13 February 2018


Thanks to all who came to this weekend's Aberdeenshire workshops, great work. The theme was 'innocence', meaning the unencumbered state one can come to in one's practice out the other side of experience. Adults are not innocent, by dint of growing up through life's experiences. But there is a way in both life and practice, by letting go of our conditioning, by working it through, that returns us to a state where we are not bound up in self. Taoist practice is largely about this: the famous 'uncarved block', and so on. But I am already a carved block! you may protest. Ah that's why we have practice... Yielding, allowing, returning to uprightness and naturalness, disentangling ourselves from the hooks and barbs of life, sometimes turning and walking away from what seeks to enmesh us. All this is clear as day when pushing hands, after 10 years or so!

A great Taoist line:
'Best not start,
But if started,
Best finish.'

The Hexagram for all this is 'Return'. It is the return of primordial energy, the first step on the path after 'the living midnight' or 'the Yin convergence', it is the point when Yang energy starts to return and cultivation can begin. For those not so interested in Taoist alchemy, you could think of it as Imbolc, 1st February, definitely still early days, not Spring yet, but Winter is noticeably receding because the days are longer, buds and catkins are appearing. There can still be freezing days and frosty setbacks, even snow. But it is not Midwinter anymore, there are snowdrops in the grass. Now is the time to stoke the fire, keep the stores filled and practice, literally and metaphorically. This is my take on it all, anyway, based on experience.
How does innocence fit in? It is the time to let go of old habits and patterns, symbolised here by the 5 Yin lines above the 1 yang line. Much work to do? Yes, me too. Going to crack on with it somehow? I will if you will. The way one becomes, after burning away what we cannot help having acquired, is an innocent state, a simplicity, which is more valuable for having come from complexity and strife. Like T'ai Chi's well known phrase: 'the stillness in movement is of greater value than the stillness in stillness', innocence here is not a denial of knowledge or wisdom gained through living fully, but an expression of it, just one where no decisions are made in advance, and our grand plans are not inflicted upon the world. This reminds me of my friend's reading of the Tarot card 'The Fool', a blithe youth stepping of a cliff, yes, but it is also the beginning of life's inner journey, ending in 'The World'.

Imbolc full moon

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