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Sedona mountain range
"Two monks sit facing,
playing chess on the mountain,
The bamboo shadow on the board
is dark and clear.
Not a person sees the bamboo's shadow,
One sometimes hears the pieces being moved."
-Bai Juyi

Blog Feature: Nature's Archetypes

The Masters coached great leaders to establish order in ancient society by emulating how Mountains orchestrated natural order. Firm in their power, they can be shaped by the elements and become a model of constancy for others. No matter where we are traveling, the Mountain remains stationary on the horizon. It can offer a pathway when it appears to block our way.

Forced to climb upward, we have the opportunity
to see life from a different perspective.

To the Taoist, the virtue suggested by the Mountain was called Keeping Still. The Master said: “Composure straightens out one’s inner life; righteousness will square one’s external life.” In this way, the Mountain offers us a lesson about sameness as we connect with te and move deeper into the changing landscape.

Our need to project past experience upon each event can cause a type of resistance, or turbulence in the great river of life. “Be open, that is all.” The Masters taught how one composes the inner terrain to find a greater power reflected in each experience. “The penetration of germinal though into the mind promotes the workings of the mind. When this working furthers and brings peace to life, it elevates one’s nature. Whatever goes beyond this indeed transcends all knowledge. When one comprehends nature and understands the transformations, one lifts the character to the level of the miraculous.” Ken is the principle of transformation brought about by Keeping Still.

Mountain trigram iching

The two primary principles associated with winter are Ken, the Mountain and K’un the Earth. Both reflect a strong receptive energy below. In Ken, a creative and firm line remains above, while two open lines are doubled below. Whether we travel to the height of the Mountain to gain perspective, or as a place of meditation, Ken is the last opportunity to understand experience before what is left of the Creative must be relegated to the past.

In myths, the hero is given extraordinary power by climbing a Mountain.

Moses climbs its heights to hear the words of Yahweh and Gilgamesh asks the Mountain to inspire his dreams. The Mountain is a symbol of the subconscious barrier that can ward off transformation. When we are told something over, and over, we come to believe it so strongly that hearing any opposite suggestion will fall on deaf ears. “The Mountain is the beginning and end.” It is the line between the past and the future, although it is also the gateway to unleash potential power. As the air grows thinner, we are disoriented enough to become still and receptive.

When we no longer take a defensive posture against life, increased wisdom grows through stillness. This allows us to see how we conquer out of fear and the illusion that something may happen. Releasing our defense mechanisms, we become present and observant in the moment to discover the essence of Ken.

"Reaction is how we defend the past against the future."

In Ken, we meditate on events to recognize how the past may no longer serve us. Through Keeping Still, we observe the world from an inner perspective. We do not deny the world, but trade reaction for perception. By taking responsibility for our past and the part it played in creating the present, we move toward a life of self-sufficiency, independence and authentic power.

The Roman hero, Aeneas, seeks his destiny in an underworld below a Mountain. He meets the hideous and snarling creatures that have become the confusion of inner turmoil. Below the subconscious net, we enter a place that allows us to retrieve our conditioning tapes. They may play as a way of protecting our feelings, but they are actually keeping us a prisoner to the past. Like Aeneas, we separate our branch of the World Tree from our parent’s trunk. At the threshold of perception there is only newness and discovery. When our perception is clear, like Aeneas, we have the opportunity to move forward and claim our destiny.

The Mountain can become the hardened perspective that keeps us a prisoner to the past or the heights that we climb to obtain a wider view. “Do not climb the Mountain to hear the words of the Masters; climb them to seek what they sought.” Each journey is unique, and it will mean something different to each individual. Evolution requires that we participate with life and not mystify it. At the heart of Ken is the idea that by bringing composure to the inner terrain, we will discover this tranquility reflected in the outer world.