Because after a long winter, the snow gives away to the coming of spring. And so the grass began to sprout and the trees will get their leaves back. And at the same time you know, the creatures of Earth merrily go around beginning their whole reproductive cycle again--this spring awakening, fertility and reproduction-- this natural phenomenon of rebirth that occurs without any interruption every year, every spring. It's observed everywhere. No matter where you are, even in the coldest of places, eventually, spring would arrive. And rebirth will occur, that's the natural law. It's just a matter of timing.
And for most of the Northern Hemisphere, early to mid April the signs of spring are all around. So this whole concept of rebirth or renewal is not lost on the adherents of the integral way as well. In our tradition, we celebrate renewal, we celebrate the rebirth. We do so every day when we are awakened from our sleep. When we open our eyes in the morning, we're given life we're given the chance to live a life, yet again. And this repeats itself on a daily basis every single morning.
So what is your rebirth and renewal? In the time of Christ, Jesus would have become a mortal man, a sage, a philosopher, a teacher, if it wasn't for the single act of miracle--his resurrection, and because he was resurrected as the Bible told, he was recognized as the Son of God, he had to be immortal as mortals die and do not return to life. The term immortal is a familiar one to our tradition as well. Because what we cultivate is our spiritual immortality. The whole idea of immortality is the ultimate objective of why we cultivate. Besides, the benefits of self cultivation are many, and they range from good health, inner peace to longevity. On longevity, when you cultivate, you can live a long life.
When the average lifespan was 30 to 40 years a few thousand years ago, and the taoist masters were living well beyond a hundred years, spanning three generations would have made them appear to be immortal. But they didn't stop there. The taoist went into the mountain, into seclusion, undistracted and became hermits to study nature, to study the universal law, to study how they can achieve not only superb health, great vitality, clarity of mind, but also when the time does arrive, and the body is simply recognized as a vehicle, to cast off their bodies and their spirits shall rise from their bodies and that spirit IS immortal.
In the Christian tradition Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Let me remind you that we are All children of God. So, in each and every one of us, we represent the Christ, the Sons, the daughters of God. We too, are immortal. It's a matter of you discovering your own immortality. But in order to do so, the masters of the Integral Way tradition has preserved and passed down, valuable wisdom, precious treasures of practices, teaching and meditations, Chi Gong, Tai Chi and knowledge of healing and maintaining vitality with herbs and food and the secrets of living in accordance with the natural law instead of violating it.
Accordingly, we all shall live for a very long time and achieve, at least our minimum lifespan of 120 years. Interestingly, in the book of Genesis 6:3, "Then the LORD said, My spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." In the Integral Way tradition, we also use the 120 as a cycle of life because it's made up of two cycles of 60. The first 60 years are the yang years. The second 60 years are the yin years.
And so for those of you who are still in your yang years, you need to be careful not to allow your "fire" to extinguish. And for those of you who are in your yin years which is beyond 60 years of age, it's important that you cultivate and continue to nourish yourself and to understand how to harness the precious sustenance called "jing" or essence, which comes from the benevolence of the heavens. This precious source we draw from is just like a baby draws her sustenance from her mother's breast continually and unceasingly, unless of course you cut yourself off by violating the subtle universal law.
From birth to 60 years of age you are in the growth years and it is also called yang years. One’s life is just like the seasons, you're born in spring and grow in the summer. And from ages 60 to 120 is your yin years and that corresponds to autumn and winter and in this second phase you need to make preparation for winter which means It's even more important for you to cultivate. You see, in the first half of our life, we're building our lives. We are forming new families. We are putting our energies out in a way that sustains us, by our livelihood and our productive activities. That's why it's so important to choose the right work to express your energy to who you are. Your work is an expression of your life's purpose. Choose your work wisely.
In the second phase of your life it is for you to return and provide the wisdom you have gathered and the material you've accumulated. This is the natural cycle as in early fall when the crops and grapes are harvested and we use the abundance of harvest which comes from the benevolence of heaven and earth, to nurture ourselves and our loved ones, our neighbors, our friends, our community and others. We share the wine that is made from the grape, this wine is a symbol of our diligent efforts and our wisdom, all contained in the cup that we share with others.
We use the term Wu Wei to signify that we must live our lives in our everyday action, in our every thought always maintaining naturalness and always maintaining appropriate action or inaction, and appropriate thought and that way means balance in the natural way. It means nothing too much, or nothing too little. If you exercise too little, meaning you're sedentary, your body will weaken. If you exercise too much, you will also exhaust and weaken yourself. If you eat too little, you don't have enough to sustain. If you eat too much, you will gorge yourself and cause strain to your digestive organs and develop obesity. If you say too much, you may cause opposite reactions, resistance or anger from others. If you say too little, then you have not done your part in helping others to awaken to the truth.
It's not so easy to know, ultimately, what are appropriate thoughts, words and deeds. That's why we study the spiritual books and cultivate ourselves, in our meditations and in our daily practices. Because through that, we become self aware and closer to nature and therefore shall understand and be like nature. Spring comes after winter, and when spring comes we're reborn, the Earth is renewed so I will read from the sacred spiritual book that is the Complete Works of Lao Tzu, book one is the Tao Teh Ching. I felt that Chapter 16 would be an appropriate reading for today:
"Attain the utmost unoccupiedness. Maintain the utmost stillness and do not interfere with all the things that rush together in activity and grow luxuriantly. Then you can see how living things flourish and renew themselves. Yet, they must return to the root again, each to its simple source. Knowing to return to the root is to be refreshed. This is called the secret of revitalization. To restore one's vitality is to constantly renew oneself. To know constant renewal is to have achieved clarity. If one does not know constant self renewal and thus act foolishly, disaster will soon occur. Knowing constancy in renewing oneself, one can extend the duration of one's life. If one can deeply understand the extension of life's duration, one is able to contain all things within oneself. To be all inclusive, is to be impartial. To be impartial is to realize the positive, creative virtues of heaven. To be heavenly is to be one with Tao, the subtle essence of the universe. To be one with the Tao is to enjoy everlasting life. Such a one will be preserved, even after the dissolution of his physical body."
Chapter 16 of the Tao Teh Ching encapsulated the spirit of Easter. According to Christianity, every person is a sinner and the salvation from our sin is to believe in Christ, a belief in God. But what exactly does “belief” mean? Do we simply just worship someone? A divine being? A deity? Is that all we have to do, just believe? Or is there something more that we must do and not do, act and not act, and think and not think? The essence of it is encapsulated in the Tao Teh Ching. According to the Bible, Jesus lived a sinless life. When you follow the passage here in Chapter 16, it explains what it means to be sinless. Because if you know "the how", that is the key to the kingdom.
Modern Christians know that pragmatically simply "believing" doesn't provide you the salvation for your life, but that you must also embody and live the teaching in your life. As stated in the book of Tao Teh Ching, Chapter 16, "attain the utmost and unoccupiedness and maintain the utmost stillness." First, you need to be still, and you can't get in trouble being still. And what stillness does is akin to the water in the pond, when the water is stirred you can't see the bottom but when it is still, the mud settles down to the bottom and now, you can see clearly what's in the water.
"Do not interfere with all things that rush together in activity and grow luxuriantly.” Do not interfere. This is an important understanding of Wu Wei? Early translators of the Tao Teh Ching translated Wu Wei to be “non-interference” and “do nothing”? Well, it's partially true and unfortunately does not encompass the whole meaning of Wu Wei. Do nothing may mean that you sit on your behind and do nothing to advance your life. In some way, that summarized what the hippies did in the 70s, and that didn't get them too far, until they started to live their life in earnest. The complete meaning of Wu Wei is to be proactive and be nature but not interfere artificially or unnecessarily.
"Then you can see how living things flourish and renew themselves." The observation that nature is a gift and that this gift of rebirth, renewal and the growth of all things and, "Yet, they all must all return to the root again, each to its simple source." This is why after the expansive growth of Summer, autumn arrives and trees are unburdened by the leaves. So similarly we as humans shed our clothes and return to our original nakedness, back to our root. And only by doing so, can we prepare to regrow again. We are born again.
"Knowing to return to the root is to be refreshed. This is called subtle revitalization. To restore one's vitality is to constantly renew oneself." Why do we sleep every night? Well, if you don't sleep for eight hours each night, you will not feel good the next day as you'll be sleep deprived. And if you suffer from some form of sleep apnea or you don't sleep enough, you will suffer the consequences such as aging prematurely, increasing your risks of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes. "To know constant renewal is to have achieved clarity." Only by having clarity will you know to eat the right foods, perform the right deeds, engage in the right activities and say the right words.
"If one does not know constant self renewal and thus acts foolishly. Disaster will soon occur." I have recounted numerous times of my own foolishness that nearly cost my life. I for one have been extremely lucky. And in many ways I am so blessed starting from my accidental fall from the rooftop of our three story house and suffered brain damage and spinal cord injury and lied in a coma for a month. It turned out that that one month was pivotal in my realization. I was shown the truth of life. I was able to float around the house and observe, listen to conversations and was completely aware and yet physically I was confined to a room, not conscious and not being able to move. It was then that I realized that spirit exists and that the body was simply the vehicle. I wasn't supposed to die so returned to this life to tell my story.
And there was the time when I went backpacking in Sequoia National Park at 18 years of age and got lost in the snow for seven days and thought that I may not survive. And then the time in Yosemite when I encountered a mama bear with her two cubs between her and I. When she stood up on her hind legs I knew I was in trouble. In all these situations with good luck I was able to get away to safety. When we go back in our lives and reflect on the times that we made bad decisions and choices, acted impulsively and perhaps even had our own brush of near death experiences we can see the consequences of our foolish actions and thoughts, leading to “disaster will soon occur.”
“Knowing constant renewal one can extend the duration of one's life.” I observe that my father OmNi’s life has been a perfect example of this. On a daily basis, he still gets up at 4am to begin his practice of meditation and Dao-In. And then he goes to the backyard and does Tai Chi and eight treasures qigong and at the conclusion of that he goes for a walk. After his walk he has his first meal of the day. Then he goes about the majority of the morning, reading, writing and corresponding. Up until 35 years ago he was a practicing doctor of Chinese medicine but maintained a routine of seeing patients in the morning, six days a week and around noon he eats a very light lunch and afterwards takes a half an hour nap. Even now that’s still his schedule.
After lunch and nap, he reads and curates videos for me that he finds in Chinese and English. Very sweet of him to be doing that. And then he practices more of qigong and Tai Chi and goes for a second walk.. He gets on average 12,000 steps every single day, rain or shine. And if it rains outside, he'll do the Cosmic Tour and merry-go-round which is a circle walking around the dining room table--we made sure to get him a very large dining room table. And he'll eat a little soup for dinner, meditates and then goes to bed at 8 pm. This has been my father’s routine day in and day out for as long as I’ve known him.
“If one can deeply understand the extension of life”s duration, one is able to contain all things within oneself. To be all inclusive is to be impartial.” This is why we don't define what Tao is. Because as soon as we use the intellectual mind to try to come up with the definition of Tao, then we have become partial, because there is no word in the English language that can fully encompass the true meaning and essence of Tao, just like it’s impossible to define God because the human mind tend to project what it can relate to such as a father-like figure that sits up on a throne in the sky looking down at its creations on earth. To be all inclusive is to be whole in mind and body--our perception and our actions without division or separation.
“To be impartial is to realize the positive creative virtues of heaven.” Do you not see that it is heaven that bestows and displays its benevolence upon us? If the sun stops shining, there would be no life. “To be heavenly is to be one with the subtle essence of the universe.” To realize this you must cultivate and meditate in order to gain the understanding that the subtle essence of the universe is the bosom of the Mystical Universal Mother and that she nurtures her offspring, unconditionally. She’s here and now.
“To be one with the subtle essence of the universe is to enjoy everlasting life.” When you have grasped the secret, when you have the key to the treasure box, to the kingdom, it's yours but you must set off on a lifelong journey of adventure, exploration and hard work to find the key. We are fortunate to have the Integral Way to show us the way and not have to be in the dark searching and reinventing the wheel. “Such a one will be preserved even after the dissolution of his physical body.” Once again, we explore the meaning of resurrection. As we have done this and every morning, we resurrected ourselves from our sleep, which is a form of death, to be reborn into today, here and now. So don't squander the opportunity called life that you're given and double down on your commitment and your diligence in your practice.