The Heart of the Matter
Many years ago, I often got stuck. Like really stuck. I don’t get stuck anymore. For a time, and so for years of self-formation, I was quite an unhappy, insecure camper to the wide arms of heart matters and life. Gladly, caterpillars and butterflies exist, bees make honey, and snakes shed skin.
My teacher, Master Ou Wen Wei, who I met ten years ago this year, (on December 6, 2010 to be exact), creator of the practice of Pangu Shengong, advises that I instruct my actions and thoughts with a humility and a calm, and that I inform my dreams and my goals with a tolerant perspective and a diligence and a perseverance to stay the course. He encourages that I see love in all things and that I seek it over hate.
This toolbox and guiding way alone – so the focus on the efficacy of my virtues, a broad approach, and how I show up— has enabled me to better my life more than any other life instruction I have imbibed. When I am standing in my virtue of a loving calm, I am living a standard of behavior; I am not standing in my thoughts. I am as far away from opinion. Now I notice things, and I take care to notice things, so that I may truly enjoy a happier and healthier and peaceful life. In all honesty, it is no easy task, but that is the fun of it.
Master Ou supports thoughtful action that resolves a repairing the world and the deeper outer and inner world that we each live. Repair for him is not just about rote acts of kindness or in our philanthropic mission, though this is a nice start. It is about a wider service of caring and mercy to our family. How do we define family? How do we contribute to it and help it along? What is family? Master Ou often asks his students to observe, and to take a good look.
We all belong to the Family of Man and we are all linked to the Family of The Great Nature. We often forget how deeply our essential nature exists in a truth to this wide, overarching frame. We are each a custodian to it all, that is the family of strangers, the family of community, and the family of neighborhood all at the same time. These family textures add scope to our way of life and color our world with an invitation to love and an invitation to perspective. It is where we are challenged to rise in our humanity, to wonder, to play.
Many of us will encounter a family of colleagues and the family of our peers along our way. We as much each create our family of friends; and, we each carry the family of our parents and loved ones. Here is where we learn of that of which we are made in context to our shared triumphs and disappointments. Most important to this entire family system is the family of one’s own heart thought as well as the family of intention we formulate in our minds and with our eyes. How do we show up to each family circle of which we are part? How do we enhance and support its operational harmony?
It would seem that the most simple acts of love and kindness can be demonstrated to our family members and to our own selves. It isn’t so easy, life lets us know, and yet Master Ou encourages that we look at the areas where we have the most difficulty and that we make the initial step toward facing these discomforts in some challenges. We stand little chance to healing the greater “macro” circle of which we are all part unless we each teach ourselves how to best live in a healing calm with the many intersecting aspects of our “micro” families. Many of us choose to withdraw or sequester from our discomforts. Many of us resist. Many of us choose indifference, or a total lack of empathy or concern, which is a more dangerous solution than hate—because it is the exact opposite of love. Yet, we can only truly deal with the strains, problems and struggles we carry by consciously reflecting on what we of our own bring and do not bring to things. Do we love enough?
We often try to fix things. We also often run away from things. A great deal of the time we also fuss. For Master Ou, it really is about just staying calm to things. This loving, calm approach is what fixes things, has you expand beyond your fears, and what has you and I find more helpful and selflessly generated solutions. That and asking yourself: In this moment right here, right now, how can I best love? And how can I help myself to stay consistent and calm to my love? How can I stay kind for kindnesses’ sake? How can I show up for others and be present to my love without any attachments to an outward gain or to some expectation? How can I make my own heart to things more awake?
The times I fall short in my day are when I get lost in an over-attachment to my thoughts and to how I believe things must fall into place. The times I succeed are when I stay connected and self-aware to my virtue in a calm and the good love from which all else relationally flows. As I train my brain to lead myself from a space of loving calm towards things, I just don’t know my resiliency because I can better receive the frequency of my own self-knowledge. I become efficient to a higher resourcefulness and more helpful to the energy that is directing the story in all things.
Master Ou suggests we take to this practice of Calm in a patient and active way and that we stay objective and take care to not point fingers to why things are what they are and the way things go on in the world. He asks that we stick to the virtue of a loving calm in all things and just stay the course. This can be difficult as we have to let go of our expectations, often our illusions, and especially our pride. When we think about what tests us though, be it our patience, our role, our beliefs, we are simultaneously at a juncture of choice. We can close to what is or we can choose to be expansive in our understanding. I have learned by watching Master Ou that it is when we are “standing under” with a heart that is truly humble to events as they are that we can lessen tensions we feel to a situation and increase our compassion to it as a result.
When we practice calm as a way of life, we also invite ourselves to become whole human beings. We can see greater parts and a greater roundtable of perspective and we can change how we respond and communicate, so that love finds a door. We also can better hold out our love regardless of the variety in behavior we may receive. We learn to become unconditional to whatever is.
Human nature is a funny thing. Humans are great natural critics of what works and what doesn’t in others. Curiously, humans are not great natural critics of giving a fair shake to the same observations of themselves. Is this helpful? asks Master Ou with a laugh.
Many of us have been lucky to enough to experience the loveliness of calm as a sensation during a lovely daydream, while watching a sunrise or sunset, marveling at or petting an animal, communing with Nature or holding a sleeping baby, that interesting sensation we sometimes meet after a storm of butterflies in our tummy from where we suddenly “know” ourselves, and those cool dancer moments when we sometimes lose ourselves in a great mental or creative activity and connect ourselves to a space where time has no border. We feel limitless in these moments because we are teaching our brain to breathe in flow. We feel oneness and a great filling peace because we are deeply connected to our truth at the same time we are letting go. We all love calm and curiously we don’t typically seek it as a way of everyday living, everyday walking, and everyday being. What if we breathed more calm into our ways of life? And what if we agreed to befriend calm and welcome it as our primary way to lead every moment of our life?
Why is Master Ou so focused in calm? Maybe it’s because when we stress or live stressed we pollute everything of our body and heart and our potential from its original power. When we choose calm, we purify our hearts, our bodies and our body-mind. When we live in calm, we help everything in our body and in our Being find its own internal medicine to things. That is why honoring calm as a high virtue—so making it the leader of your life playbook — and teaching yourself how to have fun with it, especially, when situations seem disjointed from that possibility, is especially wise.
I don’t know about you but when I watch myself in relation to events within and about me and when I watch world news, it becomes clearly evident that any matter of love or agitation is entirely in our control. On which side of the spectrum would you like to live your best life and most be?
Breathing and being with yourself in calm—for the kindness of others—and for the greater kindness to yourself — throughout every corner and juncture of life is not a simple thing. But it sure makes life easy! It takes patience and a determination to really get there. Calm can then be appreciated as a muscle we need to practice, strengthen and deepen every day.
Calm is indeed a profound thing.
Funny. Theo is smiling by my side as I wrote that. For him it’s simple, I imagine. Just think like a dog, he seems to say. Be unconditional and calmly loving to all things. And when you get lost, be good to yourself, and think and behave like you want your dog to see and know that you are.
This is a heart month and a wise reminder to us to watch our heart prints. The Lunar Year or Chinese New Year of the Spring Festival has commenced for the exceptional teacher in Master Ou. This is also a month of heart and its health rests on warmth and an intelligent love. Let us be judicious in how we choose to jumpstart our year. Let us be proud to get on with the privilege and business of living. Appreciate your heart. Choose calm and love whatever it is, and let yourself go from there!
Photography by Marina Mashaal