Tag Archives: North Atlantic Books

More on Death & Microcosmic Orbit Meditation

2014-10-27 13.28.22

As the Microcosmic Orbit opens and flows, I recall when I first experienced what, at the time, felt like its magic almost twenty years ago. My mother was on her deathbed, her body overcome by metastatic breast cancer. I was deep into her death vigil. The following is from our book: Chi and Creativity: Vital Energy and Your Inner Artist (Blue Snake Books, © 2007, p. 223):

“The third night seems very long. I stand beside her many hours, holding her hand. I wonder how long my stamina can last.

“I shift to stand in meditation. I feel my body centering, grounding. My feet open to the support of earth, my crown open to the support of the heavens. The earth’s Chi [Qi] flows up through the soles of my feet, up my legs, up my spine, and out through the crown of my head to an apex a few inches above. The energy crests, mingling with heavenly Chi, then travels back down through my crown, down the front of my head and torso, down my legs, out through the soles of my feet, and back into the earth a few feet below. The circuit of energy between heaven and earth through my body along the pathway of the Macrocosmic Orbit restores my strength. I feel my breathing relaxing and deepening as it fills and empties from my pelvic Tan Tien [Dan Tian]. I feel my mind alert but calm. I feel my heart open, as the energy travels through my arms, connecting me through my hands to my mother.”

In the middle of loss comes awareness – of gratitude, for the gifts of what was, for the strength and beauty of what is, for trust in the continuity of what is to come.

Returning to the present and the more recent death of our neighbor, Yoshi, I wonder, did he know it was coming? Or did it creep up on him in the night and usher him quietly from the unconscious state of sleep into the deeper realms of death? And this leads to another question, one I carry with me: How do I live life now so that I’m aware of and ready for death when it comes?

To One Dying in Autumn

Air churns pungent like cracked herbs
green turns amber, rust red, dark as humus
leaves are clenched fists against long, cold night
acorns pop and dive from oaks into a womb of soil

Alone in deep night
breath in and out,
roughening, then slowing,
no one to witness how the pause
lengthens to infinity

What ample hands caught
as you dropped into this world,
what luminous ones midwife you beyond?

The scalpel that slices the life-bond
the sword that magnifies the samurai
the spirit-knife that severs flesh from soul
point as one to bring you home

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Death Meditation and the Microcosmic Orbit

2014-10-20 13.22.40for Microcosmic Orbit image (p. 172) and other references, see The Creative Art of Living, Dying & Renewal by Elise and Kaleo Ching (© 2014, North Atlantic Books)

Three police vehicles are parked outside our neighbor’s apartment. What’s happening?

From the dark entryway, a young police officer emerges, pink-cheeked, smooth-faced, neat as a cadet in his starched uniform. He could be my grandson if I’d worked young and hard at starting a family rather than devouring books and writing poetry. He enters his car and gets on the radio. There’s no urgency in his manner. He speaks so quietly that all I hear is the radio’s static. The nearby Japanese maple’s autumn-bitten leaves curl like fists, glow dark as venous blood. Wind gusts and leaves tremble and drop, bowing to the season of letting go.

A “Cremation and Funeral Services” vehicle arrives. Two middle-aged men climb out, dressed neatly, conservatively. They wheel a gurney into the apartment.

The officer writes in his log book. Finally he exits the sanctum of his vehicle. I ask him the only question I think he can answer, “Is it Yoshi?”

“Yes,” he says, his tone quiet, polite. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

What I’m witnessing is standard procedure for someone who dies at home, alone.

My thoughts are leaves. They swirl around, fly up, alert the heavens, here comes Yoshi, until they are squelched by the honking and flapping of Canada geese circling above in a feint of southerly migration.

Other neighbors gather on the sidewalk, talk about Yoshi’s health, his cryptic references to elevated enzyme levels, how he seemed to have lost weight.

Last time I saw him across the driveway, our Australian shepherd, Kahu, tugged me over for a face-to-face hello. Kahu loved a good squirm around “Uncle Yoshi’s” legs. Yoshi seemed subdued, maybe even sad.

Now I watch as his body, sealed in a white bag, then draped in an elegant deep-sea-green velvet blanket, is wheeled out of its familiar home and into the chamber of the van. I say a goodbye prayer – aloha Ke Akua mau loa, go with eternal Divine love.

That evening as Kaleo and I sit in our usual half-hour meditation, I continue my prayers for Yoshi’s passage, to the radiant light, to the embrace of his Japanese ancestors, who, I am sure, are there to welcome him. As I sense the spirit world hovering close to the threshold of my consciousness, I feel  my Column of Light expanding to the walls of our meditation room then contracting to wrap me in its shimmering boundary of Qi (p. 96). Using my hands like siphons, I gather the energies of Earth, Environment, and Heaven then offer them in the Qi Blessing (p. 229) to encourage Yoshi’s spirit safely on its journey. I feel the Qi flowing strongly in the Microcosmic Orbit of my body (p. 172). It flows from the energy center of my lower Dan Tian, down the center of the front of my torso, up the center of my back, over my crown, and back down the front, bridging where my tongue nestles against the roof of my mouth. Its flow is like being gently plugged in and lit up – plugged into the energies of Heaven and Earth and lit up by their interaction with my own bio-electric current of Qi. I am grateful for the support of this ancient Qigong meditation.

(note: events are true, but for privacy the deceased’s name has been changed)

After The End

2014-07-04 09.46.46 2014-07-17 16.41.58What do you do when an intense creative endeavor ends? Start another right away? Savor the creations of others? Take a trip? Do everything you longed to do but had no time for during the birthing process? Or?

Numb. That’s how I felt after Kaleo and I released our most recent book into the world. It was as if a constant companion had moved to another state. I realize this is the incubation period—fruits harvested, seeds back to earth where hulls harden for winter’s vigil.

Today is the Harvest Moon, season of the Earth Element and the emotional strength of trust—trust in every phase of the creative cycle.

Earth is about shared bounty. We are nothing if not in community. The outer community invites me to eat, dance, do art, walk on the beach with friends. The characters from The Creative Art of Living, Dying & Renewal, like an inner community of old friends, still chat in my head. I find myself asking Alex, how is death treating you? Jessica, what are you up to now? I find she wants to continue her story.

Earth Element: Long Summer’s Harvest

Today dawned breezy as earth warmed and pushed back against fog from the sea. Kaleo and I took in the sweet fragrance and even a few tastes of the ripe fruits and vegetables at the Danville Farmers’ Market. Even the colors seemed plump. Long summer, according to Chinese Medicine, is the time of harvest, abundance, shared bounty, when people gather and prepare the harvest against long, dormant winter.

“When we do Qigong, we are aware of the Five Elements [Metal, Water, Wood, Fire, and Earth] within us, pulsing through our bodies’ organ-meridians, sense organs, tissues, fluids, diurnal rhythms, and emotions…. Earth grounds, supports, and nourishes us, takes our old Qi and recycles it, is the home we all share.”*

When we do Qigong in nature, Earth’s huge firm belly beneath our feet feels so alive. She subtly, deeply, breathes, slowly goes through the moons of her seasons, her deep metabolic cycles. How trustingly we expect her to support us. The 6.0 earthquake in Napa last month reminded us of her capacity to change quickly, without warning, unsettling all we know.

“Excessive worry, the emotional challenge of Earth, can be a sign that your Earth Element is out of balance. In addressing worry, it is important to be conscious of your dietary habits—not only what you eat, but also how and when. It helps to be quiet and relaxed while eating, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for digestion and helps you to savor and taste the food.”*

Last month during a week-long retreat at Redwoods Monastery, we shared in meditation, ritual, and simple but luscious organic vegetarian meals eaten in silence with the rest of the community—all very restorative for the Earth Element.

*Quotes from The Creative Art of Living, Dying & Renewal by Elise and Kaleo Ching (©2014, North    Atlantic Books)

2014-09-06 09.22.11 2014-09-06 09.24.32 2014-09-06 09.29.12

Long Summer's Harvest at Danville Farmers' Market

Long Summer’s Harvest at Danville Farmers’ Market