Chapter Twenty Nine II
I wasn’t there.
I mean there was no sense of a me
that was separated from anything.
I don’t know how else to say it.
Janah suggests to Hue that she translate his work into English, then organize it into a single compendium on herbs and herbal remedies. He enthusiastically agrees, delighted that the young woman is willing to take on such a potentially tedious task. Janah thinks his work should be formally recorded and organized. It is far too valuable as a body of knowledge to be kept in stacks of degrading notebooks in Hue’s meticulous Chinese. Hue isn’t young, and doing it while he is alive to explain subtleties allows for greater clarity. She would translate by hand, then type out the English in Word. Later, she has a temple full of monks to enter the characters for a Chinese version. Students can take digital photos of the herbs at different stages of growth, then detailed shots about which part, flower, leaf, stem or root to use. Also how the appear dried, and what the concoctions look like when they are finally prepared.
Janah discusses the project with me as we lay together before sleep. It would take a long time, she has many things to do. It might take a year or more translating and typing if she did it full time.
“Ask Sis, She’ll jump at it, be done in a third of the time.”
“Brilliant. You’re pretty smart for a martial artist.”
“My fee is…”
“Be silent. You’ve been teasing me with those infinite legs since we came in. I’m going to pay you, then your bonus will be to do that thing with your tongue and my tush. It feels sooo good.”
“I’m anal retentive, a perfectionist. You are lusciass perfection, and you get so squirmy wet hot that all I have to do is run my fingertips over your clit and bang, off you go.”
“I’m getting juicy in anticipation…spread ‘em, Legs,” Janah proceeds to make me bright, then luminous, then blindingly brilliant indeed.
The next day Janah calls and asks Susan for help in clarifying the English text, organizing the files and creating both indexes and glossaries. Susan gives her an instant enthusiastic yes, particularly as it gets her into the temple on a regular basis. When she starts, she’s like a kid, watching me practice, seeing Janah being sought out by the monks, seeking her counsel. It was one thing to talk about it at home, quite another to see, firsthand, Janah as Master J.
Susan finds it difficult to explain to the family after her first few days of work. The days spread out over three weeks, Susan in twice a week. She spends time at the condo thinking about how to cross reference everything, how to make the books both complete and easy to use. She involves both Chris and Lacy in the project. Lacy corrals girls at Chapmans fluent in Chinese to help with organization from an average Chinese user’s point of reference, not a Shaolin monk’s view. When the Qi Masters hear about the extent of Janah’s work, they have fun with her at one of the discussion sessions.
Master Zhang, “Master J, Hue tells me you are translating all his work into English.”
Janah, “Yes, all my moms are helping, and the headmaster of Chapmans School and two Chinese students there. It’s turned in to quite a collaborative effort. We want to make Master Hue’s work available in Chinese and English. It started out to be just for the us. I thought it might be helpful to make most of it available to anyone interested. Master Hue kindly agreed to let me expand the project a bit. There’s such a wealth of botany, herbal recipes, plant care and nutrition information.”
Master Chu, “You going to make Hue famous, maybe he will go on Oprah, like Dr. Phil.”
Master Zhang, “Hue might get his own show, The Hue Way.”
Janah, “Should we do another book, Qi With Chu, make our temple wealthy, with many television celebrities?”
Master Zhang, “Good thing my name doesn’t rhyme easily.”
Master Sung, “Old men not pretty enough for television.”
Master Hue, “Then Master J has to be spokesperson for all. Maybe we put her on QVC, peddle Shaolin books to mass audience. New York Times bestseller, she can go to bookstores, sign many copies.”
Janah is giggling, the Qi Masters laugh at the idea of themselves on television, posing for book jackets, arguing playfully about whether it would be Zhang and Chu or Chu and Zhang.
Master Kahn speaks, still smiling at our antics, “Too many big deal Shaolin here for gung fu man. Now I have to get Master J to write Secrets of Shaolin Gung Fu, one page only, Chapter One, Work Hard, The End.”
Janah, “That would be the Shaolin book of everything Master Kahn. I’m not sure people outside understand, the endless practice and learning. A day as a monk would exhaust most people.”
Master Sung, “Hue has been diligent about keeping his notes, and now we will have them as references for years to come. We seek to avoid attachment to material things. Books are accumulated wisdom to help each monk in their mission. Not as things to be possessed, rather as tools to relieve suffering. We appreciate Master J, her family and friends taking on this important task.”
Janah bows, there is nothing to say, only to accept the thanks with humility and to do the job well.
The first few times monks came to find Janah, Susan assumed the bowing and deference are a only matter of simple politeness. Janah would go off, Susan kept working on cleaning up the translated text, Janah returning a while later. Once though, the fifth week, Janah had been called out and Susan took a few minutes to stretch and watch me in the practice area. Susan walks down the courtyard a short distance to get a better angle and passes a room where Janah sits cross legged, hands folded in her lap. Two disciples are kneeling in front of her, faces to the ground. Susan watches silently as they straighten up, sitting on their knees. They begin asking Janah a series of questions, which Susan can’t hear. Janah responds either with her tilted head, or a few brief words. Susan walks on, watches gung fu practice for a while, then turns to go back to the computer. The two monks who had been with Janah pass, talking between themselves.
“The Buddha’s instruction is so clear, so direct. It’s a blessing to have the smoke disappear, to see the flame.”
Susan assumes they were talking over some spiritual point with Janah about the teaching of the Buddha from 2500 years ago.
Then the second monk speaks, “Yes, Master J is always clear. It seems so obvious when she explains it. Still, it takes infinite patience to carry out in real life. One always sees the necessity after her instruction. She often transmits understanding with only her eyes, no words at all.”
They continue on, still in discussion, out of Susan’s hearing range.
‘Oh my god,’ Susan says to herself, ‘They’re talking about Janah. They’re talking about Daphne’s Janah, the girl who just a few years ago popped up on our doorstep. The quiet white haired girl my daughter lives for. The one that giggles uncontrollably at Daphne’s antics, who loves to touch her, to watch her every movement, that loves Daphne unreservedly.’ Susan had heard the words, seen Janah’s skills, mental, physical, her healing ability. Seeing an actual interaction with the monks, their clear devotion, overwhelms her. She stands at the edge of the courtyard, tears falling. That the word is not the thing flashes in her mind. Now she understands, not with a verbal understanding, the thing itself, who Janah is, that I am part of her. She trembles at the beauty of it.
She thinks, ‘I wish Ms. Alva could have been here for all of this; God, how she would have loved every minute.’
Janah appears, Susan is still lost in the moment. Janah had seen her outside the door when she was with the disciples, understood what Susan realized and the powerful emotional impact it had. Up until today it had all been an idea. Janah hooks her arm in Susan’s and walks with her to the computer room.
Susan, “Now I really understand. It is so beautiful watching you with the monks, seeing Daphne at her art, knowing she is in your heart. I....”
Janah puts her fingers on Susan’s lips, tilting her head the way she did, soft smile. Susan nods, it is beyond anything she could adequately express. I come in, having heard the conversation, feeling the emotion through Janah.
I give mom a big Daphne smile and hug her tight, “Gee, I must reek, out in the sun for two hours beating myself to death while Ange Blanc sits in the shade charming the monks. I’ve got to get cleaned up and hop over to work on calligraphy. Tell Kara and Lacy I totally respect their art skills now that I’m trying to draw a straight line with a paint brush.”
Susan laughs, “It will make them feel better knowing they’re still one up on you guys for something.”
She looks at me, “I got a direct perception today, like Janah talks about. It’s incredibly moving. I felt like the air had been sucked out of me. At the same time, there was intensity, a distillation to clarity. I know the description is inadequate, you had to be there so to speak. I also know not to hang on to it. Still, it was remarkable.”
As Susan walks to the Village, she is lost in the blissful reverie of what she witnessed and our matter of fact simplicity about it. The streets, the sky peeking in between the buildings, the furious pace of the traffic and the people are all there as usual. Today, Susan is connected that traffic, that sky, those people; she is connected to the cop on horseback, the vendor selling hot dogs and sodas on the corner, there is still separation, but not isolation.
Chapter Thirty II
Daphne, “I thought one plus one was two. What happened with us?”
Janah, “In Reality, we’re one plus one,
in Actuality, we’re one times one, or one divided by one.
In Truth, we’re one minus one.”
We go to the qi masters every day. The time has extended to an hour and a half in the morning, then an hour or longer after evening meditation. We are working on something that has never been done. Trying to boil water with our minds, and to light and extinguish candles the same way.
After an hour, the water temperatures rose to one hundred ten degrees for Janah and one hundred five for me. Together, we could extinguish the candle easily. Accomplished, not by trying to use qi energy to blow it out, which is the obvious choice. Janah determined the solution is to pull the heat out, which is easier. Adding enough heat to light it is more challenging. For reasons unexplained, adding heat works, pulling the cold out doesn't.
We are experimenting together to see if two of us multiplies the effect. It does, together, we get the water to boil. And another dichotomy, unlike the candle, it works with water when we pull the cold out. Laughter from the old men is heard throughout the monastery late one night.
Zhang, “Universe still more mystery than explanation. Why does heat cold transfer work better one way with candles and another with water?”
Chu, “Do you think the nature of material things is exactly the same? People are the same and different. Each has similar physical needs, to eat, to rest. But one responds with anger, another with curiosity, a third with compassion. Why should water and candle wick be any different?”
We try again and it works again. Not a soul in the temple could figure out what is so funny at midnight. Most pull covers over their heads wondering if the two men have finally lost it. Master Sung, however, makes his way to their rooms and stands at the doorway, astounded at two young women boiling water with their hands. The look at their Abbot’s face has them laughing again.
Master Zhang finally gets his breath, “Master Sung. Welcome, please come in. The infinite pokes its finger in the eyes of pompous Shaolin monks once again. We sit for years and years, trying to make a pot warm. The two who are one boil water in front of our eyes, simpletons that we are.”
Master Sung once more finds the world holds more than he dreamed.
Mater Chu, “Watch this, Abbott.”
Chu puts an unlit candle in front of us which we light by holding our hands near it. Then we extinguish it the same way.
“It’s not a trick, they do it over and over, soon they will be putting out all the candles in the monastery from their room. Master J will call ‘lights out’ and no monk will have to leave his bed.”
Master Sung, “You know what this means?”
Zhang, “Everything and nothing at all. It means that two Shaolin donkeys have finally been relieved of their load. We celebrate the freedom, we no longer have a pack to bear!!! And most of all, it means that if two are one, then all are one. The connections that run between these two, run everywhere, infinitely, without discrimination.”
Sung, “And we prohibit our own realization by believing our discriminating mind.”
Something unusual has happened; curious, monks gather in the meditation hall. It is nearly one in the morning.
Master Sung, the Qi Masters, Janah and I enter. Sung indicates that we should sit next to the qi masters who sit next to him, facing the rest of the monks. As if on cue, the Chu and Zhang stand, bow low to us and seat themselves on the floor facing us. There is a collective, silent mental gasp at the sight. It is an obvious recognition by them of an advanced skill. There is no diminution, just the opposite. The two did what the universe gave them to do. They had also made it possible for the two as one to take the skill to a different level. This is a privilege. Their dream is realized, one and one is not two, nor even one, but infinity.
Master Sung speaks, “Our temple has been doubly blessed. Master Zhang and Master Chu have revealed skills in Master J and Disciple Sylk previously beyond our reach. Please meditate with us that these gifts may serve to reduce the suffering of all beings, opening the joy that is life.”
There is no direct explanation of what happened. It is evident to the monks that we have together demonstrated the power of qi far beyond previous boundaries. Master Sung would never make such a statement lightly, nor without significant evidence. They understand that what had been achieved, the specific demonstration, is not important. They won’t get caught up in tricky energy manipulation. Rather, a mind body limitation had been shattered. If it is possible by these two, it is possible by many more to expand the capability of the mind. This is Master Sung’s message to his monks. It has nothing to do with boiling water or lighting candles.
The monks sit in silence the entire night. It was said that passersby and residents who happened to be awake, saw an illumination over the temple. They thought there must be some unusual ceremony taking place. In fact, only a few candles burned, perhaps it was just the clouds and the moon. The Shaolin had no idea there was any discussion of mysterious light that evening, for them it is a non issue. They have vastly larger matters to contemplate.
Chapter Thirty One II
You can be anything you want.
A lie masked as encouragement.
The next day, Janah and I are invited to sit with our Abbot in the garden near the bamboo. We wait for him to speak.
Master Sung, “We have an unusual situation and I want to discuss how we can best accommodate it, and you. Through you, the universe has allowed us another peek at its wonders. What do we do with these recent developments?”
I say nothing, Janah speaks, “If Master Sung is asking how we want to proceed, the answer is simple. We wish only to continue with our studies, Daphne as a disciple, mine in my role as before. The last few days have completed a process that has been ongoing for several years. Physically, we are no more or less than we were last week. If the Order continues to welcome us, we will continue to serve and learn.”
Master Sung, “We learn firsthand that when the self is absent, there is no limitation. There is nothing to be limited.”
We are quiet for a time, then Sung asks, “How would you, if you can, describe the ability to double the energy? It is curiosity on my part. I see it done yet cannot explain.”
Sung tilts his head slightly, he is thinking about it, then he brightens, “Ah, of course. Chu and Zhang are missing the perfect harmony of two as one. Your energy flows like two streams merging to become a river. Chu and Zhang remain two streams.”
He looks from one of us to the other, “You are encouraged to continue your studies. Master Zhang and Master Chu pretend that they are finished, their job complete. Of course, that’s nonsense. They have many tests and challenges for you, they are inspired now. Not to mention what old Tan will do with you. I’m afraid you may find yourselves pushed to even greater extremes.”
Janah smiles at the Abbot. She is remembering how Master Kim tried to find my limits. He told Chris, not entirely as a joke, that he sent me to the Shaolin because I was wearing him out.
“We look forward to working with them.”
Sung, “And you, Disciple Sylk? You understand the challenge of intensifying your gung fu and qi training at the same time?”
“Cooking is very relaxing,” I reply, Sung smiles slightly.
“Then return to your studies, I would like to speak with Master J for a bit. You may follow the conversation from the practice grounds,” Master Sung says slyly.
I rise and bow deeply, Janah feels my thought, “These guys are so on top of their game. It’s good to work with the best.”
I leave to find, Disciple Mei.
Sung, “It is difficult to know what to do with Disciple Sylk. She is you and you are her. If we recognize you as a master, how do we ignore her? Have you any thoughts on this?”
Janah, “It is true we are one and it is true we can read each other’s thoughts. In fact, over the years, that has become the wrong way to say it. Now, all thought and response is instantaneous.”
“You are not confused by that?”
“The process has been going on for years. If it had happened when we met, we would have been very confused. Who is thinking what, about what, you can imagine. Because it was gradual, like becoming a master, the final moment was only natural. It came in the night, tending to the boys; it brought us completely together. A beautifully simple moment….frog jumps in, plop.”
Sung recalls the old haibun by Basho, “An ancient pond, a frog jumps in, plop!”
He sees that it is nothing more astounding to us than any ordinary natural event; to be experienced, not talked about.
“So how can we best help Disciple Sylk? She is, at a minimum, a qi master as are you. Is it a dilemma for her?”
“There is no dilemma. Daphne is delighted to be allowed to pursue Shaolin studies. She is a superb martial artist and with her Shaolin instructors will only become better. She loves to cook for the monks, she studies calligraphy, and even the qi practice. In short, she wants to be Shaolin, live a Shaolin life. If that’s ambition, it’s her only ambition.”
“And since you are one, there is no ambition of one to be with the other, none is required.”
Janah, “Even before we met face to face, there was never a feeling of anxiousness or hurry. There was always a sense that everything would happen in its time. We have always been that way, we never pushed it.”
“So then, as it is with you, Disciple Sylk is in no hurry to become anything, even a Shaolin Master.”
Janah, “There are enough illusions to avoid today without worrying about tomorrow’s.”
Chapter Thirty Two II
Whoever said diamonds are a girl’s best friend hasn’t discovered vibrators
The Christmas holidays are approaching, it is just past Thanksgiving, three months into our third year. Master Sung tells Janah we should be with our parents for a time, more than just a week, perhaps two.
I call Susan, “We’re going to come home for a couple of weeks,” and after Susan joyfully screeches, “you are receiving a master and a Shaolin monk. You’ll need to show the proper awe and respect, so put away all the little toys you and Chris enjoy so much. I recommend you put them in our room so you won’t be tempted to play with them while we’re there.”
Susan, “I don’t suppose that two monks would be inclined to test them out if they happened to be available?”
“Only for scientific study, not in the nasty sort of way you get up to with them. It’s part of our training, to immerse ourselves in the culture in order to see how we might benefit mankind.”
“Well, if it’s for a good reason, the betterment of mankind and all.”
“I’m thinking of trying to get Janah to levitate. That might require some mechanical assistance, you know, at first.”
Susan, “Exactly how does that help mankind, or womankind?”
“You are caught in the illusion of duality, Sis. If Janah is in ecstasy, then I’m in ecstasy as well. If I’m in ecstasy, the whole world is happy. Get it?”
“It must be my ignorance, I’m only an unenlightened computer geek. I’ll take your word for it.”
“Make sure the batteries are fresh. The research could take awhile.”
“Will we ever actually get to see you, or will you be in your room the whole time?”
“That depends on how long I can keep Janah in the air.”
The conversation returns to more mundane matters of timing. The Sunday before Christmas, we go home.
Janah hugs Chris, Susan, and Kara, double kisses for all.
She goes to James, “Hello stranger,” kisses his cheek.
I lean over to kiss James, “How’s the world’s smartest shrink? We’ve missed you so much. Janah has the Shaolin to talk to, she says it’s not the same as dad.”
James, “Dr. Epstein and I are losing our edge without you to challenge us. I’m anxious to talk over what you’ve been doing in meditation and with qi. All that can wait for a few days. Dr. Epstein is hoping he will get to join us.”
Janah, “Of course, we can’t wait to visit, plus Master Kim, and Lacy. It will all go too quickly. I’m sure we can get more time by the summer. Master Sung is very pleased with Daphne’s work, she’s officially been a disciple for the last six months, no more student Sylk.”
Chris, “Congratulations Daphne. You never said anything. I guess that’s right, it’s not for you to crow about is it?”
“I am honored, it’s not a prize, it’s more responsibility. Until I’m a priest, which may be some time, I have to earn it every year. It’s a one year term. Goof off and it’s gone.”
Kara, “I’m not losing any sleep over the likelihood of you goofing off.”
James, “What changes?”
Janah, “A little. She’s free from cleaning the common areas. She could leave her kitchen duties, except for her that would be punishment. She’s doing more work with the qi masters, studying calligraphy, there’s not much relaxation time. She and Black practice freestyle mayhem at least one night a week.”
The moms are asking me more details about discipleship, the obligations. James had a quiet question for Janah while the others are occupied.
James, “So the masters have you figured out. That’s why she’s doing the qi thing. You do it together.”
Janah, “We’ve done really interesting things. I can’t get into it otherwise, not even with the moms. You and Dr. Epstein are medical professionals, specifically in the field of the mind and psyche. Frees us up to discuss a bit more detail.”
James, “Understood. We’ll catch up later.”
This night the family gathers around the big table swapping stories about developments in Kara’s painting and progress on Chris’ book. Around 10:30 we’re making sleepy sounds.
“We are ready for bed,” I mental Janah, “Are you going to read me a bedtime story?”
Janah, “Don’t I always?”
“If you’re really tired, it can be a short one.”
Janah, “First night home in a big soft bed, don’t be silly, this story is going to take a while, I’m reading you from cover to cover, with footnotes.”
“And they all lived happily ever after.”
Susan, “What are you grinning about?”
I lean down to kiss Susan and whisper, “Janah’s going to read me a bedtime story. In this one, a young woman explores the intricacies of low tech vibratory devices.”