A garden is usually vibrant in color — even simple whites pop against lively green leaves like lilies of the valley. But, have you noticed the greys? Dusty millerwears yellow flowers while lamb’s ears show off pinkish-purple spikes. There is no “all or nothing.” Like life. Like the Tao.
Look closer at that familiar symbol for yin-yang. It is often identified as positive/negative, dark/light, female/male, etc., etc., yet in reality that is not entirely true. There is more to it. Like life. Like Tao.
In my busyness, I thought this symbol meant opposites. But, in waking up, I see the 2 small dots of opposing colors within each section. There is no complete 50/50, black/white, one or the other. Each has some of the other, and each needs the other to become whole. Life, for me, looked different then.
And the garden continues teaching me. About life. About Tao. Rain can nourish or flood…beautiful flowers can produce allergens… bees can pollinate and sting! Day turns to night, perennials bloom and die then return next year, the sun casts shadows (yin is for shade, yang is for sun). Everything is inter-related. Look at the white sunlight that produces the varied colors in a rainbow. There is so much to life, so much in between; it’s not all grey.
I am better off, my days are better off when I begin in the flow of Qigong. Years ago I practiced Svaroopa Yoga. Its deep relaxation served me well. But, then I tried Qigongand my life really started to change. I love the cyclical flow of energy — be it in my environment or person. This morning practice is my wake-up — of energy and to life. Naturally progressing to readings from the Tao, my life transformed into a new philosophy of living, thinking and breathing. Being a gardener, the Tao deepens my connection to nature which has deepened my understanding of life.
“Tao is the process of nature by which all things change and which is to be followed for a life of harmony” so Merriam-Webster says.
If you are unfamiliar with Qigong I encourage you to sign up for the free monthly QiTalksfrom the National Qigong Association. Their site is full of useful information like detailing what Qigong is, determining your energy composition, finding a practitioner who can teach you the movements, etc. And if there is no one in your locale, you can always try a DVD or visit YouTube. My favorite DVDs are Daisy Lee-Garripoli ‘s Radiant Lotus Qigong She also has videos on YouTube.
Like Yin and Yang, I find these practices produce a more gentle yet exuberant way of living life. Do you practice Qigong or the Tao? I’d love to hear your experience and how it’s influenced your life.
Walking to the garden this evening, this little beauty caught my eye resting on the window screen. I was so taken by the intricate wing and body pattern that I ran to get the camera. Take a good look at the lines, circles, color variations and textures from smooth to frayed edges. Maybe you’ll be mesmerized too.
The peonies are blooming now. This is how I mark my time. I do not use a “smart” phone but rely on Mother Nature. The late May calendar shows white and lavendar colored phlox, lilies of the valley, and deep purple, almost black columbine. Wild geraniums dot the pachysandra, and grandfather rhododendron (15′ high) arrived for their Memorial Day spectacular.
Foxglove, mugwort, irises, roses, and astilbe will join others to color my pages of June. Sometimes I can hardly wait. But then I catch myself to breathe in the beauty of the moment.
Bam! Bam! Bam! Strangers pound on my door. Ding. Ding. Ding! DING. DING. DING! The PC shouts Facebook sent 26 e-mails! Already? Only a few days ago I dabbled on FB during our workshop. Now voicemail haunts me with social media messages. I feel alarmed. The inferno is building, engulfing me and my time. Hours sizzle away, days go up in smoke, night quickly singes morning then BOOSH! My responsibilities topple over. Hopes swirl around my peaceful life exploding into the black hole. Like trying to contain a room ablaze, something tells me I’m better off not opening the door. It’s not good to play with matches I’ve been told.
Argh. I get a little cranky when sleep deprived. Time to go outside and breathe some fresh air.
Driving home on this rainy Saturday evening, the windshield wipers are paragraphs separating my thoughts. I’ve been hand-drumming for 3 hours in a drum circle at the local health food store. Some of the participants I’ve known for decades, others I met today.
The face of my friend flashes through my mind. We lunched earlier at a neighborhood deli whose house-made bread is better than anything in Manhattan for sure. I met Meg through hand drumming a decade ago. We smile, laugh, talk serious. We are not looking down at our phones because we intentionally have unsophisticated, un-smart phones. Just practical little devices for emergency. That makes sense to us. Neither of us wants to be tethered to technology. We talk dogs, travel, gardening. The wonder of a kindergartener seeing a real robin or eating a nasturtium.
“What does it taste like?” I am curious to know.
“A little peppery,” she says, and especially to a five-year old.
“I’ve always wanted to grow asparagus,” I tell her. “I put it in with rhubarb last year.” She nods, confirming my assumption that they are good companions. My friend teaches biology. I hope she can teach me about growing asparagus. “I didn’t know what to do with it at the end of last season…now I’ve got a 12” stalk like you see in the grocery store but next to it is a 4-5’ high, tree-like stalk but much thinner…” I show her with my hands. “It’s actually got several thin branches that also look like asparagus…”
“My friend Margaret grew asparagus. I can ask her,” she offers.
“Great! I’ll send you a photo to show her.”
“She doesn’t do e-mail so she would have to come to my house and look at my phone.”
If anyone can easily explain how to properly grow asparagus please contact me!
Hmmm. This is interesting I think. There are more people than the handful in my Social Media workshop and me who are intentionally not wired, or loosely.
My friend and I agree how much we love getting together for lunch or dinner, being in nature, the warmth of human communication. Her eyes twinkle when I share a bit of synchronicity with her. “Good thing you were aware, and paying attention to notice all those things,” she says. Good thing you weren’t looking down at your phone and I could see your smile I think.
“I notice and appreciate nature more and more each year. I’ve never considered myself very religious, but a spiritual person,” I tell her. “I’ve been reading more of the Tao and it speaks truth to me. Everywhere.” Her smile confirms we are on the same page. I like making eye contact and our welcome and parting hugs.
Swish-swish. Swish-swish. The parting conversation with another friend at the drum circle pops into my head. “I’m addicted to my phone,” he confesses then shows me a photo another drumming friend posted 17 minutes ago. I confide that I’ve signed-up for a Social Media workshop, that I’m hoping to find a balance so I can still function in a technological society but not become an addict.
“Did you see the 60 Minutessegment on technology intending to make you addicted to your phone?” I ask, feeling fear and audacity rising within me.
“Well, I don’t think they want you to be addicted,” he says. “Just use it a lot.”
I can’t imagine having to ask others to like me I think. It just sounds so, so unnatural. Either you like me or you don’t, but do you have to announce it to the world? Is privacy passé? Social media is the antithesis of my values. I’ve never wanted 1,000 friends. That sounds too exhausting. I like the quality ones I have and they know it. Solid, true friends sharing quality time together… Does the world need to know that? Swish-swish. Swish-swish. The wipers clear away the thoughts that have kept me true to my values but from going with the crowd and against my own grain.
Faces of people I’ve hand-drummed with over the years are a slide show in my mind. The deep connection we’ve developed through hand drumming is like the comfort of a best friend yet I may not know the person, their last name, career, education, socio-economic status, ethnicity, where they live, or any other defining label, and it doesn’t matter. We speak a universal language that has no words but is expressed from hands to hearts, through conga drums, djembes, doumbeks, bongos, or any other piece of percussion (we are not prejudice). Hand drumming is yin-yang conversing — talking and listening at the same time.
I’ve often described hand drumming as cooking a large vat of soup where everyone adds a little something different be it a vegetable, herb, color or spice, and soon the flavor deepens, the aroma permeates the air and it’s evolved into something so darn good that I wonder why people do recreational drugs when they can hand drum.
Swish-swish. Slowing rain reveals the lush green mountainside. Rounding the corner, I’m home now, welcomed by dogwoods brilliant as the full moon, and bursting pinks. I’m breathless from the splendor of spring. Can social media really do that for me?
These guys (or gals) don’t look alike but they respectfully share from the same feeder, while happily chirping away. People could learn a lot from them.
I learned a lot from Jamaicans when visiting their homeland. Most Americans warned me ahead of time to “not go off the resort premises,” but strolling down the beach while mesmerized by the turquoise sea drew my curiosity beyond the boundary line. Haphazard tin-roofed shacks from whatever washed ashore leaned every which way — a yin-yang contrast to the well-manicured all-inclusive that was my home for 7 days.
The Jamaican Patois (pronounced Patwa) beckoned me into the makeshift beach mall. My ear took some getting used to their creole language but I appreciated the creative twist on english. In and out, I scanned the line of booths sand to ceiling but most of the wares were tchotchkes made in China that I could purchase in my hometown dollar store. Still, each proprietor smiled widely while proclaiming, “Tank yuh. Tank you fi looking. Tank you fi di respect.”
Most Jamaicans live in poverty. Tourism, music or selling drugs sadly seem to be the major opportunities to increase their standard of living. I’ve had panhandlers in other countries follow me into the water ruining an afternoon swim, or camp out just beyond the garden patio, calling for me to buy their goods. (One couple from Manhattan quit their Grenada vacation early, stating, “The panhandling isn’t this bad at home. We came here to relax…”) But, Jamaica was different. The people spoke to my heart and I quickly understood a universal desire for respect.
“I love your food. The Jamaican Jerk is delicious…nothing like back home,” I shared with the merchants. “I’ve been listening to a lot of your music on MTV in my room. I never knew there are so many types of Reggae. Do you have Tanya Stephensor Beris Hammond? I’d love to take some CDs home,” I explained to the last few shopkeepers. (Yes, I’m of the generation that still listens to an armoire full of CDs. Just another segment of my staving off technology.)
Walking back to the resort, a young Jamaican boy ran down the hill toward me, waving his arms. “Yuh di lady looking fi music?” he asked, showing me a handful of CDs.
“Well, yes I am. What do you have there?” The jewel cases sported homemade labels depicting the very artists I inquired about. We exchanged smiles as I paid him then crossed the boundary line to the resort.
That night, I watched a Jamaican grandmother teach her granddaughter the art of basket weaving while a Rastafari man let me listen through his headphones to other Jamaican musicians I might like. The next day, the little boy made me nearly a dozen more CDs which I carefully wrapped in the intricately hand-woven two-toned basket for my travels home.
For me, the best souvenir is a meaningful piece of culture. The best vacation is connecting with natives of the homeland. I travel to experience diversity. Maybe that’s what the cardinals and chickadees do too.
It’s all a matter of respect.
Some less respectful tidbits about Jamaica…
Don’t refer to a Rastafari as a “rastafarian” as they connect “ians” and “isms” to oppression. Likewise, referring to their philosophy as a “religion” or “ism” is against their beliefs.
Dudus (Christopher Michael) Coke led the violent Shower Posse drug gang that exported marijuana and cocaine to the United States. In 1992 he took over his deceased father’s position as leader of the Tivoli Gardens community in West Kingston. Providing programs to help the poor community garnered him so much local support that Jamaican police could not enter this neighborhood without community consent.