Staying Healthy with Taoism – 3 Essential Practices

Anti-aging is a big buzzword these days.  Everyone wants to know the secret of youth. What can I buy, ingest, or do to stay young and healthy?

As a 39-year practitioner of Taoist health and spiritual practices, I am here to tell you that Taoism is the way to go!

Taoist teachings are the root of Chinese Medicine, Feng Shui, Martial Arts, and Astrology. These disciplines are all concerned with Chi (or Qi) – life force energy – its flow, harmony, and balance.

This ancient tradition also developed the practices known as Qigong or Daoyin that emphasize the cultivation of good health with the intention of living a long, productive life. One accomplishes this by finding internal balance and merging with nature, exchanging energy with the universe in a dynamic process, living in the flow between heaven and earth.

When I committed to my Tai Chi practice 39 years ago, I was a professional photographer with a lot of minor health problems related to my profession that threatened to become serious.

Only 27, I was a bit of a mess. My shoulders had crept up to my ears; I had energy congestion between my eyes that came from peering at the world through a camera; and imbalances and compression in my spine from carrying equipment and heavy camera bags. Not to mention stress and anxiety.

Someone mentioned Tai Chi to me and I decided to give it a shot.  After a few classes, I felt an immediate connection with this amazing movement art that is Taoism in motion.

My growing commitment to practicing the Taoist philosophy through the disciplines of Tai Chi and Qigong improved my life enormously, enhanced my health and happiness, and became the context for many of my subsequent life decisions.

In my experience, these practices have proven to be incredibly valuable and perfect for our busy lifestyles.

Although there are many things I could share with you from this vast and varied tradition, here are 3 simple practices rooted in Taoism that I recommend doing on a daily basis to maintain your health and keep you young and energetic:

1. Meditate – Develop a relationship with yourself through meditation. In Tao practice, we begin with The Inner Smile.  Send love, joy, happiness, and intention for healing to your inner organs.  Know their location and make a connection with them.  See your inner organs as a team or family that needs to work harmoniously together in order to support you. Cultivate their happiness and chi.

2. Self-Massage – Stimulate chi flow in your organs by learning Chi Self-Massage.  Start with your sense organs.  They are the doorways to your inner organs and problems there often indicate internal issues. If nothing else, rub your ears every day and massage around your navel center, easing away congestion and stagnant energy and making space for your chi to flow.

3. Gather Universal Chi Through Your Energy Gates – the 2 palm centers, 2 centers in the soles of the feet, mid-eyebrow, and crown center, bringing energy into your body from heaven and earth for nourishment and healing.  Take time to move consciously and if at all possible, do this outdoors and breathe deeply. It’s very easy to use our energy.  Not as easy to conserve it and cultivate it.  Think of yourself as a battery that needs charging and connect every day to the universal forces for nourishment the same way you charge your cellphone.

Remember that Tao practices do not provide a magic pill that changes things all at once. Rather, they are about refining and cultivating your energy for the long-term. Try it and watch the magic happen! For more information about classes, workshops, and private sessions, visit me at www.taosharon.com

Advertisements

Predictions for 2017 – The Year of the Yin Fire Bird

e99b84e9b8a1e58da0e6989fe6a087e5bf97-77190153The Yin Fire Rooster (known to philosophical types as the “Red Phoenix” or “Fire Bird”) confidently crows his welcome into our lives on February 3, 2017, overtaking the anarchistic, trickster Red Fire Monkey who with gleeful mischief has bombarded us with more surprises than we could imagine during 2016 (Chinese New Year is actually celebrated on the New Moon in Aquarius – January 27, 2017).

We are in the middle of a 3-year Metal period (Monkey, Rooster, & Dog). Both 2016 and 2017 carry strong Fire element energies. In traditional thinking about the relationship between the elements, Fire controls Metal. Consequently, many of the problems of the Monkey year will continue in 2017 with just as many opportunities to come up with solutions. Fire and Metal types will feel this acutely. But there are differences.

Fire of course, heats things up and makes people happier and optimistic. Passion, excitement, impulsive action, creativity, and enthusiasm will be evident everywhere. As opposed to last year’s Yang Fire Monkey though, this Fire Bird is Yin, more like a flickering, unstable candle flame than a full-out blaze. Hence, we can be subject to states of creativity and emotional sentimentality and sensitivity that flare up and subside, unlike the quick temper of Yang Fire. This energy is more tense and nervous. Tempers can accumulate and explode, making serious situations potentially more dangerous.

The Rooster is Yin Metal, related to gold, precious gems and jewelry, implying wealth and luxury. This Fire Bird drives us to preen our feathers, flex our muscles and strut our stuff whether we’re in the barnyard, the schoolyard, or the courtyard. To Rooster, appearance is of the utmost importance. Personal grooming and our wardrobes will definitely demand more of our attention. Wanting to make a good impression extends itself into the workplace, not to mention the love and romance arena. Those who find validation in either place (and the lucky ones who find it in both!) are promised long-lasting happiness. This could be a great year for the arts, entertainment, and fashion.

A dedicated timekeeper who thrives by clockwork, precision, and order, the Rooster’s territory is circumscribed. As the only ruler of the roost, he often creates alarm with his wake-up calls, especially concerning our livelihoods. This is a year when money will not come to us without effort. Keep a schedule at work, make wise investments and cultivate your savings instead of fantasizing about get-rich-quick schemes and other speculative ventures.

In Chinese medicine, Metal energy is related to the lungs, large intestine, and skin; Fire rules the heart and the small intestine. Spiritually, the heart is our Commander-in-Chief. It’s all about the blood vessels and capillaries, inflammation, our capacity to savor and enjoy, as well as our speech (Fire rules the tongue). Words, thoughts, and the feelings behind them have power.This is a year where it is of utmost importance to speak truthfully, straight from your heart.

The combination of Fire and Metal can cause flu, potential breathing problems, skin and digestive problems, internal and external inflammation, and heart palpitations. Be aware that imbalance in these organ systems can manifest in difficult negative emotions. Associated with the Lungs are depression, grief, and sadness. Giddiness, impatience, hatred, and cruelty reside in the heart. If we cultivate our courage and healthy self-esteem as well as loving compassion, respect and patience, our health will definitely benefit.

In particular, Yin Metal is connected to fog or stagnant air that is retained and not exhaled. This year, breathing and the lungs’ function of exchanging qi with the universe can become compromised due to atmospheric pollution (literal and emotional!). This is a year when getting into clean, fresh air is extremely important. Practice Qigong in the woods, in the mountains, by the sea, or a fresh lake or river. Do pranayama regularly to clear your air passages. Clear your aura with meditation and mantra.

Make conscious efforts to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels down by cultivating more awareness about what you eat as well as your stress levels. Nourish your Heart and Lungs by feeding your Liver and Spleen. Use cooling supplements like turmeric, aloe vera juice, and medicinal mushrooms (see an excellent brand here), and eat a low-fat, anti-inflammatory diet.

As symbolic of jewelry, Yin Metal is charming and beautiful on the outside, but internally, it has a very cold and hard metal quality. Yin Metal is like a dagger, not a sword. It attacks Yin Wood that is related to small bones in the body. Particularly for Rabbits (who are Yin Wood), it is also necessary to beware of accidents causing injury to back bones, limbs, fingers, and toes.

Lots of interesting developments happened in the most recent Yin Fire Rooster years, 1957 and 1897. The Vietnam War escalated in 1957 with serious insurgencies by the Viet Cong against Ngo Dinh Diem’s government. In 1897, Qing Dynasty China was ruled by the Empress Dowager and was declining with aggressive invasion by Russia and other western countries. In this Yin Fire Rooster year, keep an eye on the relationships between China, Russia, and the U.S. There were remarkable scientific milestones. In 1957, the first satellite (Sputnik 1) was launched by the Soviet Union in October. In 1897, the word “computer” first appeared and aspirin was invented.

There were more than the usual numbers of explosions and fire disasters in 1957 – a coalmine gas explosion in Virginia, a 42,000 pound hydrogen bomb accidentally fell from a bomber near Albuquerque, a nuclear disaster occurred at the Mayak nuclear reprocessing plant in Russia, and a fire happened at the Windscale nuclear reactor in England.

Industries that will perform well in the year of the Fire Rooster will be those related to Fire and Water elements. In the 5 Element theory, Metal is money for Fire as well as the mother of Water. Fire industries are energy, the stock market, finance, and entertainment. Water industries are transport, shipping, and communication. Earth produces Metal so real estate, construction, and mining will be active. Metal industries like banking, engineering, computers, and cars will be active but too much competition will not create much money. Wood industries like textiles, paper, and environmental technology are active because Wood creates Fire but the money for Wood industry is Earth and unfortunately, it is absent. Consequently, Wood industries (particularly traditional publishing) will not do so well either.

The Yin Fire Rooster is also a rare year as it contains both “Nobleman” and “Academic Stars”. Every baby born from 2/3/17 to 2/16/18 will automatically possess these good stars. Nobleman will give a person life support from others, and Academic Star is a symbol of intelligence and a strong appetite for knowledge and study.  They appear together only twice in the 60 year cycle – Yin Fire Rooster year and Yin Water Rabbit year (2023).

Despite all of the conflicts between Metal and Fire, The Yin Fire Rooster is a symbol of optimism and innovation, particularly during the spring and summer months of 2017 when Fire becomes more prominent. There is sure to be conflict and disharmony in global relationships but people are confident and creative in bringing solutions to the obstacles that arise.

Natural and environmental disasters will give people an opportunity to step up and transform themselves into more caring, human beings. On our best days, we will rise to the occasion and see that we are all living in the same “barnyard”- Planet Earth and (among the cosmically enlightened) our beautiful galaxy.

If you feel the restrictions of your own personal chicken coop, cultivate a cheerful attitude and disposition. Strengthen your resolve to be the best human being you can be and you will transform the somewhat mundane Rooster into a beautiful Fire Bird.

1f34016d0a78109dd271f74b653cbedd

Predictions by Animal Sign are here

Predictions for 2016 – Year of the Yang Fire Monkey

The first day of the Yang Fire Monkey year is February 4, 2016. But Chinese New Year is actually celebrated on the New Moon in Aquarius – February 8, 2016.

monkeySmart, shrewd, and ready for fun, this year’s Fire Monkey can’t be more different from last year’s Yin Wood Sheep. Anything can happen. The Trickster archetype is now in charge and Monkey business rules. If you don’t have a sense of humor about yourself or occasionally veer toward the naughty, you’re going to be very uncomfortable with all the crazy things going on.

But it doesn’t stop there. Perhaps because monkeys so uncannily reflect our human world, from Hanuman to the Monkey King they occupy a special place in Eastern mythology. Many of the stories glory in portraying Monkey as an impulsive, foolish, vain troublemaker. As in most traditional “Hero” tales, after getting his comeuppance through various trials and tribulations, a transformation occurs and eventually, Monkey redeems himself. So the Monkey archetype in these traditions symbolizes repentance, devotion, courage to hold on to a vision, and the promise of liberation.

Baby Monkey

                       Wudang Mountain, China ©Sharon Smith 2011

And then there’s the “monkey mind” – spiritual lingo for the ADHD that seems to be endemic these days. As clever as Monkey is, he has one main difficulty – taming the restless mind. A short attention span, jumping from branch to branch, grabbing whatever fruit is appealing, and making judgments based on appearances will prove to be delusional fulfillments at best. On the other hand, things can turn on a dime so we have to be willing to let go of our ego attachments and change course if something’s not working.

2016 is the first year of three consecutive Metal animals (the others are Rooster and Dog). In traditional thinking about the relationship between the elements, Fire controls Metal and the flavor of the year is Fire. Metal symbolizes a destructive weapon like a sword. So this year, the damaging aspect of the Metal element is kept in check somewhat by Fire.

Fire of course, heats things up. Passion, excitement, impulsive action, creativity, and enthusiasm will be evident everywhere. But Metal also represents the West direction and connects with the weakening sun (the Monkey rules from 3-5 PM). So even though Fire increases Monkey’s tendency toward hotheaded Yang behavior, it’s not so strong since the sun is setting.

Conflicts created by the relationship between Fire and Metal can be resolved since the heat dissipates as the sun goes down. On the positive side, a sword symbolizes cutting through illusion to find the truth, a noble Monkey endeavor! In the Year of the Fire Monkey it’s good to keep in mind that even though easily excited, people are openhearted, sincere, and if given a chance, calm down quickly.

Nonetheless, it will be difficult to escape conflict and disharmony in international relations. Conflicts will flare up rapidly and then subside. The last Yang Fire Monkey year was 1956 when there was a crisis with the Suez Canal that led to the bombing of Egypt by the U.K. and France. Israel invaded the Sinai Peninsula in October 1956 and there were also rebellions against the Soviet Union’s control in Hungary and Poland that were both brutally suppressed by Soviet forces. Although 2016 may not be a peaceful year, people will bring the Monkey’s optimism creativity, and innovation to solve global problems.

Fire rules the Heart and the Small Intestine in Chinese medicine. It’s all about the blood vessels and capillaries, inflammation, our capacity to savor and enjoy, and our speech (Fire rules the tongue). Spiritually, it’s our Commander-in-Chief. Metal represents the Lung and Large Intestine and relates to the nose and breathing mechanisms as well as the skin.

The combination of Fire and Metal can cause flu, potential breathing problems, heart palpitations, internal and external inflammation, skin and digestive problems. Be aware that the negative emotions associated with these organ systems are depression, grief, sadness (Lungs); and giddiness, impatience, hatred, and cruelty (Heart). Words, thoughts, and the feelings behind them have power. Speak truthfully, straight from your heart. If we cultivate our courage and healthy self-esteem as well as loving compassion, respect and patience, our health will definitely benefit.

Make conscious efforts to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels down by cultivating more awareness about what you eat and your stress levels. Nourish your Heart and Lungs by feeding your Liver and Spleen. Get into the fresh air as much as possible. Practice Tai Chi, Qigong, Meditation, and Yoga to stay grounded. Use cooling supplements like turmeric, aloe vera juice, and medicinal mushrooms (see an excellent brand here), and eat a low-fat, anti-inflammatory diet.

Conventionally, Metal has to do with coins (money). Industries that will perform well in the year of the Monkey will be those related to Fire and Water elements. In the 5 Element theory, Metal is money for Fire as well as the mother of Water. Fire industries are energy, the stock market, finance, and entertainment. Water industries are transport, shipping, and communication. Earth industries (real estate, construction, mining) will be active and productive (Fire creates Earth) but the money element for Earth is Water which is not in and of itself, strong this year and definitely not obvious. Wood industries (particularly traditional publishing) will not do so well either.

The Monkey is a “Nobleman” (protective angel who comes to help us & smooth our way) for those born in years of Yin Wood or Yin Earth. This means any birth year ending in 5 or 9 (1955, 1959, 1965, 1969, 1975, 1979, 1985, 1989, and 1995, 1999, etc.). Tigers will have trouble but Monkey’s best friends (Dragon, Snake, and Rat) will shine.

Can you hang on for the wild ride? If so, you’ll come out without a scratch. On the other hand, those who can’t handle the stress might come undone! Thrive by taking a page out of the Monkey’s playbook. Be playful. Be creative. Be strategic. Be willing to travel to further your interests. Call on Hanuman and the Monkey King for assistance. Most of all, cultivate your sense of humor.

Predictions by Animal Sign are here

 

Old Flames – Venus Retrograde in Virgo/Leo

Bonfire V

On July 25, the planet Venus went retrograde at 0 degrees of demure VIrgo. It resumes direct motion at 14 degrees of fiery Leo on September 6. The effects of this period can last until October 9 when Venus finally passes the point at which she retrograded.

While most of us have now at least heard of the planet Mercury going retrograde and have some familiarity with its effects, Venus is a celestial body of another sort. It retrogrades once every 18 months. And when it does, the planet of love and pleasure, of financial opportunity and indulgence, of beauty and appearances,  and of relationships and the cooperation it requires to maintain them, retreats into her private lair in order to  revisit and re-evaluate.  Retrograde means that from our earth-centric viewpoint, the apparent motion of the planet is backward.  Actually we are moving faster and it just appears that the retrograde planet is in reverse.  Like being in the subway and watching the train on another track seem to move backwards as you pass by.

If you are a native of either of the Venus-ruled signs, Taurus or Libra, you are especially affected. The rest of us don’t get off so easy either because we all have those signs ruling some house in our horoscope — not to mention the direct effect of transiting Venus herself moving backwards in our lives in Leo. The first week of August, the Sun, Mercury, Venus & Jupiter are all in Leo.  On August 7, Mercury exits Leo and a few days later, Mars comes in. That’s a heavy emphasis on self-expression and self-involvement.  Everyone is looking to have peak experiences in love and romance and Venus especially is looking to either be on a pedestal or find someone exceptional to gaze at adoringly.

So for the next 6 weeks or so, you can expect all things Venusian to have the quality of a re-run. This  6-week period in your love and social life is not particularly good for moving ahead in a new personal direction, using eggplant henna on your hair, impulse shopping, or commencing a new romance. In fact, you might find that any love interest that shows up is either an old flame or seems like a familiar recurrent dream.  Even if it’s not the same person, there is a quality that’s somehow very deja vu.

So as much fun as it might be to re-visit your feelings about a particular person or jump into a new love affair, be forewarned. When Venus changes direction on 9/6,  it will suddenly seem like you’ve been wearing a pair of glasses with the wrong prescription.  What could you possibly have been thinking? Alas, it’s true. That prince you wanted so much to give a second chance to?  He really was a frog.

©Photograph by Sharon Smith
All rights reserved

Predictions for 2015 – Year of the Yin Wood Sheep/Ram

The first day of the Yin Wood Sheep year is February 3, 2015. But Chinese New Year is actually celebrated on the New Moon – February 19, 2015.

Sheep, County Kerry, Ireland, 1996

Sheep, County Meath, Ireland, 1996 ©Sharon Smith

Last year’s raucous Yang Wood Horse has given way to a more peaceful Yin Wood Sheep. This is not the sturdy, stubborn tree trunk we encountered in 2014. It’s more like bamboo or the branches of a willow tree – able to relax, compromise, and move in the wind. Yin Wood is connected to flowers, grass, leafy plants and vegetables, sprouts, low bushes and scrub that need sunshine, nutritious earth and water to grow. It represents a compromising attitude, making it easier to reach solutions and find agreement between conflicting interests.

Sheep are herbivores and eat grass. Their strong herd instinct can be overridden if they have intense curiosity about greener pastures and are brave enough to wander off. They tend to have mild demeanors and are quite friendly. Like their human vegan counterparts, they profess to like community, are focused on the common good, and will fight for it if they are called to do so.

Don’t be fooled by Sheep’s ability to tolerate difficult conditions and a paucity of food. Sheep are tough.. Their docility is deceptive and they have very strong survival instincts. You’re under illusions if you think you can cross a sheep! Play your game? Not an option. You can count on them to go their own way when push comes to shove. Take the lead of the gentle but strong Sheep this year and move away from power struggles, cultivate inner peace, and develop your spirituality and creativity.

Year of the Ram

©Sharon Smith Aswan, Egypt 2014

Yin Wood is the Seed, the source of creativity and inspiration. But dehydrating Fire is present this year, and there’s no Water to nourish the plants. Our kidneys could be weakened, affecting our immune systems. Protect your bones with supplements, exercise, and qigong bone breathing and tapping. This dryness, interestingly, is reflected in a connection to the desert in Sheep years. The last 2 Gulf wars in the deserts of the Middle East began in 1991 and 2003, both Sheep years. It is not surprising that we are seeing more potential world problems as ISIL stakes its claim in the Middle East.

Wood represents Liver Chi in Chinese medicine and relates not only to the liver but also the gall bladder, eyes, tendons and ligaments, joints, and nerves. Particularly connected with the neck, spinal cord, and the back, Yin Wood can cause injury to susceptible Sheep. Anger, frustration, and resentment are the negative emotions associated with this organ complex and the virtues of kindness, generosity, and forgiveness are present when Wood is balanced.

Chinese medicine often refers to the Liver as the “General” because its main function is to direct the inner body processes and coordinate them into a functioning whole. In the Taoist meditation tradition, the Liver is referred to as the “second in command” after the Heart. Nourish your Wood energy by taking care of your kidneys (Water element). Drink lots of water and healthy green juices, watch your diet, eliminate fatty foods, eat more greens, and cleanse your liver with daily doses of citrus, particularly lemon juice.

Sheep Year’s Yin Wood combines with Earth. According to the creation and controlling cycle governing the relationships between elements, Wood controls Earth. Even though this is a fighting relationship often creating open conflict, don’t forget that the peace-loving Sheep is in control. It’s likely that disagreements may be more easily resolved with compromise and concessions. Aligning yourself with Yin Wood energy means taking on the qualities of a flower that can easily adjust its direction as the winds blow.

To understand the energy of the Sheep Year, it’s useful to know that the Hour of the Sheep is from 1-3 PM. At this point in the day, the ground has absorbed lots of heat so the peaceful Sheep also contains some Fire. We call this “Yin Fire”. As the last Fire sibling of Snake & Horse (the 2016 Year of the Monkey begins the Metal cycle), 2015 is a turning point year.

Sheep’s month is July. This is the time when your tree (Wood) begins to bear fruit. If you have been hard at work growing something under the sunny Fire energy of the last 2 years, this is the year when you will see the fruits of your labors. Metaphoric mangos, coconuts, and money are falling from the trees! Enjoy!

In addition to Yin Fire and Yin Wood, Sheep contains Yin Earth in the Chinese philosophy of the 5 Elements. The Earth energy is strong as the month of July is supported by summer Fire (Fire creates Earth). In Chinese medicine, Earth element involves the spleen, stomach and pancreas, related to cells and muscles. Such strong Earth might also upset the balance in those organs. Diabetes will be in the news as well as pancreatic cancer. Be aware that the negative emotions associated with this organ system are worry, anxiety, and stress. Watch carbohydrate intake and make stress management as natural as brushing your teeth.

During the Earth months of July, October and January, (months of Goat, Dog and Ox), Earth is exacerbated. This might prove difficult for people with these animals present in their Chinese astrology chart. These are also the months when there is greater possibility of earthquakes, landslides, avalanches, building collapses, etc.

Fire-driven optimism will affect economic growth and Fire businesses – energy, air travel, sports, exercise & health, fashion, beauty, advertising, the media, entertainment of all kinds, and restaurants will continue to do well in this last year of the Fire cycle. Prosperity will also come to Wood & Metal industries – textiles, recycling, scrap metal, paper, publishing, hi tech, banking, and engineering. Earth industries will not do so well (construction, real estate, agriculture).

The Sheep is a “Nobleman” (protective angel who comes to help us & smooth our way) for those born in years of Yang Wood, Yang Metal, or Yang Earth. This means any birth year ending in 0, 4, or 8 (1950, 1960, etc., 1954, 1964, etc., 1958, 68, etc.).

As a farm animal, Sheep doesn’t do much but look for a tasty blade of grass, laze around in the heat of the day, and have her fleece trimmed occasionally. So you can see, a Sheep has no real worries. The Ox is the animal that actually does the farm work and consequently, Ox doesn’t much like Sheep. This is a strong clash between two earth energies. If you’re an Ox or have Ox in your 4 Pillars chart, this is a difficult year for you. President Obama, take note!

Child with Sheep, the Sacred Valley, Peru

Child with Sheep, Sacred Valley, Peru, 2006 ©Sharon Smith

 

This is a year to come down from our high horses and smell the roses. When faced with conflict, think of what’s best for all beings involved, especially the earth. We will all be better for it.

 

Predictions by Animal Sign are here

Who is Kuan Yin?

Kuan Yin postacardQuan Yin (sometimes spelled Kuan Yin, Kwan Yin or Guan Yin) is the Bodhisattva of compassion, revered by Buddhists as the Goddess of Mercy and by the Taoists as an Immortal,  one who is spiritually accomplished, a transcendent being, not tied to the material world. A Bodhisattva is an “enlightenment being” pledged to universal liberation and happiness.

Her name is short for Guan Shi Yin. “Guan” means to observe, watch, or monitor; “Shi” means the world; “Yin” in this context means sounds, specifically sounds of those who suffer. Thus, Guan Yin is a compassionate being who is the “Hearer of the Cries of the Suffering World”.

Epithets for Quan Yin include The Joyful One, The Pure One, The Light-giver, The Radiant One, Difficult to Conquer, Face to Face with Emptiness, The Far-Going One, The Immovable One, Becoming the Good, and Cloud of the Dharma.

She is considered a gate to the paradise world or “Pure Land”, a clean, bright place full of delight — an oasis, island, mountain, garden or jeweled city that is the source of great rivers and the waters of life. This world is outside of linear time and space and mechanical cause and effect. Souls reborn here are wrapped in a lotus that unfolds to show the truth of their eternal nature and the reality of compassion and joy.

The Pure Land holds Fullness of Being – a flowing abundance of food, life, communication, creativity, space, beauty, intelligence, freedom and spontaneity, along with release from greed, lust, ignorance and compulsion. When aligned with the Body of Light, we exist there, freed from the paradigm of opposites, easily integrating sensuality and spirituality.

The Pure Land is the great enclosure that keeps us safe as we cross what the Buddhists call the Sea of Suffering. We experience the Pure Land from the Hsin (sometimes spelled xin), the Chinese word signifying heart-mind, the uncorrupted, unconditioned thought, spirit and energy of the heart that relates to the “spirit” or divine, sacred capacity of human beings to connect with and manifest the Tao.

Many of us are unable to awaken to this spirit on our own and the figure of the Savior or Redeemer who acts as a bridge or boat that sails the waters between ordinary existence (referred to as the Tomb World) and the Pure Lands is one of humanity’s most powerful archetypes in every religious and mythical tradition.

This is how Quan Yin functions — as a symbolic bridge to the world of the spirit, an experience of the spirit of paradise. She helps us understand ourselves in a new way and redirects our consciousness, freeing us to live compassionately by pointing at the insightful wisdom that reality is actually a symbolic, not a literal experience.

The Chinese word for this is Hsiang. It means “symbolizing”. Hsiang means making images that have the power to connect the visible world of our daily existence to the invisible world of the spirit. We hsiang things by imagining, creating, imitating, acting and acting out, playing, writing, or divining. Qigong and Tai Chi are physical expressions of “Hsiang” (for information about Kuan Yin Standing Qigong, click here).

When we pose a question that expresses a real “cry from the heart”, Quan Yin is there for us. She expresses her compassion through practices, divination, dreams, and visions that affirm the bond between the human realm and the world of what is considered divine. From this connection, flows the experience we call “paradise” or a direct “acquaintance” with the source of reality.

By connecting with Quan Yin in this manner, we acquire what the Taoists called Te This word can be translated as power and virtue, potency, or “Actualizing-Tao”. An ancient word, Te is associated with Tao, as in the Tao-te ching. Te is the power or virtue that allows something to fully exist, a realizing power that can be accumulated, nurtured and acquired by people and objects. In the human world it is the charisma or inner power that makes a ‘great person’ great. Powerful te generates a powerful person; exalted te produces a sage. If we are full of te, we are numinous because we hold the power to realize the way or tao in ourselves. By accumulating and refining te, we both contribute to and partake of paradise.

© Sharon Smith

All rights reserved.

Source Material – The Kuan Yin Oracle, the Voice of the Goddess of Compassion by Stephen Karcher