I’ve read enough stories about Taoists achieving oneness in their meditative practices, and then going outside and being able to identify themselves with the trees, the sky, the rocks, and the grass. And it’s a beautiful thing. And it happens to me too. A lot actually.
But that’s only one aspect of reality.
At my office, for two hours every day before my clinic shift starts, I meditate, recite my Taoist scripture, and practice my qigong and tai chi forms. If I’m lucky, I can do it after my clinic shift.
Now mind you, I work in the East Rogers Park neighborhood of the city of Chicago, and on the busiest street as well. So I’m right smack dab in the heart of “everything.” By “everything,” I mean that it’s nothing but traffic and construction noises, loud conversations from pedestrians passing by, sirens from ambulances, firetrucks, and police cars, and sometimes even gunshots (I heard five the other day and a couple last week). From time to time there are gangbangers congregating right outside of my storefront, and sometimes there’s even hookers and drug dealers. And when the high school lets out between 2:30p to 3:30p, I refuse to go outside because that’s when all the attempted murders happen. And it all doesn’t occur at night, nor in the alley… but in broad daylight right smack dab on my street. And it’s all committed by people under the age of 20 popping off at seemingly random people. And being a minority male myself, other minority males will want to mistake me as a rival gangbanger.
That’s my fucking reality. There aren’t any trees or grass or sparrows or flowers outside to call “me.”
I would imagine that many or most people who call themselves Taoists (or spiritualists in general) who may live in grassy-green retreat-like peaceful areas of our country may have a hard time cultivating the Tao in such a chaotic backdrop. I don’t blame them though, because hearing constant noises from police cars, ambulances, guns, and general urban ruckus could be a bit jarring for most. It still is for me.
But that’s the beauty of my practice. Working on maintaining your center amidst the chaos is fucking awesome. It’s like that feeling that Chuang Tzu mentions about perfected people… walking into fire without getting burnt, jumping into water without getting wet… is what it all feels like when I’ve successfully cultivated in the middle of the concrete jungle. I don’t do it successfully 100% of the time, but when I’m locked in, it feels incredible.
But not only that, but it might be a true challenge for people to find “Not Two” in the middle of that. It is for me. And it’s easy for me to see myself in a tree or peace of grass. But what about that drug dealer? The gangbangers outside with the teardrop tattoos, or the 13 year old hooker trying to find a john for the hour? Or that dead 19yo lying dead with a hole in his head in the middle of the McDonalds parking lot a few doors away. Aren’t they me as well?
You bet your sweet ass it is.
As an Urban Taoist Monk, you have to accept Taoism at its absolute most fundamental concept of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang (or the Taiji symbol) represents the universe, and the universe in and of itself is reality. Trees, grass, the moon, the stars, and the sun are reality, but so are gun-toting teens, the screaming pedestrians running from the mental health facility, and young prostitutes. They’re reality too. And therefore you have to accept them as “Not Two” as well. Otherwise you’re just full of shit. Don’t even tell me how you can be one with everything in your posh and peaceful surroundings if you can’t do the same in the urban jungle.
[But just be careful here, accepting these horrible things as reality is not the same as condoning criminal behavior. In no way do I condone criminal behavior.]
So when I’m on my meditation cushion or reciting scripture or practicing my qigong, all of the above experiences is the universe, all of it is reality, and all of it is me. There has to be “Not Two” in everything that you do and see and hear and taste and feel and experience. Consistency on every level is so important to me (though many times I mess up, but hey, this blog is about my learning and evolution).
This is just me talking to myself. I think this whole blog is just me talking to myself.