Writing about the bird spa took me back to Izanami, the ever-pleasing restaurant at Ten Thousand Waves.
After our memorable breakfast there, lifetimes ago at the vernal equinox to celebrate Sue’s birthday, Sue and I visited in the same fashion again on the Saturday following summer solstice to celebrate the publication of Breakfast Like an Emperor. Seemed fitting.
As before, we took off across the brilliant morning plains and dipped into the Galisteo basin with empty stomachs and full hearts. Since our previous visit, I had shared its contemplation with Duke, who seemed appreciative, and requested permission to share it on the Ten Thousand Waves newsletter.
That day, oddly for summer solstice, the air was nearly as brisk as it had been at equinox. So, when we arrived, I was eagerly anticipating a cozy booth for our meal. When the staff was ready to start seating, our charming hostess enquired, “Would you like a table outside or inside this morning?”.
I shuddered inside when faced with the image of outside. Outside seating at Izanami is on a high balcony overlooking the Sangre de Cristo foothills—and weather from the south.
“Outside!” volunteered my lovely wife, radiant in yin-deficient heat.
Immediately, to my surprise, I surrendered my shudder, and off we went. Reading my open book, our hostess reassured, “You can always move inside if it’s too cool for you.” Regardless of the surrender, my wind-sensitive body contracted, certain that’s exactly what would happen.
We had no sooner settled in, when our waitress arrived and announced that Duke had sent a gift, and we were immediately initiated into the never-before-experienced tradition of ‘over the top’, as she filled two good sized glasses, literally to overflowing into the saucers beneath them with chilled sake. “Omigod,” cried my suddenly re-contracted mind. There’s a theme evolving here, and it seems to be ever deepening surrender.
So I did. And smiled.
What a beautiful and unexpected gift! Yet presumably the last thing a clear headed doctor of Oriental medicine would prescribe for oneself on a chill, slightly breezy day, with an empty stomach—adequately clad or not. Wasn’t it?
Sue, of course, was aware of everything I was going through, and all we could do was laugh! We lifted our dripping glasses, trying not to spill more, and toasted the Master—the sake was divine. Talk about awakening all senses! I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect choice of sakes.
And so began another ‘breakfast at Izanami’. A morning filled with more surrender—on unexpected levels—and discoveries fulfilling my fascinated awareness wherever it turned.
During the course of our delectable breakfast, I became aware of my attention repeatedly fixating on the far horizon ridge, which, with countless others, culminates at the summit of Lake Peak above the Santa Fe ski basin, and eventually Santa Fe Baldy, which towers above them all. I had some familiarity with much of that ridgeline.
At this point in my journey, I’m being shown and given the opportunity to review and resolve past—and present—karmas, both conscious and unconscious, and, if possible, bring it all into balance—a consuming and highly engaging endeavor. And since not I, but the Master is the Do-er, what’s brought to my awareness continually astounds me. The ridgeline which kept tugging at my sleeve was reawakening memories of having lived in Santa Fe for seven years and the characteristics of my time there.
To say I was a madman at that time, would not be unfair. I’m told there are those who might say today….
Having just arrived in Santa Fe from Jackson Hole in 1984, I was still very much enamored with the expression of a gonzo life in the mountains. And the desert. And the Sea of Cortez, etc. It wasn’t until I lit in Santa Fe, however, that someone enticed me into the world of mountain biking. Oh, it wasn’t new to me. Jackson was one of the birthplaces of mountain biking, a couple of brothers, hippie members of the Weyerhauser clan among its earliest progenitors. But it held no attraction for me then. I was a feet-on-the-ground kinda guy at that point—often without shoes.
But someone in Santa Fe did entice me in that direction, and it was during that time that I took that form of exploration to its height—for me—and exhausted it. It was a wild ride.
Excuse me. I’ve wandered decades away from our exquisite, slightly inebriated breakfast. We’re both cheap dates and rarely imbibe in alcohol at all. Rather than looking down its nose at it, however, Oriental medicine warmly embraces the energetics of alcohol and the surprising benefits to be experienced with its appropriate use. The problem, of course, is experienced when it uses us.
For instance, Oriental medicine has a long history of using alcohol as a vehicle to deliver the effects of an herbal formula more quickly—when that’s indicated. And I was now coming to recognize other effects, previously unknown to me.
As in conventional Western medicine, the immune system has several interrelated components in Oriental medicine. Residing in the skin layer, Weiqi (way chee) is the outer, defensive component of that system. Its strength—or weakness—determines the course of progression of invasions from outer pathogenic factors. Both Wind and Cold are manifestations of such pathogens.
The skin is a part of the lung system, and the health of each is strongly influenced by the other. A Wind-Cold invasion which penetrates the skin may work its way into the lungs if Weiqi is weak, or if effective treatment is not quickly implemented to thoroughly expel the pathogen. Nearly all such treatments include the action of ‘releasing the exterior’. The effect of Wind and/or Cold contracts the exterior, just as I experienced venturing onto the balcony at Izanami.
As part of my life experience, weak Lung Qi and Weiqi, were constitutional conditions already present in the physical body I agreed to be born into. Just as a contracted muscle has no strength, when the exterior is chronically contracted, it’s less effective in protecting against invasion, and it carries with it a number of challenging experiences—some of which I’ve just described.
To my surprise, after dragging myself back from the ridgeline, I became aware of the sake’s unanticipated effect. I felt my body relax, and could feel warmth infusing my exterior—a startling and very pleasant sensation. The whole day changed. And I had never before experienced that. It was more than a revelation—it became an ongoing contemplation of the mechanisms at play within the ever expanding paradigm of Oriental medicine and the rather limited images I’ve been entertaining for seventy years!
I took no herbal decoctions; no one administered seshokushin by tapping my skin with the tip of a needle between their fingers; I didn’t run to the car for more clothes. I simply dumped a cold and delicious form of alcohol into my unwitting and empty stomach. The heating energetic of alcohol not only warmed me, but released the exterior and my uptight mind, making me completely comfortable and invigorated, preventing me from experiencing a Wind-Cold invasion (getting sick), and I had a great day! Had I indulged in a second glass of sake, the effect would likely have been diminished—dosage is everything.
I was dizzy with this revelatory experience. The sake helped with that, as well.
I’ll spare you the details of the breakfast we ate, which of course was dazzling. For me, the focus of this breakfast was the sake. And the nature of contraction, in all its manifestations.
Thank you, Duke!
Finally satiated, we sauntered outside and, for the first time, took time to sit down on a bench in front of the amazing water feature which greets guests arriving at Izanami. A perfectly orchestrated cascade tumbles perhaps fifteen feet down a wide expanse of rock into the spacious and absorbing pool below. To successfully create such an event requires more than a keen eye and infinite patience. The minute orientation of each rock contributes, not only the direction the eye—and water—follows, but to the quality and tone of sound emitted from the falling water—as well as a dozen other influences to produce its experience. It must be ‘tuned’ for all senses. Absorbing it as a reflection of the perfection that showers each moment of our days, we drank it in for a long time.
And that’s how the bird spa reminded me of this day.
Leaving the parking lot, I chose to turn left onto the highway—without intention or forethought—away from Santa Fe, and up the mountain.
To be continued…
Most Recent Contemplation: Vernal Equinox
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