This upgrade is taking longer than I thought it would, so here’s a bit of niftiness to tide you over.
This is a prayer-of-sorts that gets said at the Shaolin Temple. It’s accompanied by a “moving meditation” that a layperson would say looked something like Taiji, but which after doing it a while I have to admit, really adds to the experience of the thing. (It also slows it down a lot — it looks weird to me in writing, because it’s never said half as fast as the mind reads it.) I’ve heard it once in Chinese but couldn’t replicate that in a million years, so here’s the probably-clumsier English version. (This is said four times, once for each direction. We call it, shockingly, “the Four Directions”.)
Where fire burns, and water cleanses
I am a tree in the wind;
Looking at the world, I gather the best that I see
I refine it* to save what is good, and wash away what is not.
I am one with God**;
I embrace the tiger, and return to the mountain***.
* The idea of the prayer is to formally “get in the world”, so besides including the four directions, it includes the Five Elements: Water, Fire, Wood (tree), Metal (refining) and in the next line, Spirit.
** We agree in class that this is simply the most convenient English term, though in places where brevity isn’t as necessary, some people use “Great Spirit” instead (a nod to the “Spirit” component of the Five Elements). I like “Great One” myself; it places more emphasis on the allness and unity of the thing. The word is understood to be unimportant; HOWEVER, note that the “thing” (not really a thing) actually being referred to here is NOT a personal God like in the Western tradition; I’ll try to discuss what it “is” another time.
***See my other post for some explanation of what this awesome, awesome imagery means.