Chapter Thirteen II

Empty mind? Big deal.
Half the people in the world have an empty mind.
                                               Daphne Sylk

Janah gives Master Sung her decision after the morning meditation.
“Do not let yourself become overwhelmed Master J. Let your body and mind speak to you as training proceeds. Tan told me it took him years of constant application and he fell ill several times in the process.”
“I promise to keep you informed, Master Hue will surely be on guard, plus my secret weapon.”
“Yes, student Sylk. When you go to Tan, send her to me please.”
Janah leaves. Before heading to Tan’s room, she comes to the training ground to find me. I’m warming up in the practice area.
I’m going to tell your instructor Master Sung wants to see you, then I’m going to Tan’s. Wait until your instructor comes to you.
Janah has a word with the disciple. He tells me what I already know.
I bow to Master Sung, “Disciple Chin said I should see you, sir.”
“Student Sylk, I’m sure you are aware of Master J’s new training. Please come to me if you have any reason to believe she is pressing matters too much. She knows I am talking to you, she knows why, we are not too devious in our Order. Do not be concerned about approaching me when it concerns her health or mental state. She is going to undergo a rigorous discipline. You know her deepest state of mind. Hue, Tan and the qi masters will also be watching. As they say here in America, I’m covering all the bases.”
“May I ask sir, what is the danger? I want to be sure I’m looking for the right thing, taking the temperature properly.”
“She is going to be adjusting, no, having adjusted, the energy of her mind. There can be significant stress. It depends entirely on the recipient. If all goes as planned, she will expand her capacities with little change in her normal mental state. Of course, little goes as planned. It is strenuous, demanding, there is no way to know if she can adapt to these changes smoothly. All of us must be alert to the slightest alteration of mood, or signs of mental stress. The process can be, no, that’s wrong, I’m sidestepping it, the process is physically painful. It’s been years since I’ve seen anyone trained. Even training isn’t the right word. Master Tan will be disassembling and reassembling her entire energy flow. She has already done some of the work. That’s helpful. At the level Tan will go, it’s much more stressful. Do you understand?”
“Sir, Janah is extremely strong. She is a gifted student of yoga. She has practiced and taught at a very high level for years. You know something of her qi skill. I don’t mean to suggest this will be easy. I want to reassure you that gentle and soft spoken as she is, Janah is an oak, deeply rooted, yet unbreakably flexible, mentally and physically.”
Sung nods, “You may return to training.”
Janah is in Tan’s room, he explains the obligation and the process, “Your qi is powerful. It will simplify matters. We don’t have to spend years training as my master did with me. You may not discuss the abilities with anyone until your student appears. That may never happen. Student Sylk is under the same obligation.”
“We understand.”
“Sung may know something of it. Hue, crafty old man, will know because his gossiping plants tell him. Can’t be helped. Otherwise, these are secret skills. They are not to be used for any purpose other than relief of suffering. Do you acknowledge and vow?”
“I don’t give you a list of things we’re going for, then you spend time trying to get there. Tell me Master J, why do we not set targets and deadlines?”
“To avoid the trap of achievement. I may not be skilled enough. Conversely, I may limit what can be done by assuming I can’t do it, rather than it just taking longer than I thought. We cannot know. We practice, we find out. However it turns out is how it turns out. Measurement interferes with the process, this is a law. No measurement, no interference.”
“Good. Then you won’t be discouraged by my lack of explanation. I will ask you to try things. I might ask a thousand times, you must try a thousand times. I might drop something in the middle and go to something else, why would I do that?”
“You see that, for me, there is a more sensible way. To presume every student must take the same road at the same speed is ignorant. It takes no account of the student.”
“You have taught others for some time.”
“It is our obligation to pass along practical knowledge. To help others see where we were ignorant, that they might not fall into the same pit.”
“Then you have no expectation, no desire, no predetermination regarding your training?”
Tan, “Part of what you will learn will be a direct transmission from me to you. The rest will be your practice. I can prepare your brain, you have to learn the state of mind and body where the energy can do its work. Your mind is like a gate in a dam, the gate must be opened for the water to flow. You must learn how much or how little to open it. Open the gate just a bit, there is a gentle flow, open the gate to its fullest and unleash a powerful wall of destruction, sometimes destroying the gate with it.”
Janah, “I’d prefer my gate stay intact.”
Tan, “Let’s begin. Here are two of Hue’s plants. Choose one, I will take the other. Sit outside and make it grow faster than the plant I have here. I will water it, give it the proper light and shade. I will not otherwise help or harm it. You will visit your plant everyday for whatever time you wish. Of course, you may water it, move it from sun to shade, nothing else, only your qi. In three weeks, we shall see.”
Janah stands and bows, she steps outside with the potted plant and sits in front of Tan’s room, the plant in front of her. She knows no instruction she is given is too simplistic, she isn’t there to decide what she should be taught, she is there to learn. She focuses gentle qi on the plant, she called it tenderness qi. She cannot force energy into the plant, she makes it available. The plant may receive it or not.
The days go by, I insist on staying in Janah’s head during both morning and evening meditation. This doesn’t bother Janah at all, it is only that I am not truly meditating.
Janah, “You know I would say something if I was having a problem. You can no mind if you wish, you don’t have to focus on me.”
“Ange, think of me as a Blues Sister, on a mission from God. Master Sung wants to know how you’re doing and I don’t plan on being short on information. I’m not going to distract you while you’re with Tan, so meditation is the best time to take your temperature. I can roam around, check all the moving parts. Besides, I meditate all day. How do you think I get through gung fu without killing myself?”
“I surrender, you’re going to do it anyway, I may as well simply enjoy you in my mind.”
“See how easy this is when you let Dr. Daphne do her thing? Get your training, make the plant spring up and quit worrying about me. You know I have a simple routine. It’s time for you to do your heavy lifting for now.”
“I reserve the right to monitor you every so often. Tell you what. I get to do a total system check every Sunday. You lie still for an hour so I can get in there, I’ll shut up and let you have your way.”
 We are going to be extremely busy with a lot of energy on training and temple matters. Staying inside the other’s head all day is potentially disruptive to the kind of concentration each of us needs. This new thing is an unexpected turn of events.
Those who pass along the knowledge needed not only students who can stand the rigors of the training, but the self awareness and humility not to use it for show or dough.  An extraordinarily difficult person to find. In America it’s virtually impossible. Sung had never heard of an American being approached to learn. They seem too self absorbed, greedy to cash in and no temperament for long hours of nothing.

Chapter Fourteen II

I am at two with nature.
            Woody Allen

A week passes, Janah is sitting with the plant for three hours a day. She giggles to me that if this is some grueling test, it’s taking it’s time getting the gruel going.
“Tan didn’t give any instruction on how to get the plant to grow. I’m using a gentle qi approach, not stuffing energy into it. He won’t let me see what the companion plant is doing. I have nothing to go by. I’ve got two more weeks.”
“At least yours isn’t dead, I suppose that’s something.”
“No, it’s quite healthy, and it is growing. It doesn’t leap out of the pot. Since I stare at it for three hours a day, I notice new growth pretty easily. I got the giggles this morning because I wondered if Tan was secretly adding fertilizer to his plant to discourage me.”
“Maybe he goes out and fusses at yours when you’re not there.”
“If he is, it’s not hurting yet. It’s actually quite nice sitting there, very quiet. If I pay attention, I can hear a few temple sounds, sometimes the training if you guys are using sticks and banging them against each other. Hue’s bamboo is very thick all across the back of the temple and Tan’s hut is buried in the corner. Inside his room it’s practically silent. The roof is covered with two feet of dirt and grass Hue uses from time to time. I found out that Hue brings him tea, sometimes sits with him, they don’t talk.”
“One knows what the other will say and the response to it by now. That’ll be us one day. Two old ladies taking in the universe silently, maybe not inside, out on the porch, with tea and fruit.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Yeah, it does.”
By the end of week two, Janah is intimately familiar with the plant, a sprig of lavender. Hue cut one for one pot and a second from the same plant for the other. Tan puts his out in the sun after Janah leaves. He waters it, nothing else. Lavender isn’t a thirsty plant, watering is minimal. Hue potted them when Tan, for unexplained reasons, asked him for two identical plants, same size, same potting conditions. Now he knows why. Janah can see the growth easily now, she begins to surround the plant with her hands for an hour, then sit and direct her energy towards it the rest of the time. On the fourteenth day she knows the plant is responding, so she adds 20 minutes of closer contact each day for three days, until she is up to two hours, then stops. On the eighteenth day, a flower emerges. Potted lavender seldom flowers and then only after a year or more growth, never from a six week old cutting.
On the twenty first day, Janah is visiting with her plant pal, Tan emerges from his hut carrying the other one. He sits it next to Janah’s. The difference is remarkable, Janah’s is twice the size, with a full flower. The stalk dances gently in the breeze.
Tan, “Powerful qi, gently applied. First time I did this I nearly killed the plant by pushing too hard. My plant responded at first, then was overwhelmed, it began to brown. I let it alone to heal, at the end it was no better off than when I’d started. It taught me to help, not to smother. You avoided one mistake already.”
“A long time ago, I used qi to help heal Daphne. I didn’t understand it then. I got too zealous and took some of the injury into my hands. I learned my lesson, painfully.”
“So you already know you can take out as well as add?”
“Then you are further along than I realized; small wonder the lavender responded. We can proceed with a more difficult task. Go now, come tomorrow.”
She walks through the narrow opening in the thick bamboo and through the herb garden. Hue is boiling something in his hut when Janah appears.
Hue, “Old Tan will get more adventurous now that you have revealed your skill to him. You won’t get away with resting in the garden admiring a lavender plant. Here, stir please. I need to get more leaves and bark from the slippery elm.”
Janah stirs the liquid, it would boil and thicken a while longer, then be removed from the fire and left to cool. Hue will cover it tightly and let sit for a few months. This mix is for antiseptic purposes, although it can be taken in small doses for stomach upset and a mild energizer. The main ingredients are ginger, bloodroot and slippery elm. Hue also grinds and dries the bark for a stomach soothing tea or to add to a poultice to apply directly to an injury. He returns and adds small pieces. Janah continues to stir while he chops up the rest and sets it out to dry. Half an hour later she takes it off the heat, nothing else to do until the pot cools. She mists the plants under the shaded section of the garden, waters some, others can wait a day or two.
Students appear to sweep and haul away the debris, a daily ritual that explains how the herbarium and garden remain pristine seven days a week. Janah sits on the bench out of the way and watches. They peek over at her from time to time in hopes of seeing her gentle smile. She doesn’t disappoint. When they finish they walk through the garden, Janah explains the herbs, and general botany.
When Master J speaks, it isn’t like a lesson at all. It is like being enveloped in warmth, a beloved older sister whose voice holds them spellbound. She seems to be talking to each individually, calling them by name. She asks about their training, are there any difficulties, could she help them in any way? They think of a dozen questions, simple things, they get to listen to the soft voice for a while longer. She bows to Master Hue and walks to the main area with the students chattering away, each trying to stand closest. She is surrounded by four boys when she passes me on the training ground.
You’ve picked up another posse.
They’re so adorable, I want to take them all home so we can have our four little brothers to take care of.
That’s all you need, another project. So how much bigger was your plant?
I never doubted the experiment would work, it was only a question of how well.
Mission accomplished. Hue says Tan will make things more interesting now, so I’ve bought myself more work.
Why don’t you save everyone the time and teach yourself to levitate. We can go back to just hanging out together?

I’d rather have you levitate me.
Good thinking. Now I know why you’re the master.

Chapter Fifteen II

It’s like the Spanish Inquisition without the comfy chair.
                                             Janah on working with Tan

Janah spends the next months with Tan, two or three increasingly intense hours a day. Once he’d determined she was fit, that she could effectively direct qi, the rest is simple. Simple agony.
There is no mystery, no hard to learn technique. Tan transmits, she receives. They sit across from each other in the hut. Janah feels her mind start, then sort of an aftershock. Sometimes it’s like a headache. Others like an itch inside her head. Sometimes a buzz saw screeching through hardwood, then hitting a nail.
Janah, “My head feels like a construction project, including the wrecking ball.”
“Do we need a building permit?”
“Don’t suggest it, the city will find a way to charge a fee then start sending around inspectors.”
She breaks into sweats during the day for no apparent reason. One night there are chills, despite her ability to regulate her body temperature. After three hours, she’s exhausted. I come and practically carry her to their room. Janah sleeps. I start bringing Black, who literally carries her to their room. I go into her mind. It is a nightmare of tangled impulses. I sit up at night for three or four hours. Tan is demolishing, me reconstructing. It’s like building muscle. Tear it down, the body rebuilds it stronger to adjust to the stress. Without my added flow of energy, the process would have gone much more slowly, and much more dangerously.
I go to Master Sung, “Janah is exhausted. Black has to carry her back to our room. She wants to continue though. She says this is part of it and she went in with her eyes open.”
Sung, “How is her mental state? Physical exhaustion is one thing. How is her mind?”
“She’s clear as ever. Sounds the same, isn’t confused or agitated. I ask questions about our family, Chapmans, the dharma, she answers coherently, doesn’t have to think it over first.”
Sung, “Then there is no reason to interfere. This is expected, and necessary. Keep a watch on her mental state. Physical problems are unavoidable.”
Three more months pass, Janah loses ten pounds, then five more in another six weeks. I intervene.
I meet with Sung and Tan, “Janah’s got to take time off, two weeks, maybe more. She can stay here. I don’t want her going home in this condition, the moms will freak. I know she’s still functioning mentally. Physically, she’s a bombed out shell of herself.”
Tan, “When I learned, I was in her condition in six weeks. She’s taken it for six months. She knows I can’t tell her to stop. If she shows up, I go on. That’s part of the process. Unlike gung fu, the student decides what they can take, not the master. She should do nothing but eat and rest. As you said, two weeks, more if she needs it. She will decide when to return. If she wishes to return.”
 “I think it all caught up to her in the last two or three sessions. She’s losing too much weight, and she’s energy deficient.”
Sung asks, “Do you need relief from your duties to take care of her?”
“Janah needs to eat and rest. If I find I need to cut back, I’ll mention it to Master Chin. I want to be in the kitchen so I can personally prepare her food.”
Sung, “I will check on her myself every day. Tan will know how she’s doing, Hue will bring herbs and tea.”
“Thank you sir. I’ll go to her now if we’re finished.”
Sung nods, I go to Janah. Chan is there. Janah sleeps, Chan watches.
“I see she’s being taken care of. I’m going to make lunch. Come in an hour.”
Chan’s eyes stay on Janah. I leave for the kitchen. An hour later, as the monks file into the dining room, Chan appears. I’m slicing crusty French bread crosswise, into rounds. Good for dipping into the herb infused olive oil I have in bowls on the dining table.
I put soup into a deep bowl. Then stir fried tofu and mixed vegetables on a plate, top it with French bread with a bit of olive oil. There is a pot of tea and a cup. Chan puts it all on a tray and covers the whole thing with a linen napkin. David materializes and the two boys deliver the room service.
The boys are on their way. Do you need me?
Always. But later. I wish I could say I was famished. I can tell I’m not myself if I’m not hungry.
Your appetite will return. Geez, your brain has muscles like C-mom’s body. It’s strange in there now.
Boys are here. Ah, it smells wonderful.
Go slowly, a bite or two, stretch it out, then rest. I’ll give you forty minutes to eat, then send them back here. They can’t hang out, you need to sleep.
You’re the nurse, they’ll be back in half an hour. I’ll be happily asleep fifteen minutes after that.

I nod to myself, ‘good enough,’ and return to dealing with lunch. It’s silent at lunchtime. It isn’t a rule, it’s a tradition, to appreciate the nourishment, lunch is the last meal of the day. The monks glance at me and nod. A simple message wishing Janah good health. I’ll pass their silent caring along to her when we settle in for the night.
The first week, Janah eats, meditates and sleeps. There is color, a couple of pounds. I massage her, wash her hair, long warm showers. I fill the small room with plants from Hue, the scents to me so intense I get lightheaded. Janah goes to the training ground and watches the monks for an entire morning. The next day, she goes again, then eats a gargantuan lunch, sleeps, then to Hue’s gardens for the rest of the afternoon.
On the tenth day, she shows up at early meditation with me. She has a normal day, jumps me that night, and sleeps like a log. My White Angel is back in black.
Janah starts with Tan on day fifteen. It continues to be grueling for another month. Then less so in month eight. By the end of the twelfth, she’s ready to begin putting the new muscle to work.
She’d started with a living thing, the plant. Then the mental rearranging. She isn’t anywhere near finished, but much of what happens now is working with it, not receiving from Tan. He has her cracking bricks and boards, with her mind; to hold her hand next to the object and weaken it with qi. Eventually, not even have to hold her hand on it. There is also healing energy, which she began years earlier on her own. Finally, more complicated repair, starting with herself.
Tan, “You have been diligent in focusing your energy on material objects, you have weakened them to the point where a soft blow will break them. Continued practice will enable you to break the brick with your mind only. Ambition will not make it happen, ambition will prevent it. To heal others with a serious injury, you must have complete control. You have learned to control your heart rate, your blood pressure and your breath. Now, if you are prepared, you have to heal yourself from a physical injury.”
Janah, “Where shall we start?”
“In the ancient days, students would do severe physical harm to themselves, pierce the skin deeply, get bitten by a snake, collect bruises or even breaks from blows by the instructor. In those days, students nearly died trying to heal themselves. Stupid really.”
Janah, “I can’t say I’m disappointed to skip it.”
“No, if you can heal a small wound, you can heal a big one, the principles of blood flow, qi and the ability to fight infection are the same. If you are pierced by a knife in the heart, no amount of qi is going to overcome such a wound. Too much blood  lost too quickly for any help from qi. If in the leg, perhaps less risk of infection spreading and faster healing. The muscle will still be badly damaged. The skill is an aid, not always a cure. Still, I caution you to remember, we do not know the extent of the capability. Never assume a thing cannot be done, or that it can. Keep don’t know mind. I would like for now to do something simple, only minor  pain.”
He takes a blade and gives himself a small cut on the palm of his hand. There is a red line of blood, then it stops. There is no significant bleeding, no drops. A few seconds later only a crust of dried blood along the line. He hands the knife to Janah.
She cuts a similar line, an inch and a half, blood flows, it begins to pool a bit, a drop runs down towards her thumb, then it stops bleeding. She wipes the drop away, concentrates on the cut for another couple of minutes. The blood congeals, leaving a small dark line.
“Not bad, our cuts were not deep or dangerous. The knife wasn’t sterilized. Take time for healing, we don’t want an infection to arise.”
Janah focuses on the cut, the area becomes warm she can see the redness increase. If you lay your hand on hers, it would have been hot. Heat kills bacteria and viruses, which is why we get a fever. Ten minutes later she turns to see where Tan is. She stands and walks over to him.
“We will work with blood flow and healing perhaps once a week, no more. I don’t want you to spend the whole time fighting infection. Weekly effort will build that skill slowly without taxing your system too much. This rock is your daily task.”
It’s about the size of a cantaloupe, flat on one side. It sits on a low concrete table outside Tan’s room.
Tan, “Without touching it, you will weaken and eventually break it.”
He takes a smaller stone, flat, an inch thick, holds it in his hand for a minute. It begins to vibrate, then it cracks neatly in two. Janah smiles and bows to the old man. She sits at the low table, crosses her legs and begins. An hour later she can’t tell anything, enough for one day. Tan is in a deep meditation, she doesn’t try to communicate with him, instead she heads through the bamboo to the herbalist.
Hue, “What’s old Tan got you doing besides cutting your hand? When it scabs completely, pull the scab off, it will scar less that way. Going to break rocks I suppose.”
Hue knows everything going on in the temple and much of what is going on in the world. Janah had been reluctant to believe the plants talk to him. After meeting Tan, she decided it might be best to keep an open mind about talking plants. Hue doesn’t seem to creep off to the internet, she doubts he has any idea how to get on the internet. He shows up for some meals, sits with Sung, Janah or a few students. He eats mostly from his own garden, drinks his own teas. Maybe the plants do tell him things they heard from the insects and birds. Maybe the plants are speaking to us all the time and we don’t have the sensitivity to hear them. She hears what sounds like whispering, it has the cadence of language. Today there’s a low hum in her head, like hearing conversation at a noisy party next door. She hears laughter.
I interrupt, Sorry to barge in on your chat with the daffodils, one of the kids is having an asthma attack.
Janah gets a mild respiratory stimulant from Hue’s cabinet. The boy is straddling a bench, wheezing audibly. Janah sits behind him and pulls him to her, then lays her hands on his chest. She tells the disciple to give him a teaspoon of the liquid. She switches one hand from his chest to his back and feels that the energy level there is weak. She holds one palm over each lung for another 15 minutes, then she checks his neck; it is tight. Very gently, she turns and twists his head to release the tension around his throat. Then she lets him relax against her. She puts her arms around him, his head leaning back against her shoulder. She rests her hand against his throat, the boy feels a steady warmth. Another quarter hour and she feels him completely relax, he looks up at her smiling, she kisses his soft cheek and they stand. She asks him to take a few slow deep breaths and listens at his chest, then calls me over. No point in not using her personal stethoscope. If he’s wheezing at all, I’ll hear it. I pronounce him fit. He bows to Janah and runs off to practice.
“Check him once in a while, keep this bottle handy, if he gets breathless, give him a teaspoon, make him sit, you know what to do with his chest.”
“Thanks, although now the boys might all get asthma so Master J will come hug them, I think I hear Disciple John wheezing now.”
“He’s twenty three.”
“All the more reason.”
Janah giggles, “Go train student Sylk, and learn to discipline your unruly mind.”

Chapter Sixteen II

I can't go back to yesterday - because I was a different person then.
                                       Alice, Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Late summer, I’ll be eighteen in September, Janah had been training with Tan for two years, a few seconds in Shaolin time, long enough to have cracked the rock. She hadn’t broken it into pieces. The crack runs along the top down about half way. She doesn’t give up, she changes tactics. She doesn’t do anything but intend to break the rock, not desiring to break it, not even trying to break it, only intention. A few days later she hears it distinctly pop. Tan emerges from his room, he’d heard the sound too.
Tan, “Good. I was thinking you might need a pebble instead.”
Janah, “I was thinking I might need a hammer.”
They laugh together, something she hadn’t ever seen Tan do. He surprised even himself.
“I suppose one shouldn’t get caught up in success or failure. Still, it is enjoyable to see the student develop their skill. It’s acceptable for me to be happy over your success. After all, I didn’t do anything, just put a rock on a table.”
“After all this time, this rock and I are most familiar with one another. Perhaps it is deciding to let me see its inner beauty.”
“It yields when you are not, when you are merely a channel for universal energy. You possess powerful qi, it is still your qi, which results in only a small crack. The rock helped you understand your puny power is no match for it. When you give up your qi to the greater, then it must yield. Not to you, to what comes through you.”
Janah feels that pop in her head, the physical sensation of brain stretching that occurs when she is allowed to grasp the subtleties of life’s mystery. Tan patiently allowed her to wrestle fruitlessly with this inanimate object for months in order to do what a teacher does, help the student understand themselves. Janah’s qi, through long consistent practice, is formidable. It is nothing compared to the power that surrounds us. She was able to do on her own what another might never have done. Tan helped her understand the next step was far beyond her personal abilities. She bows to him and withdraws through the bamboo to the herbarium.
You’ve had an insight today, I felt it.”
“I’ve been fortunate and cursed to have this brain and to have developed some of my own internal power. I am fortunate to have been able to grasp what might be done. I was cursed with thinking it was me, or even us. Today the curse was lifted. Tan allowed me to see my own ability, my Janah-ness was in the way of the energy freely available around me. I have a lot on which to meditate.”
I tease, “Do I have to lose my Daphne-ness too?”
Janah laughs, “Thank you for not letting us take even this too seriously. No, my no-self requires your Daphne-ness. You take obligations seriously, you take your work seriously, and you take watching over me seriously, but never take yourself seriously. I watch you in that and learn. Even then, it’s so easy to get caught up in my skill, my brain...big deal enlightened Janah.”
“Janah you are the most selfless person on the planet. You are well aware that self is never erased. How we have to pay extra attention to our self’s attempt to recapture our minds. It happens to Sung, it happens to Tan, and they’ve been at this for fifty, sixty or more years. I’m almost eighteen, older and more mature. You’re a child of seventeen.”
Janah smiles, “Always such a reality check, floating along affectionately, indifferent to praise or reward. You, Daphne, are not enlightened, you are enlightenment. A living breathing beautiful bundle of the thing itself."
Her mind pops once again.
She thinks, “Twice in one day, wow.”
She takes me in her arms and holds tightly. Tears come freely, after a minute, we feel an exchange, deeper merging. It happens in little baby steps mostly, very occasionally a jump, usually after an awakening of some sort. This is that.
“Another one, I’ll have big blue eyes soon.”
Janah, “I’m so glad the changes aren’t external. I like looking at you as you. Dark green eyes almost black, long legs to the sky, shiny black hair shimmering in the light. I like becoming one, two is nice as well.”
“Two-ness is great, I selfishly like knowing what you’re thinking when you look at me, and marvelously erotic when you get your glow on. We are the luckiest humans that ever lived, Ange.”
“Tell me about it.”
Sung catches up with us after the evening meditation, “Master Kim would like to test student Sylk for her 5th degree. I invited him to do it here if you would honor us.”
I cover my face with my hands in surprise then hug Master Sung, surprising him as well, “Oh wow, thank you Master Sung. It is I who am honored, sorry to react so emotionally. It will be such a privilege to test in the temple. Got caught up in the moment.”
Sung, “Life is joy. We celebrate this opportunity with you. I suggest you take a few days at home, make arrangements with Master Kim, and prepare.”
We bow to each other, Janah and I go to the garden to be alone for a bit. There is silence for a half hour, everyday background hum, rustling among the plants and trees.
“What a day, when it rains it pours.”
Janah, “I had two wows today, we had a deeper merging, we get to go home for a bit and you are going to be a 5th degree. I’m not going to think about this too deeply. I accept our blessings in gratitude and leave it there.”
“Good plan, and here come the boys, ice cream on the cake.”
Janah springs the news about my rank test, Black and David jump up to hug me, silent reserved Chan bows. He settles in next to Janah, his favorite place in the universe. Her head framed by the night sky, the glow of her pure white hair makes him think of a Shaolin goddess. Shaolin doesn’t have goddesses. The boys don’t care about that.
Black, “So you’re going home tomorrow, then back in a couple of days, then the test?”
“That’s up to Master Kim. I want to get back, give Master Sung time, let him talk to Kim.”
Black, “I see you doing taekwondo forms all the time, you don’t have much to review there.”
“C-mom and I will go over every form. If I’m missing anything, she’ll let me know. I want to be good, I mean Master Kim is taking a chance doing this in front of the monks. I don’t mind messing up personally, I don’t want to let him down.”
Black, “You’ll be perfect, you don’t know how to do martial arts any other way. Man I’m pumped, I can’t help it, it’s so cool. Student Sylk 5th degree black belt and Shaolin monk.”
“Student Shaolin monk, I like being student Sylk. I leave all the heavy stuff to the kid.”
Black, “The kid’s been hanging with Tan, what, two years? You ready to knock down buildings with your mind now Master J?”
David, “Master J can already do that.”
Janah giggles, “These boys, they think the most outrageous things. You two don’t make up stuff, there are plenty of illusions already, we don’t need more.”
David, “Yes ma’am. One day though, when you finish with old Tan.”
Janah, “There is so much to learn, you guys will be strong grown men, maybe Masters yourself by the time I learn what Tan knows. If I ever learn it. One day at a time.”
David, “Will you teach us?’
Janah, “Aren’t you learning now?’
David, “Yes. I mean the secret things.”
Janah, “What does that question suggest? Think, don’t answer right away.”
After a minute David says, “I am showing ambition, please forgive me.”
Janah, “I have nothing to forgive, you have seen your own error, a small one only. I’m happy to hear that you want to learn, and I expect you to continue to be diligent. If you seek to learn in order to relieve suffering, many doors will open. If you seek to learn only to know more than another, many doors will close. Just today, I learned once again to guard against self inflation, to be aware of ego creeping in to take over my mind.”
David, “Master J, how do we guard against our own self importance?”
Janah, “Attend to the ways of your mind. Listen without judgment, be aware of what you say, to yourself or to another. That’s enough.”
David, “What if I make a mistake, like asking about the secret teachings just now, or wanting to be a great scholar, or gung fu fighter?”
Janah, “Acknowledge your ambition and pick up the thread again. Question your thoughts, be in doubt. Each time the self comes around, recognize and laugh at him. If he sneaks by you, you will see him soon enough. You are surrounded by friends, don’t you think Black or Chan would be kind enough to point it out to you, just as you would for them? All the disciples and masters are here to help us stay on our path and to help us regain our path should we get lost.”
David, “Will they show Chan and I the path?”
Janah, “No one can plan another’s way. We can help each other when we stumble, live each day, not yesterday or tomorrow. Practice your lessons, meditate on the dharma, observe the suffering in the world around you, refuse to live in it. Your path will be plain.”
David, “Do the right thing, the planning takes care of itself.”
Janah, “Yes.”
David, “How am I to know what is right, Master J?”
Janah, “What is necessary is right, what is unnecessary is wrong.”

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