by Lau Sensei
Out goes Pig
In comes Rat
Can we take better care?
In the tradition of feng shui (wind/water), Rat is the first animal in the twelve-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac. The Jade Emperor sent out an invitation to come to his party. He said that the positions in the zodiac would be decided by the order in which the guests arrived. Rat tricked Ox into giving him a ride. Then, just as they got there, Rat jumped down and landed ahead of Ox.
This resilient and resourceful creature has spread far and wide with our help.
Most people see Rat as less than admirable, but in Chinese culture, he is a symbol of wealth and plenty. Because of rats' reproduction rate, couples would send him their hopes for conceiving children.
Rats are quick-thinkers, clever, persistent, and successful. Many people believe that they are content with living a quiet and peaceful life, but I wonder. I imagine them scurrying around and restless in perpetual motion.
How do I compare to Rat!?
I want to be able to slow down, get out of the rat race. I wonder whether rats ever just laze about and relax, not like us who are forever yakking, checking emails, podcasts, and to-do lists, consuming and keeping our noses to the smartphone.
There are many things of concern for me and I wonder where to start. There are many behaviors and habits to change and improve, to worry less and stop dramatizing!! A single mosquito in the evening or my own inner thought can trouble me more than anything else in the whole world. Sometimes my mind can get caught like on a Ferris wheel. But the wheel is not real, and I have to stay off, otherwise I will find no peace.
The following are some real issues for me:
Just one 'Ding!', and I drop everything, and pick up my phone, jumping at my little genie's command. It is the cause of much depression, anxiety, and stress, as I can be so engrossed with it, constantly texting and reading lots of useless information and false news! Checking and wondering how my cyber space is so empty or too full. Can I step away from it and give the phone a rest?? Do I dare to turn it off for a day?
How did I ever manage in the days of land lines? What did I miss?
Here is something else:
I am very concerned about our environment, global warming and such. I worry and yes, I start to panic a little. Surprisingly, there are still doubters, unconvinced by the scientific evidence. Why, why?? I question this. They are very much like the frog in the Zen story, living in the deep well and knowing nothing of the wider world. Hopefully for us we can look beyond our immediate time and surroundings, and see the world burning like Rome and now Australia and the rain forests of South America.
If we make the Earth un-inhabitable, can we go to Mars??? Earth, as it is, is essential for us, no matter how big our bank accounts are, or however black is the bottom line of financial balance. Let us and our political leaders see the future more clearly.
I would sorely grieve the decline of my planet Earth. Will there be lakes to swim in during my summer camping trips, and to fish in for my friends who really love it. Could I just step out and breathe in the fresh, cool air on Mars?? I say PLEASE NO to those who would deny me this small human joy. I will not be going to Mars, I can only be happy here. I would like to keep my precious Earth beautiful for my grandchildren and their grandchildren to enjoy!
Instead of trying to grab more and more, let us all pitch in and take good care of what we have. Let us not be as Joni Mitchell sang '...they paved paradise and put up a parking lot...'
Do we really need to start up a modern car on a cold winter day long before we drive it away?? I have questioned some who warm up their vehicles like that. Usually they say that it is better for the engine. Maybe they just want to warm up their seats! Or to justify the remote starters that they paid a lot for. Convenience, comfort and the bottom line. To hell with greenhouse gases? Owner's manuals say to warm the engine just long enough for the RPMs to drop. That is what I do.
We are faced with much misleading information and false news. We need to be aware. I remember during my Canada citizenship ceremony, ages ago, the judge cautioning me to keep an open mind, to listen to the news on more than one channel, and to read different newspapers. I remember that, and I do it. We get many different channels on Youtube from different countries in English language. Look. Listen.
Critical thinking is important, observing and checking things out for myself to get the complete story and not some second-hand hearsay. I need to look at both sides, like the YingYang symbol, ‘… the ink is black, the page is white…”
To enjoy my only life I need to find a balance. I look for times of silence and stillness, as when I practice my Tai Chi, to reflect on events. I usually find it best early in the morning or on my thirty-minute walk to our dojo. Wonderful new ideas often come to me. Bad health would eventually come from being constantly striving and never contemplating.
There are different approaches to life. Mine is to do simple things I love and savour them as long as possible. Aikido. TaiChi. Gardening.
When I practice Jiseikan Aikido, I have to be constantly observing, sensing how my partners react. Then I can apply appropriate strength and proper technique. My balance of focus and awareness must ebb and flow, sometimes more yielding, Ying, sometime more force, Yang. Give and take. Blend. Follow. Do not resist. Then force will disappear by itself. In this way flexibility overcomes power.
At the dojo, we have lots of small plants in little pots. I have to be aware and remember to water them. Otherwise they will die. With constant love and care, they reward us with beautiful flowers and fresh green sprouts in spring. It is like they are singing with joy.
Try this: go hug a tree. It won't mind, touch it and feel it, it is full of life.
To you and yours, All the very best for a wonderful new year Enjoy!!