Qigong Readings

Readings used during Qigong at Cowdray Hall on Saturday, March 7th 2020:

The reading was heavily edited to allow the spoken word to flow more freely.

Miming a tea ceremony . . . & the old village (p161) from A Zen Wave by Robert Aitken

Once, as a young Zen student, I visited my teacher’s tea hut in Kyoto.  We had no utensils with us, so we mimed the ceremony.  As I drank the tea of no-taste, the teacher asked, “How old is that bowl?”
I replied, “It is so old, I cannot remember its age.”  Though praised for my answer, at the time I had no understanding of its significance.  It is with the old that we touch the timeless, the dimension that is neither old or new.

The true cause of distress — in Japan, in the United States, and everywhere — lies in the sense of losing the ancient.  Loss of the ancient means loss of the realisation of the timeless in the present time, whenever an old tree is cut, whenever a landmark is razed.

The village is old;
No house
Without a persimmon tree.

“Old village” is an idiom that strikes a deep chord in all Japanese, even today.  It refers to the ancestral home, perhaps the place where one was born, perhaps not, but certainly the place of one’s personal roots.  When such places are destroyed, the roots of the individual wither.  In this haiku, the author Basho comes across a truly ancient village, each house with its own full grown persimmon tree.  With an experience of the ancient, he is in touch with the timeless.

Readings used during Qigong at Cowdray Hall on Saturday, February 1st 2020:

These readings arose from plan and serendipity.


I had planned to read some haikus from Robert Aitken’s book, only one was read. Instead I was led to to passages on the theme of every act being a rite or ceremony, “a life-and-death matter of awareness.” (Thich Nhat Hanh, The Miracle of Being Awake)


Then a chance encounter with a bookshelf led me to this wonderfully tongue-in-cheek parable.


PS: An additional haiku that chose not to be read has been added.


The Fish & the Water, taken from The Magic Monastery by Idries Shah


A fish is the worst source of information on water.


It does not know that water is there when it is present, and only becomes agitated by its absence.


Even when deprived of it, the fish does not know what his problem is - only that he feels bad, even desperate.


There is a fable about fish. They sat that when a fishes scooped out of the water and lies gasping on the bank, he regards his misfortunes as stemming from anything and everything that he can think of. Sometimes he fights, sometimes he gives up. Sometimes he thinks that he should fight the trees, the grass, even the mud, as authors of his misfortunes. But it only by accident that he ever flips back into the water. When he does he thinks how clever he has been. Generally, however, he dies.


Fish never see the net of know the hook. At best they blame the worm on the hook, the ropes to which the net is attached.


How sad to be a fish! How fortunate to be a man!



“I’m a fire engine . . . (p156), taken from A Zen Wave by Robert Aitken


“I’m a fire engine!” shouts the child, “RRRrrr!” We hold ears and smile patronisingly, imprisoned in our plans for the future and our memories of the past. Another time, we perhaps scold the child for dawdling over breakfast, when actually she is noticing carefully the difference each bite makes upon a brown island of cereal in a sea of white milk.



Haikus by Basho, taken from A Zen Wave


How cool —
A noonday nap
With feet against the wall


How many, many things
They bring to mind —
Cherry blossoms!