Chapter 11




 XinJia 3 ~ listening


I am still sounding the depths of the first movement, jingang dao dui. Those Temple Guardians have not relaxed their gaze, although familiarity has softened what was unremitting at the start. The arms’ first lift now happens beyond breath and muscle. Whereas in the old days the parallel lift always betrayed an imbalance, there is now a truer symmetry between the arms as they rise from the depths. The sinking too feels fuller and more potent, the hands affirming the accord that will carry them through to the end. The turning to the left that comes next is twining more closely and precisely than before, but having examined the filmings for this book, I think I can let it go more freely, the posture now is intact enough for furthering. It is astonishing to think that this leftwards turn is the start of the asymmetrical twinings that will create the entire form of XinJia. After the initial rising and sinking of the arms, there is no movement in the whole form that is truly symmetric … until the very end, when the mortar is pounded one last time, and the arms are lowered.


The orioles sporting in the rain woke me this morning. They fly from tree to tree, flitting in amongst the aspens and oaks, at times hanging upside down from the willow curtains, playing hide and seek, the young ones calling each other from wood to wood.

I have begun the day’s practice with walking, the simple wheeling forwards and backwards that is not simple at all. Staying with it for a good while, I notice gradual changes. The body starts off sluggish in the centre, and frayed at the edges. As the hips begin to function more properly, the legs wake up, the thighs picking up with interest each step that arises. The mind is quietened by the steady rhythm, and as the breathing relaxes, a coolness bathes the chest which now flows freely within the shoulders’ boundaries. The frayed feeling disappears bit by bit, with the emerging sense of parts slotting into one another, of moving with a quiet purpose, recovering harmony.

I lose count of the back and forth stepping, up and down the terrace. After a while, the core no longer wavers; the sterno-sacral line is gaining its cohesion. Each time the arm winds in and the foot steps through, there will be one correct trajectory. I look for the eye of the needle.

Finding a delicate alignment, the body becomes infused with wavelets passing up and down the spinal column. As these spread out to the limbs, the wheeling arms begin to conduct a charge. Palms plump up, fingers feel full, and the odd one that was reluctant now joins in the flow.

Something difficult to pin down, elusive, is the tiny turning deep down in the centre that opens the palm of the hand when it is low and close to the waist. This fine pulse is what conducts the charge from dantian outwards along the limbs.

Yesterday, June really shone. Fedele did not appear at his post in the stone wall. Ancient rhythms call him in these days and nights nearing the solstice.

It was full moon last night. Surrounded by hills as we are, the risings and settings of moon and sun are marked on the terrain’s compass. Midsummer full moon rose at its most southerly point, well past the crest of the hill across the valley.

The morning is soft and shrouded in mist. Many orioles are in the poplars, almost hidden. I hear the musical twitterings of the young ones. Every now and then, a youngster utters a grating triple caw. In those summers when they stay through until August, we hear that harshness smoothed, as the elders teach the young ones the Golden Oriole’s song.


In the pre-dawn light, they sing very close to the house. There is hardly a stir in the monochrome poplars.

Night withdraws down the lane to the west woods, accompanied by the moon and Jupiter.