The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-One

A strong military, a tool of misfortune
All things detest it
Therefore, those who possess the Tao avoid it
Honorable gentlemen, while at home, value the left
When deploying the military, value the right

The military is a tool of misfortune
Not the tool of honorable gentlemen
When using it out of necessity
Calm detachment should be above all
Victorious but without glory
Those who glorify
Are delighting in the killing
Those who delight in killing
Cannot achieve their ambitions upon the world

Auspicious events favor the left
Inauspicious events favor the right
The lieutenant general is positioned to the left
The major general is positioned to the right
We say that they are treated as if in a funeral
Those who have been killed
Should be mourned with sadness
Victory in war should be treated as a funeral

                                                                                         Lao Tzu

I dream of the day when we can lay down our weapons, end the conflict and release the hostages. I believe it is possible to make the workplace and Battle Free Zone. The more thought I’ve given to the resolution of horizontal violence the more I think that the conventional approach of having everyone just talk it out is not working and needs to be shelved for now.

What I have noted is that this approach only adds fuel to the fire and offers a platform and far, far too much attention to the aggressor. Our need to fix this is resulting in energy and light being placed on the wrong thing, the negative behavior = aggression.

Workplace aggressors typically use two weapons. The weapon of words = gossip and the weapon of terror = withholding information or assistance to a co-worker in need. We all know it, we all see it; and occasionally we all go there. So I propose a different approach championed by one of the greatest examples of human potential to ever walk this planet, Gandhi. We can simply, respectfully adopt a position of peaceful non-cooperation.

When you are approached with the latest from the grapevine, smile, excuse yourself and busy yourself elsewhere. When you witness a co-worker being left to fend for themselves, offer assistance. No need to make a big deal of any of it. Just make a better choice and incorporate this demeanor into your work style. Cultivate a habit of peace while keeping in mind that weeds can only grow in fertile soil.

It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. Spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets~J.K. Rowling,

Indifference and neglect often do much more damage than outright dislike. We wizards have mistreated and abused our fellows for too long, and we are now reaping our reward. Spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ~J.K. Rowling

It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to our enemies, but just as much to stand up to our friends. Spoken by the character Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone ~J.K. Rowling


The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty

The one who uses the Tao to advise the ruler
Does not dominate the world with soldiers
Such methods tend to be returned

The place where the troops camp
Thistles and thorns grow
Following the great army
There must be an inauspicious year

A good commander achieves result, then stops
And does not dare to reach for domination
Achieves result but does not brag
Achieves result but does not flaunt
Achieves result but is not arrogant
Achieves result but only out of necessity
Achieves result but does not dominate

Things become strong and then get old
This is called contrary to the Tao
That which is contrary to the Tao soon ends

                                                                                Lao Tzu

Anger has served as the fuel for manifesting many necessary social changes such as human rights. However, it is far from the only means to effect positive changes. Our American media venerates hostile personalities. The image of Clint Eastwood staring down at an opponent and stating, “Go ahead, make my day” is iconic in the hearts and minds of many.  Biting sarcasm, intended to be hurtful and to ridicule its target is somehow reworked to be accepted as funny. Lao Tzu cautions that these approaches will only eventually implode and backfire quickly.

There have been many debates about the horizontal violence or nurse-to-nurse hostility within the healthcare industry. As ugly as this all sound, it is very real and there are many that have come forward with scenarios that range from minor to tear jerking accounts. On many of the occasions when I became angry I felt justified, almost noble.  I rationalized that the importance of the principle that I was championing washed away the ugliness of my words, attitude, or demeanor.

How does one get to the point of being angry? Most authorities will agree that anger has its roots in frustration. Sources of frustration may be internal or external. Internal frustration stems from an actual or perceived personal need or blockage to a goal that builds inside causing one to feel anxious until it is met. These internal needs or blockages can range from the inability to be patient to an inability to be accepting of another person’s ideas. External frustration can be provoked by simple traffic situations or by issues as serious as resolving financial issues. The outcomes are the same, whenever frustration is allowed to build to an unmanageable state it becomes the catalyst for an inappropriate display of anger.

So the question now becomes, what is the root of frustration? My answer is the need for personal power. Many people describe the state of frustration as feeling a loss of control over a given person or situation. I believe that this statement is very accurate. Frustration is a perceived loss of personal power. Therefore, it follows that reestablishing a sense of personal power relieves the frustration. What is fundamental to gaining and maintaining true personal power is the knowledge that, the person who has true power is the person in control of themselves in any given situation and not the person yelling the loudest or coordinating unrest in a situation. 

It is vital to understand and accept that no one internal or external source of frustration makes us angry. We allow ourselves to get angry. We must own our inability to manage our frustration in a way that does not lead to the angry outburst. It is no one’s responsibility to keep us from getting angry. It is our own responsibility to ensure that we have the personal skills to recognize and manage our individual frustrations and control our response to the emotion of anger.

What is the cost of anger on our inner selves? Many people think that keeping your negative feelings pent up can cause you to develop illnesses such as cardiovascular disease. I believe that this is partially true. I don’t think it is the unreleased negative emotion that is doing the physical harm. I believe it is the negative emotion itself.

Dr. Masaru Emoto, a doctor of Alternative Medicine in Japan, has completed extensive research on the effect that thoughts, words, and ideas have on water. His initial research centered on the water on the plant. He discovered that water samples obtained from pristine environmental sources that were frozen and photographed showed beautiful crystal formations. By comparison, water samples obtained from polluted environmental sources that were frozen and photographed showed crystal formations that were dark and distorted.

He then wondered if polluted thoughts and emotions could possibly affect human beings in a similar way noting that approximately 80% of our cellular makeup is water. His further research demonstrated that pristine water exposed to harsh, destructive, negative language then frozen and photographed showed crystal formations similar to the configuration of polluted water. Pristine water exposed to supportive, loving, positive language then frozen and photographed showed crystal formations of a spectacular nature. The message Dr. Emoto extrapolated from this research is that negative emotions effect the human body at the cellular level. Our cells can literally be altered by negative or positive feelings. No wonder it can so long to forgive and heal.

Just think of what we are doing to ourselves by not managing these negative emotions and the expression of those negative emotions better. This goal is within each of our grasps; but it takes a commitment to earnest personal work to change the way you view your world so that you can change the way you chose to respond to it. It could take years with many failures and successes happening along the way. Eventually, the successes will outnumber the failures. Just imagine the feeling of well-being you can experience by letting go of the need for anger. Just imagine…

Water, Consciousness & Intent: Dr. Masaru Emoto









The Tao Te Ching: Verse Twenty-Nine

Those who wish to take the world and control it
I see that they cannot succeed
The world is a sacred instrument
One cannot control it
The one who controls it will fail
The one who grasps it will lose

Because all things:
Either lead or follow
Either blow hot or cold
Either have strength or weakness
Either have ownership or take by force

Therefore the sage:
Eliminates extremes
Eliminates excess
Eliminates arrogance

                                                  Lao Tzu

I found my way to Eastern philosophy through the Western approach to health and wellness; or rather my dissatisfaction with the Western approach to health and wellness. The formative years of my nursing career were spent practicing critical care and emergency trauma. My reverence for the need and value of these specialties never faltered; but after about seventeen years of practice I found myself unsettled.

I used my knowledge and skills to offer lifesaving and therapeutic interventions to my patients but I was being haunted by a sense that somehow it wasn’t enough. I felt helpless to truly influence or control the human situation that came to my Emergency Department in endless waves of need.  I struggled with this inner unrest with my profession for years until I finally had an epiphany and accepted that my torment arose from a sense of lacking within myself and not my profession. I committed a very common error. I looked outside myself for answers instead of having the wisdom and courage to look within.

In Verse Twenty-Nine, Lao Tzu counsels us to let go and to acknowledge what is truly within our Circle of Influence or Sphere of Control. He gently guides us to embrace that it is folly to try to control anything in the outside world because our perspective is littered with blind spots of personal needs that make our judgment unreliable. It is impossible for anyone feeling a sense of no control to believe that all is as it should be.

I believe one of the dominant themes of the Western approach to life is singular achievement which ultimately drives us into isolation. I have come to realize that this is a recipe for unhappiness. There is no finish line; you never belong, you never arrive. The essence the Eastern view of reality is the awareness of the unity and interdependence of all things and events. The world is composed of the threads that weave the fabric of the phenomenon of basic oneness. All things are an inseparable part of the cosmic whole. Peace of mind (wellness) is rooted in the trust that all is as it should be.

Eastern core values can be summed up in three points: to be mindful of thoughts, speech and actions, meditate with the intent of developing insight and understanding, and to lead a life of self-respect and respect for others. These things are the only outcomes that we can drive and truly control. These core values create our true Circle of Influence and ultimately offer us the ability to lead an Awakened Life.

Investing in developing your inner world will create s powerful magnetic energy around you. When you align with the Oneness of all things you will discover how comforting and irresistible your inner light can be.  You will attract what you want into your life. This is not magical thinking; it is being in the Flow.

“Proactive people focus their efforts on their Circle of Influence. Reactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Concern.” Stephen Covey

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Twenty-Eight

Know the masculine, hold to the feminine
Be the watercourse of the world
Being the watercourse of the world
The eternal virtue does not depart
Return to the state of the infant
Know the white, hold to the black
Be the standard of the world
Being the standard of the world
The eternal virtue does not deviate
Return to the state of the boundless
Know the honor, hold to the humility
Be the valley of the world
Being the valley of the world
The eternal virtue shall be sufficient
Return to the state of plain wood
Plain wood splits, then becomes tools
The sages utilize them
And then become leaders
Thus the greater whole is undivided

                                                                    Lao Tzu

At the core of Compassion Fatigue is the feeling of being spent, being blind to any options and absolutely overwhelmed by a sense of isolation. If those who are trying to recover from this syndrome have the courage to be totally honest with themselves; they can also connect with a subtle sense of nobility that hovers over this painful feeling. There, right there is where the work needs to be done; for there is nothing righteous in feeling alone or victimized. In verse twenty-eight, Lao Tzu once again reminds us that we are all a part of this profound Great Oneness. The only dues charged to belong fully to this community of souls, is to live a balanced life with virtue.

To create a virtuous life you must use the building blocks of essential goodness and loving kindness. You begin by being aware of and recognize the essential goodness in all living things. Seeing the essential goodness in everyone connects you to the community of souls at a cellular level.  The fact that you are all part of this Great Creation slowly becomes tangible and undeniable. Then, you offer loving kindness/compassion to yourself; for it is then and only then that you can extend loving kindness/compassion to another. Nowhere is self-sacrifice recommended as a means to an end.

Living a balance life means following the Middle Way. In Feng Shui we refer to this as honoring the Yin Yang Principles which are the most important aspect of any Feng Shui practice. Yin and Yang are opposite but they represent the two sides of the same coin. In essence Feng Shui practitioners work to design an environment that reflects the feminine and masculine aspects (energetic not gender) of nature and in doing so, create a harmonious space. No feature of the room dominates the other. This then supports you as you try to stay in harmony with the Middle Way; and becomes the foundation for your ability to form relationships and stay connected.

When we live in this manner, our actions and words come from a place that is full. We acknowledge our connecting to the Flow of all things. There are no victims. There is no need to assign blame or conjure up any resentment. You are able to carve your life without splitting the wood.







The Tao Te Ching: Verse Twenty-Seven

Good traveling does not leave tracks
Good speech does not seek faults
Good reckoning does not use counters
Good closure needs no bar and yet cannot be opened
Good knot needs no rope and yet cannot be untied

Therefore sages often save others
And so do not abandon anyone
They often save things
And so do not abandon anything
This is called following enlightenment

Therefore the good person is the teacher of the bad person
The bad person is the resource of the good person
Those who do not value their teachers
And do not love their resources
Although intelligent, they are greatly confused
This is called the essential wonder

                                                                             Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu is reminding us that everyone who steps into the shoes of a healer/caregiver is also stepping into a leadership role. This verse is a gentle reminder of the demeanor a leader should embrace. It is vital that the professional or family care givers embrace the role as an advocate or champion for those they care for and resist the temptation to dominate the situation.

A caregiver radiates their inner strength as healing energy most times simply from being fully present in a room. It is authentic, gentle and unconditional in that it begins and ends from the place the one being cared for is at in that moment. You assume the demeanor and temperament of what is known in Tibetan Buddhism as the Meek Warrior.

The Warrior of Meek is represented by the Tiger. Meek (in the Tibetan translation) means resting in a state of simplicity, being uncomplicated, never bloated by the poison of arrogance and always approachable. Whether others are hostile or friendly, the Warrior of Meek offers loving kindness to him/herself and compassion to others. It is a humble, gentle state of being. An expression of unconscious confidence; relaxed, mindful and egoless in all situations. The Warrior of Meekis able to accomplish objectives with no need for aggressive or heavy-handed methodsCaregivers are leaders in that your role is to clear the way and support those who are in your care as they (the cared for) walk their individual Paths; you do not try to walk it for them. Leaders never overtly or subliminally send the message to another person that; you cannot therefore, I will. The message should always be clearly communicated as, yes you can and if needed, I will be with you every step of the way.

“It is not the failure of others to appreciate your abilities that should trouble you, but rather your failure to appreciate theirs.” Confucius

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Twenty-Six

Heaviness is the root of lightness
Quietness is the master of restlessness

Therefore the sages travel an entire day
Without leaving the heavy supplies
Even though there are luxurious sights
They are composed and transcend beyond

How can the lords of ten thousand chariots
Apply themselves lightly to the world?
To be light is to lose one’s root
To be restless is to lose one’s mastery

                                              Lao Tzu

Choosing to clutter your mind with worries is a decision to torment yourself with futile thinking. With all the social, political and financial world events bombarding us in the news each day, living a serene, worry-free life seems like an elusive and tantalizing dream. Imagine, living without worry. However farfetched the idea sounds; living a serene life is an active choice we can all make.

The secret is not magic it’s Mindfulness. Mindfulness is an approach to life in which you chose to be fully open and present to each moment you are living. It means resisting cluttering your thoughts with dualistic struggles over issues you have little or no control over.

Through Mindfulness, you are able to quite the relentless noise in your head that distracts your attention from seeing human and celestial angels at work and the everyday miracles that are all around us. Remaining present in the moment anchors you to Now and strengthens you against the repetitive, destructive thoughts of what if and if only.

Weaving meditative practice into your daily life offers you the foundation for developing a Mindful temperament. The desire to remain mindful will be reinforced as you begin to experience all that is around you more fully and completely. Sounds have a deeper vibration, colors are more vivid, and your ability to enjoy life experiences without judgment becomes priceless.

All at once you begin to notice how easily you move through your day regardless of events and circumstances. What was once perceived as obstacles and challenges are now viewed as isolated moments in your day that, once managed, have no place to settle in your mind, take root and fester. It is not that Stuff no longer happens, it’s just that you no longer give the outer world the power to disrupt your peace of mind and spirit.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Twenty-Five

There is something formlessly created
Born before Heaven and Earth
So serene! So ethereal!
Independent and changeless
Circulating and ceaseless
It can be regarded as the mother of the world

I do not know its name
Identifying it, I call it “Tao”
Forced to describe it, I call it great
Great means passing. Passing means receding
Receding means returning
Therefore, the Tao is great. Heaven is great.

Earth is great. The sovereign is also great
There are four greats in the universe
And the sovereign occupies one of them
Humans follow the laws of Earth
Earth follows the laws of Heaven
Heaven follows the laws of Tao
Tao follows the laws of nature

                                Lao Tzu

This Verse is a gentle reminder that the Tao is eternal. It is the Presence that always was and always will be; formless and infinite. It existed before everything else. The Tao gave birth to the universe and the man made concepts of space and time. It embodies the Buddhist concept of emptiness, in that, our language and attempts to conceptualize fall short (empty) in their ability to grasp the perfect, total wonder that is the Tao.

As a caregiver, you can maintain a full well of compassion if you try to contemplate this reality in your daily meditative practice. Let the fact that we are all connected to this unimaginable, eternal Presence wash over you. Know that there is this god-like Presence within each one of us for we are all part of this Great Oneness. Honor it as you speak, behave and render care.

Be with nature. All you sense is a microcosm of our universe. Allow it to help you grasp the ethereal concept of Flow as you stay anchored to Mother Earth. Connect with its serene balance and enjoy the feeling of belonging to all that it Great.


The Tao Te Ching: Verse Twenty-Four

Those who are on tiptoes cannot stand
Those who straddle cannot walk
Those who flaunt themselves are not clear
Those who presume themselves are not distinguished
Those who praise themselves have no merit
Those who boast about themselves do not last

Those with the Tao call such things leftover food or tumors
They despise them
Thus, those who possesses the Tao do not engage in them

                                                                   Lao Tzu

Individuals usually decide to listen to, buy into or follow another individual because that person inspires them. The person takes on leadership status because they resonate as an Authentic Presence to others. This is the guidance Lao Tzu shares in verse twenty-four to all professional and family caregivers; care from a place of Authenticity.

Someone who has an Authentic Presence has worked very hard be in touch with his/her true self. They have found the courage to explore the nature of their heart, mind and spirit. They know their strengths, they have embraced their shortcomings and they have set out on a course to live a genuine, awakened life. Clearly, this is true bravery.

Individuals such as these awaken our passions and dare us to think that we could follow in their footsteps. But this would require effort not just hopeful thinking. Someone with Authentic Presence has achieved some virtue that is now reflected in their energy (Aura) and you can sense it when you are with them. This reflected energy is the outcome of much loving kindness directed inward to support their personal journey to self-discovery and awakened living.

Someone with an Authentic Presence does not appear to know better than anyone else. They do not make an assumption that they are capable of fixing anything let alone implementing a Fix to someone else’s issues or challenges. A person with Authentic Presence possesses a calm confidence and ease with themselves (Tiger Energy) and with those they come in contact with or seek their assistance. They allow. They allow their heart to be open. They allow people to access them. They allow individuals to walk their own Path and discover their own answers with compassionate support. They know that they are powerless to Fix therefore; they avoid being on the receiving end of the inevitable resentment that follows interfering in the name of Caring.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Twenty-Three

Sparse speech is natural
Thus strong wind does not last all morning
Sudden rain does not last all day
What makes this so? Heaven and Earth
Even Heaven and Earth cannot make it last
How can humans?

Thus those who follow the Tao are with the Tao
Those who follow virtue are with virtue
Those who follow loss are with loss
Those who are with the Tao, the Tao is also pleased to have them
Those who are with virtue, virtue is also pleased to have them
Those who are with loss, loss is also please to have them
Those who do not trust sufficiently, others have no trust in them

                                                                           Lao Tzu

After years of going to extremes to discover the meaning of life, the oral stories about the Buddha relate that he heard a music teacher explain to his pupil that if he tuned his instrument too tight the strings would break; too loose and the instrument would not play. These instructions provided a great insight for the Buddha and he began to live a life according to the Middle Way. Following the Middle Way, finding the balance in life; this is the message from Lao Tzu in Verse Twenty-three.

Living at the extreme ends of any physical, emotional or spiritual continuum is exhausting and blinds you to seeing options and answers. This myopic view distorts reality and can cripple a professional or family caregiver as he/she struggles to problem solve or be available when times get tough.

Lao Tzu uses the weather and the seasons on earth as a metaphor for the Cycles of Life that we all experience. Understanding that all conditions and states of mind are temporary helps you avoid overreacting to anything that you perceive as negative. Staying mindfully, that is, living fully in each moment is vital to knowing in your soul that the sun follows the night and occasionally, there are rainbows after storms.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Twenty-Two

Yield and remain whole
Bend and remain straight
Be low and become filled
Be worn out and become renewed
Have little and receive
Have much and be confused
Therefore the sages hold to the one as an example for the world
Without flaunting themselves – and so are seen clearly
Without presuming themselves – and so are distinguished
Without praising themselves – and so have merit
Without boasting about themselves – and so are lasting

Because they do not contend, the world cannot contend with them
What the ancients called “the one who yields and remains whole”
Were they speaking empty words?
Sincerity becoming whole, and returning to oneself

                                                                                           Lao Tzu

In this verse of the Tao, Lao Tzu is counseling us to let go of any attachments and encouraging us to adopt an approach to life that is accommodating. In other words, find your comfort zone with Change and embrace it. Incorporating this skill into your temperament will align you with the one constant that is the reality of life, Impermanence; and allow you to Yield without lamenting the past and tormenting yourself with a sense of loss.

I am continually amazed by how appropriate these ancient teachings are to life in this century and the economic challenges our world faces today. The world is ever changing. Nothing is fixed. What we know and cling to today for a sense of stability or footing is pulled out from under us tomorrow. This has always been so but with the advent of 24-hour news services and social media, this truth seems to be relentlessly in our face and it is often hard to breath.

The world of healthcare is morphing as we speak. Long Term Care facilities, conventionally thought of as grandma’s nursing homes, are now medical surgical hospitals as resident acuity climbs in response to the transitional care models driven by managed care. Many of my nursing colleagues would cringe at the thought of a new graduate entering the specialty of home care without at least one year of subacute or acute care experience. Yet, as the availability of jobs in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities decline and the need for nurses in home care rises; home health care agencies are designing orientation programs to meet the needs of the new graduate entering into this venue as a first experience.

Soon, acute care hospitals will consist of an emergency department, perioperative services, critical care and perhaps obstetrics. All other levels of care will be provided somewhere in the healthcare continuum but not in the hospital. Community and home care support services are being rolled back at best and in many cases discontinued altogether. We can rage against these changes with all the ego-based arrogance we can muster or we can stay open and available to stay focused to ensure that we advocate for the safest and best care possible. Scary as it sounds no one has a clear vision of the future; therefore we need to be ready for anything.

Clearly the ability to adapt is an essential quality for a professional or family caregiver to develop. It is one of the ingredients to a creating a balanced life and enjoying a sense of contentment. Keep in mind that this sense of groundlessness can also help you be a better caregiver. If you are brave enough to connect with your own fears associated with uncertainty you can develop a greater sensitivity for the place that the person you are caring for finds him or herself in. This sense of identification and compassion can add a new depth to your ability to b therapeutic.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin