The Tao’s Currents
The Tao’s currents had brought our rafts ashore at White Horse Mountain and it was perfect and complete’ requiring of us only a natural response appropriate to the moment. Li Shifu refers to life on the mountain as bitter: no 8-star hotel; as he would say. The accommodations were Spartan, the food inelegant, the life un-luxurious, withdrawn as it is from the world.
And yet, it was comfortable, quiet and calm. In its simplicity, and in sync with the natural world and the universe, it informed our souls and healed us from the travails of an off-kilter world that demands instant gratification and the accumulation of « stuff ».
It reset our compasses, reminded us that life is to be lived from the inside out, and gave its blessing, if not outright insistence, that ze be authentic and different at any cost. As the Tao Te Ching says:
« Seek other’s approval
And you will always be their prisoner. »
As the Druid Tree of Life paintings on Li Shifu’s new bowl depict, everything is connected; everyone is connected; and there are no such things as coincidences. We were provided everything we needed by the Temple and by each other to accomplish everything that brought us to Bai Ma Shan in the first place. Day, date and time dissolved in the mist-covered mountains below the Temple; and all we were left with was the moment.
It was now up to us. The question was whether we could live everything we learned from Li Shifu and the Five Immortals Temple. Could we fulfill the obligation to transmit what we had been taught, to keep it alive and to pass it on?
If it is our destiny, then yes. But, for now, there is only this moment. And the next. And the next.
The Melody of Life
She has worked for about a year and half massaging and healing people she knew and didn’t know, wanting to better the world through each individual. At one point, she felt that such practice was emptying her and understood that being what people expected her to be wasn’t right. Therefore, she decided that taking care of herself was of utmost importance if she wanted to continue helping people. This is what led her to look for a far away retreat where she would be able to experience a culture shock and as much bitterness as possible in order to re-centre inwards. And therefore she left for the Five Immortals Temple.
Climbing up White Horse Mountain on the first day was the most difficult and emblematic part of her journey. The bag on her shoulder was getting heavier and heavier each step under the bright afternoon sun. She wondered if she would make it to the top… It was just unthinkable not to be able to do it by herself, as she always managed things alone. Until the point she just couldn’t carry it anymore. Though she wasn’t alone, there were other people at her side, seeing her struggling and offering her a hand and their heart. It then felt as if she didn’t have to carry her stuff all alone anymore and that it was ok to ask for help without shame or expectation.
Upon arrival on the top of White Horse Mountain, what she would find was not only herself but a family with brothers and sisters, and their humble life master, Li Shi Fu. He taught them deep knowledge of not only Tai Ji but insights into life that can be experienced and expressed in many ways. It was like learning the melody of life that could be literally heard during the morning or evening scriptures, but also expressed in movements during Qi Gong or Tai Ji, as well as in thoughts during sitting meditation or meals. It could also be heard in the wind and the rain and felt through sweat. It was a melody she heard in each of her brothers and sisters, beautifully filled with life and love. This was the most valuable teaching for her.
To her, the Tai Ji course became a life course, showing the whole comprehensive system of life from which she understood that practicing Tai Ji without Qi Gong, scriptures, sitting meditation, healthy food or cultivating virtues is just meaningless and formless. But once practiced all together, it felt like practicing Oneness and embracing life.
During this short month, she felt her energy being put back in balance, her long term knee injury recovered, her immune system improved, her body became stronger: emotionally, physically, energetically and spiritually. This was the result of being on that magical mountain, a place of cultivation, with all the people around following a similar path helping each other, sharing, loving, with a life master showing us the doorways to this path.
To her, bitterness was not to be found on White Horse Mountain, but down there in society, where she had lost herself. But now, she heard what her melody sounds like and she is moving forward, composing her own melody, note by note. She found the doorway and a beautiful path filled with challenges and wonderful experiences awaiting for her.
Sharing Devotion and Being United in the Dao
Li Shi Fu explained to us all the application of each part of the Tai Ji Tao Lu form! Seeing slow by slow how the water can become fire is really amazing. And after having learned the fire style, the water style became really much more meaningful. We also learned different types of Push-Hands Tui Shou, all in relation to the basics of the upper body we were practicing… Make the connection between the single movements of the basics and their purpose in the Push Hands was really a good lesson. Since my arrival we were a really good family here. Different people from the Kung Fu class, from all over the world, but all reunited in the same purpose…to learn Tai Ji and deepen our understanding of Daoism.
It was such a gift to be able to meditate in a place like White Horse Mountain. I was more connected to nature during those evening meditation sessions than in the Kung Fu class. Because the weather was better, I could practice outside, and I even went a few times to meditate in the deep silence of the mountain’s summit. In this apparent loneliness, full of nature’s spirit, I have been able to reach some intense states of inner peace. It was a present from life each time. I also realized again that sometimes focusing is harder than other days. These were only temporary, as in the end it was always possible for me to find a way back to my Dan Tian, the Cinnabar Field… I just had to be patient and to remind myself that breath is the key point.
Once again I want to express my gratitude to Li Shi Fu for his patience, his open ears, and his advices and to the translators who are doing a great job here. To maintain strong bonds in the family, to keep harmony with the lifestyle in a temple is not an easy task… At the end we are all really grateful for what has been given to us here. It is so much more than what we could have expected from a Tai Ji class…