Sunday, November 19, 2006

Don't Read While You Eat: Part XVIII

After helping Xing Ren to the alcove off the kitchen where the children had slept and covering him with silk filled quilts, Ma Huang exited the kitchen and stood in the adjacent courtyard. It was late in the afternoon and dusk would come soon and quickly. Running swiftly in the direction of the Master’s quarters, she projected her Qi towards her goal; a crystal bowl that resided in the storage closet behind the altar. On a regular day at this time it was unlikely the Master would be in his sacred room, however, ”regular” seemed not to be a word that could be applied to current events. Pausing at the gate to the courtyard Ma Huang tried to ascertain if the Master was in his altar room, she could feel nothing; her inner sight seemed blinded. Jangled to bone she rushed forward. Could she see nothing because she was too fragmented? Or was there another reason? Just outside the heavy dragon door she quieted her breath, then pushed the door wide enough to permit her eye to peer in. The room seemed empty, opening the door a little more to permit her head she looked around. The Master was not there, the only movement, other than the beating of her heart and coursing blood, was the dust in the slant of the late sun. She glided across the carpet and in a blink had secured the crystal bowl, as she closed the door inside the room a wall hanging stirred, ever so slightly.

Clutching the bowl in both hands Ma Huang ran fast as fast through the compound. Courtyards flashed by her, windows, doors; monks barely noticed her, so swiftly she ran. The bowl was reassuringly real between her hands. Approximately the size of a human head it had been fashioned during the age of magic from a giant crystal which, it was rumored, had belonged to the Dragon Lord from Beneath the Sea. Ma Huang could not see that as she ran the bowl shimmered with greens and golds and left a small trail of purple clouds, which condensed, into silver dew. Out the gate and into the forest, running, running, that was all she had to do, she told herself; there was only running. Dodging through the trees she found the trail. An animal trail, it wiggled and twitched and ended where all the beasts wanted their search to end, at the spring. The water in this spring on this mountain bubbled up from deep within the earth; it filtered up through rock and crust to triumphantly burst forth in the midst of the quickly darkening forest.

Ma Huang settled herself by the spring to catch her breath and center her Qi. The sun had rolled over the horizon, this was Ma Huang’s favorite time of the day, though it wasn’t really day and it wasn’t really night. It was that irresistible moment of transition, of possibility. In the fading light, the colors of the forest seemed to greedily drink in what particles of light remained, sucking it from beyond the horizon until for a few brief moments they were giddily saturated; satiated with the Yang of the day. Qi restored, spirits raised by dusk and the delicious promise of night, Ma Huang dipped and rinsed the crystal bowl 9 times before filling it and setting back down the path to the Monastery.

The journey back to the kitchen was less rushed, but no less purposeful. Xing Ren lay in the alcove, sleeping heavily with a barely audible snore, as Ma Huang returned and lit three candles on the table. In the flickering light she squatted down on the dirt floor next to the place the children had last been on the Earthly plane. Holding the bowl between her hands she spoke into the water. She spoke everything she could remember about the children and when she got tired of talking she sang and when she got tired of singing, she whispered. She told of her first sight of them, of the sound of their footsteps following her back to the kitchen, of the soup they ate. She sang of the way Second Sister would play with her hair and look out the window when she thought no one was watching her. She sang of the time Little Fish had almost cut his finger chopping beets. Even as her voice grew tired she whispered of the space between the corner of Second Sister’s eye and her nose, her eyebrows, Little Fish’s slightly crooked left little finger. And when her voice needed to rest she hummed. Her back felt warm, she turned and saw Xing Ren had arisen and was standing behind her. He squatted and took the bowl, from his lips fell the story of his meeting with the Huangs and his first sight of Little Fish and Second Sister and all events that transpired. He told the bowl of the small rip in Little Fish’s tunic and the way Second Sister like to laugh before she sipped her tea. He talked and sang and whispered all he knew, all he remembered. When all was silent and the bowl was full, Ma Huang took the bowl from him and placed it in the place where they had last been.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Don't Read While You Eat: Part XVII

Enboldened by the divination Ma Huang went straight to work in her kitchen, she couldn’t wait for Xing Ren to think of anything, much less decide on the best next step. Her first step was to get Xing Ren back into a stronger state, he seemed already exhausted; faculties depleted. Beef bones had been simmering on the back of her stove for three days, it hadn’t been easy to keep the fire going without Little Fish and Second Sister to watch it for her, but she had managed. With a large ladle Ma Huang dipped out a bowl full of broth, put in three dried mushrooms and leaving the bowl on the warm top of the stove she went outside to her small herb garden. “which ones, which ones” she muttered to herself, touching the leaves of the plants gently. Returning shortly to the kitchen she gently pressed the leaves she had chosen until their juices just began to ooze, then she swiftly chopped the herbs and put them in the bowl. From the cool corner of the kitchen she retrieved a spoonful of Miso, this she mixed thoroughly with a small amount of broth in a small bowl and added it to the larger bowl with the mushrooms and herbs, stirring it in using a figure eight shape. Finally from a small and ancient box she took a tiny piece of seaweed, this she powdered and sprinkled on the top of the soup. Ma Huang waited until the Miso had formed a cloud in the middle of the bowl then she brought it to Xing Ren where he sat slumped, head in hands. Placing the bowl in front of him with a spoon Ma Huang sat across from Xing Ren, saying nothing, because she didn’t want him to use his Qi in answering her; she gently wafted the scent in his direction with a great round lotus leaf.

As the first odor of soup penetrated his brain Xing Ren began to breathe more deeply, drawing air and odor deeper into his lungs. After several deep breaths he silently reached for the spoon and with slow deliberation fed himself, his blood, his Qi and his spirit.

When he finally raised his head to look at Ma Huang the sparkle had returned to his eyes and the warmth to his cheeks. “You need to tell me how it works” she told him.
“How what works?” he asked, although he knew perfectly well what she meant.
Ma Huang looked at him and waited.
“It starts with a chrystaline energy pattern that is specific to the person who wants to travel between the parts of the world that we see. That pattern is set up in a number of ways, I set of mine through intensive Ba Gua practice, Tibetans prefer a sitting meditation. Though that has it’s draw backs.”
“How is that? They seem to do quite well, I often see them flickering in and out from mountain top to mountain top. It looks like a miracle, like magic” Ma Huang poured tea as she spoke.
Xing Ren laughed “Everyone is so impressed by that, if they did it right and had a really good flexible pattern you wouldn’t see them at all! It’s real magic when you don’t see anything, that’s the miracle when there is nothing.”
“But then how would you know the difference between nothing happening and a miracle? If it all seems like nothing?”
“I digress” he sipped tea “My pattern, after years of practice, is pretty strong, that’s why I could take the children in with me when they were attacked by the bandits.”
Ma Huang nodded, although she had the ability to sense shifting Qi flows on the mountain and track individual Qi trails, she had never been initiated into the practice of Ba Gua or the spaces and places between and behind. She had been taught the consequences of taking a person unprepared into that place, just in case.
“How does it work, why did they get disappear back inside inbetween?”
“When they were in there with me their personal Qi got caught in the vibration of the pattern. If I had pulled them out sooner it would might have been extremely hard for their young bodies to recover and they may have been damaged irreparably. As it was the traces of their Qi patterns caught them and pulled them back, like droplets of water barely touching then moving into one bigger drop.”
“How can you pop in and out and stay for as long as you like?”
“It’s my Qi pattern, I’ve worked on it for decades. It is supple and serviceable, I can make it go anywhere.” Xing Ren suppressed a glow of pride, “I had very good teachers.”
Suddenly he drooped, so tired, more worn then ever. “I’ll just rest a bit” he explained, putting his head on crossed arms. There was more Ma Huang had to find out. She made soup again.
“Why can’t you just go in and get them back?” she asked a revived Xing Ren.
“they’ve been in there long enough that the Qi pattern in no longer enough mine.”
“Then why can’t they just come out?”
Xing Ren rubbed his forehead, not sure which of the unfortunate consequences he should tell her. He sighed.
“Because there is enough of my Qi pattern that they can’t manipulate it.”
Ma Huang saw something in his face that truly alarmed her “What are you not telling me? What else is there?”
“Well, you see this whole situation it is somewhat unprecedented, but from what I can tell they are dieing in there. They cannot properly manipulate the patterns and the patterns are not enough like them to provide a sustainable Qi source. And…”
He trailed off unwilling to tell more, Ma Huang just waited. “And having them in my Qi pattern is draining on my life force. It may well be we will both die, or if they die I have might have some small a chance of recovering.”
Ma Huang knew exactly what she had to do.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Don't Read While You Eat: Part XVI

“Master, the children have disappeared into there.” The words tumbled out of Xing Ren.
“Ah, yes” replied the Master in his very best knowing tone, both disciples relaxed for it seemed that the Master knew the entire situation.
“What is the best way to rescue them?”
“And why should they be rescued?”
This turn was exactly what Xing Ren had feared.
“It is a incident, an action, a shift. Is it for us to undo it? Or is inaction the correct action?” The Master raised his eyebrow a hair for emphasis.
“Surely they are not supposed to die. What purpose could that serve?”
Xing Ren stared at the Master and the Master stared back, eyes locked. Xing Ren was sure that the Master could rescue the children as easily as a mother stooping to pick up a fallen toddler.
“It is not my decision, there could be something at stake we cannot fathom, let the sticks tell.” The Master rose and from his alter gathered his yarrow sticks.
Settling down again on the platform he arranged his robes, smoothing their folds and straightening their qi. Sitting very still he held his sticks, encompassed almost completely in his hands. He sat so still he seemed not to be breathing; rather the air was moving his lungs for him. Ma Huang and Xing Ren, too, sat as still as still. Suddenly, for in that stillness any movement would seem sudden, the Master threw the yarrow into the air. The sticks seemed to float above his head in a slow, churning cloud. Ma Huang tried to think how she felt, but she realized there was no she, no Ma Huang the person the individual. How the sticks fell didn’t matter. What happened to the children didn’t matter. Whether they came back or not, it was all the same. And then the sticks fell in perfect solid and moving lines in front the Master. Unconsciously both disciples grasped. The Master was inwardly pleased, exquisite stick control was his most flamboyant qi trick. In the days of the Old Master it was considered little better than a party trick, but these days it never failed to impress. He had often tried to control the trigram the sticks indicated, but could only manage good order. This, he felt, was an expression of his mediocrity.
Xing Ren and Ma Huang rocked forward on their knees to see the pattern, “ah yes” intoned the Master “ah yes.”
Ma Huang and Xing Ren saw instantly that the trigram was the number one, by name Qian, Initiating, with moving lines that transformed it into number forty seven, by name Kun, Exhausting. On a cursorily reading it seemed to be saying that they should go ahead and do whatever it took to rescue the children as Qian was an auspicious trigram that portended good results to any undertaking. Kun seemed to indicate that they would be a bit tired when it was all over, but wouldn’t it be worth it?
The Master clasped his hands inside the sleeves of his robes, he had cleared his mind for the toss, but here again for the interpretation he had to put his personal concerns aside. He sent them away in swirl of incense from the burner behind him. Ma Huang noticed that the incense, curiously, moved faster and wondered how that could be. His mind had been squirming, almost painfully, then turned into smoke, formlessly moving through the atmosphere, and then he had it.
“As you can see we have two trigrams, the first Qian is for me. Although auspicious, on examination of the moving lines I see that, in fact, it is not the time for me to do anything. I will surely regret my actions, there is a dragon lying low. The second trigram Kun, that one is for Xing Ren. The situation is exhausting and difficult, only the most steadfast and upright can succeed. If you have any doubts you will only make matters worse.” The Master paused and looked intensely at Xing Ren. “I think we cannot proceed with action, if the children find their way out that is all well and good, but………” and he dismissed his disciples with the wave of a hand.
Walking back to the kitchen the two were silent. Ma Huang too thoroughly bothered to speak and Xing Ren so down cast he could not move his mouth. Back in the kitchen Ma Huang made tea, as she poured Xing Ren’s cup the name “Old Auntie Wu” slipped from her lips.
“Auntie Wu, Old Auntie Wu.” Still unable to speak much Xing Ren regarded her with questioning concern.
“Old Auntie Wu used to come to our house at the height of Summer and help us get rid of any accumulated Yang that might cause illness during the winter. She had this funny way of interpreting the I Ching, she called it “bridging the river”, and it gives you three trigrams if the first one has moving lines. So why couldn’t I have a trigram too? I was in the room, I’ve spent a lot of time with the children, my qi is just as involved as anyone else’s.”
Xing Ren nodded trying to be encouraging, but he felt that Ma Huang was taking being left out of the divination too seriously.
“If we apply “bridging the river” to the first trigram we take lines three though five and put them on top and lines four through two and put them on the bottom.” As she spoke Ma Huang drew on the table with a finger dripped in tea.
“And we get this.” She finished with a flourish. There on the table was Qian, clean and crisp with no moving lines, the most auspicious trigram of the I Ching.
Xing Ren stared at the table thinking 10,000 thoughts. The trigram had dried without trace before he opened his mouth to speak.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Don't Read While You Eat: Part XV

The Master was sitting crossed legged on a low platform. Massive in heavy silk robes, his hair in a topknot, Ma Huang thought he looked like a pagoda. Xing Ren knew his size belied a true physical prowess, subtle and powerful. Beneath the great robes was a body that could, at will, move any square inch of skin as a horse shivers off a fly; Xing Ren had witnessed him move across the practice courtyard as easily as a dog shakes himself and as fast as an arrow leaves a bowstring. His hands long, curved and plump seemed only suited for teasing fish out of a stream, but could likewise break a man’s leg. Although his face had softened with time and care and a white streak ascended into his topknot from his left temple, even in his advanced years the man carried the look of ageless middle age.

The Master greeted the two disciples with a nod and a questioning “Yes?”
Xing Ren appeared flustered, the Master was unsure why. Usually the Master felt flustered in the presence of Xing Ren for here was the only man left who had a memory of the Old Master, though Xing Ren had been a very young man at the time of the transition.

The Old Master had come from the Age of Miracles, when monks flickered from mountain top to mountain top; when dragons were called down from the sky and up from the sea; when men and immortals mixed. The Old Master had been one of those dazzling men who could perform miracles, not just the odd parlor trick here and there, but actual miracles. The more powerful he grew, the more he mixed with dragons, immortals and fairies, and the less present he was on earth. The monastery fell into disrepair and the students forgot, and then were never taught. People would come from many li to camp outside the monastery gates hoping to see the Old Master emerge, preferably attended by a hundred diaphanous fairies.

One day the Old Master called upon a dragon that swooped down into the crowd and gathered up a beautiful young woman. The crowd became so excited they chased after the dragon and his captive, tracking him by the glittering trail he left in the sky, for many li. Trampling brush, fences and farm land, they finally could go no further and collapsed, en masse, all dead. When told of the incident the Old Master replied they got what they wanted. It was this dragon incident that changed Fu Shou, charging him with a destiny he hadn’t suspected.

Fu Shou, for that was the Master’s name before everyone forgot it and simply referred to him as “Master”, was not a brilliant disciple, it took him several tries to get his lessons right, but once he had learned a thing he knew it like his own hand. And this served him well when the lessons had stopped and all the naturally talented adepts forgot most of what they were supposed to have learned. As the Old Master had become more and more absent, more and more concerned with magic and fairies and less and less with the education of the monks at the Monastery, Fu Shou had taken it upon himself to secretly give lessons to some of the youngest monks, one of whom was, predictably, Xing Ren. When the aforementioned dragon incident occurred Fu Shou decided the Old Master would have to be replaced, he had become too dangerous, and the best man for the job was Fu Shou himself.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Don't Read While You Eat: Part XIV

Ma Huang had just started sipping her tea when Xing Ren arrived in the kitchen, his forehead wrinkled in alarm. “They’re gone.”

Ma Huang breathed in the transporting green tea steam. Watched in the long light of the late afternoon, it swirled, dove, wrapped and unfolded; reminding her of the one time she had seen Xing Ren practice Ba Gua. Mustering up more calmness than she felt, trying to balance Xing Ren’s agitation, she spoke “We really oughtn’t to be surprised, after all we knew it was highly likely. We knew.”

“I know, I know” Xing Ren started pacing the kitchen, but he stopped as he came to the scuffle marks the children had left on the floor. Ma Huang watched him carefully, unsure what to expect. “I know, we knew. I had hoped it would turn out all right. I hoped so much that I believed hoping would help. I hoped so much I thought my heart would break. Nothing was this complicated on my mountain.”

Ma Huang filled and pushed a teacup across the table toward him, he turned, sat and cradled the cup in his hands. “And so” she said matter of factly “now that they are gone, what is the correct way to respond?”
“We should see the Master.”
“Surely he already knows.”
“An official report should be made.”
“And what if he says to leave them?”
Xing Ren seemed to be settling back into himself again and answered with more of his usual pedantic tone “We respond to that when it comes.”
“We?” questioned Ma Huang.
“You were fond of them too, I assumed you would want to get them back.”
“However, I don’t know if I’d be willing to jeopardize my position here in the Temple. You can always go back to your mountain. I have nowhere to go, nowhere I’d want to be.”

Xing Ren was silent, realizing that the effect the children had on him was uniquely powerful. He had been sure that they were very special children, what if, in fact, they weren’t special in themselves. What if only the effect they had on the crusty hermit was unique and powerful? In which case wasn’t it just Xing Ren himself who was special? And in the chaos of the great Dao were they really that different from each other?

Kicking aside his long robes, the hermit appeared to float over to the place were Little Fish and Second Sister had last touched the earth. He sniffed the air as Ma Huang had done, bent and put a pinch of the dust on his tongue then lay face down on the floor. Ma Huang had finished her tea twice when he erupted from the floor like a giant bat, robes swirling.

“Are you coming?” he asked lifting one eyebrow.
Ma Huang nodded, she wouldn’t miss this for the world and together they sped through the monastery. Xing Ren paused briefly before the heavy, wood, dragon doors of the Master’s chambers to knock and entered before an answer could come.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Fire Dog Barks

Having read a few predictions, here and there, and given it some private thought, now and then, I have assembled the following recommendations for the Year of the Fire Dog. Bearing in mind that the dog in question is not a Pekingese but a larger dog, a guard dog, in fact a Foo Dog the Guardian of the Temple; an empowered and powerful dog, likewise a dog that knows his job. This is a year to really get things done. As a Fire Dog, this dog carries the elemental qualities of Fire resulting in a warm and joyful dog. According to Five Element theory, Fire is the mother of Earth. Fire Dog wants to protect and nurture Earth. This can refer to the environment from micro to macrocosm, from the bacteria inhabiting the lining of your large intestine to the entire planet. Due to the toxicity of our various environments cleaning and clearing is top priority. Let us clean each of our elements in turn. My suggestions all have to do with immediate surroundings and personal health, but if you feel moved to take a broader action I am sure the Fire Dog will help. By way of a disclaimer, this is neither a defining nor a final listing and the category entries are certainly debatable; e.i. Should Teflon go under Earth because it has to do with cooking food or under Metal because the pan is mostly metal?

Fire certainly has to do with heat and by extension electricity. Be sure your bedroom is free of electro-magnetic fields (EMFs); the usual suspects are clock radios by the head of the bed. If you don’t have a field meter or know someone with one and you are my patient you can borrow mine. Rearrange electronics so you are not sleeping in a field, and while you are at it make sure your bedroom is totally dark for best Melatonin production and optimum sleep. Get rid of electric blankets and heating pads (or don’t use them for more than an hour or so). Procure field neutralizers for cell phones and computers. Be prepared for emergencies, a good dog is ready for anything. This the year to have your earthquake kit together.

Earth is the next element. I have placed under this element a nutritional supplement check. Do your nutritional supplements contain any of the following: Magnesium Stearate (this is a toxic, hydrogenated oil used as a flowing agent), silicon dioxide (common sand used as a filler), natural flavors (could be MSG used to disguise “off” or bland flavors), methylcellulose, carnuba wax. There are others to watch out for, but these are the most common toxic tagalongs. Are your supplements tablets? Often tablets need glues or binders which can bioaccumulate and later create new symptoms, toxicity and absorption problems. To form a tablet the nutrients are often heated and then exposed to great pressure, both of these actions reduce the effectiveness of the nutrients. Gelatin caps are often hard to digest and can accumulate in the intestines causing digestive problems and often contain toxic preservatives. There is also the risk of “mad cow” prion exposure…….. Vegetable caps are your best choice in addition to herb teas and herbal extracts made with organic alcohol or glycerite. Get the best quality nutritional supplements. Eat organic foods. Check out the Weston-Price Foundation for traditional nutritional guidelines. Find out about good fats. Don’t cook in Teflon.

In terms of cleaning out your Metal element this may the year to get your amalgam (silver, but not really silver try mercury) fillings removed and replaced with a toxic biocompatible alternative. Follow up with an herbal heavy metal detox program. Underwire bras, yeah, get rid of them. I have read that they have been linked to breast cancer and benign lumps, and I thought it was a little over the top, honestly no pun intended. However I have seen in my practice cases of breast lumps, which were cured simply by giving up the underwire. The problem is two fold; firstly, that the lymphatic system is severely impeded by the pressure of the wire and secondly, the metal interferes with the normal flow of the Qi channels of the front of the body and the breasts. Is mammilary lift really worth it? Be sure your cooking equipment is aluminum free.

Water clearing should include having drinking water filter, a shower filter, and a bath ball to remove chlorine and contaminants. While you are in the bathroom you might as well examine your skin and hair care products for the following harmful, toxic chemicals; Propylene Glycol (petrochemical emulsifying base that makes the skin look smooth, but ultimately ages skin faster by denaturing the protein, can cause allergic and liver and kidney damage); Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS (lots of problems with this ingredient, it is a mutagen and causes cataracts, hair and skin damage); Fragrance (careful usually is synthetic and can bioaccumulate causing a number of problems from dizziness to memory loss to hyper- pigmentation); Mineral Oil (petroleum based leads to poor, saggy skin etc..); Parabens, Propyl, Methyl, Butyl, or Ethyl (preservatives that are highly toxic, linked to allergic and skin reactions); Imidazolidinyl and Diazolidinyl Urea (preservatives which are an established cause of contact dermatitis and also release formaldehyde, a toxin); Synthetic Colors (can cause allergy, skin and nerve problems); Triethanolamine or TEA (causes allergic reactions including eye problems, dry hair and skin, and can be toxic if absorbed over time).

In the 5 Element system Wood is associated with wind and by association, for the purposes of this writing, air. What is the air quality like in your home, office, and car? Is there off gassing from building materials? Do you live near a busy street? What about mold? The airborne spores can cause a number of health issues. This may be the time to invest in a good air filter, be sure it doesn’t emit toxic ozone, do some consumer research. Also a member of the Wood element is the Liver, clinically the first organ to feel the impact from stress is the Liver, resulting in irritability, headaches, digestive complaints, insomnia and more! Are there some stresses in your life you can ease to please your Liver? So many things can cause stress from deadlines and schedules to unresolved emotional issues. What can you do to take the pressure off?

There is much talk about detoxifying in our toxic world and many ways to do it. This year unload some toxins, your body will thank you for it. Try saunas, Nettterumani, caster oil packs, mudpacks and baths, a fast.

Add some righteous Qi. Get seasonal acupuncture treatments and treatments when ill to avoid lingering pathogens. Renew and restore your environmental Qi, Feng Shui your home or at least your bedroom. Promote your Qi with Tai Chi. Fuel the inner Fire with moxa. Enhance the Earthly body with good supplements and plant an organic garden. Colonize Metal’s organ, the Large Intestine, with probiotic Kefir bacteria. Renew your Liver and take it for a walk in the Woods.

That seems like too much advice for now. One last thing remains in this Pandora’s box; Fire is the element of the heart and joy. Be joyful, laugh and alight your heart!