What is meditation calligraphy?

Japanese calligraphy is the cultural pursuit of perfectly beautiful characters. The emphasis is on the result. But I believe calligraphy is more than that. More significant than the result on the paper, is the path to meditation. We are connecting to the moment and the movement of the brush. I ask people to practice by first moving the brush through the air. It starts and finishes in the air, you are painting in the space beyond the paper. The energy created in the space moves and rises on the brush, so the paper just happens to be there while you are moving your arm with the brush, and the line you make is a result of the energy movement. When you practice this, spirit pours forth and you feel oneness between the brush and self emerging from a state of nothingness. It creates a feeling of eternity in that moment.

Artwork Eri Fukuse Luman - Ai, Love

Meditation artwork Eri Fukuse Luman

When I make art, I paint over and over in a meditative state. I paint something many many times, but in different ways as my body moves naturally. I feel this way, we can touch the inner soul through unrestrained self expression. It transcends time and space, we become acquainted with the forgotten in the self and this creates a cycle: we touch the inner soul and what we create from there in turn influences the inner self, it comes out

Calligraphy pages in progress, Eri Fukuse Luman

and then goes back in. A cycle. It goes deeper and deeper and becomes more fun and creative. And your true self starts to appear! It’s like Reiki, we talk about Reiki being like peeling off layers of an onion. With meditation calligraphy the layers are the sheets of paper; you open up and feel free as you peel back the layers. You discover more about you - and you have art at the end!

What caused your movement into meditation calligraphy?

When I came to Oregon in 2007 I did some calligraphy demonstrations and people asked me to teach them. Teaching foreigners is different from teaching Japanese, I had to teach the kanji characters and the stroke order first. It was eye-opening. They had to pay such close attention to the text and I could see something wasn’t right. Their bodies tightened, breathing stopped and tension just built. The energy flow was gone.

I had a spiritual experience when I first moved here, a sudden urge to paint when I was in the middle of unpacking my things. I quickly had to find paper, ink and brushes and as I started to move the brush, the movement was so light and peaceful. A message came to me - calligraphy is meditation. I was filled with tears and bowing after this. It felt like the answer I had been waiting for and suddenly I knew why calligraphy had stayed with me even though I’d had doubts about it. Oneness with the brush, flow was the key. Traditional calligraphy often makes people judge themselves negatively, I want to encourage the feeling of joy in painting strokes on the paper.

Eri painting calligraphy with a large brush

So do you not paint kanji characters in meditation calligraphy?

When I teach meditation calligraphy, I use basic strokes from calligraphy and use the elements. I teach just some strokes, not kanji as a whole so there is no need for perfection. Without text there is more freedom to feel flow. As soon as you see the text [kanji], your mind boxes it and becomes restricted. I teach to move the brush freely, each person finds the movement they connect with and that is their own way in. So meditation calligraphy is not all about painting kanji, the purpose is to find your essence and express it. However, by doing this, you end up being able to paint kanji! It’s the opposite way around from traditional calligraphy.

I feel it’s like Usui sensei, making Reiki accessible to everyone. This is a way to share calligraphy with everyone. Even for Japanese people calligraphy is intimidating, people always say they are no good because they are not masters. You don’t want to paint your calligraphy in front of the masters! But it’s not about how beautiful your painting is, it’s about the energy flow.

Cover of Women in Reiki book
Kanji from inside Women in Reiki book

Eri Fukuse Luman's book

So is flow something you learn traditionally?

I never learned about the flow, no one taught us the importance of flow and air-work but this is more important. If you don’t do the air-work the line is dead, there is no energy in it. Before you paint, your energy is already painting - in the zone. The line is an extension of the energy. Traditionally, we look only at the result, but I want to take all the walls away so you can be free.

It’s lovely to hear you talk about this, your passion is inspiring.

Amanda Jayne and Eri Fukuse Luman

Thank you. I do feel passionate about it. Meditation calligraphy relaxes you and guides your inspiration and this is reflected in your daily life too! It’s wonderful. Anyone can do this. When I learned that Usui sensei felt Reiki was for everyone, I connected to that. I feel the same with calligraphy. Shodo {literally: The way of the brush} is for everyone, not just special people. There are no boundaries, it goes beyond age, gender, skill and nationality. Usui’s thoughts touched my own shodo experience. It was a profound realisation. I will keep the shodo tradition as part of my roots, but from there I want to bring happiness and joy to everyone through meditation calligraphy.

Eri provides in person and online meditation calligraphy sessions. You can contact her via her email: or her website at:

She is collaborating with the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego on August 1st to provide an online zoom Meditation Calligraphy session. You can book through this link

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