Creating Zen Circles: The daily practice that leads to enlightenment, limitless strength, your inner-self

By Cynthia de Lorenzi, co-author, Your 2021 What’s Next Journal

I had the privilege of spending my adolescence in Japan, and that experience has influenced my life in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. A culture deeply rooted in tradition, what I have learned from Japan’s ancient practices continues to influence almost everything I do.

From pouring the perfect cup of tea in a sunset ceremony to creating a magnificent flower arrangement with just three blooms, the Japanese culture embodies an elegance, simplicity, and meditative type of craftsmanship that lives in my soul.

Of course, mastering the art of simplicity can be the greatest challenge — one worthy of a lifetime of study. One of my favorite practices is grinding my own ink that touches the canvas in a perfect brushstroke. This is the art of creating a Zen circle.

Also known as the enso circle, this minimalist Japanese symbol features a simple, circular shape that is not filled in. It is fluid and transmits an impression of movement. It is the perfect illustration of divine elegance.

Part of my daily ritual of meditation begins when I pick up my Sumi-e brush. This simple but powerful exercise enables me to align with the world as a whole, knowing I am never complete or perfect — and simultaneously knowing that I am. 

The History of the Zen Circle

“Zen Circles represent enlightenment, limitless strength, the universe, or mu (which is known as the void or no-thing),” shares John Parrott and Julian Goldie, founders of This practice has been around for centuries, starting with the Buddhist monk Ranzan Shoryu (1718-1797).

In a recent article published on, they explain that enso circles also represent enlightenment: “Enlightenment can be defined as an awakening or understanding of something. With the enso circle, your goal is to be enlightened about your inner self. Although this is a mental process, drawing an enso circle is a visual and aesthetic way to express enlightenment in Zen Buddhism. In fact, enso circles are a strong symbol in Zen culture.”

Now, it’s your turn! Because it is easier to have you experience what the Zen circle yourself — and because December is the month of letting go of all that we are holding onto from 2020 — John, Julian, and I invite you to join us and create Zen circles of your own.

What you’ll need: 

  • Washi (thin Japanese paper), white paper, or canvas
  • A fude (paintbrush) of the size of your choice
  • Sumi ink or black paint

Here’s how: 

  1. First and foremost, know that you have choices. You can use a large brush or a tiny brush, a large sheet of paper or a smaller one. You can make the circle quickly or slowly, small or large, thin or thick, and faint or dark.
  2. Ready, set, breathe. Hold the brush loosely in your hand, saturate the entire tip, touch it to your canvas and make just one stroke. Drag your brush to create your circle (clockwise or counterclockwise). Check your work. What do you think? Ready to try it again?
  3. Breathe in and out. This time, let your brush follow the pattern of your exhale. Don’t lift the ends; complete your circle with a single brushstroke.
  4. Practice makes perfect. It is believed that once you create the circle, you can’t alter it. So keep at it!
  5. Embrace your individuality. Since the Zen circle reflects you, decide if you want your circle to be open or closed. An incomplete circle allows for development or represents wabi-sabi, the beauty of imperfection. A closed circle represents perfection, totality, or wholeness.
  6. Concentrate. Once you begin creating your circles, complete the session from start to finish without stopping. I get into a meditative state when I’m creating my art, and the circles reflect that. I close my eyes with the paintbrush in my hand, breathe in deeply three times — three full breaths — open my eyes, and create. What I love best of all is that this sense of calm follows me throughout the day.
  7. Don’t rush. Stay open-minded, and accept what comes.
  8. Click here to learn more.

I’d love to see your work! Please take a picture of your picture, and send it to us here. We may publish it on our social media pages!

About Artist Cynthia de Lorenzi

Cynthia de Lorenzi is the founder of Success in the City and an international networking group that she launched in 2006 in Washington, DC. She is also an International Motivational and TEDx Women Speaker, former tech CEO, and artist living in Las Cruces, NM.

“I am driven by a passion for innovation, art, creativity, and neuroscience. You will discover the seeds of that fascination in much of my work,” she explains.

In August 2020, Cynthia began a collaboration with Inkandescent™ Inc., starting with the What’s Next project. In November with Hope Katz Gibbs and book designer Cindy Seip, Cynthia is publishing Your 2021 What’s Next Journal. And in 2021, Hope and Cynthia will be launching a series of fun conferences, webinars, classes, and more! Stay tuned for details.

And scroll down to read more about dynamic Cynthia and check out some of her beautiful creations. 

The Making of 

Growing up in a military family, we frequently traveled around the United States, which allowed me to explore and experience different cultures.

My observations expanded when we lived in Japan for five years. There, I studied Sumi-e, Japanese brush painting. I fell in love with the meditative process of making your own paint with a Sumi-e stick,  the delight of working with beautifully crafted paint brushes, relishing the elegant nuances of a stroke. That meditative experience has stayed with me all of my life.

Having stepped away from my artistic pursuits for many years, I have returned to painting with fervor and passion — eager to feed my hunger for color and self-expression. I now live in Las Cruces, NM, a Mecca for artists, where I work with mixed media and acrylics. Here, I am feeding my soul’s desire.

In the decades leading up to my trek west, I lived outside of Washington, DC. There, I enjoyed an exciting professional career and pride myself on having been a commentator on women’s status and our impact on culture and the economy. The Washington Business Journal selected me as one of its Top 25 “Women Who Mean Business” in 2006; SmartCEO magazine awarded me the BRAVA award in 2009. I was also selected to be part of SmartCEO’s Circle of Excellence by my peers and, in 2010, was recognized by the national group Enterprising Women.

The organization that I founded, Success in the City, has been featured in the Business Section of the Washington Post, NPR, DC Modern Luxury magazine, and Washington’s Finest. I enjoyed leading an unconventional business networking organization for senior-level executive businesswomen. I also enjoy writing for her life Magazine and Strictly Marketing Magazine on Google+ for business!

I am passionate about empowering others and the concept of paying-it-forward is my motto. I have served as a Board member of The Telework Coalition, The Women’s Center, and Community Business Partnership, including The Women’s Business Center, which provides training, assistance, and support to businesswomen in Northern Virginia.cor

Before moving to DC, I served as the CEO of PatriotNet, an ISP headquartered in Dallas. I also worked with North Texas Technology and a political advocate for the Concord Coalition — a nationwide, non-partisan grassroots organization advocating generationally responsible fiscal policy.

I continue to interview extraordinary leaders for Inkandescent Women magazine, and even during the coronavirus pandemic have been a keynote speaker and emcee.

I always enjoy sharing my experiences as an entrepreneur, CEO, pundit, and social media expert. And, I welcome the opportunity to consult, speak, and present to conferences and organizations seeking a fresh perspective on topics related to success, overcoming obstacles, and using social media to build a business and enhance your brand!

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