We are the manifestation of the universe as we are to meet people where they are – moving from fear and discontentment into confidence, equanimity and joy as inclusiveness and transcendence. We are all one.
“Peace… comes within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells Wakan-Tanka, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” –Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa), Oglala Lakota
Picture on the right is from the book “Black Elk Speaks”. Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota medicine man was at Wounded Knee and the Battle of the Little Big Horn (Custer’s Last Stand), who saw the conclusion of his people’s way of life in a dream when he was a boy. In the end, Black Elk found himself on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with what was left of his people. He had converted to Catholicism so that he could continue to convey the universal spirit of transcendence. He never lost sight of his elders who appeared in his dream and ultimate purpose to help his people.
What is this commonality of spirit we all share that knows no singular face? What is it that connects us to nature and to who we have always been? How do we trust ourselves to go there and why should it matter? Why is it so important to bring others to only our way of thinking? Instead of helping to open the door so that they may find their own enlightenment and not simply something mirroring our own? First, and foremost, what do our innermost thoughts tell us about who we are and how do we go there and more importantly, how do we follow our own transcendence, or instincts? To what some would say we have always known and forgotten.
What is mindfulness and the calmness it brings to our soul? Sometimes it is as if we are simply visiting with old friends who are now guiding our path, or way, to further things we’ve seen and done before. Our purpose to reach our highest endeavor, to climb the next rung on the ladder, to find what some have called our bliss. As if the journey is incomplete or never-ending. As you wonder that it seems many are asked – but few are chosen for eternity’s sake. Perhaps it comes down to getting our attention. Black Elk’s story can be seen in each of us when we acknowledge our own oneness with the universe and the peace, to what we may call eternal bliss that dwells inside us when we do.
An old Chinese caveat says… there is nothing new under the sun, only new ways to see nothing. Things that exist in the present have always existed and will exist again in the future. Fitting the quantum definition of matter continually repeating itself in the universe. What is it that defines our role, and does it matter? The question asked by the first shaman looking to the stars for answers. The stars never appeared to move, but the earth and we moved so that our role remained constant with the nature within and around us. Repeating this constancy in cycles, in the seasons gave permanence to what should occur. When the ancient holy man retreated into meditation it would be nature that provided the answers. He/she would convey that always seeing beyond ourselves to the unknown is essential. By bringing forward an institutional memory of nature to the present, acknowledging the past, and how we are to live, that we would begin to discover what meditation means and being “mindful”.
That finding our purpose brings forth our place in the universe and how we are to proceed. In mindfulness, the Chinese character 念 is composed of two parts, the top 今 meaning “now; this” and bottom 心 signifying “heart; mind.”
To the left is the dragon depicted in the stars at the Taoist Cave adjacent to the Leshan Giant Buddha south of Chengdu.
Still unconvinced? On some cloudless night go outside and look to the sky and the stars. What you’ll see is what the ancient shaman saw… the mirror of your soul.
Mindfulness is the quality and power of mind and our actions, to an awareness of what’s happening — without judgment and without interference. It is like a mirror that simply reflects whatever comes before it. It serves us in the humblest ways, keeping us connected to brushing our teeth or having a cup of tea. It keeps us connected to the people around us, so that we’re not simply rushing by them in the busyness of our lives. It reflects the simplicity of who we are as we go through each day. I like to say that it is as if we travel two feet off the ground. That being in the present begins with understanding our breath.
We can start the practice of mindfulness meditation with the simple observation and feeling of each breath. We call it qi, or chi. It is through our breath we express our thoughts and speak our intentions. Our practice develops mastery devoted to the divine.
We often develop what accentuate our breathing as movements often called tai chi. The picture is from Wushan Mountain in China.
Breathing in, we inhale the universe… innate matter we have always known and has known us within the context of the Tao that defines us. Breathing out, we’re breathing out what becomes what we re-construct as our actions that are transformative of and to our associations and relationships with what is to come. As we decide the world we want to live in through cause and effect and our actions. It is in this arena that our thoughts often take us to places that never happened or will ever happen that waits to define us. Living in the moment with mindfulness as our virtue simply trains us to come back to the beginning – to the serenity and peacefulness of our breath – to our divinity and to breathe again.
Chinese influence through history on meditation and mindfulness for many has centered on the influence of Chan and Mahayana Buddhism. It is to see one’s own “original nature” (benxing, 本性) and realize “authentic heartmind” (zhenxin, 眞心), and in doing so the dualities of thought and reality, of passion and enlightenment, and of the impure and pure all dissolve. Then, true suchness (zhenru, 真如) is the embodied structure (ti) of thinking, while thinking is the functioning (yong) of true suchness. (Platform Sutra, 13–17) True suchness or ultimate reality is not a pre-existent something “out there” that can be grasped intellectually or accessed through some mystical vision; it can only be enacted in the present for and through ourselves.
For thousands of years, we have known that it is in stillness that nothing arrives and as we attach to nothing, we remain connected to everything. That it’s what we do with nothing that dictates how we are to live, breathe, and ultimately die. It is in moving beyond nothing that what becomes important arrives and decides to stay, albeit both good and bad. It is through the steadying of our mind, that the benefit of living in the moment finds the space of inner calm and peace. To the commonality found in everything.
To what the Chinese from antiquity have referred to as “the ten thousand things”. To find a normalness with all things that appears in nature, with none better or worse than the other. Each looking to find the best way to survive, to find and know peace, and to live with its neighbors in unison, in wu wei, as nature intended. This is the ultimate meaning of the Tao and Taoism.
Over twenty years ago (in 1995 and 96), when my passion for learning and understanding Taoism was at its zenith you might say, I wrote my own version (some might call it a commentary) of the Book of Lieh Tzu. This became a manuscript (never published) except here on my website entitled My travels with Lieh Tzu. This period was between the initial book on the I Ching and Taoism and another book on the Tao Te Ching. Both of these were published in China. The Book of Lieh Tzu is a classic in Chinese Taoist literature. I wrote all of these prior to even going to China, or contemplating that I would as a preface to actually going. It would be as if the Tao was passing or flowing through me as if a prelude, with more than one hundred fifty entries with Lieh Tzu. I pay tribute to them here. My writing was to become me as my endeavors would lead the way with now almost fifty trips, hundreds of thousands of words of self-expression, and thousands of pictures that help to tell the story. Two of those entries are shown below:
Chapter Two of My Travels with Lieh Tzu – The Yellow Emperor Introduction
Windsurfing Through Time
Always to be riding the wind. Free from obstruction.
Not tied to things external of your true nature. Remaining free of needing to control events and knowing not to be hindered by them. Keeping the mind, spirit and body free from choices and thinking of alternative courses of action that must be taken.
Doing without thinking. Knowing without doing. Understand this parallel and remain free to simply fly away. Never conscience of the next action to be taken. Only aware of what needs to be done without thinking about or doing it. Action coming natural to current events as the natural extension of your inner chi.
Remaining as a mirror to each situation at hand. Unaware of making distinctions between advantage and danger. Behaving with resolute assurance with nothing standing in your way. Remaining enmeshed with harmony. Staying the same as all around you and finding an inner strength waiting to be found without interference.
Confucius Temple Qingdao
To be able to walk on hot coals, swim through a fast current or climb the highest mountain and find comfort in doing none of them. Remain forever adaptable to the events swirling around you. Be as the air as it finds its way into everywhere and as water that passes through everything.
Be non‑existent and exist everywhere in all things. Without the need or desire to control events, simply remain as the ever‑prevailing sage ceasing to be obstructed by them. Free from whatever consequences that may come. 1/18/95
Chapter 3 of My Travels with Lieh Tzu – King Mu of Zhou Introduction
Dedications to Lao Tzu Qingcheng Taoist Mountain
Traveling through time from one lifetime to the next, can our dreams be more than illusions we cling to along the way. When we awoke this morning from a blissful sleep, did we have any sense that what we have dreamed is less than the reality we lived yesterday or the day before or will come to know today, tomorrow or the next?
When dreaming, are we aware that we are dreaming? When awake are we truly aware that we are awake? Or are we simply living our dreams? If both are the same, then the question becomes what can we be awakening into?
Dreaming that we are but a butterfly darting from flower to flower are we not as Chuang Tzu in his dream, or are we but the butterfly dreaming that he is Chuang Tzu? Are not our dreams living out the reality of who we are? Is not life but a dream which lasts until death, when we find our ultimate unveiling?
Is not awakening midstream in one’s life the opportunity to come closer to one’s true reality beyond the Tao? Is not all that breathes and becomes lifelike or has appearance therefore taking shape simply illusion? Where can reality and dreaming differ? Is not the ultimate truth only the reflection found in mirror images of ourselves?
If our experiences while we are awake are the same as when we sleep, then are not experiences found while we sleep the same as when we are awake? Is not true living to abolish any division between illusion and reality? Thereby becoming indifferent to the world around us. All things being equal, do we not become transformed and continue onward to vistas we have known and seen before? 2/5/95
It is through stillness that we find commonality. Slowly, our minds steady and we begin to experience some space of inner calm, peace, and re-define the importance of nothing in our lives. This environment of inner stillness makes possible a deeper investigation of our thoughts and emotions. What is a thought – what is it that bring us to nothing that can so dominate our lives? When we look directly at a thought, we see that it is little more than nothing.
Becoming aware of the thought is like waking up from a dream or watching a movie after being absorbed in the story.
Through mindfulness, we gradually awaken from the movies of our minds and return to our original selves and authenticity as the next step to transcendence by minding our breath. Breathing deeply perhaps for the first time.