In Reply to Valencian Life Questions

Yes, the weather is usually fine. Sunny, 20-25 degrees C., although lately it has been getting chillier and rain is in the forecast for the next several days.

Yes, I have had some physical setbacks: the annual, month-long bout of bronchitis, a piece of a molar that broke off, a foot injury that was caused by running and now prevents me from running. But my intestines are fine (which as you know was not always the case this year), and everything else seems to function well, too. I sleep well. My heart beats strongly. I massage my foot with an oil I’ve bought at Rituals.

Yes, I have been keeping up with the daily Top to Bottom Adjustments just as I did in Wudangshan. I have been doing taijiquan and qi gong on my balcony, in my living room, in the park. The other day I took my longest xiao to the park and used it to practise taijijian (sword form), noticing I didn’t really care about people looking at me. I’ve taken out a Valenbisi bike and cycled the length of the Turia park. Similarly, to the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias and then on to the beach. Other days, I don’t get up from the couch; that happens, too.

Always dazzling

Yes, I order food from time to time: pizza, Thai, Indian, a sumptuous sandwich, a hamburger even. Some of it is vegetarian, some contains meat, fish, crustaceans.

Fake sushi: cooked fish

Yes, I prepare food myself, too: fruit salads with nuts, soy milk and honey, vegetable salads of pepper, tomato, carrot, corn, avocado, what have you, with balsamic vinegar. A frittata with plenty o’ veg, noodles and rice and rice noodles with vegetables, mushrooms and eggs. And other things. I sometimes eat a whole packet of biscuits. Or two desserts.

Risotto with chopsticks because why not?

Yes, occasionally I buy something other than food, for myself and for other people I care about, in town and online. I receive a package, I send a package. I’ve donated some clothes to charity that no longer bring me joy but may very well do so to others. I go into town with a book and drink a glass of horchata, a caña maybe, before taking a stroll through the local El Corte Inglés department store. Not often, though, as the mandatory face masks and general state of emergency that is in effect in Spain work well to discourage being out and about.

Fellow devotees at the local temple are not deterred

Yes, I read books, like Grand Hotel Europa, which continues to be entertaining, a book on Chinese chess (xiangqi), an audio book by Alan Watts. My own novella, The Dao of Mei Li, too: to make small revisions, correct a typo here and add a comma there. It is with Penguin Random House now, so let’s all visualize them publishing it and it will surely happen.

The joy of reading

Yes, I listen to music, every day. Pop, Chinese classical music, Miles Davis, Mozart’s piano concerti, xiao music, 180-beats-per-minute running tracks. And other music. I make music too, on my three xiao, which I rotate to make sure each of them receives attention and breath (qi). Sometimes I sing. Or hum.

Yes, I think, about where I come from, where I am now, where I might be going. About the things that I do, about the joyful and the sad, about the people I have known and the people I know. About being and about doing, about emptiness and about fullness. About feelings and needs, about my inner family. About what to have for lunch and whether I will clean the toilet today. And other things.

Yes, I am by myself, most of the time. There is one life in this apartment: mine. The dog next door barks from time to time, neighbours left and right walk and talk, use the toilet, run the washing machine, speak loudly on the phone out on the balcony. Buskers, sirens and the chatter of people in the street five floors down form the auditory backdrop to my solitary existence.

Yes, I have company, too: in text messages, in Wechat, Skype and Facetime calls with family and friends, a phone call with an insurance company customer service representative (it turns out travel insurance these days is a waste of money, so I’ve cancelled that), an online chat with my new mobile service provider. And from the few people I have met here, with whom I regularly watch a film, bake something, share a meal and more. Or from one of these:

No coyness here

Yes, I write. My journal, every day. Five (now six!) blog pieces in as many weeks here in Valencia. I enjoy writing them, feel happy that I have composed a fictional story again, too. Let’s see if more ultra-short stories in the new genre ‘New Corona Fiction’ will appear! (Perhaps I should change it to ‘Novel Corona Fiction’?) When I am writing, energy flows. After writing, it is time to move my body. Yin, yang, yin, and so on.

Creativity happens right in front of you

Yes, I am learning. How to solve a Rubik’s cube, the theory behind the game of xiangqi, how to create the alveolar trill that we commonly know as the Spanish ‘rr’. I am practising to apply what I learnt in my time in Wudangshan. This, here, now is a daily exam. Living with the Dao in the mountains in China is easy; boxed in, in myself, in an apartment in a foreign country: an exercise, every day, in staying connected with the outside. To realize that inside and outside are the same.

Close family, see the space

Yes, sometimes I feel tense, down, stuck or lost. I also feel happy, content, confident. I do not worry about feeling what I feel. Of course it is hard when it all comes together in force, the physical and the psychological, when both body and heart-and-mind are unhealthy, when the qi does not flow. It can be frustrating. Generally I realize soon enough that frustration does nothing but frustrate further. The moment I let be what is, notice that I am breathing in and breathing out, that my heart is beating and I am alive, without doing anything for it, really—frustration falls away, the hard becomes soft again, coughing subsides, sadness lessens into boredom which in turn changes into a more open perspective. Soon I discover something new, something interesting. Closed doors can turn the gaze to clear windows. To find a smile beyond the pane.

Free chuckles

Yes, such is my life at the moment. As you can see, I am mindful of the three main aspects of existence: shēn, qì, and xīn. The three treasures, as they are called in Daoism. Body, qi (life force, energy) and heart-and-mind, respectively. In another take on it, they are referred to as jīng (body, the material basis), (vitality, invisible energy), and shén (spirit). Master Gu explains it as follows. Wood (jīng) is the fuel, a spark and fire () are needed to use the fuel for its purpose; only then the insubstantial but invaluable heat (shén) can result from this process. When these three are in balance, a happy, healthy life occurs.

My life at present is neither good nor bad, neither difficult nor easy, because it is both good and bad and difficult and easy. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. I welcome every aspect of life—so I am saying Yes to life and the questions it raises. I hope this post has answered some of yours, too.

Now it is time for me to move my body: create some sparks, start a fire.

Love always!

In a nutshell. Speaking of shells, 亀 means “turtle/tortoise”.

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