The Tao Te Ching: Verse Fifteen

The Tao masters of antiquity
Subtle wonders through mystery
Depths that cannot be discerned
Because one cannot discern them
Therefore one is forced to describe the appearance

Hesitant, like crossing a wintry river
Cautious, like fearing four neighbors
Solemn, like a guest
Loose, like ice about to melt
Genuine, like plain wood
Open, like a valley
Opaque, like muddy water

Who can be muddled yet desist
In stillness gradually become clear?
Who can be serene yet persist
In motion gradually come alive?

One who holds this Tao does not wish to be overfilled
Because one is not overfilled
Therefore one can preserve and not create anew

                                                                                                                        Lao Tzu

It is hard to image life 500 years before the time of Christ as hectic. Yet, it must have been. Why else would Lao Tzu compose a verse of the Tao Te Ching reminding everyone to slow down and be mindful of all that is around you?

I am concerned about the pace of life today. I am concerned that I can’t keep up. I’m concerned that I am not certain I want to keep up. I am concerned that I arrive at work all too often not remembering the ride in the car. However lately, I am troubled by the thought that I am not walking my path but running down my path at such a speed that I am going to fly by my intended destination.

Slowing down is not something that comes easily to me and I am going to venture, does not come easily to most professional or family caregivers. The thought does drift through my conscious mind every now and then but customarily, I ignore it. I continue at the same pace or faster; ignoring the signals that I need to rest until the Universe slaps me in the head with sickness, the flare up of an old knee injury or even a fender bender and asks, “Do you hear me now?”

Is living and working under a sense of urgency necessary to accomplish anything meaningful in the mundane world? Do I really need 2 phones and several other Internet accessible devices to be productive? In an age when we are all expected to be outcome oriented is it sacrilegious to be concerned about the process and the people involved in that process? Is the journey no longer of any value; is it just about the destination? I believe that it is possible to be active, engaged and yet calm and patient. Now, if I could only figure out how to manifest my belief.

As a recovering Catholic, I think the first step is to tell my Ego, the voice of my insecurities, to shut the hell up. Enough with the relentless thoughts of doom and retribution for venturing to consider that there may be an alternative to living in the fast lane. You can have a great work ethic without having to make yourself sick to convince yourself or anyone else that you are capable and competent.

Embracing your Yin (Feminine) Energy is also a good place to start. Till some soil, plant your hopes and dreams, and watch them take root. Nurture them to be yielding and adaptable to the winds of impermanence.  Be patient and receptive to whatever shows up. I realize that is like asking water from the moon but try to sway. Be patient and mindful.

I honor the Law of Attraction. I honestly believe that you can create the life you envision but remember it is not the Law of Insistence. All will come when it is supposed to. Nothing could or will ever change this. I sometimes think that when prayers are answered it is because you’ve somehow aligned your request with the intended timetable for the manifestation.

Slow down, don’t be hurried or harried. Breathe, look around you and be in each step to the best you are able. See the synchronicity of life. You will be amazed how your life will flow to you and how you will flow with it.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Fourteen

Look at it, it cannot be seen It is called colorless
Listen to it, it cannot be heard It is called noiseless
Reach for it, it cannot be held It is called formless
These three cannot be completely unraveled
So they are combined into one

Above it, not bright
Below it, not dark
Continuing endlessly, cannot be named
It returns back into nothingness
Thus it is called the form of the formless
The image of the imageless
This is called enigmatic
Confront it, its front cannot be seen
Follow it, its back cannot be seen

Wield the Tao of the ancients
To manage the existence of today
One can know the ancient beginning
It is called the Tao Axiom

                                                                                   Lao Tzu

In Verse Fourteen Lao Tzu poses this question; how can we know the Oneness of All Things (The Tao)? How does someone begin to try to understand the magnificence of something that cannot be seen, cannot be heard, and has no shape? Imagine trying to comprehend that which has no beginning and no end, that is; the indefinable vastness of eternity. Clearly, our five mundane senses fail us at this time. One cannot truly know the Tao without first using your energetic sixth sense (Your Intuition) to feel its presence.

The Tao is the origin of the Universal Energy (Chi) that vibrates within each of us and unites us to Source. Studying the wisdom expressed within the Tao Te Ching infused us with the knowledge needed to enable that Universal Energy (Chi) to flow freely within each of us while it also forms an energetic world wide web that binds us all.

Each of us holds the vibrational energy of his/her Chi in their aura. The aura is an extension of our unique energetic selves. With practice, each of us is able to perceive the aura of another. Notice I did not say see another person’s aura, I said sense it. While some individuals are able to actually see auras, this is not as common as being able to pick up on the “Vib” of another person and know if it is strong or weak, bright or dull, light or dense.

Staying present and open allows you to communicate with this field of life energy that exists around every living thing, plants, animals, and person. Try to take time to be in nature. It is here that you begin to access your connection to the Oneness. It is here that you begin to slowly become aware and understand that you are distinct and unique but not alone. You are a vital part of an incredible whole.

When you do the inner work, you begin to create subtle shifts in your energy that move you out of struggle (suffering) and out of falling back into vibrational patterns that no longer serve you. These subtle shifts offer you glimpses of harmony and sow the seed of knowing you have the ability to be at peace with yourself, at peace with others and at one with the Tao. This potential cannot be realized and ultimately actualized without slowing down, allowing time for daily practice and listening to the wisdom that will come during quite, gentle introspection.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirteen

Favor and disgrace make one fearful
The greatest misfortune is the self
What does “favor and disgrace make one fearful” mean?
Favor is high; disgrace is low
Having it makes one fearful
Losing it makes one fearful
This is “favor and disgrace make one fearful”

What does “the greatest misfortune is the self” mean?
The reason I have great misfortune
Is that I have the self
If I have no self
What misfortune do I have?

So one who values the self as the world
Can be given the world
One who loves the self as the world
Can be entrusted with the world

                                                                          Lao Tzu

No rational being would admit to seeking suffering over happiness yet, this is what each of us does when we consistently let the opinions of others influence our actions and shape our self-image. Those of us who have chosen a life/a career in service (human service) did so never thinking that this choice would place us in harm’s way.

Who could have anticipated that wanting to help a fellow human being, when they are most vulnerable, would invite a steady diet of analysis, harsh comments and judgment from a variety of critics, even the ones we try to serve?

Some sources call this reality shock. Others explain it as one of the many paradoxes of human nature. However you want to box it, the reality is that your motives, skills and quality of care will always be seen as fair game for “savvy consumers”, regulatory agencies, the media, and even colleagues to dissect.

As I see it, you have three choices. You can choose the relentless torment of being perpetually disappointed and angry, you can choose to get the hell out of Dodge and leave the profession; or you can choose Equanimity and proceed along your life’s path observing the “bad behavior” all around you, yet not allowing it to deter you from your purpose or peace of mind.

Equanimity is one of the Four Immeasurable at the core of Buddhist thought. The others are Loving Kindness, Compassion, and Joy. Equanimity is the ability to see without being caught by what you see. It is the ability to not react to your reactions. Imagine! Equanimity breaks the chain of suffering by helping one not react to the pleasant or unpleasant feeling associated with the Eight Worldly Winds: Praise verses Blame, Success verses Failure, Pleasure verses Pain, and Fame verses Disrepute.

Becoming excessively attached to success, praise, fame or pleasure can be a clear road map for suffering when the Worldly Winds change direction. Success is wonderful, but if it defines you, what happens when the inevitable failure lands at your feet? Praise can be addicting. Seeking to constantly fill that craving soon depict you as needy. Over identifying with failure breeds a sense of incompetence or inadequacy. Overreacting to pain (physical or emotional), will wear you down and doom you to a life of discouragement.

Equanimity gives you perspective. A unique understanding or sense that your inner well-being is independent of the Eight Worldly Winds therefore; you are more likely to remain calm & balanced as the Winds swirl around you. When anchored, such ability gives rise to a great sense of inner peace.

The Universe knows that I have not mastered this ability/skill as yet. I often feel (in retrospect) that I have acted like Don Quixote battling windmills in response to my challenges from the Eight Worldly Winds. However, with time (hopefully growth and not just aging), study and meditative practice I am inching my way toward Equanimity. Hard work, yes; but the occasional respites associated with experiencing a genuine sense of calm have fueled me to try to attain this state of mind on a more consistent basis.

I believe the key is space. The ability to put space between the event and the reaction to the event; much like the key to meditation is to make the space between each thought longer. So how do you create such a healthy space? Tap into that courage that enables you to know and accept yourself with Loving Kindness. Try to frame others criticism with Compassion by understanding that his/her words and actions often have roots in that very human need to deflect attention away from oneself. Find the Joy in living an authentic life guided by your on intuitive knowledge of right and wrong. Consider these words from anthropologist Carlos Castaneda,

We either make ourselves miserable, or we make
ourselves strong.  The amount of work is the same.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Twelve

The five colors make one blind in the eyes

The five sounds make one deaf in the ears
The five flavors make one tasteless in the mouth

Racing and hunting make one wild in the heart
Goods that are difficult to acquire make one cause damage

Therefore the sages care for the stomach and not the eyes
That is why they discard the other and take this

                                                                  Lao Tzu

These beautiful words encourage us all to stay on the course of spiritual growth as we try to find a firm footing during these dynamic, often unsettling times. Third Dimensional living that is, living in the energetic vibration of materialism, no longer has a place. We realize now that the immediate gratification of the Third Dimension’s senses of sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell actually filtered out more information than they allowed in; thereby slowing our ability to acknowledge the truth that lies beyond the acquisition of material things.

This Verse goes on to reassures us that we no longer need to use drugs, alcohol or other substances, common tools associated with Fourth Dimensional living and the energetic vibration of magical thinking, to feel a greater connection to Source.

Indeed, our consciousness is steadily moving to a place (Fifth Dimension) where we can now embrace the Oneness of All Things (The Tao) and the God-like presence within each of us. In short, we are being encouraged to continue to evolve away from needing materials to feel contentment, or using magic to feel connected, toward being able to see miracles in everyday life and experiencing lasting joy.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Eleven

Thirty spokes join in one hub
In its emptiness, there is the function of a vehicle
Mix clay to create a container
In its emptiness, there is the function of a container
Cut open doors and windows to create a room
In its emptiness, there is the function of a room

Therefore, that which exists is used to create benefit
That which is empty is used to create functionality

                                                                  Lao Tzu

I have often heard Pema Chodron say in her audiobooks that the goal of meditation is to make the space between two thoughts longer. In this verse of the Tao, Lao Tzu provides the ancient foundation for that teaching. He reminding us that the emptiness within a container is what makes it useful. The empty form created by the spokes of a wheel is what provides strength and function for the cart or wagon. So it seems that the lesson is to understand that, much of what we need to function as a whole lies within our silent core.

Silence or better yet, stillness is not something that Caregivers are often comfortable with experiencing. Caregivers are doers/fixers so it naturally follows that their comfort zone lies within the boundaries of being busy and joy is defined as the ability to multitask well. The paradox is that Caregivers view inactivity as wasteful and annoying but they often lament that they cannot wait for some “down time”.

It is not uncommon to hear Caregivers describe that “down time” as crashing. Family caregivers speak about crashing on the couch or bed at the end of the day. Many of my colleagues arrive to work on Monday describing how they crashed over the weekend. I am still guilty of this practice from time to time. The thing we need to contemplate is our need to drive ourselves to the point of exhaustion.

Is it superstition? If we don’t work till be drop, will something bad happen? Is it fear of what others might say about us? Is consistently pushing yourself beyond endurance really going to create positive gossip? Why is stopping or stepping aside to allow others to contribute; or do their share so uncomfortable? The answer is indeed, in the stillness where silence lives.

The first time I actually tried to meditate, I thought I would wiggle a hole in my jeans. Still my mind, I could even sit still! I kept rationalizing that this stillness was bad for my arthritis but that argument went out the window as I found walking mediation frustrating and anxiety provoking.  Sitting in silence takes courage. Imagine being subjected to the onslaught if all the thoughts in your head as you struggle to make the space between each of those thoughts longer. However, what Caregivers initially lack in courage they make up in discipline until they can access their courage.

So I sincerely recommend trying to challenge yourself with practicing stillness. Find the discipline to sit quietly several times a week if only for ten minutes and discover the peace that can only be found at your core. Work up to a daily ritual of meditation. You will slowly find the courage to sit with the noise as it gently transition to space with time. The answers are in that wonderful, peaceful, empty space.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Ten

In holding the soul and embracing oneness
Can one be steadfast, without straying?
In concentrating the energy and reaching relaxation
Can one be like an infant?
In cleaning away the worldly view
Can one be without imperfections?
In loving the people and ruling the nation
Can one be without manipulation?
In the heavenly gate’s opening and closing
Can one hold to the feminine principle?
In understanding clearly all directions
Can one be without intellectuality?

Bearing it, rearing it
Bearing without possession
Achieving without arrogance
Raising without domination
This is called the Mystic Virtue

                                                                  Lao Tzu

Verse Ten asks us to consider the question, is it possible to embrace our synchronicity with the Tao (The Great Oneness) without losing our sense of uniqueness and self?

As I write these words, I can feel the feminist in me formulating an argument that would caution against losing any part of your identity to a group or collective. However, if I try to connect with my Yin Energy (Feminine Energy), I intuitively know that I can be accommodating without yielding.

To accommodate without yielding that is; to be able to connect without being taken over. There is both a beauty and a strength embedded in that concept. It honors the importance of the individual while acknowledging that the union of souls enriches us all.

This conclusion can only come from viewing this question with your heart. Once you find the courage to live with an open heart, the first thing you may notice is that you share so much with others. There are so many common denominators: a need to belong, a need for love, battling against fear, living in hope, the need to care and to be cared for by another.

The sense of connectedness that can come from accessing your compassion can actually fortify you rather than make you feel a sense of sacrifice.  It is a sense of belonging and a knowing that the whole is indeed, greater than the sum of its parts.

Compassion will fill those spaces in each of us once held by judgment and slowly replace it with patience and understanding. To truly have a sense of yourself, allow the Tao to flow in you and through you. Understand that who you really are cannot be separated from all that surrounds you. We are all part of the Whole. See and accept the magnificence of this. Accommodate without yielding.