As a young girl I begged to be sent to Summer Camp. Each year I pleaded to stay longer and longer until one year I got to spend close to two months at my favorite adventure spot in Northern Minnesota. I fell asleep under the Perseid meteor shower and the Northern lights. I woke to bird song carried into my tent by the cool morning breeze. I can still hear the tune of cicadas as their song arced throughout dusk's filtered sun. It all gave me a feeling for the infinite.
It was hard to come home after those months. It was the Midwest in the 60's, a very conservative place with strident definitions of right and wrong, religious ideologies, and generalized certainties. Very little of those divisive times synced up with me the way my experiences in nature did. I didn't quite understand why I felt adjacent to it all and I became isolated and depressed. To survive my cultural surroundings I played outside as long as I could - until the street lights went on - and waited for summer camp time to come back.
I don't remember exactly when or why but one year I stopped going. I sat in my room and listened to the music of the times, and watched the world blow up around me. Kent State, Martin Luther King, the Vietnam War and Stairway to Heaven. Somewhere in the middle of all that I found the writings of Alan Watts. I had never been acquainted with Eastern philosophy or the concept of Yin/Yang before but it was a life-line for me; the idea that nothing is absolute, that everything changes, made sense to my gut the way my earlier experiences in nature did.
I began my quest to more deeply understand. Having few resources at hand I sought out the dead end of drugs and alcohol. Luckily I changed my course and moved away from home. I found the Martial & Internal Meditative Arts and have been at their study with abandon ever since. I have lived and travelled in Japan and South East Asia and still travel to China to this day so I may steep myself in ancient cultures that figured this Yin/Yang thing out a long time ago. I do not idealize these cultures by any means but when my foot falls on their soil my heart feels at home in a very real way.
It is clear my life unfolded from those early experiences. Much of how I spend my time in day to day life now, what interests me the most, is the the inquiry into and the contemplation and practice of yin/yang flow. Most of the time I feel for how to navigate the change that is all around. When I doubt this I go to the garden. I remember Spring turns into Summer, Fall and Winter. Cicadas sing and sleep. The days are light and then night comes.
I find the world right now gives me more and more chances to tug on that early lifeline. The absolutes and dogmatic view points our culture and really our world is attached to has put many of us in survival mode. Our human mind is out of control. It is grasping for something solid that has little sense of the infinite. We have forgotten camp and the night sky. Our heart suffers. I don't think it is unreasonable to feel a sense of dis-ease and anxiety in the face of all this. At the same time we can't live in this state with any long term success and have to find a way to be in it as we go through it.
One year I was in Standing Meditation with my Taijiquan grand teacher, Chen Xiao Wang. Time dissolved in a way that felt like I was canoeing along the lake at camp. When we finished he said to me, "100 minutes." I was so surprised! I said, "all I heard were the birds singing." He replied,"When the mind is quiet you hear the birds sing. When it is not, all one hears is squawking." The story resonates. Somewhere we need to find refuge in quieting ourselves down right now. Yes, time will pass and it is likely what happens in that time will be painful and unpleasant for many people. And yet everything does change and we are part of that too. Yin changes to Yang and back to Yin again. It is written in the night sky, in the cicada's song. We must nurture our lifeline, watch and act with a clear mind and be ready.