th-6Based on the philosophical and practice principles of the Tao I laid out in my last post, I am offering here just some simple exercises of play I discovered over the years, born out of my own, daily, mundane activities.

The first I developed while still living and pursuing a highly successful professional life in Boston, where I studied with my SiFu in the Taoist meditative, martial and medicinal arts.  He was just one of many I knew there, but he stood prominently at the core of my studies for over 10 years.

The second was born out of my explorations in an environment in which I chose to live at a more humble, simple and naturally-oriented way long after I left the confining perks and financial contrivances of my “professional” life.  Trade-offs always occur in our choices and I gave away the prestige of position for a more authentically personal one.  Yes, I now live at an economic level far below the one I left, but I inhabit a place and time whose riches I have not even begun to mine fully.  The thrill of a larger reward of experience now is far and away worth the “sacrifice” I made to do so.

th-2Like the children depicted here, play is spontaneous and individually invented.  Here, a group of boys has decided to play a game of cricket in between abandoned railroad tracks.  Who knows why they chose this venue over any others – that’s just the serendipity of humanity and that serendipity should be honored and appreciated.  It is what makes us all human: whose core base I assume to be curiosity, inventiveness and enthusiasm for being in the world to our fullest extent.  These boys are obviously, completely, inside their game and should be applauded for all of the originality that led them to this moment, in this captured photo.

The Tao of Train-Riding:  The Metaphor

th-3My first tale of train-riding and “going with the flow” of the Tao occurred long before I actually ever encountered the Tao as a way of life, yet, I smile in memory realizing my personal escapade on a train was, in fact, an expression of the heart of the Tao: spontaneity, personal choice in a given situation and action based on my “gut instincts.”  The Tao does, indeed, choose us, long before we have even become aware of its existence.  Once I stumbled upon my first class in the Tao, I felt that I had finally found home.

On that first, playful train ride, I lived in Germany at the time and, then, all windows were controlled by the passengers.  One could open those windows and look out on the passing scenery and smell the fresh air or do so in order to stick one’s head out and locate friends and family awaiting one on the train platform as the train arrived in the station. One could smell the oil, engines, wheat fields and humanity wafting in and out of the doors and windows, hear the sound of real train whistles and the engagement of the train wheels on the tracks as the train lurched forward, lending a multi-sensory acquisition of memory and location in time and place.

It was a time before “bullet trains,” internally climate controlled environments and any sort of “hand held” devices that now take our attention away from the organic landscape.  It was a time of being, rather than being entertained by technology while we “wait” for “something to happen.”

The travel was the happening.

Those were thrilling experiences and ones I know I will be able to completely resurrect through all five senses even when I am an old woman.

At any rate, one weekend, I chose to travel by train to some relatives about 3 hours north of where I lived.  I got on the train and assumed my happy, traveling position – looking out the windows and marveling at the landscape passing by.  And all passed quite normally until, about 2 and 1/2 hours into the trip, the train stopped absolutely dead.  Seemingly in the middle of nowhere.  Full stop and all electricity ceased.  Dead quiet at a dead stop.

We were told by the overhead speakers we should maintain our positions in our seats until we got underway again.  After about 45 minutes of this stifling motionlessness in highly crowded cars,  I started to become agitated, feeling as though I was being held captive in the train car, perhaps waiting into an infinite space.  Some people might say I did not know how to deal with agitation.  Yet, in allowing myself to feel fully into that agitation, I began to find my way into a clear decision.

What to do?  I had already intuited that, based on my already elapse time of travel and recognition of the landscape (I’d visited there before)  that I probably was very, very close to my destination, yet also felt the th-4stabs of German culture that obeys commands.  I thought it was stupid to stay, yet also very aware of what my disobeying “rules” might entail.  I allowed these to parts of myself to do battle for a while.  My intellect told me to stay, though my guts told me to jump the darn train.

Finally, after an hour of sitting there in complete shut down and with night ensuing quickly, I decided to trust my guts, got my backpack out of the overhead bin, walked to the train door, and descended the stairs out into an open field at whose western boundary I could see the road that I had calculated might, indeed, be the road I needed to be on to reach my destination before too long.

The other passengers, all German, looked at me agog as I chose to abandon our collective, stationary plight and jumped off into the unknown.  One passenger actually exclaimed, “What ARE you doing?!! You can’t do that!!”

I turned and said, “I am leaving the train.  And, yes, I can do that.”

She looked at me as though I had committed treason to the rules of the rails and German conduct.

And, in fact, I had.  I was disobeying authority, indeed.  Even as I enacted my decision, I had vague, paranoid thoughts that one of the conductors, or perhaps even a policeman, might try to apprehend me.  Of course, no such thing happened.  Quite astounding how our fears of something prevent us, so often, from acting authentically.  When one has the fortitude to do the latter, the former disappears in our wake.

The walk to the road was short and, indeed, that road turned out to be the one I needed to be on.  I stuck my thumb out and hitched a ride to the bus stop that the map I had said I needed to take on this road to reach my destination.  I did that, of course, in the days when the world was a much safer place than today.  If it had been today, I would have walked rather than trusted a hitch.  Much obliged to my ride then, and also, much obliged to the bus that arrived shortly thereafter that did, indeed, take me to within walking distance of the very remote and rural farm of my relatives.  I arrived in time for dinner, and enjoyed good company and a night of good rest in a comfortable bed after my decision.

I did have to smile the next morning when, in the kitchen of a warm th-5farmhouse with wonderful food, fresh cow milk (still smelling of the cow milked that morning) good people and a a cup of excellent, strong, German coffee, I opened the paper to read that that very train upon which I had been the day before had stood there, without moving, for SIX long hours due to some problem on the rail line and that all on board (save myself) had had to endure such an horrific delay.

The lesson here is:  trust and act from your guts more often than you do.  Every time I have done so, I have found myself in places of great community, a good cup of coffee or tea and lots of time to reflect on my trust in my own guts, the latter of which I consult ever so more often.  They always lead me right home.

That’s the metaphor for now.  See the bigger picture and act at the smaller one.  The latter will drive the arrow toward your own larger destination.  The former always knows what the bull’s eye is supposed to be.

Trust your guts.  That’s crazy wisdom at work in your own body and being.