The Tao Te Ching: Verse Nine

Holding a cup and overfilling it
Cannot be as good as stopping short
Pounding a blade and sharpening it
Cannot be kept for long

Gold and jade fill up the room
No one is able to protect them
Wealth and position bring arrogance
And leave disasters upon oneself

When achievement is completed, fame is attained
Withdraw oneself
This is the Tao of Heaven

                                                            Lao Tzu

This ninth verse of the Tao challenges us to explore why we tend to pursue excess. We chase contentment like a phantom in a dream. We never quite wrap our arms around it. We torture ourselves with relentless thoughts like; you can never be too rich or too thin. Where is the finish line? Why is it so hard to appreciate the here and now?

More is just that, more. More does not equate to happiness. In fact, Lao Tzu suggests that excess is often burdensome. He counsels that a cup is easier to hold if it not filled to the brim.  He cautions that over attachment to possessions can doom you to a life lived in fear of losing them and echoes the teaching of the bible that great pride comes before the fall. The enlightened soul understands that the greatest experience is in this moment; the moment we are living right now. Everything else is an illusion created by our egos.

This is no to suggest that we should not set goals and strive to be our best.  It is a gentle reminder to appreciate each and every moment of your life as you journey. Being mindful changes your perspective from happiness as being contingent upon attaining possessions and status to happiness as always being in your life with the occasional bonus of very satisfying moments showing up along the way.

Caregivers tend to wait to be happy until something is fixed. If we were to slow down,  just for moment, and get settle upon the fact that things are always changing and nothing stays the same (fixed) for long; we might enjoy a good laugh at ourselves for our very human, compassion driven silliness.

Find your contentment in the now; even if the only sense of joy to can touch is your own ability to be open and available to another human being when they are most in need.

  

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Eight

The highest goodness resembles water
Water greatly benefits myriad things without contention
It stays in places that people dislike
Therefore it is similar to the Tao

Dwelling with the right location
Feeling with great depth
Giving with great kindness
Speaking with great integrity
Governing with great administration
Handling with great capability
Moving with great timing

Because it does not contend
It is therefore beyond reproach

                                                             Lao Tzu

We are encouraged in verse eight to adopt the manner and nature of water. Water moves in response to the tides. It supports and nurtures all life forms. It follows the path of least resistance while shaping everything it encounters along the way. It is relentless. It sparkles in the sun and moon light. It responds to its environment by morphing into steam with heat and ice with the cold; yet it always remains its authentic self.

These qualities should come easily to us because 60% of the human body is water. Yet we seem to need structure far more that fluidity. We are shaped by our belief systems or managed by someone else’s belief system; and all too often these are ridged and judgmental. Perhaps this is the moment to get quiet, reflect and decide if it is time to make a course correction.

Deciding that it is time to change the way you think is not sacrilegious although it can dredge up feelings of guilt. Having the courage to decide that it is time to change the way you think signals growth. You are honoring your Right to free choice. The key is to acknowledge the value of your old beliefs and the role they played in getting you to this point on your path. Gently smile and say thank you to the things that have anchored you thus far; then turn, walk on and begin to flow.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Seven

Heaven and Earth are everlasting
The reason Heaven and Earth can last forever
Is that they do not exist for themselves
Thus they can last forever

Therefore the sages:
Place themselves last but end up in front
Are outside of themselves and yet survive
Is it not due to their selflessness?
That is how they can achieve their own goals

                                            

                                                                              Lao Tzu

There are few moments better than seeing someone find joy or happiness and knowing that you have been a part of that experience. In verse seven, Lao Tzu is explaining that it is a moment that can be truly savored only if it is an honest, selfless offering to another and not something that comes with strings attached.

Giving unconditionally from the heart can seem like tricky business. It is generally thought to leave you open and vulnerable but just opposite is true. Giving from your heart is the best exercise for this incredible muscle and it is the only way to truly strengthen it.

Conditional offerings to another person emanate from the mind or intellect not the heart. While we often convince ourselves that we are being caring and generous; there is a conscious or unconscious strategy or expectation associated with your involvement. These strings ultimately tie us up in disappointment or anger.

Too often I hear colleagues curse the day they decided to enter into their caring profession. This customarily follows a period of sensing that what you do or give is never good enough; that you are always asked/mandated to do more or, that your role is to clean up everyone else’s mess. But, I am not speaking of justice or fairness in this edition of my blog. I am speaking of torturing yourself with seeking the elusive sense of personal contentment in what you do from outside sources such as clients, visitors, workmates or administration. That habit is like chasing smoke.

The profession of healthcare and human services will always be underfunded and over regulated. Engaging with individuals and their families, at a time when they are most vulnerable, presents many opportunities for success or stepping on landmines. Appreciation and gratitude for your services cannot be a daily expectation. Individuals are usually rude, demanding or insensitive because that is the way they choose to live their lives. They are not directing their bad behavior at you, although it can certainly seem that way. It is the way they are. You just got in their way. You can choose to take it personally and tear another run in the fabric of your wellbeing or you can see it for what it is and thank the Universe that you do not have to make someone else feel bad in order to feel good or powerful.

Professional and family caregivers must find a way to ensure that their actions are always fueled by heart energy or they run the very real risk of burning out. This means living a balanced life and knowing how to feed yourself with all the right things that keep your heart full. There is a Nigerian proverb that states, “No matter how dark, the hand always knows the way to the mouth.” Never lose sight of your own needs but stay mindful of the difference between having a need and being needy. Compassion arising from your own neediness comes with strings.

The only expected outcome must be the knowledge that you are walking your path as designed. Otherwise bitterness and doubt creep into the places that should hold your faith and courage. Practice your profession compassionately because that is what you were born to do. Decide to take that extra moment, go that extra mile because that is who you are; no strings attached. Have the courage to fuel your actions, your caring from the heart expecting nothing in return other than the intuitive understanding that you are walking in the light strong and safe.

  

 

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Six

The valley spirit, undying
Is called the Mystic Female

The gate of the Mystic Female
Is called the root of Heaven and Earth

It flows continuously, barely perceptible
Utilize it; it is never exhausted

                                                              

  Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu has stated in previous verses that the Tao is the source of all things. In verse six he expands on this tenet and shares that females are those that produce all things. They are the mothers of everything on earth (Yin Energy); the land, the animals and all human beings. Without females or mothers, there is nothing else in the world. As a lifelong feminist, these words certainly resonated with me. However, once I get past my political bias, I believe that the message contained within this verse is to be mindful of the miracle of creation and our ability to tap into the Divine Feminine/Yin Energy within each of us to create, recreate or be creative.

In the past, I was confused by the description of Yin Energy as passive, cold and dark while Yang (masculine) Energy was referred to as active, light and warm. After much contemplation, I reasoned that the translation is a bit misleading. Yin Energy is not passive. It is subtle and alluring. Yin Energy is Attractive/Magnetic Energy and it is the powerful, balancing complement to Yang Energy.

Yin Energy is contained within the body’s fluids such as cerebral spinal fluid, blood and joint-lubricating/synovial fluids. It transports nutrients and chemical messages throughout the whole body as a subtle, relentless, inexhaustible flow. Any deficiencies in Yin Energy can manifest as arthritis, dry skin, or as a reluctance or decreased ability to make a decision.

You become irritable and argumentative. You feel compelled to rationalize all your choices out of defensiveness. You lack the certainty that comes from knowing the truth of something. You become physically and emotionally over-heated like an engine that has lost all its liquid coolant. You are constantly battling a sense of exhaustion.

It is essential for professional and family caregivers to keep their reservoir of Yin Energy full so that they can remain compassionate while maintaining their own wellbeing. Abundant Yin Energy manifests itself as deep reserve, patience and mental clarity. Yin Energy is replenished by keeping joy, relaxation and adequate amounts of rest built into your way of life. This practice enables each of us to access his/her Yin Energy’s greatest tool, intuition.

Intuition is the ability to perceive or know what to choose or do next. It is the ability to just sense which way to flow next. Your intuition is always present within you but you need a healthy flow of Yin Energy to enable you to access it and attract or draw life answers to you. Yin Energy is the still point, the haven, the place of regeneration and healing. It is the quiet place inside to retreat to and refresh or recreate ourselves. When you sense that life has become a struggle, STOP. Turn inward and reconnect with your Devine Feminine/Yin Energy through meditation, stillness and putting your own oxygen on first.  Only then will you be able to create the life you want while remaining open and available to others.