Friday, July 1, 2011
Copyright lance Kinseth, Vital Energy / Seiki, 2011
The J-strokes of fireflies’ flashes,
Lost in the universe,
Visual love songs made of cool fire.
NOW, IN SUMMER, when abundance is the norm, when life is bulging at the seams, the Northern Hemisphere already begins its slow tilt away from the sun. And yet, the hottest days are likely still to come to the top half of the Earth—the Dog Days of summer begin, with sultry heat—the time for the Earthen yang magic of fireflies and fireworks, while Earthen yin is at work in the Southern Hemisphere, there, in the equivalent of January.
Now, in summer, the roiling sun has become an outspreading cool fire of new fledglings leaving the nest, their feathers still drab, importantly, to not stand out. The owlets, the eaglets, the “sparrow-lets,” and lower down, with their noses to the ground, young squirrels and chipmunks and rabbits and insects and the up-swelling complexity of flora.
But the heart of this month, in the heartlands of the Northern Hemisphere, lies, perhaps in its softness, yielding. Looking closely, the perfect leaves of spring are beginning to yield some of their perfection, tattering in their dance with wind and hail and insects. And yet, loss is gain for the whole, with leaves becoming insects and insects becoming birds.
The sky down-reaches with lightning and walls of storms and the rivers overfill. The willows and grasses on river’s edges bow to the swelling water and live and thrive.
Morihei Ueshiba said,
IF YOUR OPPONENT strikes with fire, counter with water, becoming completely fluid and free-flowing. Water, by its nature, never collides with or breaks against anything. On the contrary, it swallows up any attack harmlessly.
[from John Stevens and Walther V. Krenner. Training with the Master: Lessons with Morihei Ueshiba Founder of Aikido, p. 127]
In body-mind practices, calmness softens us like willows alongside swollen rivers. And in each return, in each new day of our own aging, in the “tattering” aging brings us as it brings to leaves, we soften. We quiet and calm. We cool. We yield. Like willow against the current, we bend. We are less flippant. In calmness, we listen more acutely to the world and to the immanent landscape of our bodies. We yield to the current as we begin to experience being a facet of a larger current, a larger fire. We “swallow” the attack of high-paced energy of everyday life and fall inside a larger landscape.
The calmness of body-mind practice energizes us like a cool fire. We begin to acknowledge that we are more than ourselves, and that we are more than we have allowed ourselves to imagine. And this view begins to be actualized within our fast-pace everyday. We may live more as a cool fire—less reactive, opening.
We may begin to spend more time in grace and wonder. Perhaps the world becomes more magical, but a real magic rather than an illusory one. In my homeland, every July is punctuated with exclamation by fireflies. Magically, without thinking, these fireflies create a literal “cool fire.” Present in childhood, our regular returns to calmness and quietness recover this magic found in childhood, and sometimes in a deeper, more subtle form of wonder and appreciation. And that which we discover in the fireflies may be opened in every turn, perhaps in drops of rain or insects in evening backlight or in the smile of another.
Many are familiar with Loren Eiseley’s parable, “The Star Thrower,” wherein starfish that are beached along with myriad other starfish are thrown back one-by-one into the sea by a beachcomber. Why bother? The beachcomber answers, “It is important to that starfish.” [See Loren Eiseley, The Star Thrower, NY: Harcourt Brace Janovich, 1978/1979, pp. 169-185.] In calming and quieting, we can see a cool, lucent fire of details that express a vast process that is without end. Our appreciation of life-as-it-is deepens, and our compassion to optimize this process outspreads calmly, like a cool fire, with lessened discrimination, to that firefly and to that fledgling and to that person.