This talk looks into the relationship a wuweidao practitioner may have with the complex & elaborate, beautiful cultural tradition of Chinese Daoism.
2023 is the year of the Yin-Water Rabbit. What does this mean? See the description below and listen to my 2023 Yin-Water Rabbit New Year Talk. For background on this system, see my introductory post on Chinese almanac-astrology and view these YouTube videos describing the Heavenly Stems, the Earthly Branches, and the Sexagenary Cycle.
Yin-Water (guǐ, 癸) is gentle, soft, and yielding. Flowing and nurturing, yet subtle and scarce (not overflowing). Rabbit (mǎo, 卯) is sensitive, observant (ears), intelligent, and vulnerable (prey). Quick (hopping) yet gentle (soft fur). Quite aware that they are a tasty treat (cute tails and tender meat), they are in great need of reliable shelter – lacking security they are anxious and manipulative; when securely sheltered they find their power and take charge, interestingly leading from a subordinate position. They shy away from the limelight but usually have greater wisdom than those who are recognized as leaders, so they make superb advisors. They can be powerful leaders in their own right if they are nested within a secure structure – they are highly capable managers but function best in their burrow. They like to feather their nests, as fengshui-level comfort serves as an indispensable base for their life work. They value intimate relationships, but are suspicious until others earn their trust, and there is usually some agenda behind their investment in relationships related to ensuring security or forwarding their work. The “Rabbit on the Moon” describes Rabbit’s need for shelter and its power to observe the world from a high view. The native Dynamic of Rabbit is Yin-Wood; Water nourishes Wood, so this is like Rabbit with its parent – well-nourished and secure, able to rise and grow. At ease and well-supported, although this support is not inexhaustible. Rabbit is OK with a gentle stream – it doesn’t need a powerful river, but this does mean the scale stays small. Comfortable and secure, it is well-positioned to support others – albeit in a limited capacity. A bit timid when extending outward, Water Rabbit keeps the qi in & down. It is particularly sensitive and empathetic, and uncomfortable with aggression. It is careful in selecting companions, not wanting to risk harm and conserving its limited resources for a select group of worthies. Whereas Water Tiger (Rabbit’s Yang-Wood counterpart) leads its community to grandeur through harnessing collective ambition, Water Rabbit leads through natural modesty and gentleness, and although it too has a forward-looking quality, it is more about preparing for what is coming than making something happen. There is a similar energy – Water nourishing Wood, but it expresses quite differently. There is no sense of the potential to overdo things here – any caution needed simply comes naturally to Rabbit. When gentle, perceptive Rabbit has the opportunity to rise, it can lead its community to a stable and secure sense of maturity and confidence.
Water Rabbit corresponds to Hexagram #19, Earth/Valley: “Supervision”. Flowing nourishment within, meeting open potential without. This hexagram is about being part of a community whose members relate through open exchange – genuine trust and equality – and leading from below. The character (臨) shows a person with a large eye gazing down on multiple objects and suggests a fated rise to power where a lowly foot-soldier rises up the ranks to replace a leader whose power has waned. Lineage succession by one of humble means. Water Rabbit’s quality of leadership is non-domineering, supportive, sensitive. The basic image here is gazing down into the depths from a modest yet exalted position. The hexagram suggests this time won’t last forever – so the auspice is to use it well (give support, but be selective and cautious). This relates to the limited capacity of Yin-Water, and perhaps an appetite to always keep the hind-paws in retreat. The key for Water Rabbit is accepting the exalted rank fate bestows upon us without thinking it is our own doing or that it will last forever – use our sensitive and observant faculties to rectify our community and prepare those under our supervision for what comes next.
A look at the most recent Yin-Water Rabbit Year, courtesy of Recollection Road: Flashback to 1963 – A Timeline of Life in America.
For monthly updates on the Heavenly Stem & Earthly Branch of each moon, subscribe to our Dark Moon Newsletter.
(Rabbit image drawn by my daughter, who was born in a Yin-Water year)
This essay is a transcription of a recorded talk from our Wuweidao Cultivation Group; you can listen to the talk here:
This is Jacob Newell of Old Oak School of Dao, and I want to say something about Daoist learning.
Dao De Jing Chapter 48 says, “In learning daily accumulate. In Dao, daily diminish. Diminish & again diminish – that’s wuwei”.
So, when we enter the path of Daoist practice, in the beginning maybe we don’t know too much (or maybe we do know too much), but there’s a broad array of information and practices – protocols – that are part of the Daoist tradition. If we are not careful, we will approach our path as a Daoist practitioner from a largely accumulative view.
Laozi, the pith teaching of wuweidao, clearly says Dao is not at the end of a path of learning. So this teaching should moderate our appetite and the kind of aggressive, compulsive, aspirational acquisition of information about Daoist concepts and Daoist practice methods. That’s a scholar’s path – that’s a scholar’s path, it’s a different direction from Dao, according to Laozi.
Laozi does not say don’t study, don’t learn, don’t grow, don’t develop. He does, however, say that is one direction, and Dao is the opposite direction. So, diminish & again diminish. We should also understand that this diminishing direction, sometimes called alchemy (learning is what my teacher sometimes called chemistry – generation, moving in one direction, alchemy is moving in reverse) so, diminishing is removing something – we say forgetting.
Zuowang is our formal practice method. It means to sit & forget – not to practice techniques, not to engage concepts – just forget. So simple, non-accumulative – it is diminutive. But Laozi goes on to say, “diminish & then diminish again” – so diminish even diminishing. So this is where Laozi reveals what we call “sudden-path”. So our practice of forgetting is letting go of concepts, letting go of methods, and this letting go, releasing – there’s a gradual aspect to it – a qi-aspect that takes time to release and grow and stabilize. But Laozi moderates that view as well. Diminish & then diminish diminishing.
So also relaxing this idea that Dao is hidden away behind all of the stuff that we have accumulated. So, his teaching is kind of multi-dimensional here, so in one respect he certainly says, yes we need to release and let go – we already have too much. But then he goes farther and says this does not mean that we need to get rid of everything, and at the end of that process then we will arrive. Actually, all of this stuff that we have accumulated is not really – not in fact obstructing anything. If we open up into this field – we call Dao – then all this stuff is just like content in a wide-open field.
So the path of learning is, “give me more content, give me more content, give me more content.” We should not be lazy learners – we should be driven, even some aggression is okay in learning. Organized, consistent, persistent. Learn, learn, learn. But in this sitting practice it is “relaxing learning, relaxing learning, relaxing learning, relaxing learning.” Both of those have a qi-direction, right? Accumulative & diminutive. But this diminutive path of Daoist meditation – we call it method – again, it opens this field which is actually neither generative nor alchemical, neither accumulative nor diminutive – it is constant. Constant. This is the way Laozi describes Dao – as constancy. Unbroken, uninterrupted presence. This field is the context in which we appear & disappear, grow & decline. It is not a fruit of learning.
– Transcribed by Joshua Laurenzi
This talk is introduces Laozi, the Dao De Jing, Zuowang, and our Wuweidao Cultivation Group.
This talk looks at the practice of Daoist meditation in the context of living in affliction. The religious movement of Orthodox Daoism founded in the Han Dynasty recognized that the era of high antiquity was long-gone, so “Chinese Daoism” arose as a practice to rectify humankind and purify polluted spiritual dimensions. Centuries later, Buddhism influenced Daoism in its concern for human suffering, and Daoist tradition further embraced the idea of practice as refuge. Although we can perhaps relate to such a view, this talk presents an older view of meditation not based on the need to solve any fundamental problem. A glimpse into our approach to Zuowang.