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Regarding Sacred Landscapes

Here and Now in Shanghai: Soliloquies at the start

Published in Dragon Boat World Magazine, Summer 2005

Setting up for the start, I hear the cosmic whisper in my ear, – If ever a moment to be Here and Now, it’s here and now. And if ever a time, as a dragon boater, to make the most of Here and Now, it’s here, now in Shanghai, competing in the World Dragon Boat Championship.

And, as sages teach, the whisper continues, really, there’s nothing other than Here and Now; for, when asked, ‘are we there, yet?’ you correctly respond, – There is no there, there; only Here and Now!

And continuing, the whisper whispers, – Other sages teach there’s neither here nor now; but we won’t go there, now…

These were the soliloquies roaming my head when race officials began playing the contemplative melodies at the shot of the three-minute-to-start gun. Three minutes to start. Music inducing us competitors to dissolve into ourselves, eliminating extraneous external stimuli, sights and sounds having nothing to do with the diligence and effort required to race among the elite of our sport.

Now whispers accompanied the music, – Knowing I’ve pushed myself to the degree required to compete here, testing well beyond what I thought I was capable of doing – with each paddle and each peddle, each push-up and each crunch, each breath and stroke, lift and pull, each kilo pressed, then more reps, more weight, faster times, bigger, stronger, endurance, technique, timing … each unfolding moment by moment … each Here and Now.

Team-mates and competitors energizing one another. For us to cross the line faster and more effectively than them, they pushing no less than us.

Then more whispers to the music, – Our Chinese hosts graciously bid us welcome to these World Championships, executing each detail more splendidly than the next: huge banners in red waving across the Shanghai highways announcing the races, fireworks grandeur at opening ceremonies, new teak boats that glide like silk over glass, wide courses designed to eliminate secondary wash, races starting precisely at scheduled times, facilities beautifully landscaped, magnificent weather, and the joyful playful tunes of the award ceremonies. Here and Now … We were indeed guests at a very special event.

And additional whispers, – In China, they say there are Five Sacred Taoist Mountains and Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains. Make pilgrimage to these nine and you have a spiritual awakening. However, once you visit Huang Shan, you will be overwhelmed; owing to its splendour and grandeur, your heart uplifted with boundless aesthetic joy -- expressions of its mysterious, sublime beauty, celestial mountains like temple steeples, castles of the Immortals floating above oceans of clouds … WAIT! That’s not Here and Now! That’s after Here

One minute to start … Mr Starter, you have the race.

Where else could I possibly want to be? What else could I possibly want to be doing, but to be Here and Now. Having taken the opportunity … writing on … paddling on … each word a moment … each moment a prayer … it all comes together to this … our race … everyone’s race.

Ten seconds to start!