Stopping and Going


I was sitting by the edge of my backyard pond sipping my morning coffee. It was Sunday and I had felt an urge to sit there quietly in a relaxed semi meditative state. I driven nearly a thousand miles that week and found the need to sit still for a while. My two dogs came along and after short time they found comfortable spots; one in the shade and ne in the sun. I myself was a Sundogthat morning turning my chair into the sunlight overlooking the pond and the woods.

After a few minutes the smoothness and quiet of the water began to overtake my senses. My attention was drawn to the large carp, small bluegills and the turtle under the glasslike surface of the water, which was gently rippled now and again by a gentle breeze. A dragonfly perched on a barren dried raspberry bush sunned itself, motionless, until it flew off only to return to the same spot over and over. The carp and bass all but undetectably would either maintain their position or rotate with the slightest seemingly unconscious motion of adjustment.

I felt my own tension starting to slip away only to return again like the dragonfly. I noticed how the breeze slightly obscured my vision into the water’s depth only to subside once again. I thought that this is how it is with life and so too, how it is with meditation.

The Chinese trigram for “Joy” in the Book Of Changes, The I Ching, is Lake.

As I sat, I decided to let my thinking mind go and live in the sensations of the moment. My breath slowed. I tried to follow the fish, the dragonfly and turtle and just to be in joyous harmony of the moment. My body relaxed. I could feel my temples, neck, arms, fingers and feet unfurl, enjoying the moment of the trees and water, the fish and the woods both side-by-side and reflected in each other in the water.

A gentle breeze rippled the surface of the water, only to subside to make it seem then even more beautiful, more clear and more smooth with each return. So it is with the relationship between talk and silence, thought and meditation.

The joy of Lake, the joy of stillness, the joy of seeing the nature of things is not inherent in joy. It is not inherent in stillness. It is not inherent in meditation. It does not reside in the release of tension, although this is the path we take. It resides in and its relationship to its opposite, that of Activity.

The Chinese trigram for “Activity” in the Book Of Changes, The I Ching, is “Wind”

Wind is activity, wind is work, and wind is penetration. Through effort we can develop clarity and with clarity we can further focus our effort.

Employing Effort and Stillness at the appropriate times is the cultivation of what the Ancients called “The Way”. The Tao Te Ching admonishes us that “high winds do not last all morning”.  If Heaven and Earth cannot sustain “Wind” what makes us think that we can? The wind will still - with or without our acquiescence. The cultivated practice of stopping at the right time brings joy while effort without knowing when to stop courts disaster. A proficient sculpture chips away a bit of a time and stops to look. Joy resides  in the meaningful interplay between stopping and going. The I Ching calls this insight or “Faithfulness To The Center”