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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

96 Hours and Counting

Four days ahead of me to get ready to return to China.  Last year this time I told my boss I had "the opportunity of a lifetime" to go to a special place in China to study qigong, meditate, hike and generally mark the end of a 60-year cycle that was auspicious for a fire pig in the year of a fire pig.  My co-workers were variously puzzled or envious.

This time I have another "opportunity of a lifetime" to do the same thing...except marking the beginning of the cycle again.  After a year of studying the philosophy of the Tao, if not being so diligent in the practices, I am eager to hear the lectures again.  There were concepts that were new, foreign, and mysterious that I feel I have a better grasp of now.  "So explain that again, Teacher Hu, I didn't get it the first time."  I hope to savor the area and focus on the practices this year without the distraction of novelty and group dynamics that played out last time.

And how have I already changed?  

I have become very sensitive to time wasters. I can't sleep as late as I used to, and I don't want to. I am not dependent on the noise of TV, radio, music. (Although I've been watching a lot of Chinese movies, drama as well as kung fu.)  I can't keep up the the fashion magazines that used to entertain me.  Sometimes idle chatter in the office makes my eyes glaze over (but I am practicing compassion.) The olympics, the presidential campaign hold only passing interest. Maybe it all started with the recent disasters, since Katrina, the tsunami, the earthquake, death of loved ones.  This gives perspective.

At the same time, I am a better breather.  I am conscious, although not necessarily perfectly conscientious about, what I eat and drink.  I am calm and slower to emotional outbursts. Still haven't  conquered the monkey mind (otherwise I wouldn't be writing this) but I know that any effort is bound to pay off.  I have taken some small steps toward some larger goals, blogging, getting some postponed dental work accomplished, clearing out clutter in my home.  For the aspiring Taoist, that backsliding Episcopalian  in me still keeps me moving forward.  "Forgive me all the things I have done and left undone. "  Over and over.  My mentors include Thomas Merton, Alan Watts, Huston Smith.  I don't believe it is possible to  abandon and completely reject or turn our backs on the traditions that we grew up with.  We can look at them objectively,  but they will always be there trying to inform us, like any other emotional baggage we are burdened with, no matter what direction our spiritual path takes us.  And that's a good thing, that's what makes us who we are. In every Western Buddhist or Taoist there is the ghost of  a Greco-Judeo-Christian, and  certainly for every born-again Chinese Christian, the Tao, Confucius and Buddha are in the blood somewhere.  Probably Mao too. 

So, back to the Tao, recognizing that change is in everything, how do we progress?  What is progress?  Just a western concept.

So in the next 96 hours as I gather my things  and pack for for my next "Journey to the West"  I know better than last year what I really need with me and what I have within me.  As it turns out, I don't need so much really, and I have a lot.  

I'm not there yet, but I'm getting there.

7 comments:

holly said...

oh wow! you're going again. wait, i think i might have know this, but my sleep-deprived brain forgot until now.

that's fantastic!

don't forget the photos!

oh and doesn't that retreat-y thing have a postcard station?

oh. it doesn't.

dang. no wonder.

sybil law said...

Hi! I'm here from Holly's - what a great trip! I really try myself to live in the here and now, so though I am no Taoist, I feel like I understand some of what you're saying.
Right now, the onyl sounds I hear are the AC, and the cats playing. Silence truly IS golden.
Have a safe, wonderful trip! Nice to meet you!

belle said...

Good morning and how nice to meet you! I'm over from Holly's too. Have a fantastic trip, China is somewhere I would love to visit. It's on my list. Enjoy the peace, sounds idyllic.

Bubblewench said...

Hi.. from Holly's blog visiting.. WOW! Can I just say holy moly!


I can't wait to read more about your journey in China and your journey with the Tao. Very interesting.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Hi, I'm also over from Holl's. Reading this has made me want to look into Tao as I know nothing about it. It sounds very positive though. Have a wonderful trip. :D

Groovy Mom said...

Hi from Holly's!

Wow, I would love to lose my dependence on our modern time wasters and quiet some of my mind noise. Working on it! :-)

baroness radon said...

Wow, suddenly a community. Isn't Holly a treasure!
Ask her about Martin Denny. Keep in touch, blogging from China is not always easy. We'll see how it goes. Love you all...the Tao is with you.