Serpent Path to the World Within the World


Descending the steep narrow path, I am led across an invisible threshold to a world within the world. The path consists of broken pieces of mountain turned to dry, loose, crumbly pebbles making it easy to slip and lose balance. There is little to hang onto except for larger rocks sparsely spaced offering just enough stability for me to reach down to take hold of – each rock appearing and disappearing at random as I move further down the path. I notice the metaphor of the unstable path for the edge of uncertainty that we walk upon every day with every breath.

I pause to inhale the sweet musky mountain air while absorbing the sound of the roaring rapids below which appear and disappear from sight like a mythical serpent slithering behind the trees. I contemplate the instinctual, transformative power of serpent and its ability to bridge inner and outer, above and below. I bend my knees ever so slightly, breathing into pelvic bowl and sacrum- finding a center point that offers internal stability. The deafening waters continue to beckon, steadily peeling away outer layers of daily holding and accumulations of the ten thousand things of daily living like a snake shedding its skin.

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Hexagram 32. Hêng/Duration


No trace remains of the warming rays of yesterday’s sun as I slowly wake to the chill of a dark grey morning. Weather changes, seasons change, and lives change in timeless rhythms of moving presence. I cozy up on my meditation cushion and light a candle- nursing a warm cup of tea between cold hands. Steam rises from the cup as I settle deeper down into myself. I open the I Ching or Book of Changes to Hexagram 32


“Duration is a state whose movement is not worn down by hindrances. It is not a state of rest, for mere standstill is regression. Duration is rather the self-contained and therefore self-renewing movement of an organized, firmly integrated whole, taking place in accordance with immutable laws and beginning anew at every ending. The end is reached by an inward movement, by inhalation, systole, contraction, and this movement turns into a new beginning, in which the moment is directed outward, in exhalation, diastole, expansion.” “Duration means that which already is. What is in the middle abides always.”1

As I wonder about the source from which and around which this ever-weaving tapestry of change is able to continuously come into being, a rumbling of thunder reverberates through my body and the structure of the house. I leave my cozy space to step outside into the crashing atmosphere. The pungent smell of ozone fills my nostrils. I recall that the two trigrams that make up Hexagram 32 Hêng are thunder over wind. I smile at the synchronicity of this timely event!

Thunder and wind are both part of the wood element- bringing change in each their own way. Wind penetrates, and thunder moves through clouds as atmospheric pressures change. I find it interesting that such strong forces of movement and change (thunder and wind) comprise the essence of ‘duration’- a state which is seemingly opposite- one of solidity and lastingness. If ‘duration means that which already is’, I reflect on the origin at the center of all movement and change where endings and beginnings are one.

I muse about the butterfly that I followed on a path through the woods yesterday, reflecting on the incredible process of transforming from caterpillar to butterfly. The caterpillar eats profusely for a period of time before forming a chrysalis. Inside, digestive enzymes break down the caterpillar until nothing is left but a liquid mush. Just when it appears that nothing living remains, imaginal discs/cells begin to emerge. At first they are fought by other cells, but they slowly and persistently keep multiplying and join together. This activity wakes up the gene which organizes the formation of a new being- the butterfly. Scientists have found that the butterfly retains memory from when it was a caterpillar- something essential of the caterpillar remains within the butterfly!

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