The Tao Te Ching: Verse Forty-One

Higher people hear of the Tao, they diligently practice it
Average people hear of the Tao
They sometimes keep it and sometimes lose it
Lower people hear of the Tao, they laugh loudly at it
If they do not laugh, it would not be the Tao

Therefore a proverb has the following:
The clear Tao appears unclear
The advancing Tao appears to retreat
The smooth Tao appears uneven
High virtue appears like a valley
Great integrity appears like disgrace
Encompassing virtue appears insufficient
Building virtue appears inactive
True substance appears inconstant
The great square has no corners
The great vessel is late in completion
The great music is imperceptible in sound
The great image has no form
The Tao is hidden and nameless
Yet it is only the Tao
That excels in giving and completing everything

                                                                Lao Tzu

This Forty-First Verse of the Tao serves as words of recognition to those who have made a commitment to live a life in synchrony with the Great Oneness. It recognizes the challenges and benefits of such a choice.

You certainly invite others to think that you are in essence, abdicating your right to self- determination in favor of passively letting life just happen to you. Nothing could be further from the truth. Aligning yourself with the Universe is an active choice for peace and harmony and serves to focus the strength of your personal power in a very specific manner.

You choose to accept that you are a good person worthy of love, forgiveness and inclusion in the Great Oneness. You choose to believe unconditionally in the essential goodness of your being. You choose to resist your innate dualistic, judgmental nature in favor of embracing your birthright of citizenship in mankind with a compassionate heart fully aware of the strengths and shortcomings we all share.

You choose to work through your ego-driven need to make yourself the center of everything you do and to let go of the neurotic self-imposed suffering that that behavior causes. You choose to let go of the need to try to fix everything and to allow each person in your circle to walk their own Path.

You choose Mindful living which is far from the easy choice. It demands gentle introspection into your darkest corners, frank discussions with that parts of yourself that would rather not face and a good deal of discipline to practice daily Silence. Choosing an awakened life lived in synchrony with the Universe (Tao) takes a daily reaffirmation of faith and courage but the outcome is priceless.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Forty

The returning is the movement of the Tao
The weak is the utilization of the Tao

The myriad things of the world are born of being
Being is born of non-being

                                                                  Lao Tzu

These simple four lines share a very profound suggestion for contentment. During some portion of each day turn your thoughts to the Universe so that you can reconnect with your Source and nurture your Spirit.

Staying in close touch with the Universe enhances your ability to recognize and communicate with the earth and celestial angles sent as heavenly compasses to assist with keeping you on your Path.

The practice of daily reconnection with your Source will anchor your faith, validate your courage and keep you humble as your sense of the magnitude of the Great Oneness/Tao grows stronger. You will find yourself taking small but steady steps away from ego-based neurosis towards sanity and a peaceful mind.

 

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Nine

Those that attained oneness since ancient times:
The sky attained oneness and thus clarity
The earth attained oneness and thus tranquility
The gods attained oneness and thus divinity
The valley attained oneness and thus abundance
The myriad things attained oneness and thus life
The rulers attained oneness and became the standard for the world
These all emerged from oneness

The sky, lacking clarity, would break apart
The earth, lacking tranquility, would erupt
The gods, lacking divinity, would vanish
The valley, lacking abundance, would wither
Myriad things, lacking life, would be extinct
The rulers, lacking standard, would be toppled

Therefore, the honored uses the lowly as basis
The higher uses the lower as foundation
Thus the rulers call themselves alone, bereft, and unworthy Is this not using the lowly as basis? Is it not so? Therefore, the ultimate honor is no honor

Do not wish to be shiny like jade. Be dull like rocks                             

                                                                                        Lao Tzu

People often comment on how small the world is now that we are all connected by the phone, TV and the Web. But has all this technology really joined us together? I believe this is one of the great ironies of our times. Everyday someone figures out some way to communicate slicker and quicker but I ask; are we listening to each other or just talking at each other?

The lesson in Verse Thirty-Nine is a gentle reminder that we are all part of the same Whole. It is our birth right to feel this connection and draw great comforted and strengthened from this fact however; it is our nature to want to distinguish ourselves and establish our own identity.

The Universe will always support the vision and accomplishments of the individual as long as that accomplishment does not lead to isolation or subjugation of others. Acknowledging our local and global Interdependence is the key. Our future success as a planet depends on resisting our inclination to build barriers or focus on those things that keep us apart.

It is vital to understand that Isolation is one of the primary symptoms of an addiction. Whether it is an addiction to a substance, addiction to dualistic/judgmental thinking or an addiction to hate, power, or greed; the symptom of Isolation is very real and very toxic. So stay vigilant. If you feel yourself drifting and losing your sensing of citizenship to the Whole stop, re-evaluate and reconnect.

Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try
No hell below us, above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for and no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one

                                                                                  John Lennon 1971

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Eight

High virtue is not virtuous, therefore it has virtue
Low virtue never loses virtue, therefore it has no virtue
High virtue takes no contrived action and acts without agenda
Low virtue takes contrived action  and acts with agenda
High benevolence takes contrived action and acts without agenda
High righteousness takes contrived action and acts with agenda
High etiquette takes contrived action and upon encountering no response
Uses arms to pull others, therefore, the Tao is lost, and then virtue
Virtue is lost, and then benevolence
Benevolence is lost, and then righteousness
Righteousness is lost, and then etiquette
Those who have etiquette are a thin shell of loyalty and sincerity
And the beginning of chaos
Those with foreknowledge are the flowers of the Tao
And the beginning of ignorance
Therefore the great person:
Abides in substance, and does not dwell on the thin shell
Abides in the real, and does not dwell on the flower
Thus they discard that and take this

                                                                           Lao Tzu

In this teaching Lao Tzu outlines how to lead a good, virtuous and content life. The key is rediscovering and making friends with your Essential/Basic Goodness. This is easier said than done. Many of us have focused so long on our shortcomings that we have lost sight of the fact that we all are basically good individuals worthy of love and happiness.

It always amazes me as to how resistant we are to accepting this fact. We are so hard on ourselves and subsequently on each other. This mantel of judgment only serves to distance ourselves from our human nature and a sense of belonging to the Great Oneness of mankind.

So often we think of the elements of human nature as those aspects of ourselves that we need to overcome. Perhaps this is due to the influences of Western Philosophy. We need to let go of this prejudice toward ourselves and relax with the fact that we are all on Path of self-knowledge, learning and awakening. This Path is intentionally paved with opportunities/obstacles for us to stumble on and learn from; and we will circle round and walk the steps of the lesson until we have mastered just enough to proceed in a more competent manner.

It is doable but it requires patience, faith, courage and Unconditional Love toward ourselves. In the Eastern Philosophy there are eight guidelines for rediscovering you basic goodness and leading a good, virtuous and content life:

To develop Wisdom

  1. Adopt the Right View= An attitude of Optimism
  2. Adopt the Right Intention = Everything for the highest good free of malice toward anyone

To develop Compassion

  1. Adopt the Right Speech = Understand that words have power
  2. Adopt the Right Behavior= Respect yourself and others
  3. Practice the Right Livelihood = Ensure that some element of your livelihood serves the greater good
  4. Make the Right Effort = Understand your fuel/drive and keep it positive.

To develop Spiritual Discipline

  1. Practice the Right Mindfulness = Stay present as much as you can
  2. Practice the Right Concentration = Be mindful of your intentions

The simple message here is to love the Universe (and the god-like nature within each of us) and each other. Rediscovering your basic goodness will ultimately lead you to discovering your Personal Authenticity. Now that is a treasure worth seeking.

 

 

 

 

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Seven

     

The Tao is constant in non-action
Yet there is nothing it does not do

If the sovereign can hold on to this
All things shall transform themselves
Transformed, yet wishing to achieve
I shall restrain them with the simplicity of the nameless
The simplicity of the nameless
They shall be without desire
Without desire, using stillness
The world shall steady itself

                                                                 Lao Tzu

The meaning of the words The Tao is The Way and those who have either translated or study the work agree that the author intended it to be a guide to the natural way of living one’s life in harmony with nature or The Way Things Are. In Verse Thirty-Seven Lao Tzu references the opposing natures (Yin/Yang) of the Universe and calls it the subtle clarity. I believe he is trying to make the point that everything in nature is in a delicate balance that should be observed, respected and let alone.

The Taoist individual, as a citizen of the community (The Great Oneness), accepts that all things exist in harmony with nature and; should things go wrong for the individual or the community, it is most likely due to a disruption of the energies of Yin-Yang. To restore balance, the individual must resist/stop trying to control nature. As a result, the natural Flow of life is restored and nature regains its equilibrium.

When the individual tries dominating nature (impose his/her will) it usually means that personal/selfish desires are at work. The Tao cautions that these desires may be disastrous to the individual and the community and; it implies that the individual is tampering with that which is sacred. Thankfully, these set-backs are often temporary, and Universe will restore balance but not before some amount of damage occurs as one forces his/her will into the Universe’s plan.

So much of what professional or family Caregivers do is motivated by heartfelt compassion and benevolence. But these noble sources of fuel and intent can get confused with the Caregiver’s need to know best and control if that Caregiver does not stay grounded and clear. Buddhism teaches that all human suffering (personal torment) has Desire at its core and that Suffering is self-inflicted. Try to recall the outcome and your emotions surrounding that outcome the last time you interfered, invited or uninvited.

I grant you that often times we are recruited as earth angle by the Universe. I’ve often congratulated the good works of my staff and colleagues by saying the Universe could not be everywhere, so It sent a nurse. We’ve all been asked to represent higher powers at times and many have not hesitated to answer that call. But I am not referring to those moments. I am speaking of the times when we dressed up our lower level emotions such as frustration, fear, need and anger and presented them as something very different. How would we know the difference? The outcome is torment free.

When you make a commitment to being a Caregiver, you must make a personal commitment to live a Mindful life.  Mindfulness is the ability to remain present, alert and open to what is going on in and around you without letting our emotions overpower thoughts and speech. You must work to know what fuels your actions and trust in the Universe to guide you.  Then each of us may come to know the peacefulness of putting down something that was never ours to pick up to begin with.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Six

If one wishes to shrink it
One must first expand it
If one wishes to weaken it
One must first strengthen it
If one wishes to discard it
One must first promote it
If one wishes to seize it
One must first give it
This is called subtle clarity

The soft and weak overcomes the tough and strong
Fish cannot leave the depths
The sharp instruments of the state
Cannot be shown to the people

                                                                         Lao Tzu

How do you achieve a balanced perspective on life that can facilitate a joyful, peaceful mind? Be open to all that life serves up. Resist trying to avoid experiences that you may prejudge as difficult or painful. Have the courage to walk the difficult Path and resist the seeking the easy way out.

In Verse Thirty-Six, Lao Tzu appears to be stating the obvious in suggesting that you cannot fully know strength unless you have experienced being weak or you cannot fully know freedom unless you have been held captive. It is easy to acknowledge the truth of this axiom intellectually; but that means you are grasping this concept with your mind and not your heart.

Being open to all that life serves up takes a lot of faith and courage. It means living with your heart readily accessible to feel all the joy or all the sadness associated with an event. Easily said but not easily done. We reflexively close our hearts in anticipation of fear, disappointment or pain; but that is more limiting than protective.

The challenging times offer us more than we realize at first. The ability to expand our hearts and be compassionate to others as we broaden the depth of our common experiences, the awareness to appreciate the highs in life even more; and the choice to let go of extremes and embrace the Middle Way. To attain this state of mind is a process and it takes work. It requires the strength to live life as it comes and the discipline to practice silence daily so that you will have all the spiritual tools necessary to get the job done.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Five

Hold the great image
All under heaven will come
They come without harm, in harmonious peace

Music and food, passing travelers stop
The Tao that is spoken out of the mouth
Is bland and without flavor

Look at it, it cannot be seen
Listen to it, it cannot be heard
Use it, it cannot be exhausted

                                                                 Lao Tzu

What gives you enjoyment? This question is usually answered by your Belief Systems. Your belief systems (core values) give shape and definition to your life’s experiences. Do you define yourself at the mercy of others opinions? Do you believe in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness or does life just happen to you without rhyme or reason? Do you welcome each morning or struggle out of bed hoping you’ll make it through the day?

I am frequently asked how someone can add more joy and contentment into his or her life and quite honestly; I don’t have an answer for them. What I do offer is a challenge that could lead to the outcome they seek should they have the faith and courage to dive in. Get well acquainted with the things that cause you great fear.

Dedicate a significant amount of time over the next several weeks to really get in touch with your demons. What scares you to death; loss of a relationship, loss of a job, loss of health or function? Does the prospect of having to redefine yourself without the aid of an addictive substance or professional/personal role terrify you? Does the reality that nothing is certain, nothing is within our control and nothing is permanent make your blood run cold? Well then, that is where you begin. Start at the place that scares you the most.

As you explore each unthinkable scenario ask yourself what life would really be like if the “worst happened”. Be gently, be patient but be relentless. As you make your way through this challenge the answer will slowly begin to come to you. Life goes on. Yes, it may be quite different from what you or others may have envisioned. It is even possible that it will be better than what you know right now. But, in essence you will adapt to whatever happens.

So then, the answer to how to do I add more joy and contentment into my life is simply; let go. Let go of worrying about Change, it is inevitable. Let go of trying to stay in Control, you never had control to begin with. The only thing we need to focus on is Now.

You need to redirect your energies into being present in the moment and mindful of all around you so that you can milk every last drop of joy and contentment out of it. Open your heart so that you can experience love, compassion or pain. The past is done, the future is an illusion; there is only now. Let go of fear-based living and begin to live your life welcoming whatever shows up. Don’t waste one more minute trying to avoid the unavoidable.

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Four

The great Tao is like a flood
It can flow to the left or to the right

The myriad things depend on it for life, but it never stops
It achieves its work, but does not take credit
It clothes and feeds myriad things, but does not rule over them

Ever desiring nothing
It can be named insignificant
Myriad things return to it but it does not rule over them
It can be named great

Even in the end, it does not regard itself as great
That is how it can achieve its greatness

                                                                Lao Tzu

In Verse Thirty-Four, we are reminded that any energies we devote to trying to control others is misdirected and futile. We may experience momentary mini-successes to impose our will and redirect someone toward a Path that we think is best; however these fade quickly leaving us to wrestle with the craving for more.

The only control each of us has is over our own thoughts, words, and actions. We consistently delude ourselves into thinking otherwise but the only thing this addiction invites into our lives is grief and isolation. The need to control separates us from the Whole.

Life can be an exciting adventure if we have the faith and courage to live it from our hearts. We are entitled to one life and one life only, our own. You may be blessed with an invitation to share in another’s adventure. When that happens, check in with yourself regularly to ensure that you are fueled by your heart’s energy and not your neurotic need; then let go. The Universe will provide the wind for everyone’s sails.

 

 

 

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Three

Those who understand others are intelligent
Those who understand themselves are enlightened

Those who overcome others have strength
Those who overcome themselves are powerful

Those who know contentment are wealthy
Those who proceed vigorously have willpower

Those who do not lose their base endure
Those who die but do not perish have longevity

                                                                 Lao Tzu

In Matthew 7:3, Jesus asks this question of several who came to hear him preach, “Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye but fail to notice the beam in your own eye?” This simple question captures so much of the underlining neurosis common in us all. It is so much easier to see the shortcomings in others than it is to do the introspective work necessary to know and better yourself.  500 years earlier, Lao Tzu gave us Verse Thirty-Three as encouragement to set ourselves on a Path to self-mastery.

To work to know yourself so well that you can meet life’s challenges without attaching judgment is a lifetime commitment. It is possible to know that kind of peace of mind but it does take discipline. Not the type of discipline associated with self-control but the discipline of daily practice with silence.

Meditation is a safe, supportive place where you can come to make friends with yourself. It is the place where you can re-connect with your essential goodness or worthiness. Extending that kind of unconditional love toward yourself can help you feel right in your own skin. It offers you the ability to call up great discernment, demonstrate equanimity and release the need to judge anyone.

Create a place where you can sit comfortably with you back strong and your chest soft, with your knees positioned just a bit lower than your hips, with your arms gently resting on your thighs. Lower your gaze and breathe a natural easy breath. Initially your mind will sound like the noisiest place on earth but with practice and patience; you will slowly be able to make the space between each though longer. It is there, in those silent moments that self-knowledge and self-mastery wait for you.

“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles.

Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you,

not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” The Buddha

 

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Two

The Tao Te Ching: Verse Thirty-Two

The Tao, eternally nameless
Its simplicity, although imperceptible
Cannot be treated by the world as subservient

If the sovereign can hold on to it
All will follow by themselves
Heaven and Earth, together in harmony
Will rain sweet dew
People will not need to force it; it will adjust by itself

In the beginning, there were names
Names came to exist everywhere
One should know when to stop
Knowing when to stop, thus avoiding danger

The existence of the Tao in the world
Is like streams in the valley into rivers and the ocean

                                                                                     Lao Tzu

In Verse Thirty-Two Lao Tzu is encouraging us to resist our very human nature to over complicate things. I can just sense a compassionate smile come over him as he wrote these lines and connected with our need to try to control all that is around us; which of course then leads us to agonizing over why our lives seem so unmanageable.

Desire complicates the choices that we make and the actions that are taken. This complexity needs to be replaced with simplicity so that we may find the Middle Way and be more content. Grabbing for control is like clinging to delusions. They seem real while you live in your head but in reality they are just the cravings of your Ego taking form in your dreams. When you realize that you have been dwelling in fantasy, the pain is gripping.

In Buddhism this is known as Suffering or more closely translated as Discontentment. The Four Noble Truths in Buddhism are: (1) Suffering exists; (2) Suffering arises from attachment to desires, (3) Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases, (4) Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the steps in eightfold path. These steps are (1) Right view or understanding, (2) Right thought, (3) Right speech, (4) Right action, (5) Right livelihood, (6) Right effort, (7) Right mindfulness, (8) Right contemplation or concentration.

So you see the relief to Suffering is in knowing and accepting that life Flows and that we throw the obstacles in our own Path. We create the rapids and the chaos by clinging. So just let go and float. Find the faith and courage to accept that all is as it should be.

“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” His Holiness, The Dalai Lama