Sometimes Zen phrases can sound silly, incoherent, and senseless. They may sound that way, because most of the time these phrases are just pointing out the obvious.
The phrase ZA ICHI SŌ SHICHI which means “Sit First, Run Seven” did not make any sense to me when I read it the first time. I liked brushing it, though. Its four Kanji flow very well together— they have great contrast of complexity and simplicity.
The reasons why I was having trouble figuring this out was because, one, I wasn’t quite getting where the “seven” fit into the whole thing, and two, I was thinking “sit first” meant to meditate — to sit in Zazen.
It wasn’t until AFTER I brushed it with the intention of sending it to someone, that it hit me. And there it was in plain sight all along– pointing the obvious.
When I brush a calligraphy for commission I always make sure my whole heart, intention, and energy is transmitted onto the paper. Sometimes the calligraphy may not be “technically” written correctly, but it does convey my intention and feelings. So, what I do is I have all my materials in place, paper on the floor (or on the table depending on the size of what I am writing), brush inked and ready, and I sit for a minute or two and stare at the paper. I try not to think of anything BUT what I am about to write. Sometimes I can feel my hands shaking, my heart pounding fast. I try not to feed those thoughts but let them come and go. I look at the paper.
Then I grabbed the brush, hover over the paper and in one turn, moving the brush in different directions across the paper, creating different strokes in size and shape, I finish the calligraphy.
“Sit First, Run Seven” means that first you sit and then in seven directions you run. Or, first you become one with the universe, contemplating, calming your soul, focusing your senses. Then, you can take action.
THINK BEFORE YOU ACT!
So simple isn’t it?