Wednesday 18 March 2015

The Wuji & The Tree

        My retreat partner, Susan Horning, is an expert on Chinese Astrology and Philosophy. In a few weeks, we were about to lead a yoga retreat to Costa Rica together, entitled "Tropical Transformation: A Journey Through the Elements". The plan was for me to dive into the elements of the Chakras and Sue would take care of the elements in her area of expertise. One afternoon we were going over our handouts. She patiently reviewed the Taoist Compass and the Bagua with me; most of it went over my head. However, one concept did resonate, as I had been recently meditating on the same exact concept. I was looking at the idea more from an Indian philosopher's perspective, but regardless, what seemed to be popping up around me were lessons on labeling and identifying.

           Sue revealed to me that in Taoists thought, the Wuji is the symbol for complete emptiness. If you were to break down the word, wu means without, or nothing, and Ji means extreme, attain, or direction. Therefore, Wuji means limitless, infinite, or without direction. A perfect, hollow circle is the sign for the first existential moment of observation.

     When we recognize creation - therefore filling the space of the Wuji- it causes the circle to twist and move into duality and polarity. A dot is then birthed into the middle of the symbol,  creating a "great limit within the unlimited".  The spinning settles into the Taiji, the Yin and the Yang- the Dual forces- resulting in the world of form. It may seem that the opposing colours and energies of the Yin/Yang symbol signify dualism, however in Taoism (as well as in Buddhism, Hinduism, Tantrism, and many other religions) these opposites are complementary parts of a non-dual whole. Explained by Sue, " Taoism uses yin and yang to generalize all things in the cosmos-everything is created with a measure of both."
         So what does this have to do with labeling and identifying? Let me first introduce you to the Indian philosopher's quote:
            " Do you know that even when you look at a tree and say, 'That is an oak tree,' or 'that is a banyan tree,' the naming of the tree, which is botanical knowledge, has so conditioned your mind that the word comes between you and actually seeing the tree? To come in contact with the tree you have to put your hand on it and the word will not help you to touch it."
                                                                              ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

      His teachings had been ringing in my ears for days. Sue's teachings interrupted the ring only for a moment, but long enough to spark inspiration, interest, and a longing to highlight a theory that was being shared amongst religions. Now, I definitely don't have a degree in philosophy or religion, but I'm going to dissect this correlation for you anyhow!
         For Krishnamurti, the naming of the tree is like the spinning of the Wuji. As humans, we love to understand and control something by putting a name, concept, and/or word to it.  One of the first things we ask others is their name, followed by inquiring about one's line of work (in our culture anyway). This is our way of categorizing and deciding where to put that person- do they fit in the yin or yang, do we like or dislike, relate or not relate, befriend or dismiss, etc? Spiritual teacher, Ram Dass, identifies this as 'the rational mind' at work. He explains, " Man's rational mind, the instrument with which we can think about things, has given him great power. This power he has used primarily to increase his potential for survival, to increase his pleasure or sensual gratification, and to enhance his ego through mastery or control of his environment." 
           It's quite difficult to interact with someone, or something, simply by just letting it exist naturally, as is. Even Albert Einstein recognized the limitations of the rational mind. He admitted, " I didn't arrive at my understanding of the fundamental laws of the universe through my rational mind".  Can you imagine if you met someone for the first time, sat with them and naturally let the energy exchange itself between the two of you, listening without reacting or judging? How different would your reality be? Would the connection be deeper, more authentic, pure and loving? Could you keep the Wuji circle empty? This is a concept I encourage students to explore in Corpse Pose, (savasana). Next time you finish a practice, lie flat on your back, close your eyes and let yourself relax into the earth. Practice Vairagya or non-attachment. Let go of any mood, or leftover emotion, and release any last bit of effort or strain. Let go of your thoughts, of what you look like, your name, your job, your finances, who you're dating, your titles, your age, your sex, etc. Release even the physical boundaries of your body, so that eventually you feel completely made up of energy. Allow your pulsing energy to amalgamate with the energy around you. Then melt into the vast space of nothingness. 
          Don't listen with your ears, listen with your mind," said Chuang Tzu. " No, don't listen with your mind, but listen with your spirit. Listening stops with the ears, the mind stops with recognition, but the spirit is empty and waits on all things. The Way gathers in emptiness along. Emptiness is the fasting of the ming. It is easy to keep from walking; the hard thing is to walk without touching the ground."
       Getting back to Krishnamurti's words of wisdom, it is evident he longs for us to go beyond words to truly see the things we're encountering. But then, when there is "touch" and "contact" without words, there must be a remaining feeling from the exchange. And therefore wouldn't any reaction send the Wuji into spirals? Mmmmm .......
         In any case, the philosophical comparison and lesson here is to ultimately reverse the twisting of the Taiji to come back to awareness of oneness, back to the natural state of Wuji.