Well it looks like once again I have been majorly remiss about adding a new blog. Life is just so darn full! We recently connected with a new printer in IL who, for the same price I have been paying for black and white printing of The Empty Vessel, does it in full color! We just did our first issue with them and it turned out great! (You can find it, the Spring 14 issue in our store.)
It is really pretty amazing that we have managed to keep this magazine afloat for so many years (21). It was the fall of 1993 that I was inspired to start a Daoist magazine once I looked around and saw there was nothing that really went into the Daoist philosophy as well as practices, at least here in the States. Actually, I was initially inspired by Tricycle, a very fine Buddhist magazine.
And of course the name for the magazine comes from Laozi, chapter 4.
Dao is an empty vessel;
it is used but never exhausted.
It is the fathomless source
of the ten thousand beings!
It blunts the sharp
and untangles the knots.
It softens the glare
and unites with the dust of the world.
It is tranquil and serene
and endures forever.
I do not know from where it comes
yet it is the ancestor of us all.
In the 21 years since I began the magazine I have tried to become that empty vessel, to bring these wonderful practices and teachings from Daoism to my readers and students. Recently, when I interviewed Dr. Bernard Shannon, medical qigong healer and instructor as well as ordained Daoist priest, for the Spring issue, he mentioned a term that is used in his school in China for anyone that identifies with Daoism but is not ordained: Daoyou, meaning “friend of the dao.”
I love this idea of being a friend of Dao. I have met so many wonderful people while publishing this magazine all these years. It has taken me to so many wonderful places and I look forward to continuing on this path for this lifetime at least!
I bow in gratitude to all the Daoyou’s out there!
When you enlarge your mind and let go of it,
When you relax your qi and expand it,
When your body is calm and unmoving,
and you can maintain ones and discard the myriad disturbances—
Then you will see profit and not be enticed by it.
You will see harm and not be frightened by it,
Relaxed and unwound, yet acutely sensitive,
In solitude you delight in your own person.
This is called, “revolving the qi”;
Your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly.
Nei-ye (Inward Training)
(from Original Tao by Harold D. Roth)
Watching the Incense
I like to burn a lot of incense in my office, home and temple. I always enjoy watching the smoke rise in elegant shapes from the incense burner, drifting off slowly into the air. It looks like some sort of slow motion dance, much like the taiji or qigong dance that I practice. Sometimes I can see animals or trees or shapely clouds in the smoke. I like to use something simple like sandalwood or aloes wood incense, nothing too sweet or cloying.
I also have some incense that I was given by the vice abbot at the Jade Springs monastery at Hua Shan, a sacred Daoism mountain, years ago. I don’t know what it’s called. I call it “Daoist incense.” I have only seen it at that one mountain. The last time I was there I bought a huge amount of it, enough for years, from a woman who sold from a little cart at the bottom of the mountain. She was so amazed when this “big nose” kept buying her entire store of the incense. She even ran inside and found a few more bundles of it. She laughed and laughed when I bought it all.
Incense or incense like plants have been used for thousands of years by various cultures abound the world to call in the spirits and communicate with helpful guides. Sometimes I recite an invocation for burning incense, taught by my teacher, Hua Ching Ni.
It starts off:
I cultivate myself and follow the Heavenly Way
With a lucid mind and subtle energy.
with this incense I connect my whole being
with that of all Divine Immortals.
(You can see the rest of this in Master Ni’s book, Workbook for Spiritual Development.)
Shanti and I have also been having fun with some really high quality essential oils from Young Living, especially one called Joy and one called Sacred Mountain. Diffusing these into the air in our home brings about a beautiful energy and lightens our spirits.
Whether it is ‘Daoist incense,” sage, sweetgrass, essential oils or myrrh or other aromatic oils from ancient times that are used, they become gateways into the spirit world and help us communicate with “all the Divine Immortals.”
Under heaven everyone knows that the existence of beauty
depends on the existence of ugliness.
Everyone knows the capacity of kindness
depends on the existence of the unkind.
Existence and nothingness are mutually born,
difficult and easy complete each other,
long and short shape each other,
tall and short rest upon each other,
sound and music harmonize each other,
before and after follow one another.
Because of this the sage
dwells in the world of non-action,
practices teaching without speaking.
The ten thousand beings rise and fall
and she does makes no claim on them.
She creates but does possess them.
She works but does not take credit for it.
Because she does not take credit for her accomplishments
they will last forever.
Daode Jing Chapter 2
I have been reading a wonderful book called The Four Agreements. I love this book! The teachings are very simple yet very profound, always a good combination! They are as follows:
1. Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
4. Always Do Your Best
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret.