Yesterday I withdrew from teaching a webinar – Trauma and the Heart in Traditional Chinese Medicine. This class was planned for next month and I have been preparing for it for the last few weeks, as I have also been intent on getting ready for a host of other classes and commitments.
This morning, I know that I am going to teach the class on trauma but not next month. The decision was tough for me. It goes against the grain of my familiar, enthusiastic, heroic outer personality. I am not someone who backs out of a commitment. But it was also a huge relief – listening to a bigger, wiser part of me – the Self instead of the ego – that knows that the Hero needs a rest. It is not right for me to push myself so forcefully at this time.
Opening the pages of one of my favorite Taoist texts, Alan Watts’ Tao: The Watercourse Way, I come across an idea that resonates deeply. Watts reminds me that the true Taoist alchemist follows a path called wu wei, doing by not doing. Watts describes this as a “form of intelligence – of knowing the principles, structures and trends of human and natural affairs so well that one uses the least amount of energy in dealing with them … one uses muscle but only at the right moment …” and my favorite line of all, “wu-wei is the principle that gravity is energy, and the Taoist finds in gravity a constant stream which may be used in the same way as the wind or a current.”
I sit back and take a deep breath. Outside my window, there is a grey early March light and at the tips of the branches of the maple trees, a rosy haze of buds and life. I feel the imminence of spring whose power comes from the long, cold dormancy of winter. In Taoist alchemy, this is the power of the yin, the restraining, gathering, gestating capacity of life. In the European alchemical tradition of Kabbalah, it is the power of the Left Hand Pillar – the pillar of Female Potency – the yin aspect of the Divine – or what is sometimes called, the pillar of severity. This is the aspect of our being that can accept and bear the truth and spiritual necessity of limitation.
I feel my body settle down into the chair beneath me. I feel the earth rise up to support me. Outside in the garden, a black crow pecks at the snow. Deep below the ground, there is a turning, a movement, as the yin turns in her sleep and prepares for the dream of spring.