Wednesday, February 20, 2013

An old wive's tale

After attending a lengthy and insightful talk about Feng Shui, I have been evaluating my own views a little.  This talk, based in Taoism, explained that Feng Shui is far less mystical than it is practical.  The rules line up with logic that would have been used at the time.

For example, much of Feng Shui is concerned with good flow in the space.  Logically, in the days before air conditioning, the flow in the house would have been vital to keeping the dwelling at a manageable temperature, thus improving the comfort and even health of those within.  This is a very broad example, but the talk went into great detail about how practical the ideas of Feng Shui really were. 

This got me thinking.  Many people scoff at ideas such as Feng Shui as complete nonsense for the weak of mind.  They easily dismiss old wives' tales as unproven, unscientific hokum.  I must admit that I count myself among them, as someone who easily dismisses many things that have no scientific backing and always insist on sources for arguments. 

The talk of Feng Shui got me thinking though.  Perhaps it is nearsighted to simply dismiss an idea that is not proven.  Perhaps we should keep an open mind about traditional ways of thinking.  We may not agree with the logic behind it, but perhaps there is still something to learn, a basis in truth if you will.

For example, the superstition of not walking under a ladder, is at its heart, pretty logical.  Will it bring you terrible luck?  Most likely not, but it will put you in danger of falling tools, or increase your chances of knocking over a person standing on said ladder.  So while the superstition itself is a bit silly, the practice is somewhat understandable, just for a different reason. 

I read once that ancient peoples soaked their beans overnight to ward off the evil spirits contained within (perhaps a metaphor for the gaseous emissions beans are known for?).  Indeed, for centuries our ancestors soaked their beans, perhaps for similar reasons, or perhaps simply because they were taught that way.  In modern times, research has shown that not only does soaking the beans deactivate many of the chemicals that cause noxious gas, it also makes the nutrients more bio-available and it's really the healthiest way to prepare them.

How interesting that the reason ancient people soaked the beans is easy to dismiss, however the practice turns out to be very valuable.  I wonder what other traditions, ancient wisdoms, or practices have been similarly dismissed.

I will still place value on science, evidence, and logic, however I will attempt to keep my mind open to ideas, and think more deeply about the possibilities of a piece of truth in the most unlikely places.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Year of the Black Snake

The Chinese New Year celebrations begin today.  2013 is the year of the black snake.
The influence of water continues this year, and the snake brings steady progress with focus and discipline. Known as the "little dragon" the snake is enigmatic, introspective, and intuitive.

For the first time, my husband and I will be celebrating the Chinese New Year together.  We have started observing traditions from both of our belief systems this year.  I find these observances help me to bring my spiritual side forward, even if only for a few moments.

We are going to make traditional style dumplings, which is said to bring prosperity through the new year.  We have already observed the tradition of cleaning house beforehand by tidying up our place to clean out the old year and welcome in the new.  We will discuss the many meanings of the year of the black snake over our dumpling dinner (and maybe add some wonton soup and fish).  Here is a compilation of what I have found so far.

The 2012 water dragon makes way for the 2013 water snake.  The snake is akin to a fire sign in traditional astrology.  This puts it at odds with the water influence of this year, but the Taoist knows that these opposites are complimentary rather than contradictory.  The two elemental influences will balance each other nicely ensuring the year will be full of both highs and lows.  

The snake is calm, inward directed and even shy.  It never attacks unprovoked.  Because snake is the 6th sign of the Chinese Zodiac, it is considered to be yin in nature.  This is generally shown by portraying the snake as a female, the gender most associated with yin.  The snake is a financial wizard, and brings strong business and financial influences for the year.

Wishing you all the best for the year of the black snake!