“While I know myself as a creation of God, I am also obligated to realize and remember that everyone else and everything else are also God’s creation.”
-The Amazing Maya Angelou
I recently had the pleasure of journeying up into Laochuan Mountain, an hour outside of Taipei which is far enough removed from the city but still close enough to overlook it. This easy distance from Taiwan’s bustling capital hosts thick forests of old and new growth, steep cliffs, hiking trials, narrowing and harrowing roads, gorgeous palms, giant spiders and tea gardens. The altitude and moist temperatures make it the ideal climate to grow tea leaves and is also an ideal place to be devoured by mosquitoes.
While in the hills I met two Zen Masters, Master Liu and Master Huang of the infamous U-Theatre who invited me to enjoy tea and meditation and converse about life and art. Their philosophy, “Art is Life and Life is Art” introduced me to a whole new view of life and art by suggesting they are one in the same. I often say onstage, “How you do anything is how you do everything.” This is the same philosophy.
The masters asked, “How do you drink your tea?” Do you guzzle it down quickly, or are you conscious to your movements; pouring the tea, adding sugar, bringing the cup to your lips, enjoying the flavor and temperature on your tongue… Or are you busy with thought? This is the basic idea of Zen. Zen is about sustaining a meditative state; truly living in the moment, being artful in every breath. Meditation doesn’t always mean sitting in repose, with your eyes closed for hours on end. Meditation can be while you walk, surf, cycle, sing, dance, cook, draw, drive, whatever, so long as you aren’t consumed with thoughts about the past or lost in a made-up future. Master Huang asked, “Can you hear the birds singing?” If so, then you’re meditating. The birdsongs are almost always playing but we lose the sound of them to our own misguided thoughts. By slowing down to the natural speed of our breath, we can again be present to the beautiful songs of the birds, the sound of the wind, in tune with nature, at peace, where true love resides, where hearts and minds are aligned, where bodies heal, and life is consciously enjoyed. At this pace one begins to see life in all it’s glory. At this pace it is much easier to accept it. From this place comes compassion and understanding, which then only leads to greatness as you feel a deeper connection with the earth, its inhabitants, and whatever your connection to source may be. This is why meditation is important. It’s no different than prayer. It’s about taking a few minutes to get centered, listen, ask, learn, love, and let go.
When in Morocco I was most impressed with my Muslim friends who stopped and prayed 5 times a day. It made so much sense to do so as after each session they would return so blissed-out and happy.
Can you hear the birds singing?