(Posted many moons ago, but still apropos.
Once again, history began at breakfast. Yesterday’s news of the humanitarian crisis in Puerto following deadly hurricanes was eclipsed by mass shootings in Las Vegas.
Four horsemen trumpet apocalypse: conquest, war, famine and death. Everyday the news is full of shocking surprises; and with it the potential for disillusion. “Life is changing fast,” I say to myself. “Can’t keep up.”
A year ago, looking out at a vista in Canyonlands National Park, the slow changes that sculpted this wilderness of pinnacles, canyons and rivers occured long before the creation of the four horsemen from the last book of the New Testament. The rocks I stood on were once ocean.
In this scale, whatever legacies that ancient races left behind are lost in the detritus of petroglyphs and ruins—symbols of greatness and transience. Here, whatever news is brought to me at breakfast disappears into the breath of the wind.
On these pinnacles, I start the slow movements of tai chi. The roots of the juniper and pinon coil downwards, forging pathways into sandstone. In the chalky dirt, I move carefully around the petrified logs of a pine forest that existed some 200 million years ago. The cataclysm that buried it happened quickly; yet the processes that mineralized the wood occurred particularly slowly.
Tai chi slows down my internal rhythms and grounds me into this present moment. The twin forests of death and rebirth at my feet remind me about the yin and yang cycles of change and the rhythms of fast and slow time. These will continue beyond any future I can project and any fears of apocalypse that bring knots to my stomach
If this wilderness, in its pristine and natural disarray, had not been preserved so that I could visit and quiet myself down, it would be more difficult not to give in to primal bewilderment. History would always begin at breakfast with visits of the four horsemen filling me with dread. I would protect myself by hoarding my treasures, arming myself with guns, and guarding my larders full of food and water. Greed and loneliness would become constant companions.
Instead, tai chi purges me of meanness; restores my enthusiasm and curiosity; helps me recover equilibrium in times of strong and confusing changes.
In Hines, Oregon, students and I practiced tai chi, with the tall pines and yellow leafed aspens for companions. I teach qigong to students. These practics helps people heal themselves, quell anxiety, and remind us to try and follow a path of peace, compassion and balance.
It’s what I can do.