And on the other hand...

Click here for The Yin Side where the other half of me holds forth!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Imminent Departure and Arrival

Plans become preparations, then it's time to leave.  The well-nourished and well-dressed kolea are gone; I saw the last one last Friday. I thought they had already left, hadn't seen any for a couple days. Then one last bird, maybe the first one I saw last August, picking through the grass at my parking entrance, seemed to give me a goodbye nod.  Bird migrations are quite mysterious, mystical even. How do they do this?

I was relying on the exodus of the kolea to kick my own travel preparations up a notch, and so they have.  The waxing moon, full tomorrow, may also have helped. Perhaps it has helped the kolea navigate to Alaska. They have already arrived, I think, their 36-hour crossing anticipated by someone on the other end, saying "They're back!" just as I am saying "They're gone."  Arrival and departure, a very Tao thing.

And so today I go to pick up my visa-stamped passport, the first of the last of a few steps before I make my own flight in less than two weeks.  The kolea have a compelling vision of Alaska, I suppose; my vision is the Bund in Shanghai, the gardens in Hangzhou and Suzhou, the mountains of Wudang, and the imperial treasures in Beijing.

But especially the mountains.
My last painting of the session, after more than a year of brush painting study (a class once a week, and weekend painting exercise) with my teacher, who says I may frame this one. Though her specialty is bird and flower painting, she says I should specialize in landscapes. "Maybe in two years, you paint a flower."  I will resume classes in the fall, but take my brushes with me to China.  I plan to spend some hours at the Summer Palace in Beijing with them.

The mountains in Wudang aren't quite like my vision above. They are dense and green, would appear to be perfect hiding places for yiren or yeren (a Chinese-style bigfoot, yeti or Sasquatch, sightings of which have been reported in the area.)

I am eager to revisit my favorite spot, the area behind the modest Taichang Temple not far from the more famous Nanyan.  It's easy to visualize myself there now.  Espcially because I have photos from 2007 and 2008.
Spirit Screen at Taichang with Lao Tzu

Taichang Plaque

Path to Follow Just Outside and Beyond Taichang Gate

Though I have made barely a babystep in "Opening the Dragon Gate,"perhaps I have done better than I think.  I have meditated on that path above and even now, closing my eyes I am there.  Not with the same skill as Wang Liping, I'm sure, but I have over the years cultivated an ability to "memorize moments,"places where I have been at peace, experiencing wholeness with the environment. (I suppose it would be loss of these memorized moments that makes Alzheimer's so poignant and tragic.)  Oddly, I am loathe to revisit the places of memorized moments of many years ago; too many changes, too much disappointment.  My memories are better.

I did this exercise often when I was young, like imprinting something, as my parents sailed around the Chesapeake.  And later, in my father's final years in Florida, I would visit Shell Mound, memorizing part of a Wildlife Refuge on the Gulf Coast near Cedar Key (hot spot for hurricanes).  I once spent some time  meditating at the spot below.

Memorized Moment

Different Path to Enlightenment
After I meditated, I strolled about the park, listening to insects that sounded exactly like the cicadas in the mountains of Wudang. I asked a park ranger exactly where this "shell mound" was.  I saw nothing like a mound.

"Actually, you're standing on it," he said of the accumulated oyster shells under my feet, left by an earlier indigenous people.  It was their garbage dump.  I can't imagine anyone meditating or enjoying a modern landfill. Some things are meant to be forgotten. If only they could be.

Contemplating my desk globe, I see that Shell Mound is at just about the same latitude as some of the NW Hawaiian Islands, which are just a little below Shanghai and Wudang.  I have many memorized moments hovering around the 30th parallel.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

L'Heure Bleue 108

It may mean nothing to you, but today is (Gregorian) day 108, a numerologically meaningful number to those of us who find it amusing to wake up at 11:11 or 1:23 or other interesting digital times.  After an afternoon of napping and cuddling under a blanket --it's been"cold" (~mid-60s to mid-70s) in Hawaii the past couple days-- I stepped out onto the lanai in the dusk to observe the crescent moon, a perfectly balanced upturned cup, poised directly over Venus (I presume it is Venus), in l'heure bleue.  That's also the name of a Guerlain perfume dating from 1912, a sample of which I just dabbed on my pulse points. Not my favorite (I'm an Angel girl, preferring patchouli over sandalwood), but perfume students need to understand and recognize the very classic Guerlains. Once I bought a bottle of Samsara, a more modern Guerlain, from 1989, and was soaking myself in it despite the fact that there was something in the drydown, precisely at 11 minutes, a fleeting odor of death and decay, that made me nauseous for just a moment.  I drenched my way to Hong Kong, drunk on it, spritzing in the bathroom at Narita, probably making everyone in the plane suffer needlessly. (They might have thought they were airsick.)  Arrived in HK, continuing my overindulgence, the Wizard observed as we sat in the back of a mini-bus, "There's a strong smell of urine in here."

I haven't been able to bring myself to wear the weirdly named Samsara since. And l'heure bleue is probably best enjoyed, visually, with a glass of cabernet on my lanai.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Went to See the Guru

...and the guru said...why not enjoy living, because you're not dead.

Well, not exactly what he said, but that's the message I took away.  This was Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (not THAT Ravi Shankar), leader of a non-profit organization called the Art of Living Foundation.  (First time I heard of him, I thought he was Irish: Art O'Fliving.)  Six years ago,  I went with a friend when the good guru visited Hawaii to talk and lead us in meditation and answer questions about the meaning of life. Then, as he was ceremonially exiting the hall, I offended someone with my quip, "And next week, the Pope."

But yesterday, I saw an ad in our vaguely alternative newspaper announcing his appearance again at the Japanese Cultural Center (of all places).  My horoscope in the same newspaper suggested that this would be an "excellent time for you to take inventory of what brings you pleasure....see if you can gain access to an experience that could accurately be described as a blessed state of bliss."

Well, I just HAD to go.  The newspaper also had an ad for a concert of Cantonese music, naahmyam, at the East-West Center.  Seeking bliss, I dragged the Wizard (who loved it) to this event, featuring a singing style performed in brothels and opium dens in turn of the century Canton. By blind musicians.  It was really interesting, but that's another story.

And here it is:  Naahmyam is an operatic storytelling style, sentimentally like Mississippi Delta blues or Portuguese fado:  I think of it as Pearl River Delta blues.  I didn't understand a word of it,  but the emotion was conveyed.  By Blind Willie McCheong.  The Doc Watson of Guangzhou. Or  even Stevie Wonder. No, I'm not making fun, it was really cool. Not exactly the state of bliss suggested in my horoscope, but it was certainly worth the attention.

Back to Sri Sri.

The guru is about a decade younger than me.  He taught a head massage which was very like some Taoist qigong techniques I have learned, and then a meditation which was good, but interrupted with some weird "Oms" and guidance that I found distracting.  The persons at my left and right in the hall were fidgeting.  The meditation ended much sooner than I expected.

Still, his comments and responses to questions were right on.The local person who introduced him talked about "aloha" and "Ha-wai-i". "Ha" is the Hawaiian word for breath (like prana or even qi); wai means "sea" and "i" is spirit. Alo-ha is the sharing of "ha"(which is why it can be both a salutation or greeting and a farewell). I'm not really enchanted with aspects of ancient Hawaiian/Polynesian culture, (kind of stone age, really) but spiritually there is a commonality...breath and whether it's a Hawaiian kapuna (an honored elder), Sri Sri, or Hu Lao Shi (my Chinese Tao teacher)...the teachings are similar.

I don't really know what a holy person is. But there are times when you meet someone, are in someone's presence, that you get an energy, a confirmation of things you know to be true. Maybe that's bliss. Maybe my horoscope was right.