"If you follow the present-day world,
you will turn your back on The Way.
If you would not turn your back on The Way,
do not follow the world."
--Takuan Soho (1573-1645)*
There's the modern way:
aspirations for neat and tidy, but messy in the end;
and then there's the old way:
Submitting to the Downward Arc of the Precipice
that leaves our bones
spread all over the river-smoothed rocks below.
From the sounds of it, no one in their right mind would go for the latter.
It means traveling into the depths of the self,
sorting through a lifetime of the shadow
to burn everything away that prevents the light from shining through.
This is why they call us chasm-jumpers and crazy clouds, after all;
after the 'original one' who became a glowing Zen dragon in the mountains.
I know what some are thinking.
Neat and tidy sounds like the "safe" route.
It's what church, friends and family, billboards on the highway, and Uncle Sam say to do.
I mean, look at all the perks you get;
a bow tie in coastal seaside colors
an ankle bracelet with shiny diamonds.
No one ever curious-enough to ask:
"Who are you behind that mask?"
But, then, it all starts closing in around you,
and you can't rightly complain about claustrophobia
if you're the one who quarantined your own soul away from the wider view.
This is when some will say:
"Oh, she's really losing it"...
"Oh, he's 'going through a phase'..."
will nod and whisper:
"Another chasm-jumper is discovering their wings."
Our spirit, our energy, is called ki in Japanese (chi in Chinese; as in, T'ai Chi). It is our personal life force; our thimbleful of the Universal Life Force. Ki is in everything. In trees and mountains. In clouds and wave-forms. And, within each other. This is basic Shinto or Taoism, really, but it underlies all the arts, and the martial arts.
When we become disconnected from ourselves, we lose ki. If we don't eat in a way that nourishes the vitality of the body and mind, we threaten our own ki. If we are wounded in an attack, if we don't take care of ourselves or get enough sleep, or we suffer from a sleight of hand or a sleight of heart, we may end up leaking our ki.
Part of good, sound navigation in life is making the tending of our ki of paramount importance. Sometimes that means making an honest assessment of whether certain people or places are "too expensive" to our ki. A person's loyalty must be to their own ki, for one cannot serve others if their ki is depleted, and chronic ki-depletion is the root of disease.
This was one teaching offered by my teacher.
(c) 2018 / Frank LaRue Owen (Wandering Stone Lantern) / purelandpoetry.com
*Takuan Soho was a Zen master, master swordsman, avid practitioner of gardening, brush painting, and the tea ceremony, inventor of the daikon pickle, and author of The Unfettered Mind. At the moment of his death, he painted the Chinese character for dream (夢), laid down his brush, and died.