We are the heart of all creation and meditation can take the simplest person right to the source.
Galaxies have been discovered in what we thought was the rim of the Universe. Big galaxies might be more than we ever conceived. On the other end of the spectrum, we have discovered tiny subatomic particles, 1/1,000,000 the size of an atom. These tiny particles last 1/100,000,000 of a second. We stand in the middle, where it all passes through us on its way elsewhere.
We are controllers of unbelievable power, but it is a funny kind of control that operates automatically. Attempts at willful control of this power put us out of sync with the source. When we stop trying to exercise our will over it, then we return to the source where we discover the true magic of oneness. This is Tantra. This is Tao.
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I always begin by lighting the candles……several around the house…..two in the kitchen where I will cook…..two in the adjoining family room….one in the living room and one in the dining room….I soften all of the other lights in the house and, lately, I ask the boys to make a fire. Then I choose my music or some old film that I want as background noise…..lately, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Then I pour myself a glass of wine and begin gathering my
ingredients……almost like foraging….. with a general feeling of delight about the things I find in my kitchen……even though I’m not surprised about them because, of course, I put them there…….. pork chops and potatoes and apples…….. I obviously come from some long line of earthy people, as I tend to lean toward hearty comfort soups and stews and breads.
Today I was perusing the “Williams Sonoma Taste of France” while lounging on the couch with Robert watching our latest series passion, “Marco Polo”. Instead of finding a recipe that I absolutely had to try, I got completely caught up in his description of country life and general attitudes about food and cooking in France. What struck me most about the photographs were their contrasts…….delicate, buttery croissants paired with strong pungent cheese and sour cherry jam
……..which is how I came to tonight’s play in contrasts for my family’s dinner………pork chops with honey mustard apples, mashed parsley potatoes and herb stuffing with dried cranberries and walnuts………
Robert said the dinner was wonderful………..the twins were tolerant. Little do they know, I am making foodies of them too and, even though my houseful of testosterone looks perplexedly at me as I conduct my nightly cooking rituals and they never know what they are going to get……I sense that they get the same peaceful contentment from them that I do.
The way of the Mystic is to observe the oneness and perfection of all things. Along the way, the Mystic discovers the magic of fitting into the flow of things. Meditation is the vehicle of the Mystic. Tien Tao meditation has its roots in Tantra, the ancient path of the Mystic. Chenrezig meditation practiced by the Dalai Lama comes from the same tantric roots.
These are the handwritten notes from a Tien Tao meditation I was taught many years ago. Observe the oneness and perfection of both positive and negative energy as you circulate chi along the path shown in the drawing.
After all these years, I remain a humble beginner.
For those of you who have asked, here is a meditation exercise on your true nature or immortal self:
• Begin by focusing your mind on the Upper Tan Tien. This is the area between and behind your eyes and at the center of your brain. Taoists poetically call this area the “Crystal Palace”. Imagine a warm golden light filling the Crystal Palace.
• Concentrate on the golden light to the exclusion of everything else until it, the golden light and everything else, disappears. You will know that you have achieved this when you feel empty or void. This state is achieved when you have dropped all external influences in your life.
• Imagine that your true nature emerges from deep within the void. See it appearing as an embryo that slowly develops into your true self. When you are ready, push the embryo down into your Lower Tan Tien, just behind your navel. Taoists call this area the “Sea of Vitality”. Think of the Sea of Vitality as if it were a womb for the embryo. Hold your true nature there where it is nurtured and developed. When you are ready, give birth to your true nature and allow it expression in your life.
Don’t force it. Let it take shape on its own.
This is your immortal self.
The quest for immortality is timeless. Lost Horizon is a novel written by James Hilton in 1933. He set the story in a hidden valley called Shangri-La. The valley was a sanctuary of peace, wisdom, and long life. At the turn of the century, Li Ching Yeun was an internal martial artist living in China. The New York Times reported that he was 256 years old at his death. In today’s news, Mahashta Murasi claims he is 179 years old. If his claims are true, then he is the oldest living person on the planet.
It is estimated that human beings are made up of 37 trillion cells. At any given time, 50 million cells die and are replaced with new cells. Some say we become whole new people about every 7 years. While that is not a completely accurate statement, it is close enough to the truth to give pause for thought. Since we have the capacity to replace dead cells with fresh new ones, you’d think we would live forever. So why don’t we?
I don’t pretend to have the answer to that question, but I do have a few thoughts on the subject. As a starting point, the possibility of such a long life stirs contradictory feelings for many of us. Some fear it, while others lust for it. Many of the elderly that I have spoken to on this subject tell me they would not want to live forever. When I ask them to explain, they get kind of vague about it, but their negative feelings seem to be tied to the aches and pains of growing old. On the other hand, young healthy people tend to believe they will live forever. The difference seems to depend on our quality of life.
We can begin by working to improve the quality of our lives as we age. Many exercises, like running, cause wear and tear on the body, especially the joints. On the other hand, Tai Chi can help improve the quality of life without damaging the body. It has been shown to improve circulation, mobility, and reduce chronic aches and pains. Tai Chi is slow, gentle, and available to everyone. It is one of the exercises that Li Ching Yeun was said to have practiced.
But what about the business of replacing dead cells? To practitioners of Tai Chi, the area surrounding the navel is considered to be the center of our bodies. Taoists call this area the “Tan Tien” or “Energy Field”. It is the place where conception occurs. Taoists believe our “First Cell” resides in this area, just behind our belly buttons. This “First Cell” contains all the blueprints of who we are, and it uses those blueprints as it goes about the business of replacing dead cells.
As we know, life is full of dangers and challenges that we must adapt to if we are to survive. If too many cells die too fast for the First Cell to complete its task of replication, then we die. Fortunately, we have an amazing capacity to adapt. Likewise, our First Cell can adapt to things like environmental toxins that interfere with the job of replicating cells.
It only stands to reason that if we want to prolong our lives, the First Cell’s job of replacing cells and adapting to dangerous conditions must be supported. The practice of Tai Chi can help. If Tai Chi isn’t an option for you, then try a simple daily meditation where you reconnect to your First Cell or Perfect Self. This is easy to do, just focus your smile on the First Cell located behind your belly button. Give it a figurative pat on the back and agree to take some of the load from it. It’s that simple.
Here’s to our perfect health…peace out…..
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Someone recently said I was Hunter S. Thompson incarnate. Okay, okay it was my friend Lisa, the founder of the Naked Tao Book Club. Sorry Lisa, they beat it out of me.
I think she intended it to be a compliment. I sure took it that way, since the Gonzo wrote some pretty amazing stuff. However, I’ve always thought he was a bit obsessed with the whole ‘fear and loathing” thing. I’d like to think I’m a positive, upbeat person, but I have to admit that my first book, Naked Tao, is edgy.
Arguably, the protagonist is similar to one of the Gonzo’s characters. He has a pretty steep character arch, but like the protagonist in the amazing movie, Silver Linings Playbook, if you hang in there long enough, his transformation is inspiring.
So, let me get back to the “fear and loathing” thing before I digress too far.
As a Taoist, one of the meditation practices I enjoy is the care and nurture of the inner smile. A real smile radiates from the inside out. It can’t be faked, although I love Laughter Yoga because you do in fact fake it until your laughter magically transforms into the real thing.
The inner smile is called by many names…contentment, peace, serenity, happiness, joy, etc. When you connect with your inner smile, everything changes in your life. It’s easy to do. You just choose it.
Robert W. Grant
The Playboy Gourmet
A friend once told me that it’s amazing what can be accomplished when we just follow the instructions. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time doing that. There’s a part of me that has to blaze my own trail.
Tonight we prepared Chicken Kiev from The Playboy Gourmet by Thomas Mario. The cookbook was published in 1972, and consistent with that era, is full of rich recipes with lots of butter and creme.
Here is the Playboy Gourmet recipe for the Chicken Kiev.
We were out of eggs, so the batter didn’t bind quite right. We did not have creme, so I used whole milk and added white wine, cilantro, garlic, and bacon to the recipe.
After browning the chicken, I decided to bake it in a cast iron skillet with the sauce. This was another departure from the recipe.
I’m not sure what the Chicken Kiev would have tasted like if I had followed the recipe, but the end result was delicious.
To blazing our own trail.