Monthly Archives: June 2014

More Curious Coincidences

rock on hand

It shouldn’t have been difficult to choose a stone to hold in my hand during the check-in ritual for my qigong class. The check-in ritual isn’t a big deal—and there were only about a dozen stones, all mine, brought by me and seen beforehand my me.

But there I stood, dithering.

I picked up a 1×1-inch chunk of vaguely sooty-looking rock with a face of gray and white crystals.

Then I saw that one of my students had chosen a piece of warm pink quartz, and I noted that there were also yellow and blue stones in the basket. I could hear a voice saying, “Oh, Barbara, there you go again. You wear too much black and you’ve let your hair go gray. You need more color in your life!” It was, of course, my mother’s voice, a voice which lives on in my head although she is gone.

I looked again at the piece of rock I was holding, felt a little tug at my heart, and decided, “No, I like this one. This is a stone of the earth. It has depth.”

And in that moment of choosing the dark stone, I realized I had reached another decision, a decision I had been putting off making for weeks about teaching a particular qigong class in the fall. My head had been listing all the reasons why I should do it, but now I felt something deeper saying I didn’t want to, and needed to say no.

I felt enormously relieved and grateful to the little piece of rock that I held in my hand. Continue reading

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Of Signs and Slipping Through Reality…

When “be open to signs” emerged as a take-home from my I Ching reading on my qigong practice, as I mentioned two weeks ago, both Karl and I thought those words had been in the text for one of the hexagrams.

But when we looked back and couldn’t find it there, we concluded that Karl must have said it. But Karl also noted that there would have been no need for those words to be there, because one of the philosophical underpinnings of the I Ching and, indeed, of Daoist thought, is that all things are connected. And if all things are connected, the significance of signs is a given.

Indeed, this notion of all things being connected, and therefore of all things having meaning, seems to be very much a part of what I’m learning through studying qigong.

In Yi Ren Qigong seminars, Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun often says that one of the advantages of putting the intellectual mind in touch with the body mind by practicing qigong, is that the body mind can give the intellectual mind all sorts of information about what’s going on in the world that the intellectual mind can’t fathom on its own.

This additional knowledge makes possible wu wei, which is often translated as “non-doing” or “non-action” and therefore often interpreted as meaning that you should sit around doing nothing, passively waiting for something to happen.

But Dr. Sun and others say that notion is wrong, that “wu wei” means a type of action that is the opposite of forcing your way through obstacles, driven by ego and guided by your analytical mind. It means acting with intuitive input, so that your actions slip through the stream of reality in a more harmonious manner and you can achieve your goals in a relatively effortless manner.

Dr. Sun jokes about the difference between “you wei” and “wu wei” in practicing qigong. It’s “you wei” when you begin your practice with a plan and then begin to feel that your body wants to do different exercises but stick with your original plan because, by golly, it’s a perfectly good plan and you had your reasons for devising it! “Wu wei” would be abandoning your intellectually thought-through plan and doing what your body is telling you it needs.

Of course, this presupposes an enlightened body that is being accurately heard. I don’t think Dr. Sun would recommend that you go sit on the sofa and eat a sack of donuts because you think that’s what your body wants.

But still, as a person with a strong tendency to keep her nose to the grindstone and stick with her planned courses of action, I take the point.

I have all too often come up with an idea for some sort of project, and then, because I can see what steps are involved and know I can do them, I proceed full speed ahead. Sometimes this works out well, but other times it doesn’t, because not everything that can be done, should be done.

But it’s also true that in recent years, I have begun noticing that when I encounter problems or uncertainties, if I just wait, instead of stressing about it or pushing through to a solution, eventually what I need to do becomes clear.

I first realized this when I decided to re-landscape my front yard, a huge project I knew I shouldn’t have undertaken almost the minute I took the first step, but which I was powerless to stop myself from continuing because I had a plan! All sorts of unforeseen difficulties arose, and I would feel totally overwhelmed—but eventually I discovered that if I just waited a day or two, the solution to the problem would emerge.

I think this is a lot like being open to signs. It involves waiting instead of plunging noisily ahead. Waiting and being relaxed and aware, letting things percolate inside instead of trying to nail them down with my thoughts, noticing when a tent caterpillar climbs up my blouse and letting that event enter my awareness in an open-ended manner.

Within this giant web of energy of which scientists say everyone and everything is a part, perhaps considering that that caterpillar and I might be meaningfully connected could….

Could what?

Keep me from squishing him? That would be a definite plus for the caterpillar.

But perhaps it could also help me lift the blinders on my intellectual mind just a skoch to let in additional information about myself and the world, so that my actions could be better informed by what is. It might help me act in harmony with reality (“wu wei”) instead of thrashing against it (“you wei”).

I don’t think this means that I have to believe that the universe somehow chose to send a particular caterpillar up the front of my blouse for a particular reason. Finding meaning in a caterpillar could be more like finding meaning in a Rorschach inkblot.

I dunno…. My brain’s beginning to hurt….

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Another Sign?

crop treeThe day after I wrote last week’s post, and, indeed, four days after the tent caterpillar crawled up my blouse with possible meaning for my practice of qigong, I met a tree creature in the woods.

I’d walked past him many times before and only saw him when I did because some creative person had given him eyes—two artfully painted stones.

Was this another sign?

I don’t know—but if it is, its meaning for my qigong practice would probably be this:

I should bring more play into my practice—less seriousness, more fun!

Will there be more signs?

I’m staying tuned….

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Was It a Sign?

cropped caterpillarLast Friday my friend Karl helped me ask the I Ching how I should proceed in practicing and teaching qigong.

Karl has been working with the I Ching for many years, and he guided me through a reading to some interesting, well, not answers, but some interesting things to think about. Then he advised me to be open to signs that might appear and give me additional guidance.

The next day, a tent caterpillar climbed up the front of my blouse.

I was at a Yi Ren Qigong seminar, and I’d gone outside to eat lunch with a friend. I’d barely sat down and begun to eat when I looked down and there he was, with his black face and orange bristles, already at midriff level, come from who knows where and climbing upwards with who knows what intent.

My friend flicked him off my blouse. He left an orange spot the size of a dime. The tent caterpillar had pooped on me!

Was this a sign?

My friend said it might be—and I should remember what time it happened because that might be important.  After lunch, another friend said, “Oh, maybe it means you’re about to become a butterfly! Oops, no, you have to become a pupa first, but maybe that will be short, maybe it will happen today.”

Later a third friend said, “Barbara, it’s just a sign that Seattle is infested with tent caterpillars! There are streets that are orange with their slime.”

That pretty much ended the discussion.

I have a pretty hard time with the concept of signs anyway. Do they have objective meaning or do they simply mean whatever they evoke in you? And how do you tell if something is a sign and not just a random event—and then, if you decide it’s a sign, how do you figure out what it means?

If my tent caterpillar was a sign, did it mean that I am about to undergo some sort of transformation and metaphorically become a butterfly, light and free? Or might it be a warning that there are creepy, slimy, prickly forces out there wanting to devour me?

I’m kind of liking the butterfly interpretation—and never mind that what emerges from a tent caterpillar cocoon is a drab, chunky moth who, if female, will likely mate, lay eggs and die within 24 hours. I feel drawn to somehow pulling inside for a time, doing qigong, meditating, walking in the woods, listening, breathing, noticing, so that I might emerge, having been transformed or at least having figured something out.

Will this happen? Will I make the changes that would let it happen? I don’t know.

All I know for sure right now is that I thought I got the orange spot out of my blouse with a special spot remover for removing red wine stains, but it is still there.

It is faint, but it is there.…

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