My first experience with meditation was in a tiny Daoist temple at the base of Tiger Mountain in Taiwan.
The temple was so small that only eight people could sit and meditate at a time and everyone else had to gather in the sitting room outside of the altar space.
I would go to this temple two to four times a week and practice.
After one month of regular attendance I was given my own meditation cushion, hard, supportive and brimming with possibility. I was invited to write my name on the cushion and place it in the on the shelving. I remember the feeling of acceptance and excitement that I felt.
The shifus, or masters, were a wife-and-husband couple. They spoke Taiwanese together and with everyone who came to the temple. They would speak some Mandarin to me and although at the time I didn’t speak Mandarin, sometimes we could reach understandings using my English-Chinese dictionary.
But what I really understood was the energy of the space and my excitement and eagerness to begin to meditate. To be given the space to go and be held in meditation was immensely valuable to me at the time.
I remember my first formal lesson where the shifu showed me how to sit, elongating the spine, settling the tailbone, tucking the chin slightly and resting my hands in my lap. Then, he gave me a meditation to practice focusing on the dantien (aka hara or womb-space). The practice was to keep awareness on the dantien. In being offered this meditation, I was initiated into the importance of this energy center. He taught me to sit still like a stone but to swallow mindfully and every swallow that I took to imagine receiving precious life force and offering it to the dantien which was then invigorated with life force being birthed through me. At least... that’s what I felt without understanding the words.
I did this for months. One day, around swallow number two and minute number 30, a women sitting front diagonal of me suddenly began to screech and caw. She raised up from her seat and she began the most beautiful dance I’ve ever seen.
And while she danced she sang and cawed like a bird and I remember at the time watching her from my seat of stillness and empty presence and feeling her and knowing that she was embodying the energy of the Phoenix.
The shifus and other students came out of the sitting room and they held space in the meditation room and the Phoenix danced and sang, offering her presence and gift. I was in awe. I was moved. And... the conditioned part of myself also judged her, and all of the temple, as weird and not doing it right.
Deep down, thoug, how I longed to be so embodied, to be a channel, to be in Essence and to be supported in doing so! rather than shunned and taunted. Although it was almost ten years before I circled back to this kind of feminine embodiment practices, I delight in suddenly recalling this experience when I was really like a newborn in the spiritual world. This was my initiation into spirit into embodiment and meditation. What a gift to have stumbled upon that tiny temple at the base of Tiger Mountain. Now, full spiral, I'm here, weird, doing things in an embodied way, which, indeed, hasn't been right for some time now in our world, in full belonging with the same practices. We are all rising from the ashes of living unembodied, of living small. It's time to embody the Phoenix! Blessed be.