The Dao of Ageing

Madhura is an amazing woman, who has lived as many lives as a cat! She studied philosophy at Birmingham Uni, ran a lighting company with her boyfriend, working with bands like Status Quo, was an actress in repertory theatre and in the West End.

She also lived in Osho's ashram in Pune, India for several years, where she worked in the press office. That meant she had to interpret what was going on in the ashram to journalists and politicians - including two Prime Ministers, Morarji Desai (famous among other things for drinking his own urine, a well-known Ayurvedic cure), as well as Indira Gandhi.

2016, 10:56

Madhura also lived on a boat off the north west coast of America, where she discovered yet another career as a designer, decorating houses and making beautiful designs for tapestries – as well as creating extraordinarily intricate and precise pieces of embroidery.

As a dancer Madhura was one of those annoying people who can do the splits with no effort… But this beautiful and agile body slowly changed as she got older. She developed rheumatoid arthritis, which slowly, bit by painful bit, stole her capacity to walk, to stand, to use her hands. But instead of becoming bitter and complaining she remains her witty, humourous self – making wry fun of her own situation and using what movement remains in her swollen and twisted hands to paint in the manner of the old Chinese Daoist painters – who used minimum effort to create exquisitely subtle and delicate pieces of art.

She sent this beautiful quotation about the Daoist approach to life and art (I was told by a professor friend that nowadays it has to be Daoist rather than Taoist, but I guess whoever wrote this book hadn’t got that message!)

‘Each part of the plum tree and each phase of its development correspond to the laws of nature and the tao. The fact that it blossoms in winter makes it the perfect representative of that season, admirable for its fortitude. It was also popularly accepted, therefore, as representing venerable old age; its gnarled and twisted trunk and branches admired as characteristic of Taoist sages and hermits who retired to the mountains to live closer to Tao. As the emblem of winter, the plum tree symbolises the end of the cycle of birth, growth and decay; but precisely for this reason, it is also a sign presaging the return of spring, of life and hope.’

from The Way of Chinese Painting: Its Ideas and Techniques by Mai-mai Sze