retreat, return, backwards-flowing

Much can be learned from Distance – in particular the distance allowed us by Time.

Needing a little distance just recently, a little wilderness, and following an inner prompt, I took myself to the north of England, to the skies and changeable autumn weather of the high Yorkshire moors; the journey there, the finding of an isolated cottage falling into place with wu wei ease.

This was a personal retreat intended to be filled by the meditation of walking and quiet sitting.

After just a few hours I realised that in coming away from day-to-day (largely urban) struggles, that my sense within – within the body, within the mind – was less one of retreating, far more one of return – even to a place where I had never before been.

In this there is a similitude in acquiring the Forms, the arts, of Tai Chi: with gentle, regular practise – perhaps over years – we move away from the struggle of learning, gradually towards the distant, still return – to ourselves.  It is one of those particularly Taoist paradoxes: though Time and our steps process in their proper direction, we may feel or experience and be aware of the backwards-flowing*, the ever-so-gentle tug of our returning to the Source…

In Yorkshire, walking the October heather, startling grouse, just a mile or so from my hermit cell – (the edge-of-moor cottage was converted from a tiny C19th chapel) – I found this standing-stone (below). Its form struck me immediately, and with some potency, as embodying that of the Bodhisattva Kuan Yin (in Lordly Ease guise), which, as you may know has a particular place in my study. It is in her/his being and compassion that the ancient wisdom of Taoism and of Chinese Buddhism come mystically together, bringing solace to the human heart.

Backwards-flowing: from porcelain… to wood… to stone…


I do not call myself Buddhist: I have never made the triple vow. Nor do I call myself Taoist, as to name that would be to lose it. But where these living – distant – traditions weave their continuity, make their silk-brocade encounter and coming together… there, I have a mind to remain, to abide.

* backwards-flowing: an expression that appears in both classical Taoist
and Chan Buddhist texts, referring to breathing and meditation practices.
* I hope the museums from where I have borrowed these two images
will forgive me for infringement of their Rights.

© November 2013