Friday, May 14, 2010

Living the Low Life

It transformed into a beautiful day in late afternoon after a cool, windy start: temp around 50, sky clearing, sun bursts hitting deep forest and revealing an Emerald City (i.e., "The Wizard of Oz") or, more accurately, the Emerald Forest. The earth is pockmarked from raindrops that fell throughout the night and day yesterday. All is fresh.

This afternoon I listened to Here on Earth from Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) with host, Jean Feraca. It was broadcast live from the Pavilion in downtown Bayfield as part of the opening festivities for Bayfield in Bloom, a one month celebration of the season here in the north woods. I was delighted to hear chefs from Wild Rice Restaurant and the Rittenhouse Inn talk about their uses of locally gathered foods to highlight their menus: fiddlehead ferns, wild leeks, morel mushrooms, purslane, wild asparagus, lake trout and white fish, and more. I felt excited--and hungry--just listening to them describe favorite recipes and presentations.

Then I was up and moving to the beat of silent Chi. I practiced out on the porch with the kitten and dog sleeping quietly on the futon beside me. Their utter relaxation and still sleep were an inspiration to me as I shifted weight and carried balls of energy. Meanwhile a short-tailed chipmunk scurried around the side of the house and a bluejay flashed back and forth from tree to feeder.

After hearing WPR's Feraca describe the beauty of this area on-air I, once again, feel incredibly privileged and grateful to live here under the forest canopy. And, of course, Lake Superior is the source, the healing, spiritual entity that draws so many people to this area. I'm reminded of our reading of the Tao at yesterday's class, Verse 61, "Lying Low," by Ursula LeGuin:
The polity of greatness
runs downhill like a river to the sea,
joining with everything,
woman to everything.
Dyer describes this phenomenon in his book on the Tao, Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Mind. He encourages us to reevaluate our belief that it's important to "'get to the top,' 'stand out in the crowd,' 'be the best.'" Rather, he writes:
     Look at the ocean [or in my case, Lake Superior]: It's the most powerful force on the planet because it stays lower than the streams, which are necessarily and inescapably drawn to it. As the rivers flow downward to become one with it, the sea is able to be the great reservoir of all under heaven. This is what Lao-tzu refers to throughout the Tao Te Ching as the 'great Mother' or the 'feminine of the world.' That female energy, or yin, is the true receptor of all; by remaining quiet and still, it ultimately overcomes male (yang) efforts to subjugate and conquer.
I'll let Dyer have the final word here from his chapter Living by Remaining Low as I think his interpretation of the feminine/yin Chi is powerful and enlightening and, also, highly descriptive of a t'ai chi chih practice:
Reassess your personal view of what constitutes strength.
     Can you see power in humility, stillness, and remaining low and out of sight? In martial arts, the strongest conqueror is the one who uses the least force and converts the lunges of his opponent into his own might....
     By staying calm and under the radar, others will ultimately flow to you, joining with you in creating friendship and trust. As you stay in this yin, feminine, Divine Mother mode, you'll radiate energy and strength and win over others ...

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