Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist Monk and teacher, known to his students as Thay, wrote:

If you are a poet, you will see clearly

that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper.

Without a cloud, there will be no rain:

without rain, the trees cannot grow:

and without trees, we cannot make paper.

The cloud is essential for the paper to exist.

If  the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot

be here either.

(The Miracle of Mindfulness, trans.Mobi Ho, Rider Books, 1991)

At a family retreat several years ago, I watched Thay pour a cup of tea from his thermos. He went on to speak of the cloud in his teacup. It’s the same idea. We are like the paper or the tea in that we too are constituted from the elements of nature.

In tai chi when we talk about Yin, or Earth energy, and Yang, or the energy of the heavens, we can notice that, like Thay’s cup of tea, we are also made of these elements. We can feel our connection to the earth below us through our legs and feet, our root. With our spine and the crown of our head reaching skyward, we can feel the energy of the heavens above us. In tai chi practice, we draw upon these energies using the gestures of the form, our breath, and mind intent–the three corrections. As we breath in yin and yang, these energies mix in us to create more vitality for our life. This is the essence of our practice.

Every day I make time to look around and connect to the nature around me. It might just be taking in the morning sky as I drive to work as the sun is rising, or taking a moment to look around at the trees in our yard before getting in the car.

03 winter sunWinter Sun, collage, 2014