Painting by Monique Gaboury, Winter of 2020-2021 Acrylic on Wood Panel 35.5” x 46”
In Our Incompleteness Is Our Authenticity:
Tending the Journey of Soul
I Ching Hexagram 23 Po Stripping Away/Splitting Apart—
Keeping Still, Mountain over the Receptive, Earth belongs to the months of October and November.
This is the time where yin/dark energies rise from below, leaving only a small amount of yang/light, just enough to stay connected to the upper realms of spirit like the north star guiding our soul’s journey on earth. As we descend with the leaves and compost down to the bones of those who came before us, we may find old wounds that need tending and are in need of further metabolism. There is also medicine here in the dark fecund soil, and a wisdom as old as time supporting and nourishing the journey.
The natural energies inherent to this season can help us enter the realm of soul. By cultivating stillness like mountain and surrendering to the solidity and generous giving of earth who cares for and holds us, we can discover more about what remains after all that isn’t us or true to our authentic nature falls away like meat splitting apart from the bone. Like the seed being released from its shell and sinking down into the generative soil, awaiting its timely return.
There is nothing to ‘do’ at such thresholds as descent and resurrection. The doing is in the non-doing—in our presence, stillness, surrender, watching, listening and tuning in to the wisdom of the wild instinctive animal body who carries us through such territory. We learn to live both in the mundane world and the world-beneath-the world in favor of living a soulful life.
This is a time ripe for nourishing the parts of us that have gone and have never returned, were lost along the way, never allowed expression or even to exist, or are still gestating and forming. This time of darkness and not knowing requires that we make ourselves available to other ways of knowing and experiencing so that we can hear the song that sings life back into the bones of lost and forgotten things. In this way, we bring to birth our truest, wild self.
In Chinese medicine, the soul is embodied by the po and lives in the physical impulses of the body, especially the lower body down in the pelvis. It is connected with the autonomic nervous system, proprioception, sees beauty in unexpected things, is nourished through the senses, embodied movement and physical pleasure. It is wildly creative in its approach to all that it meets. And like any wild creature, must be approached with humility and respect.
Po needs the timeless wisdom and guidance of the upper spirits to fully enter the world, just as the upper spirits need po to live in the world of form and time. In this sacred union, our medicine ripens and evolves. There are no hard and fast rules to this territory, we learn and move by instinct, presence and trust.
To lovingly nourish the true needs of one’s earthly body is essential here, and one cannot push the river. Yet we can keep it clear and unpolluted by discerning how to spend our life force, and by devoting ourselves to consistently taking time to care for what is most authentic and true to our nature.
To support the journey of soul, of deepening and ripening, create some time each day to be still and simply let go of all that you are carrying for a time and ground in the body. Create a sacred space where you won’t be interrupted. Take some time to just breathe, bringing all your energy that is swirling around fully back into your body. Then slowly, starting at the top of your head, say hello to each part of your body as you move down, noticing what it feels like inside. Without judging, analyzing or rushing, offer a sense of spaciousness and acceptance to all that you find. Follow all the way down to your pelvic bowl and to where you are making contact with the earth. Freely offer your full weight to the earth under you, noticing how the earth is holding you and supporting you always. Let your body move and stretch organically, make sounds, feel the aliveness of your flesh, organs and bones. Offer your gratitude.
The po needs spaciousness and structure, beauty and physical engagement through the senses like warm baths with herbs, candles, essential oils, nourishing whole foods natural to the season, music, dance, embodied movement. Po needs time in nature, and time sensing with the body, especially the lower body. Notice how it is different to sense with the lower body than sensing with the head and eyes. This is an important piece to practice regularly. Notice how your animal body wants to move. Notice how animals move and what it might feel like to move like snake, hedgehog, wolf, etc.
There are a couple of acupuncture points that can help support the connection between po and the upper spirits.
Lung 10 Yújì, Fish Border is a fire point on the lung meridian. It is located on the pad below the thumb where our hands touch when in prayer. Lung is part of the metal element paired with the large intestine. Metal is associated with autumn, grief, descent, letting go and the po soul. Fish Border brings the fiery warmth of the heart to the cold, dark subterranean realm of po, bringing just enough warmth to the journey of soul and what is distilling and forming in the earth of your body. The gold of our medicine is refined here over the course of our lives. This point opens the pathway between heaven and earth like a prayer, helping to bring the light of the upper spirits down to the lower spirits, and the magic that happens when we meet such in-between times with the whole heart and soul.
Lung 3 Tiānfu, Heavenly Palace is a window of heaven point on the lung meridian. It is located on a place below the shoulder that is touched when we are hugged. It calms the po by offering its light to the places in the journey that become too constricting and limiting. When we are stuck or bogged down in the underworld and become lost to our authentic nature, Tiānfu is like a loving embrace from the upper realms offering containment, spaciousness and guidance to the po soul in its continued journey.
After grounding in the body, sit quietly and lovingly contact each point with your finger tip all the way from your heart, noticing how much pressure is needed to feel something shift: perhaps warmth, a sense of spaciousness, flow, tingling, grounding, softening. Continue to follow your breath, noticing what you notice until it feels complete. A small drop of frankincense essential oil with just a toothpick tip of damask rose oil added to it is deeply nourishing to these points. Among its many functions, frankincense nourishes the metal element, breathing and circulation. Damask rose nourishes and soothes the heart. Together, they harmonize above and below, spirit and soul, heaven and earth.
As the difficulties we are faced with as a planetary culture continue to grow, we are challenged to discover that which is true and enduring. We are challenged to stay present, keep our hearts open and meet all that arises with as much of our wholeness as possible. To cry often, laugh often, make and find beauty everywhere we possibly can and keep the underground river clear and flowing.
When you feel lost, empty, sad, overwhelmed or hopeless, follow the breath down into the heart. Feel how the heart is cradled in the earth of our own bodies. As we return to the pulse of our own most authentic nature, we return to the source of life.
Martin Shaw says that “In our incompleteness is our authenticity.” In an existence that is ever-changing with no perceivable beginning or end, we too exist in a continuum of evolutionary change. Just as life itself is embedded in mystery, we too are a never ending mystery even to ourselves. Yet there is something we yearn for our whole life, something we can barely name. It is this that draws us into life, this that stirs the wild body of soul down in the depths of our innermost being, calling us ever-homeward.
“The way to illumination appears dark.
The way that advances appears to retreat.
The way that is easy appears to be hard.
The highest virtue appears empty.
The purest goodness appears soiled.
The most profound creativity appears fallow.
The strongest power appears weak.
The most genuine appears unreal.
The greatest space has no corners.
The greatest talent matures slowly.
The greatest voice can’t be heard.
The greatest image can’t be seen.
Tao is hidden and has no name.
Tao alone nourishes and fulfills all things.”
Translated by Brian Browne Walker, 1996, Chapter 41 Tao Te Ching
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’.