Solala blog 5/28

Daoist Nature Meditation



There was something formed in chaos,

coming before heaven and earth,

existing in the silent and tranquil void.

it stands alone and unchanging,

It pervades everywhere without becoming exhausted,

it is the mother of heaven and earth.

I do not know its name

and so call it Dao.

For want of a better word

I call it great.

Being great it is far reaching.

It is far reaching

yet it returns to its source.

Therefore I say that Dao is great,

heaven is great,

earth is great,

and humankind is great.

In the universe there are four greats

and humankind is one of them.

People follow the way of earth;

earth follows the way of heaven;

heaven follows the way of Dao;

Dao follows its own natural way.

Daode Jing  Chapter 25



Wood (Liver)

We begin with the season of spring, the time of year when the new growth of trees, plants, flowers and people begin to reach out towards the life-giving sun. The color associated with spring is green. The totem animal is the Green Dragon. The element is wood, the wood of newly growing grasses, plants, trees and flowers. The direction is east, the direction of the sunrise, of new beginnings, new ventures and adventures. The organ associated with spring is the liver. The positive emotion is free-flowingness, our ability to flow freely through the challenges of our lives. It is also associated with flexibility, the flexibility of the young plant to bend with the wind and not be broken.

Laozi says:


When we are born we are supple and tender

like a young plant.

When we die we become rigid and unyielding.

The ten thousand beings,

including plants and grasses,

when young are soft and pliable.

At their death they are dry and brittle.

Therefore we say that the stiff and unyielding

are the companions of death.

The soft and yielding are the followers of life.



In the morning sit, stand or lie upon the earth in an area of trees, bushes, flowers or grass. Open your eyes wide and let the good, deep, green color fill your vision. Allow the color green to fill your being with the energy of new growth. Feel your ability to flow freely throughout the challenges of your life as well as your day-to-day life. Feel the excitement of the new sunrise, the new day, the new opportunities each day brings. Allow your inner being to soften and become as flexible as a newly sprouted blade of grass.



Fire (Summer)

Stand facing the warm light of the sun, eyes closed lightly. Feel the love and gentle warmth of the sun flower inside you, filling you up with the fire of joy and expansiveness.

The color associated with summer is red. The totem animal is the Red Phoenix. The element is fire, the fire of joy and creativity. The direction is south. The organ associated with summer is the heart.

You can also swallow the yang fire of the sun down into your dan tian, though usually not more than nine times (so that you do not overload your system with the fiery yang energy of the sun). Feel the energy of the sun, the supporter of all life on our beloved planet as it shines down upon you and within you, filling you up with light and joy.


Earth (the time between each season)

Stand, sit or better yet, lie down upon the good rich earth. Feel it holding you up, supporting you, caressing you. Move your hands along her ground, your fingers caressing the earth. Feel how, when we lie upon the earth we are connected to everyone lese upon the world as they also live their lives upon it.

The color associated with this time is a rich earthy yellow. The totem animal is the Yellow Dragon. The element is earth. The direction is towards the center of the circle. The organ associated with spring is the spleen. The positive emotion is empathy, a sense of groundedness and a deep connection with all other live forms (the ten thousand beings).



Gold (Autumn)

Stand, sit or lie down, paying close attention to your breath. Breathe deeply, allowing your lungs to fill all the way up, your abdomen expanding as you inhale. Hold it for a few seconds, then breathe out again, emptying your lungs completely. Imagine your lungs as the precious substance that they are. See them as shining gold. (Usually this element is listed as metal but in the alchemical tradition it is seen as gold, a much warmer and more precious element indeed).

The color associated with autumn is white. The totem animal is the White Tiger. The direction is west, the direction of gathering in for the harvest. The organ associated with autumn is the lungs. The positive emotion is courage.


Water (Winter)

Sit, stand or lie down by a body of water – a stream, a pond, a lake, a river, the sea. Listen to the sounds that the water makes. Feel it moving through you as the water of your blood moves through you. Feel yourself dissolve into the water and then be reborn again, over and over.

The color associated with winter is a deep blue/black. The totem animal is the Black Turtle (sometimes in combination with a serpent). The element is water, the deep mysterious water from which all life is born. The direction is north and the energy is that of Returning to the Root. The organ associated with winter is the kidney/adrenals. The positive emotion is that of will and concentration.






Quote of the week for 5.1


Practice non-action (wu wei).

Accomplish without accomplishing.

Taste what has no taste.

The great comes from the small.

More begins with less.

Return bitterness with kindness.

Deal with the difficult while it is still easy.

Create the large from the small.

The sage does not try for greatness

And so she is great.

Promises made too lightly are hard to keep.

Easy tasks often become difficult.

The sage is always ready for difficulties

And for this reason never experiences them.

                        Laozi   63


Solala Blog for 4/25/14

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!



Quote for week of 2/10/14


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.”