The Way of Dragon Veins:

A Prayer From Where the Heart Begins


There is a breathing that is more than our own, a palpable stream of cosmic vitality that moves, enlivens, connects and transforms along numinous pathways between heaven and earth. Ancient Taoists knew these currents as dragon veins, along which the breath of life—qi—ushers emptiness and form back and forth to one another; moving between realms like an unborn, undying prayer from the heart of existence ceaselessly offering its spirit to the full potential of embodied life.

As spring winds steadily fan the flaming spirit of summer’s becoming, warmth and light is offered to the hidden or not-yet-formed things so that they may continue their full emergence and live in the world of form and time. There is no such thing as holding back to plants, creature beings, planets, stars. Life is made to bear fruit, and in so doing, dies wholly to itself over and again in a participatory dance of inter-being.

In the midst of the bursting exuberance of spring, it is easy to forget that growth is also contingent on inward acts like letting go. Growth is mostly not smooth and happens in stages, each one requiring courage, faith, trust and death. Birth requires much dying. Immense suffering is often the result of not knowing how and when to die, and that it is simply okay to let go.

We are the only creatures who forget who we are and how to grow and bear fruit. We are the only creatures who hold back or misuse our life force and derail our own becoming, our own authenticity, forgetting our innate naturalness in relation to the naturalness of all life.

Yet we already have what is needed to thrive right here in the building blocks of life itself, including our bodies. We eat the elements of the earth, drink water that has been touched by the heavens and emerges remineralized from subterranean realms, and breathe stardust billions of years old, some originating from the Big Bang1. We all come from and are nourished by the same mother. We are all kin. We can trust the timing and movements of nature’s rhythms in our bodies. By surrendering our thoughts long enough to hear the ancient bone kind of wisdom of past and future ancestors, we find that we know without knowing how we know the next step in the dance.

With each inhale we take in pure qi from the heavens. With each exhale, we release what no longer offers vitality without ever having to think about it. In between each breath we abide in the place between incarnations, between sleeping and waking, nothing and something. Vast emptiness, mystery, possibility, reckoning and alignment find a way. We are re-born with each breath and new possibilities await our choosing.

At each phase there are questions to be lived. What enlivens my whole heart? Is my vision rooted in soul? Am I honoring my true needs? What am I willing to sacrifice to live my truest nature? What drains my life force? What fills me back up when I’m depleted? What has grown too heavy? What is calling me forth that is still not-quite-formed or clear? What is growing roots in my inner soils and reaching for the light, and what does it need? Can I be with what I cannot control or know and not turn away or shut down?

Each phase needs our recognition, care, reverence, love.

There are many ways to die into life and not all transitions are difficult. There is immense strength in softness and vulnerability, and there are ways to meet even the most tumultuous of transitions.

Hexagram 57 Sun/The Gentle (The Penetrating, Wind) occupies the Southeast between spring and summer, carrying the medicine of homecoming through the transformative power of gentleness. Gentleness is not a quality that comes to mind when thinking about the ways of Western society. Competing, forcing, and speed are norms that have contributed to a culture of violence, disease, suffering, and separation from ourselves, each other, and our environment.

Force causes us to react by hardening, armoring, defending, or collapsing. Conversely, gentleness is disarming. It invites connectivity and openness which allows us to be penetrated, enlivened and guided by spirit—that which is much larger than ourselves in the Great Belonging. The I Ching tells us that the gentle, penetrating wind “means the flowing of beings into  their forms, it means baptism and giving life.”2 “Penetration produces gradual and inconspicuous effects…The penetrating quality of wind depends upon its ceaselessness. This is what makes it so powerful; time is its instrument.”3

As the winds of change perpetually flow, life is continuously re-baptizing itself. Instead of living outside of ourselves racing from one thing to another, through slow, gentle softening we flow back into our form. Like the heaviness of mountains and seas, there is a gravity to life that helps us flow with the natural way of things. By recognizing and releasing what we have outgrown or what is not true to our original nature, we are able to claim and embody more fully the incarnation we took to birth for. Our visions grow roots and wings. We ripen and mature.

It is never too late to let go, to return to the simplicity of breathing, to listen for the voice of soul in our bodies, for the guidance of spirit, and finally choose to make time to recognize and care for our deepest authenticity.

When we enter the breathing that is more than our own we embody the wholeness that has always been and will always be, and know that we have never been alone.


You who let yourselves feel: enter the breathing
that is more than your own.

Let it brush your cheeks

as it divides and rejoins beside you.

Blessed ones, whole ones,
you where the heart begins:

You are the bow that shoots the arrows

and you are the target.

Fear not the pain. Let its weight fall back
into the earth;

for heavy are the mountains, heavy the seas.

The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.

Give yourselves to the air, to what you cannot hold.


“Part One, Sonnet IV” [“You Who Let Yourselves Feel: Enter the Breathing”],
from Sonnets to Orpheus, by Rainer Maria Rilke. Taken from In Praise of Mortality:
Selections from Rainer Maria Rilke’s Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus, translated
from the German and edited by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy. © Riverhead, 2005.


1 “Most of the elements of our bodies were formed in stars over the course of billions
of years and multiple star lifetimes. However, it’s also possible that some of our

hydrogen (which makes up roughly 9.5% of our bodies) and lithium, which our body

contains in very tiny trace amounts, originated from the Big Bang.” –
Dr. Ashley King,
Planetary Scientist and Stardust Expert

2 Wilhem/Baynes, The I Ching or Book of Changes, p. 680