Wayfinding: A Late Summer Koan
got to where you are.” 1
The Myth of Beginnings and Endings
“Excuse me. Can you tell me if this path ends?” I pause and search for an answer. I have been hiking a maze of pathways through the dense vegetation of old growth woodlands for an hour and a half. By now, layers of ordinary reality have dissolved into the humid atmosphere and the boundary of my flesh has opened to include snake, blackberry, rosehip, bumble bee, moth, salal, raindrops, maple tree and more helping my linear mind release its grip and allowing it to become one with my heart, body, senses and environment. Her question registers like a Zen koan.
I reel in my senses so that I can respond; “It just keeps going and connects with everything else.” The woman looks at me blankly while the person with her sparkles with delight and says, “It’s the kind of thing you just have to explore and get to know!” “Yes!” I respond. “That’s it!” I walk away knowing that I was likely being asked for a more linear description of how this maze-like trail could possibly end, like if you were to take certain side routes to some of the other parking lots. Yet from a place of wholeness and interrelatedness everything is seen as relative. Questions become quests to be opened to and lived moment by moment and the ten thousand things of life lose their sense of urgency and gravity.
If “we only know where we are by knowing precisely where [we] have been and how [we] got to where we are”, there must be an organizing principle- a way to center all this information and organize it into something useful. I think of acupuncture point Stomach 23- ‘Great Oneness’ or ‘Supreme Unity’ located near the center of the body on each side of the abdomen slightly higher and lateral to where the navel is. This point reflects what I am experiencing out here in the woods- this sense of inter-being and wholeness. Although the first part of my walk was filled with thoughts and the ten thousand things of life that need sorting and assimilating, by the end I have moved out of my head and into in a different place. A place of Great Oneness, if only for a short while.
Stomach 23- Tai yi belongs to the earth element and the season of late summer which is where we are now. This beautiful point offers us integration and assimilation both in the physical body through the digestive process and at the psychospiritual level through metabolizing and integrating our life experiences. Timing is important with this point. To open to ‘Great Oneness’ requires a certain kind of receptivity and readiness. Just like we cannot rush or force the blackberry flower to morph itself into a berry, we too must wait until the conditions are ripe. Yet even in the waiting we must orient around an organizing principle- around a center from which everything can unfold.
Late summer is associated with the earth element. Earth is expressed through the stomach and spleen/pancreas organs and meridians, direction of center, color yellow, fragrant smell of fermenting sweetness, emotion of sympathy, faculty of thinking, spirit animal Phoenix named Constant Presence 2, yi spirit, archetype of the Divine Mother 3 and sound of singing like the way a mother sings a lullaby or softly coos to comfort. Earth teaches us about metabolizing life’s experiences into something that can nourish and support our inner development. Earth offers abundance and requires our devotion.
As I reach the end of my hike, another earth point Spleen 21- Da bao- ‘Great Enveloping’ speaks to me. Great Enveloping is a point on the spleen/pancreas meridian below the armpit about halfway between the armpit and the bottom of the rib cage between the sixth and seventh ribs surrounding our hearts. It is the exit point through which the spleen/pancreas meridian connects to the heart meridian. I place my hands at the sides of my rib cage and breathe. I feel my breath move in and out with the breath of the trees all the way down to my feet bringing a sense of grounded support and security. Contacting this point opens us to the loving embrace of the Divine Mother- of earth holding our hearts the way a mother holds her child.
Just as the heart is the center that pumps oxygenated and deoxygenated blood throughout the body, Great Enveloping provides a way to bring together and center all pathways. It is a connecting point that opens to all the connecting points on all the meridians, deeply nourishing the flow of qi and blood and throughout the whole body providing ground for spirit to rest in, and weaving heart and mind into seamless unison.
Although we can find our way by using linear thinking like looking at a map or asking for directions, life offers no map or directions for the living of our lives. We find our way by expanding our awareness to include more than the rational mind and linear way of thinking. We orient by finding our center, wherever we are. When we can find center (the direction of earth) in our own being we are more able to not only orient through times of chaos and change, but re- organize and grow in new ways that are aligned with the truth at the center of our being.
Earth is the center around which all directions, all pathways and all seasons of life pivot. The center is everywhere and we can contact this within us in our physical bodies in the lower dantien- the three dimensional space below our navel in our pelvis that reaches around to our sacrum on the opposite side.
The lower dantien is often described by the Taoists as being like a red, mineral rich cinnabar field or cave- a place that nourishes and contains us. We can imagine ourselves sitting in this glistening, womb-like cavern absorbing all that we need to be deeply nourished. Here, there are no demands. We can place our hand on the lower dantien and use our intention, imagination and breath to return to our center. Some find it helpful to imagine sitting comfortably on a patch of earth in the lower dantien, or having the arms of the Divine Mother holding us in loving embrace. We can sing or hum- feeling the vibration down into our belly, circulating though our whole being and soothing our nervous system. We can deepen our connection to our inner earth by caring for and honoring Gaia. We can care for the environment, sing songs to her, offer her our special stone, bury a crystal, feed her healthy compost.
As I leave the maze of trails in the woods, I take a moment to make a small rock stack to honor the earth who nourishes and sustains us all, earth within me and the center that orients the constant changes that continuously pull at our edges, asking us to open further to our becoming. When we tend our inner earth with our full presence, all of our life experiences come together within the center of our being. Here in the center is the meeting place of all of existence in the ever-present dance of Supreme Unity, helping us find our way.
1 Wade Davis, ‘The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World’, p 60
2 Lorie Dechar, ‘Kigo: Exploring the Spiritual Essence of Acupuncture Points Through the Changing Seasons’, p 184
3 ibid, p 187
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 ’Nourishing Change Through Connection’.