Han-Shan Poem no. 93

Today in my yoga class I read a poem from the book “Cloud Mountain.” It’s a book of poems by the T’ang poet Han-Shan. Each poem has that ambiguous-ego mind scratch thing going on where you go “ohhh!” at the end. It is poem number 93 and it goes like this:

Here is a tree older than the forest itself;

The years of its life defy reckoning.

Its roots have seen the upheavals of hill and valley,

Its leaves have known the changes of

                            wind and frost.

The world laughs at its shoddy exterior

And cares nothing for the fine grain

                            of the wood inside.

Stripped free of flesh and hide,

All that remains is the core of truth.

The last two lines are like glue in my psyche. As I watched my students and as I taught today, I thought of how we evolve through the upheavals and changes in our lives as a process of stripping our outer identity-layers off to reveal our truth, our most brilliant truth. Upheavals can be gifts in disguise, and on our “shoddy exterior” days may we meet a smile.

Thank you to my students for meeting me with a smile, and showing up today as they did in their brilliance.

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