The Tao Te Ching for Everyday Living

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Tao Te Ching Verse 58translated by Wing-Tsit ChanWhen the government is non-discriminative and dull, The people are contented and generous. When the government is searching and discriminative, The people are disappointed and contentious.Calamity is that upon which happiness depends; Happiness is that in which calamity is latent.Who knows when the limit will be reached? Is there no correctness (used to govern the world)? Then the correct again becomes the perverse. And the good again will become evil. The people have been deluded for a long time.Therefore the sage is as pointed as a square but does not pierce. He is as acute as a knife but does not cut. He is as straight as an unbent line but does not extend. He is as bright as light but does not dazzle.Photo by Christophe Hautier on UnsplashThreading Life’s NeedleLao Tzu says that the Sage is square but has no rough edges, is bright but not dazzling.  In other words, the Sage is balanced in her approach.  She keeps things within herself as steady as she can - and that is the priority.  Not trying to control everything around her, she pays attention to her reactions to those things.  Notice we said she doesn’t try to control her reactions - she just observes them.  I’ve got this image of a boat navigating through a strait avoiding tricky outcroppings of rocks and shallow bottoms.  Or of threading a needle.  It seems to me that despite all the challenges, all the opportunities and disasters, the thing that is important is for us to maintain balance through it all.    And how do we do that?  Observing things, firstly.  And the second thing is more of an attitude than anything.  Things we call ‘bad’ happen.  And when that’s the case, idk about you, I tend to internally resist undesirable things or situations or feelings.  But what if I saw these things as growth opportunities?  Would they be so bad after all?Of course on the surface, this looks like me just trying to be optimistic about things, right?  But what else can we say?  A broken car and no work would mean that I could look for the opportunity to see the situation as a tool to help me refine my reaction to it, couldn’t I?  Absolutely.  I wouldn’t have the opportunity to work on my reaction to it without it!  So yes, trying to put a positive spin on things is one thing.  But using a seemingly negative situation to become aware of my negativity and addressing it is another.And so that’s what I feel like we are called to look at in this third part.  The fact that yes, things are going to happen - and it’s not totally about letting them be, although that’s the first part.  It’s also about trying to maintain balance during those things that helps us grow into more evolved versions of ourselves.So taking a step back, I think the takeaway from this verse is this:When I try to force things, it just causes discontent and chaos, so maybe it’s better to allow things to occur.  But when great things occur, there is almost certainly the chance that not so great things will come out of it.  So if I can remain aware of and detached from the ebb and flow of things, without trying to control it, I can work on my internal reactions.  I may use the ebb and flow as opportunities to evolve myself.  And like threading a needle, I’ve found a way to approach life that allows me to grow without having too much effort into it.
Tao Te Ching Verse 57translated by Xiaolin YangWhen governing a country you must be fair and just;When fighting a battle, you must use tricks;When taking over the world, you must practice WUWEI.How do I know everything in this world? This is how.The more restrictions the government sets, the more people become poor;The more people have dangerous weapons, the more the country falls into chaos;The more people become clever, the more bizarre things happen;The more severe the law becomes, the more thieves there are.So the great leaders said: "If I practice WUWEI, the people will govern themselves;If I am always peaceful, the people will be upright by themselves;If I do not initiate things for my own purposes, the people will become rich by themselves;If I do not have desires, the people will become simple and plain by themselves.Photo by Sahand Babali on UnsplashLet’s consider how we can apply the principle of Practicing Gentility in this verse today.I’d like to use an acronym to practice this verse today.  The acronym is  A-S-K.Keeping in the spirit of being gentle with ourselves and therefore others, here’s what I think we can do:The A is for Acceptance - lifting those prohibitions on ourselves and others - observing things without judgment.  Of course this doesn’t mean we have to approve of anything - we’re just not judging.The S is for Simplicity.  By eliminating the weapons of guilt we use on ourselves and avoiding overthinking, we allow our lives to unfold in the natural way of things.  We grow quiet and rich in spirit.And the K is for Kindness.  By becoming aware of my selfish desires and then discarding them, I am naturally kind to myself.  There is nothing to beat myself up over when I fail to achieve that desire!  Remember that’s not saying we can’t have goals - we’re talking about desires to feel a certain way that results from our manipulating a certain set of external circumstances.  Going on a diet, stopping a habit, getting more love from people, getting approval from others because we want praise - that sort of stuff.So today, I can A-S-K ask the Tao for assistance with all of this.  I can ask the Tao to help me concentrate my attention on the light energy, the light energy that is there all the time anyway.  And after I make my request, I can relax and be grateful, knowing that that which I’ve requested is already on its way.
Tao Te Ching Verse 56translated by Chang Chung-YuanOne who is aware does not talk.One who talks is not aware.Ceasing verbal expressions,Stopping the entry of sensations,Dulling its sharpness,Releasing its entanglements,Tempering its brightness,And unifying with the earth:This is called the identity of Tao.Hence, no nearness can reach her nor distance affect her.No gain can touch her nor loss disturb her.No esteem can move her nor shame distress her.Thus, she is the most valuable person in the world.Photo by Peter Nguyen on UnsplashBeing careful to not Kiss and TellI feel like after all we’ve been considering for the past 5 episodes, Lao Tzu provides us with a final thought.  And it seems to be this:  Don’t kiss and tell with the universe.I don't know about you, but I have experienced some true, correct, and wonderful things and feelings along my journey with the Tao.  There have been times when I just want to tell everybody about how cool it all is.  Perhaps I’ve had an experience when I felt intimately connected with my environment.  Perhaps I’ve experienced using the creative power of the Tao.  Perhaps I’ve grown a little and have had paradigm shifting insights.  Um, yeah I want to tell people about it.  My world just changed - how can I not talk about it?But I started noticing something when I would tell people about my adventures.  And it wasn’t because I became super aware of it on my own, either.  It was this verse and other sources - that hinted to me that I shouldn’t be going around and blabbing about my growth.  But why?  I asked.  Isn’t this joyful?  Isn’t this something I should be sharing?  You can, said the Tao, you can share all you want.  But guess what happens when you do?  You take the power out of what you have received and you will feel that that joy you have dissipates more quickly.So yes, I have learned that when I have paradigm-shifting experiences because of my efforts to move into Harmony, if I want to hold on to those lessons and make them a part of me, I must stay quiet about them.  That’s just my experience - yours may look different.  All I know is now, despite the temptation I have to talk about it, I am better off if I hold it inside and accept whatever has occurred as a precious, personal gift. Now, does that mean I withhold information or my experience with people when they ask?  I don’t think so - of course, we are here to help each other.  But I must be careful about oversharing - and not just because I’ll diminish the beauty of my gift, either.  I can also be practicing compassion simultaneously when I am judicious about what I share and don’t.  Have you noticed that sometimes someone may not be ready to hear what you have to say?  I have, for sure.  I haven’t been ready to hear things from others, also!  The Tao, it seems, prompts us to act and to talk when its time in the manner and depth it specifies.  So I don’t need to go out of my way to not share - this stuff isn’t secret, nor is it meant to be.  It is given freely to those who are ready and willing to receive it.  So I may allow my experiences to come up in conversation, and if I’m asked, I can share about the bigger picture.  When I share out of willingness to give freely and not because I want people to know, I retain my gift and pass it on to others in the way that they need in that moment.
Tao Te Ching Verse 55translated by Lin YutangWho is rich in characterIs like a child.   No poisonous insects sting him,   No wild beasts attack him,   And no birds of prey pounce upon him.His bones are soft, his sinews tender, yet his grip is strong.Not knowing the union of male and female, yet his organs are complete,   Which means his vigor is unspoiled.Crying the whole day, yet his voice never runs hoarse,   Which means his (natural) harmony is perfect.To know harmony is to be in accord with the eternal,(And) to know eternity is called discerning.(But) to improve upon life is called an ill-omen;To let go the emotions through impulse is called assertiveness.(For) things age after reaching their prime;That (assertiveness) would be against Tao.And he who is against Tao perishes young.Photo by Daniel Sandvik on UnsplashStaying on the PathDo you remember that path we walked on two verses ago?  We were in a forest on the main path, headed to where we didn’t know with little offshoot paths.  They seemed to be luring us down them, but we kept going.  We said that the offshoots were just temporary diversions from the main path we were to walk.  And there definitely was a destination - it’s just that it seems invisible while we’re back on the ground walking again.We know what the Way feels like, what it is, and the biggest thing of all - if we’re on it or not.  Lao Tzu tells us in the first part of this verse that if we are on the Way, we are strong in our vulnerability, our creative energies are retained and we’re not needlessly spending them on diversions.  And we’re walking effortlessly.So I don't know about you, but from time to time, I get bored.  While I’m walking the path, the stones crunch the same way over and over, the trees don’t seem to change, and it’s one curve in the path after another.  Sometimes, yes, I’m all, dude a waterfall or a stream would be cool.  And in those moments, I may have an idea.  I may get the idea that I should liven up the path a bit.  Maybe play games with seeing how many drag marks I can make with my feet.  Maybe taking branches from the side of the way and pretending they’re swords, or using them to draw shapes in the path.  Perhaps I even get an idea that it would be neat if the path was paved into a road and I could get to my destination faster if I had a skateboard, a bike, or even a car.To what end, though?  Let’s say I’m on the path and I get that momentary feeling of boredom and I want to make improvements to my experience.  Aren’t I slowing my effortless progress?  The goal, as I saw from the elevator, is to get to that magic place.  So why drag my feet along, even if it seems fun for a moment?  Why try to pretend I’m something my inherent nature isn’t by waving pretend swords around?  If I had a vehicle that would get me there faster, wouldn’t I be missing the whole experience?Maybe what makes that magic place magic is my experience of the mundane.  Maybe it’s magic only after I have learned a thing or two about the forest by careful observation.  Maybe on the surface, when I get there, it seems like any other place, but only after I have absorbed the forest’s energy does the place truly come to life.Maybe...I am already at my destination but I must tune myself to it.
Tao Te Ching Verse 54translated by Hua-Ching NiWhat is well planted cannot be pulled up.What is closely embraced cannot slip away.The wise establish virtue firmly within themselves, and are honored for generationsever after.Apply natural, integral virtue to your own character,and it will be genuine.Apply natural, integral virtue to the family,and it will abound.Apply natural, integral virtue to the state,and it will flourish abundantly.Apply natural, integral virtue to the world,and it will be pervasive.Understand other people's lives by means of your own life.Understand other people's families by means of your own family.Understand other societies by means of your own society.Understand other countries by means of your own country.How can you know what is right for the world?By knowing what is right for your own life.Photo by NASA on UnsplashHanded down from Generation to GenerationGrowing up in Southwestern Pennsylvania, I experienced an environment that was much like my immediate ancestors.  There were old streets with names like Wageman drive.   We ate hotdogs and sauerkraut, sometimes haluski, and did friday fish fries during the springtime.All of that seemed normal to me - you know, the way things were.  It wasn’t until I was stationed in Germany with the Army and came home for a visit that I realized my Southwestern PA experience was an echo of three or four generations past that had largely come from there.  My family on my mother’s side was largely German.  But we never talked about it - it wasn’t a thing that came up in conversations.  Some of the German culture as it revealed itself in interpersonal relations I experienced in Europe was present in my hometown, as well.  When scolding a child in PA, an adult would make a fist with his left hand, extending the index finger.  With his right index finger, he would hold it perpendicular to the left finger and move it from his left knuckle to his fingernail in the same way one might peel a carrot.  That would be accompanied by a verbal “shame on you.”  I saw the same thing in Germany. "Scham," is what they would say.If this is the case for external influences, I wonder how many internal influences were also passed on.  I remember growing up learning that I didn’t matter as much as my work ethic mattered.  I needed to do well for my employer.  Despite whether or not I wanted to work, I needed to work.  I didn’t need to go around trying to find my passion - that was for people who didn't have to worry about putting bread on the table.  I needed to save my money.  The adults in my life were the absolute authorities, and if I didn’t behave, it was expected of me to feel guilty about it. It wouldn’t be until I began my journey with the Tao that I realized that everything I thought was reality while growing up was just a collection of experiences heavily influenced by past emotional and economic environments, environments that didn’t even exist anymore!  I have spent a short time so far unlearning some of those destructive thinking and emotional habits.  No longer do I have the belief that I don’t matter.  That I am alone.  That I should be ashamed of myself for things I think or do, especially if I’ve made mistakes in earnest.
Tao Te Ching Verse 53translated by John C. H. WuIf only I had the tiniest grain of wisdom,I should walk in the Great Way,And my only fear would be to stray from it.The Great Way is very smooth and straight;And yet the people prefer devious paths.The court is very clean and well garnished,But the fields are very weedy and wild,And the granaries are very empty!They wear gorgeous clothes,They carry sharp swords,They surfeit themselves with food and drink,They possess more riches than they can use!They are the heralds of brigandage!As for Tao, what do they know about it?Photo by Lucie Hošová on UnsplashThe WayLet’s imagine that we are in the forest.  We are on a path.  It’s a wide one, and it seems straight enough, though we can see that it turns gently to the left at the limit of our vision.  There are green trees on either side of the path.  They filter out the harshness of the sun but there is plenty of light.  Little bushes grow alongside the path.  There are even some that are producing berries - the ones that you can eat.Birds are calling to each other.  And it smells of fresh earth, maybe a little like the trees once in awhile.It seems that all is well, and you happily walk on, wondering sometimes in the back of your head what’s next or when you’ll arrive at your destination, what you might do there.  But mostly, it’s pretty peaceful.You’re hearing people in the distance.  This seems interesting - it’s kind of far off, but they sound like they’re laughing and having a good time.  You walk a little further and now it seems like the sounds are coming from the right.  A little further, and you see a little path, about half of the size of yours, veering off.  No one is on the path, but you realize the sounds you are hearing are coming from that direction.  The little path is more windy than yours - and it disappears down a hill and around a left curve just a little distance from you.You wonder: where is all this going?  Those others seem to be having a good time.  Why should you even be walking on this path right now?  How did you get here?For awhile, things get quiet again and it’s just the sound of you walking.  Then, just around the next curve, you see an object in the center of the path.  You keep walking, and reach it.  It looks like an elevator, and there is a sign that is encouraging you to get in. So, you do.There’s only one button, so with a little hesitation, you push it.  The doors slide shut and you feel upward movement.  The walls and the door become transparent, so now you can see the tops of the trees.  In a couple moments, you are looking down on the forest.  You look forward in the direction you’ve been walking, and you see off in the distance, the forest ends turns into a beautiful landscape with rolling hills and lush green grass.  There aren’t any signs of what the place could be, but you inherently know it’s a magical place.  You can just feel it.The elevator pauses for a moment, and starts its way back down.  Soon, you’re stepping out of it.  You look to the direction of your destination, and keep going.
Tao Te Ching Verse 52translated by AnonymousThe world sprouts from somethingPeople could call it the mother of the worldWhen one knows that mother, one knows her childOne who becomes like that child again, will know the motherAnd for the rest of his life nothing can harm him ever againHe won't criticize anyone and lets no one influence himAnd his life will be without worriesBut one who condemns others and whose interests concern only himselfWill be full of worries the rest of his lifeOne that sees a gleam of light in darkness sees the light at the end of the tunnelHolding on to that gleam of light requires strengthOne who follows that light, turns back to the original lightThen all danger is goneAnd you'll live the eternal lifePhoto by Lucas Benjamin on UnsplashUsing the Light to IntegrateLao Tzu says to use the brightness of the way to return to the light.  This unlocked a piece of the Integral puzzle for me today.  In the Yin Yang symbol, there is the Yang, or the bright side, and the Yin, which is the dark side.  Until now, we have been talking about the Yang as being physical energy, material things, and the Yin as being that dark, unmanifested side of the Tao.  Recently, a Taoist master has come into my life, even though he doesn’t know it - I got my hands on some literature that explains the Yin Yang as it applies to humans and our lives.  A simple way to put what I’ve learned is that the Yang represents the light that Lau Tzu is talking about and the Yin represents our desires to fulfill our corporeal senses.  So if we were to simplify that a bit more, it would be that Yang is my willingness to move into Harmony with the Tao and Yin would be the selfish desires for emotional & financial security, prestige, and intimacy on my terms.So now it makes sense - using the light of the Tao, or constantly working to move into Harmony with the Tao, sort of as a beacon for when I get lost in my selfish ego’s desires, I can remember what to do when I recognize I’m all up in my ego and move forward into Harmony again.  So of course, this is a part of the human experience, isn’t it?  We’re here, participating, always going back and forth between Harmony with the Tao and questing to satisfy our base natures.  We have the ideal, which is Harmony with the Tao, but we fall short of it often - at least I do, ya’ll.  As I continue to refine my practice, partly by getting quiet and seeing the small disturbances in my Yin, and then partly by remembering to return to Harmony, I keep this process going.  Like filtering dirty water through charcoal, over and over.  The more I do this, the clearer the water gets.So for now, that seems to be the mechanism of integration that we talked about earlier and as described by Lao Tzu.  For me, the takeaway for this verse seems to be this:Everything I do causes ripplesThere’s no way to immediately know my center; I must practice and practice to become aware of it.By trying my best to move into Harmony with the Tao, I am integrating my being and thus continue to purify my life’s energy.And the point of all this?  Less suffering and more natural joy in my life, for starters.  I suspect that there are more esoteric benefits but I’m content to stay with this for now.
Tao Te Ching Verse 51translated by Tien Cong TranThe Way gives birth [to all things]; Virtue nourishes; matter shapes; environmentperfects.Therefore all things without exception revere the Way and honor Virtue, althoughthey are not commanded, but left to do so naturally.Hence, the Way gives birth; Virtue nurses, grows, fosters, shelters, comforts,nourishes, and guards.It gives birth but does not claim as its own; it does but does not claim its doing; itgrows but does not claim to be master.This is called hidden of Herb Alpert Appreciating without needing to possessAre there things in your life that you feel would bring you happiness if only you owned them?  Could it be a new car?  What about a dwelling place?  Would you be happy if you owned a new kitchen knife set?  A new phone?  A new computer?  What would these things actually do for you?  Could it be possible to feel happiness just by appreciating them without needing to own them?Now let’s think about people.  When you see a person to whom you are attracted, what is your reaction?  Do you immediately want to be intimate with that person?  Do you start thinking of what a relationship with that person might be like?  Do you start thinking how you could make that person happy?  Do you initiate a conversation sometimes with the intention of waiting to see if an opportunity develops?  What could it look like if we were to internally acknowledge if that person was attractive and just...appreciate that we can appreciate that attractiveness?  Can we be happy with just the moment without needing to do anything about it, either mentally or physically?Finally, let’s think about our own spiritual status.  Are we at one point in our growth, trying to get to another?  Are we trying to grow actively?  Do we want to get to a place where we are masters of the Tao, or just get good at going with the flow?  Isn’t this like wanting to possess the Tao in a way?  What would it look like if we were content to play our parts, to participate in our lives in the way the Tao orchestrates, not worrying about if we’re spiritual enough?  What if we could be ok with our current state of spiritual awareness instead of wanting to get better?  Do we need to possess our spiritual growth, or can we merely appreciate it when we notice a change in our perceptions?  Just like appreciating a beautiful object or attractive person, we can appreciate the gifts of the Tao and being in Harmony with the Tao.  Let’s remember though that we do not need to force it.  Yes, there are things we can practice, but we can do those things without an endstate in mind.  We can do those things much like a key in a lock makes a new discovery possible when the door is opened for us.So yes, we can practice emulating the Tao by exercising respect, honesty, kindness, and service to others.  That’s all from a desire to move into harmony with the Tao.  We can also, as this verse states, allow the gifts and the power of the Tao to enter us freely without its needing to possess us.  So we can complete the circle by freely giving respect, freely being honest, freely offering kindness, and freely performing service to others - with no strings, no if I do this then I’ll get that, no expectation of return for any of it.  For if we can do this, we are then truly imitating the greatest thing and no-thing we can.
Tao Te Ching Verse 50translated by AnonymousHumans come and goTheir bodies as the seat of lifeTheir bodies as the seat of deathHumans get old and decayWhy is that?It's because they are already dead, but think that they're livingThere have been stories told and written about people who had found true lifeAnd wandered around the earth Not afraid of tigers or rhinosThose who avoided weapons and violenceAnd lived in harmony with all creaturesTherefore no creature felt threatened by themAnd no weapon could harm themWhy is that?Because they were only livingAnd that's where there is no room for deathPhoto by Markus Spiske on UnsplashImmortalityWhat’s it mean to be unscathed on the battlefield?  Like swords and bullets literally can’t destroy me?  No, there are laws of physics, so they’ll destroy your biology for sure.  But they can’t touch those experiences.  The swords and bullets can’t do anything to destroy the impact that you've made on others around you.Rhinos and tigers.  Or bullies.  Or people that have abused you.  Or natural disasters.  None of those things, if you are in ‘possession’ of the Tao, can affect your inner nature.  So we are talking about non-corporeal immortality here.  And it’s quite simple:  We are expressions of the Tao.  The Tao is infinite.  Therefore, we  are infinite.  Of course, I always forget this.  My senses and the life I live have a keen way of pulling me back into thinking that this is all there is.  But there are times when I can remember - in morning meditation, mostly - that despite being biologic, I am part of something way bigger than I think.  And sometimes, I can take this with me when I leave my dwelling and interact with the world.  In those moments, I gotta tell you, everything looks different.  Cars on the road are funny.  The seriousness with which we carry ourselves seems funny.  Money is...idk, this fake concept that everyone’s decided to go with because it’s easier than carrying heavy metal around.  The illusion is displayed in front of me, available for everyone to see and yet it is safely ensconced behind a transparent veil.  And then I realize that I am the one creating the veil by separating from it, too, and I go back to that whole ‘just participate’ thing.It’s a trip, for sure.  I would encourage you to try this out - if only for a thought experiment.  Take a moment or two, during meditation maybe, to remember that the Tao of you is impervious to physical harm, that despite your corporeal death, that life force, that feeling inside you of being alive and that knowing of being a part of something far greater than imagination, even, is what goes on to infinity.  Then go interact with the world.  Or look at stuff on the internet.  Observe everyone seeming to take things so seriously.  Laugh a little, then go back to participating.
Tao Te Ching Verse 49translated by Chou Wing ChohanThe sage has no self that she can call "mine,"She turns the self of the people into her own.I act with goodness toward the good,I act with goodness toward the bad, too,And so the good is contagious.I relate with trust to the person who is worthy of trust,I relate with trust to the person who is not worthy of trust, too,And so trust is contagious.The sage lives in the world in her victory and rules the world with her simplicity.But when all the people look at her and listen to her,The sage takes care of them, like a mother takes care of her children.Photo by Vonecia Carswell on UnsplashGrowing relationshipsWhat is the Sage to the people and the people to the Sage other than a relationship?  Sure, it looks a little different than a one on one, but the basic idea is there: one entity or person co-existing in relation to another.  Lao Tzu urges the Sage to treat those who are good well, and treat those who are bad well.  The terms ‘dignity and respect’ come to mind.So no matter who a person is to me, no matter what they do, I can always find a way to honor their humanity.  Does this mean that I should roll myself out like a doormat and allow people to walk on me?  No, on the contrary - in a relationship, I am at least 50% of it, and allowing another to have their way with me to the point that it is detrimental to me robs them of a potentially beautiful experience they can have.  So no doormatting!What about personal relationships?   If I am 50% of a relationship with whomever I treat, I am in a position to impact it either positively or negatively.  Same with the other person.  And while I may have started a relationship with another for business, romance, or friendship, my primary concern needs to be how the relationship grows.  For example, I can meet a colleague that becomes my friend.  I can meet a significant other that becomes my business partner and friend.  So roles, perhaps, are arbitrary and convenient ways to think about relationships.  But what about the magic that happens when I grow in relation with the other person?  There is this give and take, this ebb and flow between us.  My influence and their influence make us a type of One, don’t they?  Now, if that growth past the initial definition of roles is what creates that beautiful tapestry of humanity for which I’ve got an opportunity to sit and work side by side with the weaver, what is it that keeps the growth happening?  What keeps that shuttle moving back and forth, tirelessly, making imperceptible changes in just a pass but over time creating wonder and beauty?  Treating the other person well all the time, not just when I feel like it or don’t feel like it.  Being sincere and honest with that person, whether I feel like it or not.  In treating another with love and being sincere with them, I keep that shuttle’s path free of obstructions, and allow it to do its work.  By treating others with equanimity, I make way for the Tao to flow through us and create this precious experience we call life.If I can practice showing love and sincerity, dignity and respect to others as much as I can and to the best of my ability, I can allow the relationships in my life to grow into stunningly beautiful expressions of the Tao.  
Tao Te Ching Verse 48translated by John C. H. WuLearning consists in daily accumulating;The practice of Tao consists in daily diminishing.Keep on diminishing and diminishing,Until you reach the state of Non-Action.Do nothing, and find that nothing is left undone.To win the world, the Sage must renounce all.If one still has private ends to serve,One will never be able to win the world.Photo by Bankim Desai on UnsplashHow to Gain by Losing:Is there something that is throwing you off balance right now?  Do you feel like things were ok last week or even yesterday, but today, maybe you’re not feeling as content and tranquil as you’d like?If so, I’d invite you to stop for a moment when it’s safe and convenient, and come into awareness of yourself, your surroundings.  Come into the awareness of your thoughts and feelings.  Come into the awareness of your innate connection with your inner self and with the Tao.Ask the Tao, ‘please show me what is causing me to feel this way.’  Then, knowing that the request is granted as soon as you think or say it, appreciate and thank the Tao for providing.  If you can do that, the hard part is over!  Go about your day and allow little things around you to come into your awareness, and see where they point.Remember that the thing that is causing you to be off center is usually something that is the closest to you, which is why it’s difficult to see.  It can be relationships that you think are in a ‘good’ status.  It can be silent ambitions that only you know about.  If you’re open and patient, you will become aware of it.Once you do, set aside some time to sit with this realization.  I like to sit with a blank piece of paper.  I write the cause down in the middle, then start exploring why.  Why am I feeling this way?  Why is this important to me to feel this way?  How do I think this thing, if I get it, is going to give me emotional security, financial security, prestige, or intimacy?  When I have answered these questions thoroughly, I find that I’ve got a bead on that little gremlin.  The next thing to do is to take responsibility for him.  I ask myself:  what am I doing to feed this ambition?  How am I running counter to the principles of the Tao?  How am I inserting my selfishness into this situation?  What am I doing or not doing to cut off my trust in the Tao to provide?I know I have searched and explored enough when I have written everything I can think of and a feeling of stillness comes over me.  Sometimes, the thought, ‘rest’ flashes in my mind. 
Tao Te Ching Verse 47translated by Ellen Marie ChenWithout stepping out the door,Know the world.Without looking out the window,See the Tao of Heaven.The farther one comes out,The less one knows.Therefore the sage knows without traveling,Understands things without seeing them,Accomplishes without work.Photo by ANIRUDH on UnsplashStaying InsideLao Tzu says we don’t need to leave the house to know what’s going on.  He says we don’t need to peer outside the windows to know the Tao.  My short time in Brazil and the wonderful things I experienced seem to be defying that, don’t they?  Only maybe not.  Maybe Lao Tzu is talking about volition and desire here instead of actual actions.Let’s imagine that the house and windows are our corporeal forms.  Let’s also imagine that we who are inside our dwellings are just our consciousness.  So now, the verse reads a little different: To know what’s going on outside of me, I don’t need to leave my body.  To  know the Tao, I don’t need to look outside.  Nope, to know the Tao, I need to look inside, don’t I?  Let’s extend a little bit.  Perhaps the house in this verse is the satisfaction of our corporeal senses.  And looking out the window is the lie we tell ourselves that we don’t have everything we need to grow into harmony with the Tao. I think the main takeaway from the first part of the verse is that in order to move into Harmony with the Tao, we don’t need anything external to ourselves.  In fact, those external things are actually distractors.  We talked about Abandoning Desires in the last verse - perhaps desires are those external things that we keep looking for that ultimately don’t hold the answers.  So literally staying inside the house and not venturing out?  Sure, that’s fine.  Venturing off and experiencing the beauty of a people and language, customs and ways of life?  Sure, that’s fine, too.  To me, It’s setting aside the belief that I must go outside myself to experience the Tao.  That’s my interpretation of what Lao Tzu is speaking about here. 
Tao Te Ching Verse 46translation by Isabella MearsWhen Tao was manifested to humanity,Horses were used for cultivating the fields.When Tao was hidden within itself,War horses were reared on the frontiers.There is no sin greater than desire,There is no misfortune greater than discontent,There is no calamity greater than the wish to acquire,Therefore to be satisfied is an everlasting sufficiency.Photo by Charles Deluvio on UnsplashWe are the WarhorsesA horse can be either a utility animal or a weapon.  Just like our ego idea back in verse 39, isn’t it?  We can use our egos for selfish pursuits or we can use our sense of self awareness to create beautiful things.  So if we can imagine ourselves for a moment as neutral entities, just like the horse in this verse, can we observe how things feel different in peacetime and wartime in our homes, our work, and with friends?At home, what does it look like when it's peacetime?  Everyone is doing their thing, life is pretty tranquil.  Dinner time is nice.  There is a feeling of contentment there, like ah, this is what it’s supposed to be like, isn’t there?    How do you feel?But what about when there are disagreements, no matter how small?  Can you feel the ‘not quite right’ feeling?  What do you do in these cases?  Try to weather the storm, add your influence to the strife to make it go your way?  How does this feel?At work, when everyone is working as a team and the mission is getting done in a productive, feel-good way - how does that feel?  Pretty good, in my experience, like things are as they should be.  Idk about you but for me it feels so good in those moments, like they’re perfect moments, when all cylinders are firing, the machine is well oiled, and it is producing things with precision and with regular timing.Sometimes it seems that those moments are few and far between, depending on your work culture - who’s there, what the leader’s like, what the chemistry seems to feel like.  And when your workplace isn’t having those moments of pure...purpose, what’s it like then?  Things getting done but with little eddies of discontent flowing around, sometimes catching you and sometimes missing you.  What does that feel like?With friends, a get together is a happy occasion, isn’t it?  Everyone’s there, enjoying each other’s company, doing their own thing.  Until so and so opens their mouth and starts creating drama, right?  You either watch it, join in, or avoid the drama, right?  Regardless of your level of participation, how does that make you feel?So we’ve had a look at what peacetime and wartime look like in our daily lives.  And just like the verse, there is a common element to it, isn’t there?  In the verse, it’s a horse.  In your life, it’s you.  Lao Tzu is talking about the state in the first part here - what happens when the state is at peace and at war.  What he doesn’t mention specifically about the state of the state is why it’s sometimes at peace and sometimes at war.  Is it due to outside forces?  Or is it due to the state’s state of discontent?  I think it’s safe to say that while the first part of this verse seems to be about government discontent, we can apply it to ourselves.  So if the common element is you in your daily life, ask yourself - how much of my daily war and peace comes from my discontent?  
Tao Te Ching Verse 45translated by Dwight GoddardExtreme perfection seems imperfect, its function is not exhausted. Extreme fullness appears empty, its function is not exercised.Extreme straightness appears crooked; great skill, clumsy; great eloquence, stammering. Motion conquers cold, quietude conquers heat. Not greatness but purity and clearness are the world's standard.Photo by Tolu Bamwo at nappy.coThe Tao ProvidesGrowing up in rural, southwest PA, I was in the woods often.  I haven’t been there in years, but I remember many things about it.  I remember the broad, green leaves that turned the air cooler and made a slightly different color of shade.  I remember the soil, and how it smelled so earthy - sometimes it was black, sometimes it was clay, sometimes it was rocky.  But it always had this nice, full smell to it.  There were hills and ravines everywhere, and it was impossible to find a flat place that went on for any amount of time.  We had robins, worms, little bugs, we had deer, turkeys, raccoons, skunks, squirrels, the occasional mountain lion and bears.My travels have taken me to other landscapes since then.  I think the most austere place I visited was the northern tip of the Sahara Desert in Tunisia.  At first glance, there was nothing but sand to meet the horizon.  But after awhile, I started to notice things - little things that popped up out of the sand.  Little hills came up out of nowhere, little bushes that didn’t seem like they could thrive there, sand colored spiders and other insects.  Though it looked sparse from an outsider’s perspective, I found that the desert too was teeming with life.Regardless of the landscape in which I found myself, I noticed that there was always some theme, some flavor of life that occupied it.  Seemingly abundant or seemingly sparse; it didn’t matter.  There was an entire ecosystem in each place.  There was perfection everywhere.In this verse, Lao Tzu talks about how things aren’t as they seem.  There is perfection in imperfection, there is abundance in scarcity, there are direct routes through curvy paths.  I feel like taking a look at a desert landscape can help illustrate this for us.  The desert I visited had everything it needed to be a desert.  And life, uh, found a way, despite the most inhospitable conditions it seems nature could hurl at it.So how is there perfection through imperfection in our lives?  Isn’t everything that we need there as well?  Not only to survive, but to thrive!  In our own lives, our own circumstances, we have our little emotional ecosystems, our little interpersonal networks, and our ‘lifestyles’ all around us, don’t we?  We don’t really need to do anything, nor do we need to look very hard to see that we are supported pretty much no matter what.  Of course we have the power to change our personal ecosystems.  We have the power to be dissatisfied with them.  And we have the power to become content with them as well.  Everything is provided for us to do so.  Could the desert change itself into a verdant, lush rainforest?  I think so, given time and momentum gained from small, microscopic changes that could occur over time. But would it be necessary?  That’s my question.
Tao Te Ching Verse 44translated by Lin YutangFame or one's own self, which does one love more?One's own self or material goods, which has more worth?Loss (of self) or possession (of goods), which is the greater evil?Therefore: those who love most spend most,   Those who hoard much lose much.The contented person meets no disgrace;Who know when to stop run into no danger -They can long endure.Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on UnsplashThose who love more spend more, Those who hoard more lose moreIsn’t spending really more fun than saving?  For me it is.  Of course I understand that saving money now helps safeguard against a significant disruption in my lifestyle later.  So I do it.  And to a certain extent, it’s nice to see some of that financial security in the bank.  But it’s still way more fun to spend it, at least in my opinion. But what if we’re not talking exclusively about money here?  Maybe we’re talking about spending love vs hoarding love?  Maybe we’re talking about service to others!  What is service but the outpouring of one’s own energy for the benefit of others?  Further: what if by spending my own energy on others, I become more and more like that empty vessel into which the Tao may flow more and more?  The contented shall know no disgraceWhen I’m still, when all is right with the world and me, I feel no need to change it.  When I don’t need to change anything, there is nothing at stake.  When I am not putting myself out there, there is no risk of failure, is there?  But let’s not confuse this with doing the right thing - remember we talked about non-action as really the abstention of inserting our egos into things.  If I am trying to make positive change in the world and do not attach to the outcome, I am still not putting myself at risk for feeling disgrace, am I?  I am doing my part, I am honoring myself by not attaching.  I am still content within.Who knows when to stop runs into no danger & can long endureI feel like knowing when to stop is a byproduct of contentment.  So the obvious ones are knowing when to stop consuming things, when to stop in an argument, when to stop doing things.  But what about knowing when to stop not doing things?  Ignoring a certain circumstance because it’s not convenient - isn’t that not doing something, not to be confused with non-action?  What about standing by and not addressing the elephant in the room?  I’ve experienced some dire consequences from both cases.  So for me, knowing when to stop is knowing when I am either doing or not doing something to serve my corporeal or egoistic desires, reexamining my motives, and adjusting accordingly so I can move into Harmony with the Tao.  I feel like when my waters are calm and my dust is settled, it is easier for me to know when to stop.  Tao Te Ching Verse 44 (Anonymous):What comes first, life or status?What's more important to you, yourself or your possessions?What's worse, having or losing?One who wants a lot pays a high priceOne who has a lot, has a lot to loseBut one who is satisfied knows neither fear nor disgraceAnd one who has stopped playing a part in the game will never be afraid again and will live happily ever after.
Tao Te Ching Verse 41translated by Charles JohnstonWhen those of the highest order of learning hear the Way declared, they follow it with zeal.When those of the second order of learning have heard the Way declared, they now follow it, now lose it.When those of the lowest order of learning have heard the Way declared, they laugh at it. If they did not laugh at it, it would not deserve to be called the Way.Therefore those of old said:He who has the understanding of the Way, seems hidden in darkness.He who has gone far along the Way, seems backward.He who has ascended the Way, seems of low estate.The man of high virtue is like the valley.The man of perfect purity is as though despised.The man of infinite worth seems full of weakness.The man of true virtue appears inert.The man who is simple and true seems low and degraded.It is a square so great that its corners cannot be seen. It is a vessel so great that it seems uncompleted. It is a voice so great that its sound is imperceptible. It is an image so great that its shape is not perceived.The Way is hidden, so that none can name it.It lends its aid and leads all beings to perfection.Photo by Dan Cook on UnsplashParadoxes of the TaoThis is another, albeit compact way to describe the Infinity within.  As seemingly finite creatures, we have only our 5 senses to tell us about the physical world around us.  And in our journey so far with Lao Tzu, we have come to see that the physical senses are kind of just the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what kinds of connectedness they yield.  Conversely, we’ve also been experiencing so much more that is hidden from our senses.  And how?  Have we touched, tasted, smelled, seen, or heard any of it?  No!  We’ve used our sense as tools to observe a much much greater thing at work - the Tao.So wait - there’s a new level here - maybe we can call it the “5-senses meta” just for discussion’s sake.  If we have felt ok with detaching from the identity we create with our senses, and see those senses as tools to help us gather evidence of the Tao working, then we have, somehow, transcended those senses and moved simultaneously inside and outside ourselves into an Infinite realm of possibilities and new experiences.  Wow.  No wonder why on the outside, a person of the Tao seems overly simple.  No wonder why a person of the Tao allows herself to be seemingly imperfect on the outside.  She has travelled beyond her senses and by keeping things uncomplicated here, is free to explore infinity there.So if I look at this and sell all my stuff or wear rags, am I following the Way?  I’m the only one who knows - my thought is that if I do that for the sake of doing it, then no.  I’m just trying to make it look that way.  But if I simplify in order to connect with that which is far greater than I, perhaps the indicator is I adopt simpler ways.
Tao Te Ching Verse 40translated by Tao HuangTao moves by returning.Tao functions by weakness.All things under heaven are born of being.Being is born of nonbeing.Photo by Michael Glass on UnsplashEbbThe tide rolling out seems like kind of a letdown, doesn’t it?  At least it does for me, at first glance.  I mean the raw energy of the sea just isn’t there.  In other aspects of my life, there are similar situations.  I read a book, and after it’s done, I feel a little empty.  Same with a good series that I’ve binge-watched.I feel these little letdowns at the end of every week - I know I need rest, but making the transition from working to restful seems to take effort.  ‘Winding down’ is a term I’ve heard before to describe this.And with my wife - sometimes there are really happy moments and sometimes there are just calm moments.  Times when we’re just coexisting and nothing too much is going on.And of course with friends, there’s a party or an event, and it’s great, and everyone has a great time.  The following day, when things are getting cleaned up, we tell each other stories about what happened and who said what and how funny things got.  And the excitement just doesn’t feel the same as it did in the moment.So yeah, we’re talking about the Ebb part of things.  The Tao’s reversion.  The weakness that overcomes strength.  The non-being that births the being.Until recently, I have mentally and emotionally resisted the ebb, kind of with the attitude that it is something that is necessary but to be endured, not welcomed or even grown into.  I mean, once I get into a relaxed state on the weekend, I do enjoy it, since there is not a lot going on and I am ok with sitting still - it feels good, even.  It’s the same with a creative project that I’ve been working on.  Many times, the vision in my head is screaming to get out, and every thing I write, every video I create, every book I read, or every little piece of progress I make on the model I’m building says, ‘yes, more, more, we’re not done yet, we must keep going. Taking a break now will only delay the gift that is waiting to reveal itself to us!’  When I’m in flow, I want to stay there, and I don’t want to make the transition to ebb.  It feels like a loss of energy, of momentum, of excitement.  Only i don’t think it’s really a loss.  I think it’s more of a state-change that involves less energy.  You know, like going from action to non-action.But I’d like to work on appreciating the ebb.  Until now, I’d seen it as a nuisance.  But - when I’ve been able to embrace it and take it as an equally beautiful part of the journey, my perspective changes a little.  It turns out for me, that the more I practice appreciating being in the ebb of things, the more I realize that a lower state of energy doesn’t mean it’s a letdown.  It’s actually an opportunity to notice even more things, subtle things, things that are always there but are covered up by a higher volume of energy when in the flow state.  The ebb, it would seem, is an equally beautiful state of lower energy.
Tao Te Ching Verse 39translated by Cheng LinSince antiquity the following may be said to have attained Truth:Heaven, which by Truth is clear.Earth, which by Truth is secure.The gods, which by Truth are divine.The valleys, which by Truth are full.All animate creation, which by Truth are alive.The rulers, which by Truth are capable of rectifying the Empire.Conversely, the following inferences may be stated:Without that which renders it clear, heaven stands the danger of disruption.Without that which renders it secure, earth stands the danger of depression.Without that which renders them divine, the gods stand the danger of impotence.Without that which renders them full, the valleys stand the danger of desiccation.Without that which renders them life, all animate creation stand the danger ofannihilation.Without that which renders them capable of rectification, the rulers stand the dangerof being overthrown.Humility forms the basis of honour, just as the low ground forms the foundation of ahigh elevation.Wherefore, the sovereigns are content to call themselves "The Virtueless" and "TheUnworthy."Does not this show that they regard humility as a matter of utmost importance?Hence, the most praiseworthy are indifferent about praise.It matters not to them whether they are admired as are beautiful jades, or despised as are rugged stones.Photo by Alexander Aarao-Ward on UnsplashLooking at the Tao as a magnetI’d like us to imagine the Tao as a magnet.  Despite the fact that there are two poles on the magnet, there is ever only one magnet.  The north and south poles make up the same One magnet.  And what happens where we cut the magnet in two pieces?  Those two pieces become little complete magnets, each with its own north and south poles.  Cut those in half and you have four little magnets.  Cut them into however many pieces you like; all of those little pieces will have two poles on them no matter how small they are.  And we can observe that norths attract souths, and they can all fit back together again to make a big magnet at any time.So seeming opposites attract, no matter the scale at which we find them.  Every magnet always has two poles.  One condition always depends on the other to be whole.  Just like the Earth, Heaven, Spirituality, the Valley, and Life need the One in order to support humanity, so do the nobles - the sovereigns, to use Lao Tzu’s words - depend on others to ennoble them.Let’s consider our leaders.  Don’t they need us to be the leaders?  Don’t they depend on us for their purposes as leaders?  I would argue in every case, yes.  Let’s also roll teachers into that - don’t teachers need, like really need the students in order to teach?  One step further, now: we established that we always find ourselves in the roles of leaders and teachers in our lives, at home, work, or with friends.  We might say then that we depend on each other for our respective roles.  We can see the north pole as the leader and the south pole as the follower.  The north pole as the teacher and the south pole as the student.  No matter how you look at it, we all need each other in our respective roles to be whole.  
Tao Te Ching Verse 38translated by Ch'u Ta-KaoThe superior virtue is not conscious of itself as virtue; Therefore it has virtue. The inferior virtue never lets off virtue; Therefore it has no virtue.The superior virtue seems inactive, and yet there is nothing that it does not do. The inferior virtue acts and yet in the end leaves things undone.The superior benevolence acts without a motive. The superior righteousness acts with a motive. The superior ritual acts, but at first no one responds to it; Gradually people raise their arms and follow it.Therefore when Tao is lost, virtue follows. When virtue is lost, benevolence follows. When benevolence is lost, righteousness follows. When righteousness is lost, ritual follows.Ritual, therefore, is the attenuation of loyalty and faith and the outset of confusion. Fore-knowledge is the flower of Tao and the beginning of folly.Therefore the truly great man keeps to the solid and not to the tenuous; Keeps to the fruit and not to the flower. Thus he rejects the latter and takes the former.Photo by Frans Hulet on UnsplashThe Tao and AuthenticityDo you remember being a teenager?  I do.  Like any other time in my life, I have fond memories and not so fond memories of that time.  The fond memories were bonding with other people my age and discovering things about life together.  Having some deeper understanding of how the world worked and still very innocent about a great deal.  Those were tender moments.  Then, there was all the angst that came along with being an adolescent.  What would they think?  How should I be?  How should I dress?  What music should I listen to?  Who should I be? There were so many social questions, none of which I knew the answers to but desperately wanted to.  I remember being so unsure of myself and my relationships, so when people told me to just ‘be myself’ in situations, I hated that.  What did that even mean?Well, looking back, I think it meant, ‘don’t worry about how messed up you think you look.  Accept what you are, which is something you don’t know, and own it.  Be that.  Don’t try to be another person that you’re creating.  There’s no need to get ahead of your own, beautiful development.  Great advice.  I think that’s what I would tell me if I had the chance.  I’m almost certain that the teenage me wouldn’t have even heard it.  Ha.  But what could it have looked like if I had owned all that turmoil?  How much better off would I have been now had I started practicing ‘being myself’ years ago?Eh, who knows?  I think the point with the first part of this verse is to realize that it’s not just ok but also productive to yourself.And how?  By being myself in the moment.  I’d like to read from Brian Walker’s Hua Hu Ching, copyrighted in 1992 and published by Harper Collins.  In the paperback edition on page 44, it says, “Why scurry about looking for the truth?It vibrates in every thing and every not-thing, right off the tip of your nose.Can you be still and see it in the mountain?  The pine tree?  Yourself?”
Tao Te Ching Verse 37Translated by Lin YutangThe Tao never does,   Yet through it everything is done.If leaders could keep the Tao,   the world would of its own accord be reformed.When reformed and rising to action,   Let it be restrained by the Nameless pristine simplicity.The Nameless pristine simplicity   Is stripped of desire (for contention).By stripping of desire quiescence is achieved,And the world arrives at peace of its own accord.Photo by Devin Kleu on UnsplashPracticing Doing NothingHow does one practice doing nothing?  Well, by actually doing nothing.  It’s that simple.  In conversations with people along my journey, the subject of simplicity comes up from time to time.  As I’ve walked my path, I have found that each time I do something I’m supposed to do or practice something I’m supposed to practice, it gets easier to walk on it. It’s the total opposite of what I would’ve thought starting out.  I thought I’d have to achieve this state or that state by working hard.  On the contrary, I have found that I have arrived at each ‘milestone’ of awakening by simply letting go of the way I see the world.  Doing nothing.To lose weight, we abstain from eating as much.To stop smoking, we abstain from ingesting tobacco or other methods.To get up earlier each day, we abstain from sleeping so long.To accomplish things, we abstain from our internal resistance to not do them by letting go of that resistance.For me, doing nothing, even yes, practicing doing nothing has been what has gotten me comfortable with abstention.  So I thought I’d list a couple ways you can practice doing nothing, things that I have found work for me:Mindful breathingObserving things other than my thoughts.  For instance, observing the sounds around me, near and far.Observing my thoughts as if they were a bunch of monkeys swinging around in the forest of my mind.  Then, allowing them to swing wildly.Something called Jappa meditation.  It is the simple repetition of a mantra using beads, and you can get them anywhere - even the dollar store, as one of my friends pointed out.  Mantras that I use are ‘Now, Aum, Still, Peace, Listen.’  One word kind of stuff.Sitting.  Sometimes sitting on the couch for an hour with just yourself - no books, no phone, no nothing - brings clarity and peace of mind.Yogic meditations, such as Pranayama, Kriya, Kundalini, and Tantra.I have found that practicing one or more of these things - and here’s the key - on a regular, consistent basis - helps me to remember that I don’t always need to take action when I am interacting with the rest of the world.  It can help me remain in a place where I see desires of mine popping up, and I can abstain from acting on those desires more often.
Tao Te Ching Verse 36translation in The Tao of Rivenrock: a personal translationIt is the way of the Tao that:To reduce the influence of something,first allow it undue influence.To reduce something, it must first be allowed to expand.That which will be torn down, must first be raised up.This is the subtle way the weak can overcome the strong.A fish should not leave the water.And one should not display one's weapons.Photo by Nicholas Doherty on UnsplashThe Subtle WayEbb & flow.  Sometimes doing. Sometimes resting  More than just opposites, these are states in which we find ourselves from time to time.  There is an event.. Then there’s a time of reflection.  A physical feat like a race , and then a period of physical recovery.There is a noise, and then silence.  Remember how we talked about the Tao always being in motion? That’s one of the principles I think Lao Tzu is building on in this verse.But he takes it a little further, as far as human attributes are concerned.  He talks about a time to expand and a time to contract.  A time of strength, and a time of weakness.  A time for influence and a time for none.I think we can get a couple deeper meanings.  One meaning, the one I came away with, was sort of a derivation of the verse that explained contentment.  The one that said the one who doesn’t compete is not competed against.  Remember that one?  I took that plus this verse and  thought hmm, I need not experience such extremes in my life if I recognize where I’m at, examine its opposite, and if that’s an undesired state for me, dial back the intensity with which I’m pursuing or giving attention to my current state.  In other words, I’m kind of consciously using the Law of Balance.  The second deeper meaning expands on the one we just talked about, from Chuang Tze, as relayed by Lin Yutang in his book, The Wisdom of Laotse, page 192 in the 1948 version:  “To take the phenomena of rise and fall, growth and decay, the Tao does not regard rise and fall as rise and fall...These are all leveled together by Tao.  Division is the same as creation, and creation is the same as destruction.  There is no such thing as creation and destruction, for these conditions are again leveled together into One.”So this seems to be drawing a wider net around our counterintuitive discussion: that a time of action and a time of rest are just different varieties of times for the Tao.  That a time of happiness and a time of sadness are just different ways to describe an experience.So there are a few takeaways here: one, that we can use the Subtle Light to look for and work towards balance in our lives, that seeming opposite times are just different kinds of times for the Tao - it’s only that importance that we place on them that makes them seem to matter, and two, the implication thereof: that nothing we can experience eclipses the Tao.  We are safely ensconced in its domain.  There is really nothing, either in our current forms or other forms of which to be afraid.
Guided Meditation at the endTao Te Ching Verse 35translation by Xiaolin YangIf you have the DAO, everything will come to you.They come to you because they will not be hurt anymore, and they will become secure and peaceful.Pleasant music and tasteful food will make even the passerby stop.When being talked about, the DAO is tasteless.When you look at it, you will not see it; when you listen to it, you will not hear it;However, when you use it, it will never run out.Photo by sergio souza on UnsplashThe Tao and SynchronicityI’d like to introduce the concept of Synchronicity, first introduced by analytical psychologist Carl Jung, which holds that events are "meaningful coincidences" if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.Sometimes I’ll refer to it as serendipity - you know, times when things just work out.  Like I’ll be thinking about so and so calling and an hour later they call or I see them randomly.  Or I’m thinking about how it would be cool to be of service to someone and later that day, an opportunity pops up.  Or when I’m wondering about something and all of a sudden I see the answer, either in a sign on the road or someone says something that is directly related to what I was wondering about.These are really awesome moments for me, if only because they show me that I am not alone, that somehow, the Tao responds to my requests.For me, I began to notice synchronicity in the beginning part of my journey.  Just little moments of which I became aware.  At first, I thought they were mere coincidences but still pretty cool.  Then, as I got more comfortable with the idea that perhaps something larger was at play, I started noticing that these moments were occurring more and more often.  I thought they were pretty cool, so I kept on paying attention.  One day, I realized that this kind of stuff is actually happening all the time; the question becomes whether or not I am paying attention.After getting better at observing, for about a year, I started wondering if I could make requests of the Tao and observe their realizations later.  I found that indeed, I could!  I have been careful not to make requests for money or specific situations to arise; rather, I sense what I need from the Tao in the moment, ask for it, say thank you, and forget about it.  Most of the time, I ask the Tao to help me remember to seek Harmony with it.  I’ll ask to see a situation differently.  I’ll ask for a service opportunity. This is how I receive the gifts of the Tao: Stillness, Intuition, Creativity, Healing, and Oneness.  I simply ask, thank, observe, and receive, knowing that I am not the provider, that the Tao is.So if you’re down with this, I would encourage you to begin an awareness practice.  Daily meditation in addition to your awareness practice will help immensely.
Tao Te Ching Verse 34translated by AnonymousThat which makes everything exist, is present everywhereIt spreads itself throughout the entire CreationEverything owes its existence to It, everything to its own natureIt gives everything for nothingIt cherishes and guards everything and everyone, but expects nothing in returnBecause It does not wish for anything, It seems to be importantIt makes everything appear and disappear againBut Itself is eternalTherefore the one who is wise is modestAnd because she is modest,Her actions are grandPhoto by Noah Buscher on UnsplashThe Tao is EverywhereLao Tzu tells us the Tao is like water - it gets in everything.  Even if water is in its non-liquid form - steam, for example, it can get into places that wouldn’t seem possible.  Like condensation inside two panes of glass, for example.  In fact, Water is one of the recurring devices Lao Tzu uses in the Tao Te Ching to describe the Tao’s properties of pervasiveness, softness, persistence, vitality - the list goes on quite a bit.  I think it’s definitely helpful to observe water and see it as an imitation of Tao.  But how does that apply to us?  Like how do we actually sense the Tao being everywhere?  Water’s a great parallel, absolutely - but you know how in the very first verse we talk about how the Tao can’t be talked about, it must be experienced?  Like dancing?Do you remember in verse 28, Staying Close to Inner Nature, when we did that mediation?  In short, we became mindful of our senses, then we shifted that focus inward to our breathing and heartbeat.  Then we connected with our life force - that always on, quiet humming in our bodies that started at our core and emanated outward, in all directions.  We said that that feeling was the Tao within us.  Our inner natures.I’d like you to bring up the image of a loved one or a friend, now.  See them smiling with their eyes in your mind.  I’ll bet they have that same glow inside them that you do.  Let’s sit here for a moment and appreciate them.  Now, imagine that person is looking at you, and we’re just appreciating each other for a moment.  Gently now, imagine what it would feel like if you were inside that person, looking at yourself smiling back.  Does this other person have the same glow inside that you do?  Coming back to ourselves now, can we feel our own glow again?  Can we look at the other person one more time and realize that while their circumstances, points of view, their personal issues are a little different than ours, that they have basically the same set of senses and feelings that we do? Perhaps we actually are the same person, only we’re having different experiences in this moment.Perhaps all the other people with whom you come in contact, either virtually or in person, are just like you in this way.  They all have the same thing inside of them - the Tao.  The Tao is everywhere.  It’s in all of us.  It’s in animals.  It’s in the insects.  In the trees, in the grass - I’ll bet that while it may feel a little different for each thing, that little warm glow is present in each of those things, too.  Today, I’d like to challenge you to try and find a place where Tao is not.  I’ll bet you can’t.
Tao Te Ching Verse 33:translated by Cheng LinThose who know others are wise;  those who know themselves are enlightened.Those who overcome others are powerful;   those who overcome themselves are strong.Those who feel self-contentment are rich;   those who practice self-cultivation are resolute.Those who abide by their original natures or centers endure;   those who follow Truth throughout life enjoy immortality.Photo by Guillermo Ferla on UnsplashImmortalityLet’s visualize our virtuous attributes.Wisdom. Inner Strength.  Contentment.  Inner BeingLet’s consider how those attributes relate to this feeling of life we have right now.  I think we can take relate to Lao Tzu and how he puts it in the next two lines: Those who abide by their original natures [or centers] endure; those who follow Truth throughout life enjoy immortality.The center he’s talking about is that center you feel when being present with the things in that circle.  The center is our life force, that thing that never really goes away.  Of course, we cover it up with stuff in the left circle we left in the background, things like perception of others, force, and other make-humans-do-stuff kinds of things.  But when we can reconnect with that inner glow, it turns out, for me at least, that nothing else seems as important in that moment.  My life force is the one thing that keeps me going.  That allows me to endure, just like Lao Tzu says.Now.  If I can connect with that life force feeling - my center, my bagage wagons, my...essence, I may remember that that feeling is the feeling of the Tao within me.  The Tao is inside me.  And it’s inside of you.  We are expressions of the Tao.  So if the Tao is Infinite, always on, always moving, I would like to ask you:  would that not apply to us, as well?  If we can connect with that feeling of the Tao within us, and remember that we are integral to the infinite, always on, ever changing Tao, aren’t we also Tao?  Aren’t we, dare I say, immortal, in a sense?  In the last line, Lin Yutang translates Lao Tzu suggesting that [those of us who die yet remain have long life].  What is the death he’s talking about?  It could be corporeal death, sure.  For now, I like to think about it as the death of selfish desires, the death of ambition, the death of the importance of my will inflicted on the world.  If I can pay more attention to the things that create the attributes of the right circle, the left circle fades way into the background and dies a kind of death back there, so that in my presence, the right circle things remain.I like how this verse serves as a reminder to us - in the last few verses, we’ve been discussing mindsets and practices that help us stay in that right circle.  This verse kind of tells us about how we can start recognizing the fruits of our labor.  If we can stay close to center by practicing what we’ve learned, we can consciously connect with the Tao inside us.  We may concentrate on what’s really important vs what only seems important.  We won’t need to fight anyone or anything - we’ll automatically endure, without suffering, without resistance.  For we will have allowed our selfish desires to fade away so that we can spend more time living in harmony with the Tao.
Tao Te Ching Verse 32translated by Yasuhiko Genku KimuraThe Tao remains eternally unnamable.As undivided simplicity,If it resides in an ordinary person,nobody in the world can subjugate him;If an influential person abides by it,everybody in the world will be drawn to him.When heaven and earth come together in harmony,Showering the world equally with the sweet rain of undivided simplicity,People cooperate voluntarily without any governing rules.When simplicity is divided, names come into existence.When names are already there, the process of further division should stop,For to know when to stopis to avoid the danger of complexity.The Tao is to the worldwhat the ocean is to the rivers of the earth.Photo by Markus Spiske on UnsplashLearn and move on; don’t spend too much time dissectingIf the first part of this verse says that everything has way more meaning than one immediately perceives, it would almost seem contradictory to what the message is in the second part.  The second part seems to be saying, ‘don’t think too hard about any of it.’  So wait-  I’m supposed to be open minded and take everything in, but not process it?What’s actually going on here?  I mean I’m not a neuroscientist or anything, but it seems that my subconscious is always running, always processing.  And when the time is right, it moves a particular insight into the forefront and that’s when I have those bright idea moments. So I think it’s possible for us to do what Lao Tzu is suggesting.  Remaining open to events occurring around us, not trying to make sense of any of it, just participating as best we can while remaining in Harmony with the Tao, and letting it be.  Our higher selves will let us know when there is something we need to pay attention to.Of course, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t learn - on the contrary!  I think we ought to consciously learn all we can, all for which we have the capacity!  I also feel it’s important not to overthink things.  What does overthinking look like?  For me, I’ve got to be careful about this.  There have been times when I’ve been told that I’m overthinking when I’m really just trying to piece things together so I can understand them well.  But there are other times when I’m thinking about things just so I can think about them because I like the way it feels to think.  For me, overthinking events that have happened looks like a continuous rumination, an ongoing obsession about how things are wrong, or how I need to fix things by employing a strategy.  Like when there’s an undesirable situation at the office, and I start thinking about how to play it in the meeting the next day.  Or when, after a “lively discussion” with my wife, I catch myself rationalizing why my point of view was more valid than hers and how she should have listened better.  Or when one friend tells me that so-and-so said this about me and I have to figure out how to set the record straight.  Reputation, right?  On a Sage, King, and Barron level, Lao Tzu seems to be saying, look, put yourself in harmony with the Tao, allow the Tao to govern.  Then, back off.  Minimize its importance, or attaching meaning to it, and ensure you are leading by example with the Tao.
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Podcast Details

Created by
Dan Casas-Murray
Podcast Status
Nov 24th, 2019
Latest Episode
Oct 30th, 2020
Release Period
Avg. Episode Length
31 minutes

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