As usual it is quite an experience to be suddenly plunged into the madness of China; the millions of people, the noise and random events, the late-summer
afternoons with card-playing in the streets and mischievous children avoiding naps. But it is an absolute joy to be here. The weather been cloudy and
rainy but with the warm air and lack of wind it does not seem to matter.
Life has become practice. There is no work, no play, no calls or appointments to make or answer and no emails to send; except this one of course, which is a pleasure! No matter how many times I have been here it still feels like an incredible gift to have this short time to give to practice. Day-to-day concerns and habitual thought patterns slowly disintegrate and the body and heart begin to soften and open. It is hard to describe the feeling of the day beginning in the warm darkness, going out to the practice court at 5.30am before the mind has been made up about anything; doing qi gong and watching the light arriving. Each day is filled with eating, sleeping, learning new movements and practicing old ones. And each day includes laughter, childishness, sweating and stretching, meditation, a deepening understanding and quietude.
Yu Xu Gong temple is currently celebrating its 600th birthday, and the whole school was in attendance at the ceremony this morning (see photos). What an experience. Security was tight with some very senior government officials present, we arrived there at 7am and had 3 hours of standing around before suddenly being told to “do taiji” at the moment the ceremony closed and the officials came our way. What we weren’t prepared for was a hundred boxes of fireworks going off about 20 feet away. It was very surreal. Master Yuan was leading the form so we had to follow but there was some kind of survival instinct that said to run and seek cover. It felt, and looked like, bombs were going off right next to us and the smoke and noise were overwhelming. Master Yuan continued as if nothing was happening but I compromised on the internal survival struggle by crouching down and covering my ears while his back was turned, and I definitely wasn’t the only one. It was actually fairly scary and once again I was amazed at China’s extreme lack of safety awareness or our over-obsession with it. Im not sure which it is. True enough there were no injuries and it was impressive but bits of boxes and firework casings exploded and dropped onto us, so it could be either. Doing taiji in those conditions was pretty hilarious. But despite this it was amazing to see the temple with thousands of people in it after being just us practicing there for the last three years. It heralds a big change but not necessarily a bad one; temples like people and the incense and prayers were welcome in the air.