Solitary Stranger

Photo by Johannes Plenio
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels
The moon past full lit gravel lots
while stars yet wakeful blinked above.
Illumined shadows passing, sailed aloft,
and fallen dew lay underfoot, upon my path.
A solitary trail ran under boughs;
their branches stretching hid the path…
crooked shadows passing, ranked in rows—
where fallen leaves lay trodden, hushing steps.
Then out along mist-laden fields,
where dim the glow of dawn was yet,
a tall be-shadowed figure lurking,
looming dark at edge of morning,
walking, wading (as I went):
Through fields of fog their stalked an oak!
Now blushing sky set hills alight,
its clouds the wooded ridges cloaked:
cascading shadows, layered, robed the heights
while fallen under early light,
come Otherworldly into dawn,
my solitary stranger stood unmoved.

The Wisdom of Tai Chi

Photo by Nicole Geri
Photo by Nicole Geri on Unsplash

The world stirs at the touch of dawn’s earliest light, filtering in sideways through morning mists, and the first breeze comes like a pleasant, waking sigh. So breath and movement awaken as dawn’s veil grows thin, and all life begins a new song.

Stepping out into the dawning world, you are received. Breathing it in, its life is now your own. Known so, carried inside and out, your limbs are freed as air and light move around you. Well rested or underslept, you are met; upset or calm, you will find it meets you on its own terms.

This is how nature teaches us to practice, and Tai Chi as an art emulates nature. And so each morning we can learn the five principles of Tai Chi from a master teacher: adherence, spontaneity, softness, yielding, and rejection of brute force.

Adherence in Tai Chi means receiving your opponent, maintaining continuous and sensitive contact until you discern them. It applies in all human interactions: physical, emotional, and verbal. Adherence is listening through contact.

Seek straightness in what seems curved…
Be watchful…seek the hidden intent.
Essentials of Joint Hands

Spontaneity in Tai Chi means responding to your opponent before they fully express their intent, countering after they have initiated, but before the full cycle has been expressed. Spontaneity comes of listening with all your senses.

One part acts, all parts act;
one is still, all are still…
In stillness be rooted as a mountain,
in movement be fluid as a river.
Essentials of Joint Hands

Softness in Tai Chi means remaining relaxed in mind and body as the interaction takes form. If the mind is tense, the body will stiffen, and listening will cease. The practice of softness that listens is the cultivation of mysterious strength.

The mystery of the art is manifested in interaction.
Song of the Thirteen Postures

Yielding in Tai Chi means moving with an attack, not against it. By giving up intention you may express yourself in the movements of your opponent, but first know yourself! Yielding is self mastery that frees you from mastery by others.

Fall empty, use four ounces to deflect 1000 pounds…
Yielding to follow others, one must know oneself.
Essentials of Joint Hands

Rejecting Brute Force in Tai Chi means meeting your opponent on your terms regardless of their approach. It neither resists nor flees a powerful attack, but meets it, follows it, and defeats it after it is spent. This is the essence of Tai Chi.

In tranquility meet their movements,
in calmness operate your own.
Song of the Thirteen Postures

The ancient Chinese concept of Tai Chi is more than the martial art named after it. It is expressed everywhere there is form, in the harmony of all that is. It is how we may learn to dance with the world, and practice with the universe.

What about you? Are you ready to learn to embody the five principles? Are you willing to transform your interactions, and empower your relationships?


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Light Soul, Heaving Sea

Photo by Pixabay
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels
Upon the sea a heavy vessel:
(upon a world of light, a soul)
creaking under press and lull, tug and give,
(adoring mists of morning, bright of dew)
breathing under sway of sea, will of wave—
(blessing branches bending, leaves that blow)
It so endures each turn of rudder groaning
(she sees the turning stars at evening waking)
as prow and hull meet storms and churning
(til eyes and heart retire, yearning…)

Canary in the Coal Mine

Photo by Ray Hennessy
Photo by Ray Hennessy on Pexels
Lovely, sweet bird, a light in the hollow:
clearly no fit, ever so fragile,
bright in the dust, dull under shadow…
such woeful sounds, dreadful song!
Why do you sing, oh ailing soul?
What do your melodies mean?
To what world do you belong,
oh little, light, brittle bird?
For whom do you cheerfully sing?
Ah that you may one day be free!
bright against the sky,
free wherever you alight,
bold without care to brighten the world…
May our world’s loss of you, be a grief averted!

The Fierce Heart of Darkness

Photo by Avery Nielsen-Webb
Photo by Avery Nielsen-Webb on Pexels

Wandering in the liminal spaces, walking between worlds, we meet her. She is the womb of all life, the essence of mystery, the resting place of souls. She is the undercurrent of rivers, depths of sea, eye of storms, the cavernous earth. She is both the soul of deep shadow and the wellspring of inspiration.

The Tao Te Ching sings of her this way:

The valley spirit undying,
ever dark her womb,
ever open her dark womb,
mother of earth, mother of heaven.
Her shadowy veil is only barely seen,
effortless, inexhaustible.
Translation by Caelan Rowan McCuen

It is hard to see what is barely there, but she is always with us. It is hard to keep one’s bearings at the liminal times, but that is when she guides us. She is not to be feared, but cherished; not resisted but embraced.

River’s are powerful, their currents deep, unpredictable.
It’s no wonder they gather myths around them
like clouds around mountain peaks.

Have you ever looked into the abyss, into her eyes? Maybe you have seen her in a terrifying dream, or at a moment of imminent death. Maybe it was in the grip of mortal doubt, or in that most dreadful gap of irrevocable loss. She comes to us in these ways, plays no favorites. How small we are in the tides of her presence.

The sea, the most mysterious of realms,
and all her waters, are inexpressibly beautiful.
When in movement they are passion;
When still, they are a soul mirror.

But what seems dark at first is often just the raw passion of our world, the same that quietly supports us in the calm. Yet whether in calm or storm, the beautiful giving earth is ever she who receives us as we are. We must love her as she is!

Waist deep in the frigid ocean, pelting rain coming sideways,
I saw nine pelicans, weaving, dipping, above gray-turquoise crests—
and seeing them was freedom.

Oh, but the things we do in our blindness, when we don’t even see the world…and yet the she goes on expressing herself, unmoved, ever-giving. It is not any profound subterranean darkness in our beloved world that we ought to fear, but the darkness of seeing only ourselves.

A Buddhist sage once wrote, “The virtues I practice are not my own”. Whose virtues can any of us practice? Certainly not our own—they are the earth’s.


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The Queendom of Mother Sun and Daughter Moon

Photo by brenoanp
Photo by brenoanp on Pexels
They are lovely, their Queendom bright
who light the sky through month and year,
who stir the sea in tide and heat,
who meet the land in cloud, and rain, and rest.
It all begins, the year not dawned,
the Sun has gone, our Moon grown old,
the cold has taken, mists have cleared,
the world awaits, awaits, awaits…
and then…
At Dark of New Dark, birth of Sun,
so comes the one to reign as queen,
to shine and warm the world—not yet:
she waits unseen, but from the womb, just born.
* Dark of the month: new moon
* New Dark: Dec-Jan
At Rising next, of Sun Appears
she hears a plea: the soil aches;
she makes new rays, the clouds alight,
and white the sky, her face yet veiled, til soon…
* Rising of the month: first quarter
* Sun Appears: Jan-Feb
At Peak of Fields Thaw comes her touch,
and such an air, so warm a scent
is sent to greet her, now with child:
our old Moon gone, a lonely time, yet hope!
* Peak of the month: full moon
* Fields Thaw: Feb-Mar
* Old Moon gone: the moon is reborn at Winter’s end
At Rains Come Rising, she is near,
not clear, the clouds so heavy sigh;
the sky that bore the sea now rains,
the Sun grows round, she hides, her hour close…
* Rains Come: Mar-Apr
* Sun grows round: the Sun is pregnant with her daughter
At Dark of Rains Yield, First Moon born!
Now warm compassion, thin Sun-veil bright:
alight through Winter, revealed in Spring,
her young Moon marks the hours of her reign.
* Rains Yield: Apr-May
* Hours of her reign: the months of the year
At Fields Sown Rising, furrowed Earth,
dispersing clouds, round flying Moon:
she looms, she rises, tides swell high;
this while we rest, our work so blessed, we sing.
* Fields Sown: May-Jun
At Peak of Sun’s Peak, ascendant Sun:
the mother gives, most generous one;
our Moon her daughter, rejoices bright!
Ignite the dancing fires, share her light!
* Sun’s Peak: Jun
At Fields Thirst Passing, fierce her gaze
that stays the seas til tides recede,
for cedes our Moon her sky, withdraws,
so soft her heart—her seas must take the sky…
* Passing of the month: last quarter
* Fields Thirst: Jun-Jul
At Dark of Storms Break, seas arise:
her skies fall dark, spark bright, resound;
the ground awakes—her scent, her life,
revived at touch of rain—her thirst is sated!
* Storms Break: Jul-Aug
At Passing next, Fields Ripen, blush
with colors full, and fruit and seed:
Great Sleep draws near as breezes cool;
our Moon looms large—we gather what is needed.
* Fields Ripen: Aug-Sep
* Great Sleep: the Winter months
At Peak of Winds Rise, year at dusk:
in gusts, with rattling husk and branch
we dance, our labor past, we sigh;
at Height of Great Moon, so our Sun retires.
* Winds Rises: Sep-Oct
* Height of Great Moon: the harvest moon
At Frost Takes Passing, stores are full,
the whole land quiet, footsteps crisp,
and mists shroud all—the world may sleep:
weep not! Our Moon still keeps her mother’s fires!
* Frost Takes: Oct-Nov
At Dark of Old Dark, old Sun gone:
long beloved night makes new;
to womb embrace our Light returns,
emerges soon, but wait, first wait, be still…
* Old Dark: Dec
* Old Sun gone: the Sun is reborn on the Winter solstice
For so it ends, all breath drawn in, and then…
begins again: from dark of womb, the breath of all!
* Dark of womb: Old Dark and New Dark, also known as Great Dark

Light and Laughter

Photo by Pixabay
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels
White fire of sun,
that comes, that plays,
ablaze her smiling eyes in mists of morning…
I meet her, bless her skies and breathe:
one breath,
one splash of light,
my soul aflame!
Sweet bath of air,
so clear it bites,
ignites all waking life, delightful wellspring…
My heart, with laughter’s lightness, drinks:
one drought,
my eyes are joy,
my voice is song!
She comes each day,
arrayed in white,
her sight, her breath so sweet, all life rejoicing…
My world in dance to see her eyes:
one glance from her,
one call,
and I am with her!

Oh love, my light, my breath and song, I’m here!

To See Her as She Is

Photo by Snapwire
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels
To see her free…
as a gleam in the eye,
as the air in a breeze,
as a whim of the sky!
Free in her heart,
at her work,
where she stands:
May all that she does show her true!
To see her alight…
is a blessing of hope,
is a star in the night,
is a breath of the soul!
Bright as her mind,
to be seen,
to be known:
How the world needs her truly to show!

Touch of the Stars

Photo by Fabio Marciano
Photo by Fabio Marciano on Pexels

They are always with us, mothers of myriad worlds, lighting countless nights, each the pivot of her own system, pouring out her own flame whether there be a planet there to catch it or not. They are patterns in the sky, bright orbs, guiding lights, shining spheres—our own compassionate sun a sister among them.

I’m so happy for the touch of the stars in my life,
even if their touch is the touch of sorrow.

A star, though equally exposed on all sides, cannot be taken from behind. She is fully herself, so transparent one may not look on her long: a beautiful picture of empowered vulnerability. She illumines all her own, effortless in her generosity, as each shines for her sisters of her mother’s light. Once, upon seeing our own world’s sister (the morning star), the Buddha said:

I and all beings together on earth
attain enlightenment at the same time.
Shakyamuni Buddha

It is lovely to know the stars at the Summer Solstice, just as the sun dips below the Northwestern horizon, and before the moon rises high and bright to add her own magic to the clouds. We can see them only in the lee of our sun’s bathing light, hid behind our own world’s shoulder…oh for the beauty known only in the shadow of the earth!

You must know the number of last night’s stars,
the number of the drops of this morning’s rain.
Hakuin Ekaku

How well do you know the touch of the stars? Have you ever pondered their pattern, felt their tides of sorrow or joy? Have you looked for them late in the evening, or come out to them before dawn? Have you let their light reach you?

But the touch of the stars is the song from which all things were made. It is the fire of all suns, a chorus of radiance, the music of their tug upon one another, their worlds, and their beings. It would be a sorrow to have lived, and to have missed it.


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