Drumming On Bamboo To Call A Phoenix
In meditation this morning it feels as though I’m riding a wild dragon. As my mind whirls in chaos, I return to breath and open my gaze through the inner eye. A moment of silence fades as thoughts reassert themselves. I return to breath and gaze with my inner eye. Back and forth it goes until my attention is called to the steady pitter patter of rain upon the rooftop. Its sound trickles gently through my being. A bird’s song sparks an inner lightness and perceptions clear and brighten. Thunder rumbles in the distance becoming louder and closer, attuning me to center.
Inner and outer continue to intermingle in deep conversation until they become one and the same. Timelessness infuses the time-bound, flowering into a pregnant pause. There is a softening, and then Emptiness.
A kaleidoscope of light, color and moving shapes envelope me. It is fluid in the way that water is, melting the remaining tightness in my body. A face emerges from this watery substrate and I recognize the small, young seal who traveled with me when I walked the beach yesterday. In moments of stopping and gazing at one another we entered a space of inter-being. A profound love arose and overflowed from my heart.
Now, today at my altar as I begin to contact the still center in a storm of thoughts, the light body of little seal emerges only inches from my face. It’s innocence and love undo me and a deeper surrender simply happens. I find a ground of being—wholeness—that is always there.
It’s like little seal arose from the oceanic storehouse to show me a way to transform how I relate to conditioned mind. She attuned me to the rhythm of soul and to the timeless wild mind that is so much larger than conditioned mind.
The oceanic storehouse is what is known in Buddhism as the consciousness of every existing thing. It is the totality of worldly experience that gives rise to conditioned mind and is stored in the subconscious realms. When acting from this place without awareness or rootedness in spirit and soul, patterns repeat themselves. The gulf between self and other widens. It may feel as though something essential is missing from life. Lost in its endless waves, one can mistake the oceanic storehouse for who they are.
From this place it is almost impossible to create meaningful, lasting change. Cultivating practices that use awareness to unite the mind with the heart, and the heart with original nature1 provide a way to attune to that which is larger than conditioned mind. True change becomes possible.
The ritual of healing has a timing and intelligence of its own and there are conditions necessary to its unfolding. Much of the healing process is simply about creating such conditions because true, lasting healing is deeply mysterious.
There is much that is known about how to effectively use various tools to create change and bring about health and wholeness, yet there is also much that is not known or knowable. Medicine takes many forms, sometimes unexpected and surprising ones.
To seek healing is to invoke change. Although change is the essence of life, there tends to be a lot of fear around change because it disrupts what is familiar. If one’s inner ground is not accessible, rigid, conditional or externally rooted, one tends to be thrown whenever those conditions fluctuate.
One can learn to center the chaos of change through the many death/birth cycles by creating a sacred container and tending it regularly. This could be in the form of an altar in your home or outside (or both) that is just for you. A place of beauty that you visit each day no matter what you are experiencing. A sacred place to bring all your joys and sorrows, questions and inspirations.
There, in the stillness we invite all the holding to soften. Just this moment it is safe to surrender to the naked truth of the moment, giving it space to simply be just as it is. Don’t judge or try to control the thoughts, simply allow their movement without engaging with them. Focusing your attention on the breath, and with eyes closed look through the inner eye between the eyes. Just keep returning to this whenever you are carried by thoughts. No judgement, just what is. As the heart opens, the wisdom of body, spirit and soul, heaven and earth intermingle. It is deeply mysterious.
Emptiness is the central axis within one’s own being that connects spirit and soul and all realms of existence. It is the body of the Tao through which the small self connects with a larger Self. Stillness, walking meditation in nature, sitting meditation and meditative practices like dance, Tai Chi, Qigong, etc. provide opportunities to source one’s self in center by engaging the inner witness and becoming empty and available to Self. And then we can take that with us in all that we do.
Emptiness is often associated with lack, void, no-thing, evoking feelings of aversion and fear. From the perspective of conditioned mind, the experience of emptiness can trigger the fear of death and feelings of meaninglessness causing resistance, armoring and severing one from the deeper truth of original nature waiting to be lived.
The very essence of Emptiness in its purest sense is one of great love, unity, and wholeness. It comes through surrendering the ego’s agenda of maintaining status quo and opening to what we cannot see or know—mystery.
Bamboo grows tall and upright and is empty in its center, allowing it to be strong yet flexible so that it will not break when the wind blows. Phoenix is a mythological bird that is associated with the uniting of heaven and earth, centering and harmonizing of all the elements. It does this though devotion and presence.
Drumming on bamboo to call a phoenix 2 has to do with engaging witness consciousness to become empty in order to allow our personal Tao to unite with the Tao of all of existence. It is a lifelong practice that leaves no significant part of us out.
In this way, healing is always available, even though it may not look the way we expect it to. Bit by bit as healing takes place, its effects reverberate though all of life. It is so close we often cannot see it. Healing is the wholeness that is always there waiting to be seen, acknowledged, loved—lived.
1 original nature – known by Taoists as “your original face before you were born”. In Taoist inner alchemy, it is the seed of one’s truest nature that we are born with that is ours to nourish into fruition, or not. It is one’s truest self (personal Tao) that lives in wholeness with all of existence (the larger Tao).
2 drumming on bamboo to call a phoenix – Thomas Cleary, The Taoist I Ching, p 332
About the Author: Monique Gaboury is a licensed acupuncturist, in Freeland, WA, specializing in Alchemical Acupuncture. She loves sharing her passion for natural healing at her clinic and through writing her blog ‘Re-membering Wholeness, Belonging and Kinship Through Changing Times’.