Dear Qi Friends,
Solstice greetings from the stormy Baltic Sea! It was not my original intention to write you a greeting letter before the Year of Dragon begins in February, but this morning during our morning meditation, I felt inspired to share some of the wonderful Qi of the nature surrounding our winter retreat here in the southernmost tip of Sweden. Our temporary home is only about 100 feet from the beach and we watch the sunrise, sunset and moonlight over the sea, as well as many powerful storms, all from our living room window.
I have been amazed by the strength of life here, especially of the roses still blooming during the cold winter energy of Northern Europe. During our solstice meditation this morning, I finally feel I truly understand why the first totem of Chinese culture, before the Dragon and Tiger, was the Rose. The traditional Chinese name for China is ZhongHua 中華 (central flower), which originates from the Rose totem. The life span of the flower is short and the living conditions can be difficult, yet the rose can still share the strength of its glorious beauty with the world. Similarly, in our spiritual cultivation practice, the Master will remind us that we must always go through gruel and turmoil in order to reach true Enlightenment. There is a common phrase in the Chinese education system, “MeiHua Xiang Zi KuHan Lai 梅花香自苦寒來”, which means that the wonderful fragrance of the plum blossom is born of the harsh winter. I took a photo of a beautiful rose blooming outside of our house, right after our meditation.
Just in front of our house, on the dunes before the beach, is a rectangular stone ‘circle’ from the Iron Ages. It is known locally as “Disas Ting”. In Swedish, ting is a community gathering place for legal hearings, and Disa a legendary wise woman from this area. I have been thinking about this wonderful, long stretching time period of human history when Laozi, Buddha, Confucius, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, etc, came to share their wisdom. When I was young, I wished I had lived in that time period so I could study with the old Masters directly. We often seek things that are out of reach to help us, forgetting both our own inner strength and the support of what is around us. Disa reminds us that wise people have existed everywhere, famous or not. With her speechless stone circle, she teaches us the same wisdom found in the Chinese classics: SheJinQiuYuan 舍近求遠, which means we throw away what is close and seek what is remote. My interpretation of this is that although we tend to look far away for the answer, the Dao is actually always very close, within ourselves.
I took a photo of the sunset of this darkest day of the year. The sun is not that bright, yet it still warms our hearts. On this day, we know that tomorrow the days will start getting longer and brighter. I am reminded of this as I drink my favorite Red Robe tea. After sipping the first bitter notes of the tea, I can feel the sweetness of the tones that shortly follow.
In January, I will start sharing teaching again after a few months personal retreat. Karin and I are looking forward to hosting a number of workshops in Sweden and making another trip to the UK for some weekend workshops, lectures and sharing tea with friends. I hope to see some of you again soon.
Love Qi from Karin and I,
PS We have received many supportive emails since my last greeting letter, some from old friends and some from people we have not yet met. We want to thank you for your generous hearts.