A young boy was playing at a pond that had one lotus flower floating easily on its surface. There was mud all around the pond and the boy delighted in taking fistfuls of the dark wet loam and slinging tight balls of it, over and over again, towards the pristine white blossom. Over time he became really good at hitting the lotus flower but also took note that with each sling of muck, none of it stuck, all the mud just slid off the petals and the flower remained pristine and robust. Every day the boy returned to the pond to practice his mud slinging. Some years passed like this. The boy grew into a man and though he perfected his technique he could never ever make the lotus blossoms muddy. One year he noticed the flower, rather than becoming ravaged by his mud slinging, was actually becoming stronger. The pedals were thicker, glossier and more sturdy. Perplexed, one day the man just stopped slinging. He sat down and simply gazed at the Lotus. As the lake became calm, for the first time he saw beneath the surface. To his astonishment he noticed what he had never before: the long ropey roots of the flower. He followed them down as far as they went. Dazed and humbled, he realized that in all his years of slinging, he never had seen the Lotus's true nature: the beautiful flower had thick strong roots that were firmly embedded in the mud he had been slinging.
I learned this story from my first teacher almost 40 years ago. Anyone who has studied Asian art and philosophy has likely encountered the story of the lotus. It's a lovely story, full of metaphor, but more, its message is powerful, especially when things go awry in life. It gives us hope, does it not, to be told of something so alive, so resilient that it is nourished by that which seeks to sully it. The story of the Lotus reminds us that at the very least there is one living thing that not simply survives but actually thrives because its roots are in the mud. If this is so for the lotus, it might also be for us too.
When the phrase, “No Mud, No Lotus” showed up on our collective dojo Graffiti Wall during the last two weeks of our Fall session it came at a perfect time for me. It’s been a really tough calendar and I know I’m not alone. Almost everyone I encounter has a tale to tell of this wormy, messy, energy sucking year. Though I’m not a fan of all that these days brought into my life or into the lives of people I care about, I still feel fortunate. My world is peopled with those who are not simply charmed by the pure blossoms on the surface, but by those whose practice it is to intentionally look for the nourishing mud at the root. This is a powerful, gutsy practice; it embeds in us over time the habit of looking deeper when things are slung our way. Still, times like this test our courage to go even deeper into the sludge. They demand we sharpen our powers of observation and follow the roots down even further. They challenge us to look for the hidden stability that lies in places we have not yet seen. And yet the process is unpleasant and exacting. The mud is cold and slimy; solid ground is illusive.
Yes, these are uncertain, uncharted, turbulent times. And yet the truth is “times” have always been uncertain. We may think we are seeing more slinging induced commotion but I think in reality we may be seeing the water clear. I think perhaps we are being offered the chance to see even further into the chasm. Do we have enough courage to gaze more acutely into the pond at whose edge we sit? Can we be resilient enough to let the mud roll down off our backs and become our sustenance? I don’t know. I do know we need tools and we need each other for support. I have found to study Taijiquan and Qigong is one useful way of creating sharp tools, potent valor and enthusiastic companions along the way. Even more, for me, to study Taijiquan and Qigong is to learn to embrace the paradox of being alive, to come to know and value insights within ourselves and our world that on the one hand may seem contradictory, the but on the other hand just make us stronger.
Like many of us I’m somewhat relieved to kick the Year of the Yang Fire Monkey to the curb and am glad I won’t see it again in my lifetime. At the same time I know when the calendar turns, it will be simply another day at the pond. I’m reassured to know that no matter how much mud slinging happens in days to come we can still choose to let it flow down to our roots, to feed and nourish us, so it will keep us strong and magnificent and buoyed up upon the lake of our life.
Here is a video of our dojo graffiti wall, aka "The Wall" in its final state before being covered up by the sound proofing process. This was an inspired project! It certainly produced a life of its own and it unexpectedly came to mean a great deal to me. Thank you all for participating. (By the way, I have no idea who put the Lotus sentiment on the Wall. Thank you!)
Join Kim Ivy on January 7th for a day of introduction for Taijiquan (Tai Chi) and Qigong. Our focus is how to use our practice to create tools to navigate and stay grounded during uncertain times. The day is by donation, all proceeds to Planned Parenthood or the Ballard Food Bank. All are welcome but please RSVP.
Be sure to peruse the Schedule, Workshops & Early Registration links! (Early Registration through December 31). We'll be adding more classes & workshops as the light returns!
There are some excellent study opportunities with the fabulous Jennifer Lucero- Earle. Along with her Thursday night Nia classes, Jennifer is hosting a variety of workshops thoughout the year. Contact her and be in the know!
People loved the Sound Bath with Soundsation last November. The dojo is an amazing place for Sound Bathing! Soundsation is hosting another on January 21. Contact: Ioana Todoran Phone: 206-331-0951 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Grace Bryant is hosting a series of workshops this year, starting with Awakening the Spiritual Heart: A Silent Retreaton January 8th.
Monthly Meditations with Greg starting up again January 22.
Craving your Luohan during the break? Join certified instructor Karri Meleo in her classes at Quantum on Tuesday nights.
Do you need a last minute gift? I can email you a gift certificate to print in any amount for your favorite Qi loving friend or workmate. Good for classes, workshops, private lessons! Let me know and I'll take care of it asap. You can even call (206)789-0993 and give me your card over the phone, receive an invoice or purchase onsite via PayPal. You will be appreciated!!
Year of the Yin Fire Phoenix (Rooster) starts January 27th! (Moon Trivia - this is my year. I'll be 60 in September. Are you turning 60 between January 27, 2017 & Feb. 14, 2018?) The blogs are telling us this is the year to exercise and focus on health and healing. (We got that!) We are also being advised to organize our finances. Deal with any debt, plan and budget, and be aware of our spending. It is suggested that we work hard with focus and really apply ourself in our career. Overall, the fates tell us it will be a no-nonsence plow ahead type of year. Lets hope!
Do join us for a fantastic weekend of Lunar New Year fun with Solala Towler: Practicing the Way, Exploring Taoist Thought & Practice Take your pick! Tea! Music! Taoism! Qigong! Or join for all of the above. I've known Solala for over 25 years. He is a very accomplished student of the Way. You will have a great time and learn a lot too.
As always, The Moon will be passing out treats & prizes in the weeks to come.
Uncertainty, doubt, hesitation. How often are we plagued by these maladies? How often do they influence our path or lead us astray? How often do we find ourselves waiting? Waiting for the right time, the right conditions. Waiting to get picked or promoted, or told what to do. Uncertainty hides in the shadows of our intention. When we encounter it, we often step out of our posture, or move for the small reprieve it gives us. We may try to stay busy, reach for distraction, or entertain the discomfort away just so we can feel normal again.
In uncertain times we yearn for control. We wonder about our future, the future of our family and loved ones, the future of our community and world. We spend sleepless nights caught up in the cycle of hope and fear, playing out dramas of gain and loss, praise and shame. But uncertainty really prevents us from moving forward. Our intention may be strong, but we lack the focus to carry it through. Our intention may be clear, but we don't feel we have the power to carry it out. Sitting with uncertainty may be the most powerful thing you can do.
Face the resistance.
Don't avert your eyes.
Don't turn from it.
Donning the armor of patience,
With the sharp sword of mindfulness,
and all the grit you can muster,
breakthrough to openness, clarity and insight.
Then step forward with generosity, kindness and love.
Join Greg Patenaude for monthly meditations at Embrace The Moon. January 22's session is devoted to "Sitting with Uncertainty." By donation. All donations benefit ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).
In Chinese Medicine, the Winter is associated with the Water Element and with the Kidneys and Bladder. It makes sense since the Kidneys and Bladder control the ‘waterworks’ of our body. The Kidneys are considered to be the ‘battery’ of the body, the organ that holds our Essence or Jing. Winter is the time of rest and regeneration for us all; the season invites us to go inwards, rest and recharge our ‘batteries’.
If we observe Nature and look at what the environment and animals are doing, it provides a guide for ourselves and for our health. Currently, the animals are not very active and some are hibernating. The trees are barren of leaves and there is no outward or obvious growth or change taking place. However, there is plenty of life and activity underground around the roots of the trees. The trees, plants and animals are storing their energy. Why? For all of the Yang energy we put forth, we need the Yin energy to balance and restore. Thus, the deeper and more restful the Winter, the more energetic and active will be the Summer. In other words, think of the season that follows Winter, Spring, and all of the energy it takes for new life and growth!
One way to think of Winter and what is happening is to think of a seed. Winter is the most compressed, inwards, quiet time of the year which promises great potential, like the seed. Isn’t it amazing that from one tiny seed can come a huge plant with a stem, large green leaves, bearing berries or fruit? All from a tiny seed! That is the potential of a seed and that is the promise of the Winter!
Here are some ideas for restorative practice to recharge your ‘batteries’:
Sleep. Practice Yin yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong. Take a nap, enjoy a hot bath, Meditate—even just 5 minutes per day in the morning has benefit! Oh, did I mention ‘a nap’? Get a massage. Eat warm, nourishing foods!
Enjoy your hibernation!
Eric Hartmann, M.Ac., L.Ac. is a licensed 5 Element acupuncturist who has practiced for almost 20 years on Capitol Hill. You can find information on Eric & his practice here
photo credit, Cui Bing, Chen Zi Quan's wife, Chen Village
Join Luohan student Fiona and I for our annual foray into 100 Days of Practice beginning with the Chinese New Year, January 28th. This year I am going to create a sign up board for the back room; place your name and signal your intent! 15 minutes per day minimum of whatever practice you choose. Think about it! We are. Its a great way to set your discipline and grow your practice!
Happy Holiday Season to all. We at the Moon wish you comfort and joy, good health and robust friendships, sure-footedness in uncertainty and creative responses when the unexpected comes calling. Thank you for a great year of practice & see you on the floor starting January 8, 2017. In the mean time, keep practicing! Respect! Salute!
May Peace Prevail On Earth.