It’s the time again: the time to look back at the current year and release whatever doesn’t belong to me anymore. I sit on the porch of the Wuji House, our private retreat facility. I’m completely alone for three days, disconnected from my partner and friends, phone. the internet, and social media. The sky, trees, birds, and deer are the only companions for my inner journey.
As I flip through my 2020 monthly calendar pages, my accomplishments, obstacles, celebrations, and surrenders come back to me. I feel joy, sorrow, elation, and fatigue, but they have already been filtered through the opaque veil of time. I look at myself in the last twelve months as a bird looks down from the high sky. I can see now where I am within the intricate fabric of life. I notice how I’m deeply connected to what is happening in the world.
I’m in the fifth year of a major transition. The last four years saw me leaving my precious life in Florida behind and embracing a new one in the Texas Hill Country. Every time when I let go of something dear to me, I trusted the flow of life and surrendered to it.
This time, I’m saying goodbye to the Balinese temple dance practice that has been a significant part of my life for the last twenty years. It is a joyful discipline and personal ritual that I have carried on even after stopping public performances a couple of years ago. I love it from the bottom of my heart. It got me through the roughest time of my life. Although my heart is forever married to this most intricate dance form in the world, my body tells me it is time to let it go.
I recently watched a beautiful Japanese documentary, Tsuruko’s Tea Journey. Tsuruko, seventy years old at the time of the program production, is a rare “catering chef” of tea ceremonies. The camera follows her as she travels throughout Japan to serve tea and ceremonial meals. She sleeps outdoors, carries heavy pots and pans into the makeshift tea ceremony spaces, and spends hours cooking elaborate meals for the people she just met on her pilgrimage. She is very sincere about her service. She pursues the most authentic way to cook, serve tea, and nurture her guests.
Tsuruko contemplates how the great 16th-century tea master, Sen-no-Rikyu, would have served tea if he didn’t die at seventy. She vows to serve her guests in Rikyu’s spirit, but her declining health makes her pilgrimage more and more challenging. Tsuruko shares her vision and struggles with a Zen high priest. After acknowledging her challenges, the priest advises her to think about being a single flower and live like that.
A single flower has an inner urge to bloom and flourish. Yet, she accepts heavy rain, drought, harsh sun, and frost without resistance. She embraces whatever happens to her as part of life and just lives.
I think of Tsuruko as I let go of my 20-year-long dance practice discipline. I then recall the priest’s words while waving to all the treasures I released during the past four years.
Live like a single flower.
It is the only thing that comes to my mind when I think of how I want to live next year and beyond.
"As a leaf falling off the branch, as the wave leaving the shore, keep flowing with life. No holding on, let it go" – Surapsari