Shun Yuan, the author of the lovely poem above, is a student of the Tao (also called the Way), an Adept of Taiji martial arts, and the primary subject of Robert Shaeffer’s truly remarkable forthcoming book, 10 Methods of the Heavenly Dragon. I asked him to enhance the experience of the poem with his commentary, which is below:
As a novice I was convinced that I was living in darkness. I was “looking” everywhere for “enlightenment”. I knew intellectually that I was “in the forest of the Tao” and might even have had a vague sensation of the forest all around me, but this was drowned out by the insistent urge to “keep looking”, caused by the notion that “I haven’t found it yet”. Even while making progress forwards I berated myself for the fact that it was “stumbling” and blamed my own “blindness” for the state of darkness I was living in. If only I could “see” the truth!
It was through an entirely unexpected avenue that the first hint of awareness came. As far from my preconceived notions as my foot is from my eyes. So strange and unexpected it was that it felt as if it had happened by “pure luck”. I did not then have the understanding that my every step and my stumbling gait were intimately part of my foot meeting that root. Even less did I understand the significance of a seed falling in a certain place ages ago and the effect on the growth of the tree that the passage of the seasons ever since had had. Nor did I have the experience of long years of reliance on the Tao to recognize that these moments of magnificent good fortune are all around and demonstrate the abundance of the Tao.
Stopped in my tracks, stillness came to me then at that perfect moment. I still name it a magnificent gift!
Penetrating deep into me in that quiet state, yet another blossoming of awareness, yet again through an entirely unexpected but intoxicating way. Then suddenly the life of the forest is revealed all around me and in that same instant I gaze upon the shining star which had always been there for the eye to see, had my head not been lowered to the dirt looking for “something precious”.
In the physical methods of my Order, one talks of three “levels” or perhaps more correctly “modes” of work. The tree represents the first mode called the “fixed way”. Novices spend a lot of time working on their physical structure. The exercises are strictly defined and “feeling wooden” is a very common statement to hear from them.
After some time, the body learns to relax into the new form which it is taking on. The movements become much looser and more fluid. This “living way” is represented by the leaping stag.
Ultimately, one sheds any notion of a predetermined form and allows the energy to flow freely. This “changing way” is represented by the light of the star.
With much love,