2018 BTUSFMS #5 – Slowing Down, Being Still

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August 21, 2018

It’s when we slow down that we show up.
                                  Stephen Rechtschaffen

There is a principle in the Chinese martial and healing art taijiquan called, wuwei. It means “empty stepping,” or “actionless action.” By this measure, the redwoods are taiji masters. They hold stillness inviolate so long that the air in the forest reverberates with it.

Ordinarily when I ride, I am focused on a destination or a mileage, and maintain a fairly brisk, 16-17 mph pace. Last night we camped five miles into the Avenue of the Giants, which meant that 25 miles of our short ride today would continue through this magical forest. I found myself riding 8-9 mph. I just couldn’t hurry past these beings who have been at their place in the circle for a thousand to two thousand years.

I’ve practiced taiji for more than 40 years, have spent an equal number of years meditating, and still I recognize that I am a noisy novice when I’m with these trees. For those who don’t believe that trees are sentient beings, I would invite them to travel by foot or bicycle  through the Avenue of the Giants.

Theirs is a language that requires quiet to hear, but that speaks with an eloquence few can match and, I doubt, none can surpass. They stand rooted to the earth, yet their dance is filled with a grace that makes us stumble.

Now that our team of riders have left their sphere, and I sit in our campground writing this note, I can see that my responsibility is to take some of that grace, that stillness, with me, so that wherever I walk, wherever I empty-step, I can share some intimation of the gift of the big trees. At the same time, it’s also to remember that their gift is not intended to supplant the gifts of any other place or life-form, but to remind us that each place, each creation is blessed and a blessing.

This, too, is sacred ground.

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