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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Back to the Tao


Clay is fashioned into vessels, but it is on their empty hollowness that their use depends.
- Lao Tzu

What we see, feel, hear, smell and taste  creates what we know of the material world.  It is easy to think that is all there is.  Within form and around form, however, is the non-material world: space, emptiness, no-thing. We neglect sometimes that space and fail  to see its usefulness. its everythingness.

So much wisdom offered in the 81 verses quickly written by Lao Tzu as a means to get permission to pass through a border and into another country. I love to read those verses and to soak up the wisdom they offer.  I am presently reading James Legge's translation. He adds a bit of poetic intention with rhyme scheme etc from time to time.  I am not sure Lao Tzu had the same intention but it works.

Let's briefly go through the next eight verses.

Verse Nine

This verse basically teaches that it is not always best to have more. If we have a lot in our possession our loads are heavy to carry.  If we are proud of how sharp something is and we constantly want to feel that sharpness, our grabbing and clinging can make it dull (less desirable). The more wealth we have the more we need to defend and attack in order to keep it safe.  It can also lead to arrogance ( ego evil). These things are not important...they are not the way of heaven.  It is best to do what we are here to do without such possession or recognition...to simply remain obscure or at least return to obscurity (humble).

I think of the Dalai Lama's words:

No material object, however beautiful or valuable, can make us feel loved, because our deeper identity and true character lie in the subjective nature of the mind.













Verse Ten


Verse Ten speaks to the idea of perfecting human nature. We do so by recognizing our oneness with all life, putting away this notion of separation that keeps us distant. We also do so by relaxing into our being ness...which we can do, for example, through breath awareness. We can also get there by getting beyond all that our minds try to get us to believe.

Perfecting our human nature is not necessarily achieved through action or doing...but through being present. We can be like 'mother birds' who simply sit on their nests and allow the beings beneath them to grow  as the gates of heaven and earth open and close. True intelligence is not about conceptual knowledge...but about understanding who we really are ...being ...simply being is wisdom that extends to all . We can be like the Tao ...nourishing ...producing all things without owning them or possessing them. There is no ego involved in the way...no control... yet it leads so perfectly, offering everything. This is the mysterious quality of the Tao.

Again, we go back to the Dalai Lama:

If your life becomes only a medium of production, then many of the good human values and characteristics will be lost - then you will not, cannot, become a complete person.

Verse Eleven

This beautiful verse speaks to what the Buddhist call Shunyata or emptiness. Though the wheel has thirty spokes, what makes it move is the empty space on the axis.  Though the clay cup or pot is made of solid material (clay), it is the space within the cup that we fill and use  to drink out from...if there was no space the cup would have no use. Though a house has solid walls with windows...it is in the empty space within those walls that we can live. The point is that what is of form and can be seen, heard, felt, etc is something we can make the most of but the real usefulness is in the emptiness, or the space.

Verse Twelve

Here Lao Tzu tells us how dependency on our five senses to determine the quality of our lives  can lead to madness and an inability to experience what is real...what cannot be seen, heard, felt, tasted or touched. Attempts to satisfy the cravings inspired by these bodily senses can make men 'evil'. The wise person, will not seek to satisfy the senses but to simply feed the belly....focus only on what is needed by the body for survival. He/she realizes that these other cravings will never be satisfied.

Verse Thirteen

We should fear favour just as much as we should fear disgrace and good fortune and calamity are really the same.

What?

We normally anticipate that fear comes with disgrace which is the loss of favour...therefore we fear losing that favour. So when we are in everyone's good graces ....do we not fear that we will not be able to hold onto that status thus causing us to be afraid?  And we normally understand that having a lot of bad luck is  a negative personal condition, but if that is the case good fortune is too.  We would worry about losing good fortune and falling to the brink of despair if everything was going our way, would we not?  And really as long as we are in physical form ...we can expect to have some challenges right? If we favour the kingdom as we favour ourselves we will be fit to rule it.  If we could love the kingdom as much as we loved ourselves we would be entrusted with the care  of it.

Verse 14

In this verse we are told that the Tao is the One and it consists of three qualities: It is equable (unseen even though we are looking at it), inaudible( unheard even though we are listening to it) and it is ungraspable ( can not be held even though it is is right in front of us). It can not then be named or described with words but if we blend these three qualities together we call it the One. It is neither bright nor obscure. Because it never stops doing and it always returns to that state of stillness, silence, emptiness or nothingness ...it is no -thing. It is formless, invisible, temporary and unpredictable. Because of this we meet it without seeing its front and we follow it without seeing its backside. Unwinding the clue of the Tao involves understanding its indescribable characteristics  and allowing it to direct our lives regardless of the fact we can not see , hear, hold or name it.

Verse 15

Here we hear of the old Tao masters of the past who were able to fully understand the nature of its truth. Those who truly followed the way we're like the Tao, beyond being understood . They were shrinking, irresolute, cautious, evanescent, unpretentious, vacant and dull??

They allowed it to just be! We make muddy water clear and movement still, not by resisting or struggling against but, by just allowing them to be.  The water will become clear if we just let it be.  Movement will eventually end if we just let it be. Those who attempt to preserve the motion of the Tao (let it be) can afford to appear tired and less than perfect...there is no ego.

Verse 16

Spaciousness is something to be brought to its full potential and stillness is something to be fiercely protected. All things will return to their natural state after they have  completed their own processes. Vegetation will return to its roots which can be called the state of stillness.

We do the same. Once we reach this state we know that we have completed what we are here to do. The unchanging rule is taught to us through report of that fulfillment.

Intelligence is knowing that rule....without knowledge of it we are prone to reckless, evil behaviour. Knowledge of this rule leads to a great capacity to handle what life offers and to be at one with all beings ( community) . We then can develop the characters of kings and from there we become heaven-like. When we are heaven-like we have  the Tao/are living the Tao. Having the Tao protects us from decay as long as we are in our bodies.

Wow! Such great wisdom ...it inspires me to read more

All is well.


Monday, March 18, 2019

Who can make the muddy water clear? Let it become still, and it will eventually become clear
-LaoTzu(verse 15 as translated by James Legge)

I feel like I have abandoned my best friend by not coming here every morning.  Wow! It truly is an important part of my life experience.  Still away dealing with the crisis and it is just too hard to write and think clearly.  This iPad makes the process more challenging lol.  Things are really looking up so I will be back.  All is well.

Friday, March 15, 2019

It is better to leave a vessel unfilled, than  it is to attempt to carry it when it is full
Lao Tzu

Four O'Clock in the morning and it looks like it is going to be another sleepless night....that song comes to mind whenever I lay awake around this time. I don't mind sleeplessness too much as long as I have the opportunity to give into my need to write. Aren't most writers insomniacs?

Sigh... I have  a lot on my mind...besides how frustrating it is to try to write on an IPad.

We have a loved one going for major surgery tomorrow and his life is literally dependent on the success of this surgery.  Then there is one major recovery after another to follow. We can't look that far ahead though. Just one day at a time.  And on this day I am awake at four in the morning thinking about him, his father and a loved one at home who is still struggling and I am sad.  I am sad but I am accepting.  Acceptance is an amazing thing.  It simply is what it is..are words that heal.

The last few days I got to know him all over again...I mean really know him beneath all that junk that gets in the way. How beautiful and amazing people are when they are stripped down to their most precious vulnerable states. Then I watched amazing medical and nursing staff do what they do...reaching in beyond all the outer stuff and seeing and treating him 'wholly'and my heart just got so much bigger ( not in the bad way...no we don't need another case of cardiomegaly to deal with). I have faith in humanity again. :)

I read verse nine of the Tao... So beautiful. Lighten the load by not clinging or attempting to have everything. That is reassuring advice being that my vessel is pretty darned empty. What is important is breath and life.  I pray that it continues for that lovely young man tomorrow and that he is able to transcend the challenges ahead...to heal in all the ways he needs to heal...so that he can someday help lighten the load of someone else.

All is well because it simply is what it is.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Suffering Exists

I really really get the first noble truth of Buddhism after today...suffering exists!

And I am not just talking about my petty little suffering.... But the suffering of all humans...today I witnessed the epitome of self induced suffering and it broke my heart and left me shaking to the core. How far we can fall, how hard we can land and how broken we can all become.  I realized how badly one lost human needed an intervention just to ensure he still breathed...and thought the whole world needs an intervention.

We can point fingers, judge and condemn a certain few for their choices, we can shut these people out of our hearts and minds so we do not see ourselves in that suffering, we can segregate and isolate and do all the harm reduction that is possible....but this will not change the fact that suffering exists in everyone.  What we need is compassion  and healing and kindness for all those that suffer. Definitely, not more judgment.  Suffering exists!!

All is well!

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Preparing the Mind and Heart for Peaceful Presence

Today, everything is interconnected.  Destruction of your neighbor is destruction of yourself.  So please, prepare your mind and heart with patience, knowledge, and skill, so that in the world and in every nation there can be peace.
-Dalai Lama (from today's calendar page)

Hmmm!  I have been learning.

An Example of My Learning

I awoke this morning feeling sad and heavy almost to the core.  My first conditioned reaction, once I realized how I was feeling,  was to build story around it, to use the mind to analyze it , create conceptual reason for it...to give the pain conceptual meaning. 

In itself, the heavy sadness was just that...heavy sadness...an emotion I could deal with...signalling maybe that some psychological component of my self was arising.  Psychologically, I could understand it but I wanted automatically to build on the psychology of it...and to interpret it, label it, fix it, control it, solve it as the egoic mind so likes to do. I wanted to bring that feeling, that could be felt in my belly and chest and in the heaviness of my limbs, to my head instead of just letting it be.

The Usual Reaction to Pain

That has been  my normal reaction to pain for as long as I can remember but I recognized myself almost immediately.  I caught myself slipping into previously unconscious patterns of resisting. I was aware of myself reacting right away.  So I was able to get beyond the Step One of Knowing Self that I wrote about yesterday.  That is quite a thing.

Normally, I would have taken the feeling of sadness to the mind...and I would have worked on being able to see it clearly from that level. I would have pondered over and over again this question, "Why am I feeling sad?  What is going on in my outer world that gives me reasons to be sad?'  Then I would have begun searching for reasons, focusing on all the things in my Life that have caused pain or could cause pain.  I would draw up old painful memories.  I would feel even more pain.  I would have thought, "Poor me!" etc. Then I would have asked, "How do I fix this or at least what can I get from it?" Then I would imagine telling my story to others, of writing about it, creating more drama and sadness.

I would have basically  psycho analyzed  and storied myself to death lol. Understanding the whys and hows of feeling  and venting is not a problem in itself and even necessary to some extent...but...but...I ...the 'little me'... would have got stuck there. 

I would have analyzed to the point of filtering  the conceptual whys and hows from the actual experience of feeling and being...which is known as intellectualizing.  The more I intellectualized how I felt mentally...the more the feeling would be numbed and stuffed down below the superficial layer beneath all the  drama I would have created around it.  The  sadness would not have been experienced as it simply was asking to be.  I would have used up much energy and time resisting the  feeling...therefore resisting life in that moment the feeling arose... causing the 'Dukkha' or suffering' component of pain.

Awareness Keeps Us Conscious

But I didn't...I became aware of my egoic reactions before I got lost in them.  By becoming aware, I got to choose another option. I went  beyond my usual tendency to conceptualize.  I let go of my need 'to know'  and therefore staid conscious and aware.  I simply was with the experience.

Hmm!  That little learning outcome was interesting and gave me hope that I am getting there.  I don't know where 'there' is but I am getting there because I am 'here'. The more I can catch myself beginning to react and the sooner I can...the more aware I will be.

Commitment to Preparing the Mind and Heart

Anyway...the point is... through  the committed  preparation of  my mind and heart with patience,  true non- conceptual  knowledge   and skill, I got to the point I didn't get lost in my usual conditioned reactions of slipping into unconsciousness...of slipping into the mind when the opportunity presented itself.  (Ironic that this type of unconsciousness occurs when we call on the mind, and that the preferred type of consciousness occurs when we get beyond the mind, eh? )

 I may slip next week, or tomorrow or half an hour from now but the more  I am  able to bring awareness into  unconscious behavioral patterns, the more conscious I  will become.
 
If I can do it , any of us can!!!

When we stop trying to addictively judge, interpret and label all our experiences or the experiences of others we will experience peace more often. When we relinquish our need to think, do, and narrate  we will find the true knowing. It is in the place of peaceful knowing where we tap into who we really are.

Who are we?

And to get back to the Dalai Lama's words...we are all interconnected.  When I hurt myself... I hurt another, when I hurt another... I hurt myself.  And ...if I offer peace to you, I offer it to myself and vice versa . The same spacious place of peaceful knowing that is in you, is in me, in all of us.

Eckhart Tolle in You Are the Universe explains how we tend to react to people who are present, conscious and aware.  We feel relaxed and peaceful around them.  We tend to like them and have nice things to say about them.  Why?  Not because they are anything special or offer anything extraordinary. But simply because we sense that there is no judgment and interpretation...so we can relax without feeling like  we are being judged. Peace and judgment do not go together.

True knowing  involves no judgment!!! So when we are using that knowing to look at another person, we don't feel the need to judge them.  We can see beyond the superficial personality and behaviour of the other to the presence, the same presence that is in us. We therefore help to create a more peaceful world.

Hmm! Something to think about!

All is well.

Eckhart Tolle (2019) You are the Universe. (as linked in the previous entry)

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

You are the something the whole Universe is doing, in the same way that a wave is the something the whole ocean is doing.
-Alan Watts

 









The Great Mystery

The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.

So going back to the Tao and what was learned in the first eight verses:
  • We need to get beyond conceptual knowledge to understand It
  • It is not something that can be known with the mind
  • It  is not something that can be taught or explained with speech or 'symbols'...words
  • It is okay if we don't understand it and therefore don't understand who we are.
We also get a glimpse of what the Tao is or isn't:
  • The Tao is the way.  The way to what we do not yet know.
  • The Tao is not a path that can be physically trodden upon
  • It can not be reduced to a name
  • It is eternal and unchanging
  • It is the Creator of Heaven and Earth, what is seen and unseen
  • It is the mother of all 'things' (all forms)
  • It is not something you seek for and find with the mind
  • It is deep
  • It is the power that allows all things to spring up
  • It is the work but not the achievement of the work
  • It is the power that never ceases to be
  • It is the universal order that prevails beyond knowledge and desire
  • It is emptiness ( open spaciousness= shunyata)
  • It is deep and unfathomable
  • It is like the ancestor of all things
  • It is pure and still
  • It appears to have been before God
  • It is the space between heaven and earth?
  • It never loses its power
  • It is free and guarded from obstacles by the inner Self (so it isn't the inner Self?)
  • It is spiritual and never dies
  • It is the greater mother, giving birth to Heaven and Earth
  • It's power  is long and unbroken
  • It is meant to be used gently
  • It is selfless and ever giving thus preserving Itself
  • It is excellent like water
  • It flows everywhere beyond man's judgments and resistance
  • It is home
Does any of that sound familiar?  Is it not spirit? consciousness? Shunyata? The field? Is it not the essence of everything including the essence of who we are? Hmmm!

All is well.

James Legge (1891) LaoTzu's Tao Te Ching (https://www.sacred-texts.com/tao/taote.htm)

The Special Truth

Not inside knowledge, not outside knowledge, not knowledge itself, not ignorance.
-Line from Mandukya Upanishad as translated by Sri Swami Satchidananda in The Yoga Sutras of Pantajali,

Say What???

Okay...I know.  All this is getting harder and harder to grasp.  But that is the beauty of it, isn't it?  We do not have to grasp it or understand it for that truth to be what it is.

It isn't just the Tao that speaks to this idea of not knowing...of experiencing rather than trying to understand the Great Mystery conceptually. Ancient Hindu scripture expresses this as well and Yoga...the ultimate quest for Self...is centered around that idea of finding wisdom beyond the mind.

The 49th sutra of Patanjali's  Book One can be translated:

The special truth is totally different from knowledge gained by hearing, study of scripture or inference.

The Tao, consciousness, the cosmic force, God, can not be understood from learning nor can any of  it be explained in that way.  True knowing  can only be experienced by transcending the mind.

And because we are a manifestation of this, we can not understand who we really are until we get past our hang up with knowing conceptually. We are a part of that mystery.

There is an unknown and an unknowable depth to who you are.  (Eckhart Tolle, 2019)

Know Thyself!

Tolle explains in, You are the Universe, that there are two levels of understanding this Great Mystery of Self.

  1. One important level of knowing your Self is through recognizing your conditioning the moment you are caught in a conditioned reaction.  Knowing ourselves on the psychological level is okay to begin with.  We can learn to understand our thoughts, emotions and behavioural responses to them We can understand our egos.  We can use psychotherapy to help us to do this. The trick, however,  is not getting stuck here in the psychological  story of who we are. It is good to be aware on the superficial layer but we want to get beyond this layer, right?
  2. Then we relinquish any attempts to understand with the mind.  That is where the above sutra takes us...past the psychological mind.  We go deeper into awareness and awareness itself goes beyond conceptual knowing. When and if we are able to completely let go of all the knowing we have been offered from the outside...(the knowing the ego thrives on)...we can then 'experience' the truth of who we really are.
Letting Go in order to Experience Union with the Special Truth

We need to let go of conceptual knowledge to reach the ultimate truth of our existence.  Christianity, even back in the medieval day, spoke of this need for unknowing.  An excerpt from a  translation of A  Cloud of Unknowing  reads

God can be loved but he cannot be thought. He can be grasped by love but never by concepts. So less thinking and more loving. (A Cloud of Unknowing)

Hmm!  Something to think about.

All is well!

References

William Johnson...translator(reissued 1996)...A Cloud of Unknowing. Image Publishing book

Sri Swami Satchidananda (2011)The Yoga sutras of Patanjali.  Integral publications: Yogaville

Eckhart Tolle (2019) You Are the Universe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNuMS-GlDrc


Monday, March 4, 2019

"I Just Don't Know"

 You are still convinced that your understanding is a powerful contribution to the truth, and makes it what it is.  Yet we have emphasized that you need understand nothing. (ACIM: Text: Chapter 18:IV:7:5-6)

Hmm!  In other words...if we understand it or not the truth really doesn't care.  It is still the truth doing what truth does.  This to me, is one of the biggest take aways so far in my reading of the Tao. Whether we understand the truth, the Tao, the divine Mystery is irrelevant to it.  It still is all that It is. And the thing is...we are not going to understand It with our minds...it doesn't work that way.

How could we ever understand or explain the vastness of the universe...the mystery...what forever alludes conceptual thought...with a few words and syllables. (Tolle...somewhat clipped and paraphrased)

What parts of these first eight verses of the  Tao stresses this?

The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.

Under these two aspects, it really is the same; but as development takes place, it receives the different names

Therefore the sage manages affairs without doing anything, and conveys his instructions without the use of speech.

He constantly keeps them without knowledge and without desire, and where there is those who have knowledge, to keep them from presuming to act (on it).

How deep and unfathomable it is...

...that of the mind is in abysmal stillness

Our travelling the way is best accomplished when we accept that we know nothing and do not try to fill our moments with ceaseless interpreting, judging, solving and doing. We really cannot understand this vastness, this mystery with our conceptual minds.  The more we do so, the farther away from it we get.  In peace is every breath  Thich Nhat Hanh puts it this way: An overloaded boat is easily capsized by wind and waves. Lighten your load, and your boat will travel more quickly and safely.(pg 52)

We need to let go.  We need to  learn to say: "I just don't know". And be okay with that.

All is well.

References

ACIM

Legge. J. (1981) Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching. https://www.sacred-texts.com/tao/taote.htm

Tolle, Eckhart (2019) What I am means? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpRshKVMSKk



Sunday, March 3, 2019

Let things be, let yourself be, let everything be and accept it as it is. Nothing more.  Nothing less.
James Frey, A Million Little Pieces

Okay...I am addicted to the Tao lol.  Just like James Frey in A Million Little Pieces I am transferring my energy to it so  I can heal.  Of course, it is one of the many things I use to heal from my thinking addiction(which is probably the root cause of most addictions). 

There is so much ancient wisdom in the east and it has taken centuries for the West to open up to it.  Amazing really. Hmmm! The Toa offers such wisdom.

So what I would like to do, is interpret eight verses at a time.  Eight is the sacred number in the East (well 81 is) only because it represents the symbol of infinity maybe?  I don't know but anyway.  I will do eight at a time.  So every few days I will post my interpretations of those eight  here. 

Please know they are just my interpretations.  I read James Legge because he is my chosen translator and try to understand what he meant quickly and from the heart.  I often then go back to other translators as well, just to compare.  The differences can be astounding! Goes to show what Lao Tzu tried to teach...that the sage should instruct without speech. Words can sometimes get in the way of what was meant.

Anyway here are the first eight:


How do we understand the first eight verses of the Tao?

Verse One

We need to understand that beyond what we can see and understand with our physical forms, beyond what we can name and label with our minds… the Tao exists.  It is the path…the way for all of us. It a way to healing.  But we cannot get there with our ‘little me’ or ego focus.  We cannot understand it conceptually with our minds …it needs to be experienced as the Great Mystery it is. We need to let go of what we think we know about it, about Life, about the world and each other and accept that we do not know.

 Verse Two

The world is full of amazing contrast, what we refer to as opposites.  Opposites are like two sides of the same coin and that is okay….both sides are equally valuable and equally valueless.   We do not need to judge anything as good or bad…just accept it for simply being what it is.  We need this contrast.  At the same time we must realize that we make judgments about it in our mind and that can create resistance to what is.  The wise person doesn’t do.  The wise person focuses more on being than doing.  The wise person goes beyond speech…beyond words and mental concepts to teach.  Presence or being with the way  is the best teacher.  When we are present we go beyond a need to judge and interpret, to own, to compete, to cling or to do for the sake of reward, achievement and recognition.  We just are and we allow things to just be.

 

Third Verse

We must put away our ego tendencies if we want the world to become a more peaceful place.  We need to put away our own individual desires to own, to flaunt, to be recognized, to be special or better than…if we want to stop tempting others into self and other destructive behaviours. The wise man leads others to a state of peace and social order through helping them empty their minds of tired old belief systems and conceptual knowledge, takes care of their bodies by filling their bellies, reduces the power of their egos so they learn to stop resisting life and  strengthens their stability and solidity(their bones). It starts with one mind…our own.  When we have peace and stillness, good order is universal.

 

Forth Verse
 

This verse speaks to the infinite emptiness, the infinite spaciousness of the Tao. I really see Buddhist like ideology in this verse. The Tao is deep, unfathomable and a mystery that we will never understand with our conceptual minds. It is the oldest of the old and came before our understanding of God (This translation uses the word God…but I don’t know if Lao Tzu would have.  Other translations use the word …gods, or time etc)

 

Fifth Verse
 

Heaven and Earth and the Sage who understands them does not act to be “good”…they just are. All beings, all things are treated without judgment, attachment and ideas of specialness. They are treated as sacrificial toys or  humble and useless things (https://chinese.stackexchange.com/questions/13325/the-meaning-of-grass-dogs-dogs-of-grass) There is a space between Heaven and Earth; between the physical and the non physical.  That space is like a bellows ( an instrument used by Blacksmith’s that expanded and contracted to let air out). Even when this space is contracted and apparently empty…when we cannot see it…it is still there and it doesn’t lose its power.  And then when it is expanded and working we can feel the air of it. The more we speak of it and use conceptual  knowledge to understand it, the more tired we become.  We cannot understand it this way.  The inner being is always there guarding the Tao, allowing it to flow freely but we cannot see that or understand that…we cannot explain that with words or actions.  It must be experienced.

 

Sixth Verse
 

In Verse sixth we speak of the eternalness of the Tao.  This spiritual essence which is the way tucked into the valley of the physical does not die. It is actually a feminine mystery…and is often referred to as The Great Mother in other translations. It is the root from which heaven and earth grew.  This makes me think of the female womb, the root chakra.  It is long and unbroken, meaning that it is infinite and indestructible as is its power.  It can be used gently without force or masculine aggression…and  without pain.

Seventh Verse

Heaven endures forever and earth has continued for as long as it did because they did not live for themselves but for all beings.  There is no egoic selfishness in them.  Therefore the wise put away their egos and put the little ‘self’  last.  By so doing they find the ‘Greater Self’, the true Self. The sage treats the ‘little me’ as foreign to his or herself and the real Self is preserved by doing so.  It isn’t that they have no personal needs.  It is just that these needs are met because they are not ego needs but the needs of the One Self.  The Tao provides

 

Eighth Verse

In the eighth verse the Tao is compared to the excellence of water.  Like water, it benefits everything.  In its easy natural flow it can occupy all things easily and go to those low places man would rather not go.  It does not strive or fight its way there…it just flows.  There is also an analogy of a residence in this verse.  A residence is a home, a place to live and excellence is defined as suitability. Legge’s translation teaches that the mind is a suitable place to live if it is still; relationships are suitable if they are virtuous; leadership is suitable if it secures good order…actions and affairs are suitable if there is ability and all movement is suitable as long as it is timely.  The biggest take away here is that if we as humans do not fight or resist where we are even if we deem it to be a low position we are showing excellence, suitability for life and no one will find fault with us. We do not resist the flow we go with it.  We go with the flow of Tao.
 
Well that is what I think  and feel anyway. and we know how valuable that is lol...
 
References or to-reads
 
Frey, James (2005) A Million Little Pieces Sixth Edition. Random House Canada; Toronto
Legge, J. (1891) Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching. https://www.sacred-texts.com/tao/taote.htm

 
 
 

 

Saturday, March 2, 2019

Know Thyself!

I was just thinking about what an amazing time the 6th century BC must have been.  So many great, great thinkers walked the planet around that time: There was Socrates in Greece, Lao Tzu and Confucius in China, the Buddha in Northern India.  Wow!  These individuals stepped out and away from mainstream society, put down tired old dogma and belief, to question.  That's what they did...they questioned. They actually traded in the value of conceptual knowledge (maybe with the exception of Confucius) for inner knowing and understanding of the Self.  Isn't it amazing that they all lived around the same time?

Just thought that was cool.
...that difficulty and ease produce the one (the idea of) the other....

Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching as translated by James Legge, 1891

Hmm! I am really flying through the Tao but I need to pull back and go back a little...spend some time on each verse...slow it down so I am not so much interpreting it but feeling it. 

The second verse is all about opposites or contrast...how there are two sides of the same coin maybe...one allowing the other to be (if only mentally and conceptually). 

So as we talked about struggles, challenges and problems we need to see that difficulty gives birth to ease and ease give birth to challenge.  (Of course it is believed that the Tao was written in the period of yin-yang in China which would speak to this idea of duality being non duality.)  I have often mentioned how life gives us contrasting ropes of circumstance and experience on which to weave our tapestry. One type of rope  allows the other to be seen, felt, experienced etc ...creating texture to our lives. We maybe shouldn't judge one as being good or bad...just being...just springing up and not resisting Life by declining to show self.

Of course, all the things used as examples in this verse involve a certain judgment or interpretation, don't they? : Beauty and ugliness, skillful and unskilled, existence and non-existence (takes me back to the Buddhist idea of birth and non-birth), difficulty and ease, height and lowness, notes and tones in music, behind and before etc).  All of this involves a certain interpretation, doesn't it?  What  you may consider beautiful, I may see as ugly.  What a 7 foot you deems as short, a five foot 4 inch me might see as tall. 

For some reason, Shakespeare's line from Hamlet came back to me instantly as I read this verse. Nothing is either good or bad but thinking makes it so. (Act II, Scene 2)

So maybe that is why the verse goes on to say that the sage manages all his affairs without doing anything.  Without judging, interpreting   or resisting Life. He just is and things just are. I take that because of a lack of judgment  he is wise and able to serve not because of busy work but because of presence.  He doesn't have to get lost in doing.  Most importantly, he teaches without words, without  concepts.  What he teaches goes beyond knowledge, without a need to own or possess all the things that 'spring up', without expecting any reward or recognition.

True teaching, true leading goes beyond the judgments of duality. Seeing them yes, understanding how they come to be ...yes...but not seeking to be recognized for this knowledge. 

Hmmm!

Interesting. All is well.

Friday, March 1, 2019

To know thyself nonconceptually is the joy...the peace that passes all understanding.
Kim Eng (from Who am I? Guided Meditation.)





Thursday, February 28, 2019

At the Gate

Where the mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful.
Lao Tzu (as translated by J. Legge; 1891)

So what did you think of Verse One?  Did it touch you or did you find yourself saying: "WTF(front door)?

Hmm!  I don't know if there is a right or wrong way to make sense of the Tao conceptually.  I just read it, feel it, then I jot down what I believe each line to mean right off the top of my head.  I do not want to over think it...because when we do that we lose the way.

This first Verse , I believe, is talking about the spiritual path which is the way or the Tao Itself.

Stanza One

It states in the opening line that this 'path' is not necessarily a physical path that one can trod upon.  Unlike things of the physical world it is eternal and unchanging. What is eternal and unchanging?: spirit, essence, the non physical.

It is also not something that you can reduce to a label, a thought or a 'name' because again  it is eternal and unchanging.  The Tao is not something we can truly understand and experience  with our bodies and minds.

Stanza Two

In the second stanza Lao Tzu goes on to say (according to this translation) the Tao takes us between the physical and non physical realms.  Having no name it goes beyond what is created as form to being the  Creator (Originator) of form and formless (heaven and earth).  We can look at Tao then  as God, Life, The Field etc. The Tao is spiritual and divine. It is non physical.

Then Lao Tzu goes on to say when It  has a name...when we give it a name ( and therefore understand it conceptually with the  mind) the Tao becomes or is the mother of all things....creator of form and form itself. It is earthly. It is physical.

Stanza Three

The third stanza is speaking to where we, the seeker, must be if we want to truly understand the Tao. We need to be without desire.  Without craving and superficial seeking.  Sounds a bit like the Buddhist ideology, doesn't it? We cannot expect to find it if we want it with the limitations of our human mind or ego .  It is too deep for that.  And if we seek it from there we will never hear it.

If we remain with desire, with ego craving... we will only ever catch glimpses of its outer fringes at best.  We will never get beyond that superficial understanding of it.  We will never experience it or know it completely.

Stanza Four

In the forth stanza where  Lao Tzu's words are  translated as under these two aspects, I assume the two aspects to be the physical and non physical aspects of the Tao, the nameable and the nameless. Possibly  meaning that there is no duality...no two...just one when he says it remains the same. It is only when development takes place that It receives different names or distinctions.  I am not sure if 'development' here refers to worldly development, ego development, development of the mind or something else?

Together we call them the mystery.  So regardless if wed ivied them with our minds and no matter what we call them... they are one  mystery.  The Tao is a mystery...the world of form and formless is a mystery.  Life is a mystery. Of course, a mystery is something that is challenging to figure out, to know and understand with the mind.

Where is this mystery the deepest? Where is there less knowing with the conceptual mind? It is at the gate...right at the gate that leads us inward.  We might think that the closer we get to understanding something,  the less mystery there would be but Lao Tzu is saying it is deepest...there is more mystery, less knowledge right at the gate. Again...maybe conceptual knowledge is not needed to understand the Tao.  It is beyond what we can understand with our limited human minds.

I think of this quote from Einstein:

"We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books . It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the arrangement of the books but doesn't know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranges and obeying certain laws, but only dimly understand these laws. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that moves the constellations." - Albert Einstein(Goodreads)

What lay beyond this gate?  The subtle (the ordinary, the plain, the easily bypassed) as well as the wonderful( the extraordinary, the amazing, all that causes wonder and awe.) So we get right up to the gate of experiencing Life and it is there where the mystery of Life is deepest.  Could this mean that the mystery is greater in that space  between 'thinking about life' and experiencing it? 

I really got hung up on that 'and' in this translation.  When we read  the subtle and wonderful we are not making distinctions between them.  We include all Life behind the gate of our understanding. But what if Lao Tzu actually meant 'between'...what if he was referring to the  gate between the subtle and the wonderful...that would change the whole context of this stanza wouldn't it? Oh...oh thinking too much lol.

So in a nutshell...what message do we carry away from this Verse? It doesn't matter if we name it or don't name it; think of it as physical or non physical or if we understand it or not with our conceptual minds (well we will only be able to understand it superficially that way)...the Tao which is the way, the Life force within us, the truth, the  true spiritual path will always be the Tao...eternal and unchanging...a mystery.

Well that is how I see it.  :)

All is well.

References

Goodreads: http://www.alberteinsteinsite.com/quotes/einsteinquotes.html

J. Legge(Translator) (1891) Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu. From the Sacred Books of the East, volume 39. Retrieved from https://www.sacred-texts.com/tao/taote.htm

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

The Tao Te Ching



I decided to read the Tao Te Ching again and to try a different translation.  The thing about these beautiful ancient texts is a deficit may arise in the translation of them.  To go from the archaic Chinese to English takes a great level of expertise. Much could be lost based on the translator's interpretations. 

I decided to try this old version from a real expert.  Now I have the added challenge to translate from 19th century English lol.

I will only put a few verses out of the 81 here. This is, of course, Verse One. Just read it for yourself ...see what happens inside you  and tomorrow I will give my interpretation of it. (For what it is worth, lol)

1

The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao.
The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.

(Conceived of as) having no name, it is the Originator of heaven
and earth;

(conceived of as) having a name, it is the Mother of all things.

Always without desire we must be found,

If its deep mystery we would sound;
But if desire always within us be,
Its outer fringe is all that we shall see.

Under these two aspects, it is really the same;

but as development takes place, it receives the different names. Together we call them the Mystery. Where the Mystery is the deepest
is the gate of all that
is subtle and wonderful.






J. Legge(Translator) (1891) Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu. From the Sacred Books of the East, volume 39. Retrieved from https://www.sacred-texts.com/tao/taote.htm

A True Teacher?

A true Mahayana teacher should be someone who enjoys simplicity, yearns to be anonymous, and as Tibetans would say, hides in solitude like a wounded animal.
-Dalai Lama ( from my desk top calendar for February 27, 2019...Andrews McNeil publishing/Kansas City)

Funny this should come up for today after I wrote what I did yesterday about teaching. Funny that my superficial self would automatically interpret it as something meant for 'me'.  lol  Still got a big fat ego, don't I?

Let's cut 'me' down to size using the above quote from his holiness.

Teacher?

I do like to think of myself as a teacher.  It is a role I identified with long before I began to awaken so it is a part of my personal history and therefore a part of the little 'self'.  As I have mentioned before, I believe we are all teachers and therefore I do not claim any 'special' status. So yeah, on a  superficial level and on a deeper level  I am okay calling myself a teacher.

Am I a 'true' teacher?  What is a true teacher lol?  I like to teach truth but I don't know truth yet...still learning.  I am not sure where that puts me.

I am not a Mahayana teacher. That is, I (as the little self)  am not a Buddhist trained in the Mahayana tradition.  So I definitely can't own that one. I greatly respect the years of training and devoted practice that a trainee goes through to establish that expertise.  I also love to listen to such teachers in the Mahayana and Zen traditions. But...I cannot pin those credentials to my chest. Besides, I look at Buddha's teaching as a philosophy and wonderful way of healing the mind. I don't seek the religion in it.

Simplicity?

I do enjoy simplicity.  I really do.  I am so tired of all the drama and the chaos...the busyness this world demands. I want the quiet, the solitude and the peace of simplicity.  I am not a renunciant, however. I haven't given up all my materials....but luckily for me, my income and a lot of material assets have been removed from my life by circumstance.  I can live without.

Anonymous?

Do I yearn to be anonymous?  Hmm...I don't want to be famous or even popular...not really.  As a teacher, I want the message I offer to be read and  heard.  As a writer, I do want publication.  There are times in the height  of feeling bad about myself ( when  ego is in charge)  I do look to redeem myself with my writing and think  ego things like "When I get published, they will see that I had something to offer...they will understand me .  I will redeem myself " etc. Silly I know. 

I may never get that and that is okay.  The true writer in me just wants to write and I can usually push both shamer and redeemer ego off my computer chair when I do sit down to write.  So I do not write to be famous. I write to write.  In fact, most of my writing is done using a pen name...so I do remain partially  anonymous. I am a fairly shy person by nature, so I don't like to put myself out there too much lol.

I do, however, have an ego like I mentioned before and my ego likes to see  readers on my stats.  I do not feel comfortable with a lot of readers though...but anything around 30, 40 or 50 a day makes me think, " yeah I am getting through to somebody somewhere".  (Actually, I am okay with ten or more) I question the statistic calculations on this site...so I never truly know just how many readers I am getting.  I went so far at one point of adding Google analytics to ensure proper tracking.  Silly ...ego stuff I know.  Obviously, I do not wish to be that anonymous if I am doing that.

Hiding?

I love the last part lol.  I do hide in solitude like a wounded animal.  I am forever using the analogy that I am off hiding in a corner away from society licking my wounds.  So that applies.  I do like to hide here in my reclusive healing comfort zone.  I know I can't stay here but for now, until I am healed, I hide away like a wounded animal.  :)

So I don't know what that makes me.  And does it really matter because it really isn't about 'me' anyway, is it?  It is about the Deeper I...the greater Self that lies beneath all this superficial stuff.  Now that part of me is a true teacher.  That part of you is a true teacher as well.

All is well in my world.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Anger

In the presence of anger, peace is impossible.
-Dalai Lama

Getting Angry

We all get angry from time to time don't we?  Someone says something insulting or steps in front of us in line ...and something inside gets triggered.  We feel the heat coming to the face, the chest tightening and the fists clenching.  The sympathetic nervous system is turned on and we straighten up, tense up and prepare to do the first thing on the agenda...fight! We gear up to fight, don't we?  Testosterone, the aggression hormone, is said to rise with the cortisol during times of anger.  We automatically and instinctually prepare for attack when anger gets triggered.

What?  Someone just stepped in front of us and we are going off to war? That doesn't make sense.

The Reaction and The Waking Beast

Well what is actually happening is that we reacted to some external thing, be it an action of another or a thought...a deeper seated and repressed ball of emotion got poked.  We woke up the little entity inside us, what Tolle refers to as the pain body.  We have given it something to eat and like the Gremlins who get fed after midnight, this sleeping beauty becomes a beast. It feeds off of this minor little thing and possesses us rather quickly taking over our thinking mind.  We then react emotionally or behaviourally as a result. In that moment, peace is impossible.

Attack

We attack. And of course, if another individual with ego is involved, they will react to our reaction  because their pain body gets awakened by ours.  Our pain body will grow stronger and more warrior like with their attack and we will react back. The pain bodies will just grow and grow.

Pain bodies are hungry and cranky when they are awakened abruptly. So it becomes a battle of ego against ego...and in the case of a thought trigger within one individual...it becomes a battle between  self and the world.  We are indeed at war.

And if this is a collective pain body activation...then we see real war manifesting in our world.

Anger is just an emotion

The thing is... anger is just an emotion.  It is nothing more than a wisp of energetic breeze blowing through our psyches.  It isn't good.  It isn't bad.  It just is.  If we just allow it to be and then let it pass through...it is gone and does no harm.  It is when we cling to it, hold on to it, struggle against it, resist it, deny it and avoid it that it becomes a problem.  Stuffed anger gravitates to that ball of repressed emotion inside us, giving it a fire that will burn us alive if we aren't careful.  Anger itself is not the problem. Our inability to just let it be...is.

Calming the Beast
  • The trick is to become aware of the pain body within us...just be aware of it.  Know that it is looking for a reason to manifest and fight.  It thrives on drama, war and chaos.
  • Be aware of what triggers and activates it for you.  What are your anger triggers? What types of things p*&^ you off?
  • Watch yourself when you become angry...just mentally  step out of the situation and become the conscious awareness.  "Oh my look at me...I am getting all rawled up, aren't I? " That isn't always easy to do being that the reaction often happens so fast and is so all consuming we can get lost in it.  Just keep practicing.
  • Practice being the witness in other areas of your life.  The more present you become in other situations, the more likely you will be present in the midst of an anger reaction.
  • Remind yourself that it is peace you want, not what pain body  offers.
  • Accept and allow the anger in this heightened state of awareness.  Be present first .
  • Embrace it gently
  • Let it go...forgiveness works here.
We all get angry but we do not need to get lost in it and react because of it. We can always choose peace rather than it.  The more peace we can create in ourselves, the more peace the world will experience.

All is well in my world.

References

Eckhart Tolle (April , 2012) Dealing with Anger, Resistance, and Pessimism. Eckhart Tolle TV
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aqX5IFKYFWk

It's Not What You Are Doing...

The beauty of embracing deep truths is that you don't have to change your life; you just change how you live your life.  It's not what you're doing; it's how much of you is doing it.
-Michael Singer from the untethered soul (page 160)


A Reminder:

Take what I say with a grain of salt and question, question, question.

I am not an expert in any way shape or form.  I am not a spiritual master by any means nor do I wish to be.  I am a teacher only because we are all teachers and I have learned through my many years of school that teaching is the best way to learn something.  I so desperately want to learn.  :)

I also cannot stress enough that I am no further ahead on this journey than anyone else. I am far from enlightened.  I still have a big fat ego lol. For example: Though I am not actively promoting what I do here nor am I seeking to get compensated  for it...I do check my stats daily to see how many readers I get. I know if I get through to just one or two people that is all I need to do, so ego has no place in this.  Tell that to my ego however lol.  Sigh...Ego gets all inflated   when I see 40 + readers in one day like I did today and gets somewhat deflated  when I notice that I only have one or two.  I do, still very much react to external circumstances.  Maybe not as much as I used to but I still have some work to do there

So if  I am not a master and I simply do more learning than I do teaching, and  if even my ego is getting little to nothing from this, why on earth do I feel compelled to come here everyday? 

Why am I not out there living a bunch of exciting experiences...checking off all the things I have on my bucket list like rock climbing some great mountain, bunji jumping or sky diving.  Why am I not packing my bags and going off to explore  Africa and Australia...among other continents I have only read about?  Why am I not gearing myself to shoot for National Geographic or getting my writing out there at all costs?  Why am I not working for the Peace Corps or Habitat for Humanity?  Why do I not have a PhD in psychology by now? Why haven't I visited a Buddhist monastery in the Himalayans, had a stay in an Ashram in India or drank some Ayahausca with a Shaman on Machu Picchu?

If I am working towards transcending my fear restrictions for the freedom of enlightenment and therefore attempting to live fully, shouldn't I be 'doing' these types of things?

Ahh...but that is just it, isn't it?  It's not what you are doing; it's how much of you is doing it. I don't know why I do this other than feeling compelled for some reason to do it. I have really no idea what motivates me to keep coming here, to keep learning and to keep sharing.  It doesn't really matter what I am doing here, I guess.  I just know that when I am here...I am here 100 % .  All of me is here. Hmmm....that is a sign that I am embracing Life, isn't it?

Maybe you can do the same.

All is well.

Singer, Michael. (2007) the untethered soul. Oakland; New Harbinger

Monday, February 25, 2019

A Mild Bruise

You must look inside yourself and determine that from now on pain is not a problem.  It is just a thing in the universe...But if you do not learn to be comfortable with it, you will devote your life to avoiding it.  If you feel insecurity, it's just a feeling.  It's just a part of creation.  If you feel jealousy and your heart burns, just look at it objectively, like you would a mild bruise.  It's a thing in the universe that is passing through your system.  Laugh at it, have fun with it, but don't be afraid of it.  It cannot touch you unless you touch it.
-Michael Singer from the untethered soul page 103

Hmm! Them there are mighty powerful words aren't they?  Do you agree with them or do you instinctively pull back defensively when you hear them?

The Instinctive Reaction To Pain

Most of us will pull away from them and from anything that tells us pain is not something we have to react too, right?  Why? We are conditioned socially and biologically to instinctively react  to pain or anything that is deemed uncomfortable.  You unknowingly put a hand on the hot  burner and a reflex arc takes over so quickly you are not even aware of it.  You pull your hand away. 

Well our minds are the same.  If something disturbing touches  the mind, its tendency is to retract, pull back and close off  in order to protect itself.  Life circumstances, situations, the things our bodies or what other bodies do  sometimes disturb us. And sometimes the truth itself  is disturbing.

The Truth is seen as painful

The truth that we do not have to stay stuck in our suffering is disturbing to many of us.  The reason for that is what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain body and what Carl Jung would have called the collective unconscious.

Huh?

Within us is a body of repressed pain collected over the course of our life time (easy to accept right?) and collected over the course of many generations (maybe not so easy to accept lol). Pain, like all the experiences life provides for us,  is simply a current of energy that enters and exits if nothing blocks it.  If the mind is resistant  to the experience, however, we may block it through a host of defense mechanisms including suppression, repression, denial, and avoidance. We then unconsciously cling, struggle against, project outwardly through blame and rage, stuff down, and/or ignore it. None of these reactions permit the experience of pain to pass through.

A Hungry Little Beast

Many believe that blocked energy accumulates and  forms an invisible mass inside us like a separate little entity (Tolle). And this little entity is always hungry...always looking to be fed so it can continue to grow.





 


What does it feed on?

It feeds on our new emotional experiences and our thoughts especially the negative ones.  It feeds on the reactions from others and this idea that Life isn't going the way it should. 

When it is feeding, when it is triggered and reactive, it is all consuming...We get lost in it; we become it like we were possessed by it.  The mind appeases it by providing more and more negative thoughts for it to munch on. It goes out into the world around us searching for food in the form of grievances, resentments, what's wrong etc .

The pain body (that big accumulation of repressed pain)  comes to the surface to feed on what it is given by the mind. It is hard to fill. It needs more and more and more.

Addictive Quality to Human Pain

That is why there is almost an addictive quality to human pain.When we are lost in our pain, we don't want to be free of it.  It is who we are, right?  We wonder:  if we get rid of the pain who will we be?  We often subconsciously resist getting better. Try telling a person in the height of their possession  by repressed pain that there is a way to be free of it and see what happens.  You will probably meet with something akin to  Linda Blair's rotating head.

Of course this is all happening at the subconscious level and happening as quickly and as automatically as the nerve impulse from the burning hand is being carried to the spinal nerves and back. It is a reaction. All because we have come to see pain as a problem and something to with draw from.

So what do we do about it?

  • The trick is to change the way we see pain.  To stop labelling it as something bad.  Pain is just something in the universe. It is neither good or bad...until thinking makes it so.  It is no big deal until we make it a big deal.
  • We have to be aware of these hungry little beasts, past pain,  inside us so we stop feeding them.  Once we shine the light in their faces they shrivel up and become small.  We are less likely to react.They are creatures that like to do most of their nasty work in the dark.
  • Don't avoid or repress or numb from pain. Be aware of your tendency to do that...just be aware .
  • Allow pain to simply be what it is.  Don't fight or struggle against it.  Resistance only makes it stronger. Remember: it is just a feeling.
  • Take it a step further and do what Buddhism teaches...gently soothe,  hold and embrace your pain like a mother would hold a crying baby.
  • You can take it in even farther when you are ready...to laugh at it and have fun with it just as you would a comical, fun experience.
  • Don't be afraid of it.  Don't withdraw from it because it is uncomfortable. 
  • Learn to relax into it and see it more as a way out than something that keeps you trapped inside.
  • Know that it won't hurt you unless you strike out at it.  embrace it and hold it gently in your being instead...so that it will eventually feel the compassion it needs to leave and move on.
  • Let go
  • Be present: The unhappy me that lives through past and future dissolves when we become present. (Tolle)
Pain is just a mild bruise that will heal on its own if we give it the opportunity to do so.

All is well in my world.

References

Michael Singer (2007) the untethered soul. Oakland: New Harbinger

Eckhart Tolle (Sept, 2017) The Pain Body.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Gzoooxb6M4