Not Flawed

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 62

This path is the source of all that is.
It is the refuge of those who follow it.
It is the protector of those who ignore it.

We honor those who show no interest in this path
with gentle words and loving kindness.

Greater than any gift of wealth or power
is the quiet offering of ourselves to one another.
Two truths guide our practice:
“Look inside and you will find,”
and
“You are free of fault.”

For this reason this path
is dear to us beyond all else.

 
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The essential wonder of being born into this life and sustained within it is freely given. There is no need whatsoever for me to convince another person to, “follow the Tao.” Every being follows the Tao by their very nature. The only distinction might lie in one’s felt perception. The more I am aware of being part of the Tao, the less fear, anger, and stress I perceive within myself.

So, indeed, this way of living is dear to me. I am free to look within myself because I am not afraid of what I might find there. I may find some difficult issues caused by my conditioned mind, but that is OK. I make mistakes and use the regret that comes from them to avoid them in the future. But a mistake is quite different from the existential “fault” or “sin” that rests at the core of some religions. I make mistakes, but I am not flawed. I sometimes cause harm, but I am not flawed.

Restless

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 61

 

A country centered in this path is like a fertile valley.
All the world flows to it
and finds a place of rest and welcome.
Its stillness and tranquility
overcome the restlessness around it
and all find lasting peace.

This is our path of life.
We flourish not by pretending to be grand,
but by making a welcoming space for all.
When we bow a welcome to a stranger,
the stranger becomes a friend.
When the stranger bows a welcome in return,
we become a friend.
Everyone is welcome.
Everyone is home.

 
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Restlessness! A big issue for me the past few days. I didn’t write yesterday because I was running around like a stray dog at a whistler’s convention. That sense of peace and tranquility is just beginning to reemerge.

When I am caught up in the agenda of my culture I do not sense that place of rest and welcome. I realize that my country as it is currently operating is not able to provide that space for me. I must find it internally by returning to the “fertile valley” within me. I need to once again disconnect from the media-driven urgency that has infected me and get back to the “real world” – the world of sights, sounds, textures, and aromas that are tangible, physical, and immediate.

I’m going “on-line” just long enough to post this. Then it’s back to the cold and bracing autumn day outside.

Fish Fry

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 60

 

We take care of our most important affairs
in the same way we fry a small fish.
We don’t force the issue.
We don’t hurry the process.

Our conditioned thoughts
of worry and doubt
have lost their power.
We still notice them arising
but they no longer run our lives.

Because we walk along this path,
that which used to make us suffer
has been transformed
into wisdom.

 

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Nancy and I are in the midst of work that seems difficult and confusing – trying to get a rustic cabin ready for the winter; living between the motor home and the cabin; trying to accommodate the needs of my older sister who owns the cabin and visits once or twice a year – all the while attempting to act with integrity and honesty about our own unfolding path.

It is helpful to contemplate this chapter this morning. All the issues, tasks, and family dynamics that seem so momentous are simply things that unfold naturally if I stop trying to force solutions. Trying to hurry things along or force what I think is best leads only to suffering. I am going to just see how things unfold today. I’m going to listen carefully, let go of urgency, notice my feelings but not be controlled by them, and watch how things naturally fall into place.

Never Self-Punish

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 59

 

Moderation is the best way to care for our affairs.
It frees us from fixed plans that waste our power.
We never punish ourselves for things we do or don’t do,
so our power remains available.
With it we can respond
to the shifting winds of life
and use everything for good.

We are able to take care of our affairs,
no matter how complicated,
with the gentle ease of a mother caring for her child.

Deeply rooted in our practice,
we never become confused
or lose our way.
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Self-punishment is energy-sapping and vicious. It is a futile attempt at “self-improvement” that instead accomplishes the opposite. Simply noting that something I did didn’t accomplish my intention is sufficient.
For me, self-punishment is set up by having fixed ideas of how things should unfold. When my fixed ideas are not met (and they never are!), my conditioned mind always interprets it as “my fault.” Even when the responsibility lies solidly with other people, my mind will go to; “I should have known…”
The simile of a mother caring for a child is an apt one. Parenting is always complicated by having fixed ideas about a child and that child’s behavior. Simply responding, moment by moment, without blame or self-reproach keeps the parent’s energy and clarity intact.
So it is with my moments here in Mt. Shasta. The plumber has fixed the pipes and the sheetrock installer is hard at work. Next comes the painters (me and Nancy). Just one step at a time, with time for relaxing with a beer at the end of the day and watching the hares nibble the grass in the field while the stars slowly appear.

Imposing My Ideas

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 58

 

This path is unobtrusive,
allowing the simple purity
of those who follow it to emerge.
If it were a path of interference and control,
those who tried to follow it would be miserable and would soon turn aside.

What we call good fortune and bad fortune
are mixed together in all events.
If we try to have one without the other,
we will become completely confused
and everyone’s suffering will increase.

The one who follows this path will have firm principles,
but will never impose them
or injure others in their name;
will be honest, but never cruel;
will be consistent,
but never at the expense of others;
will be a guide to people,
but never overshadow them.
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In a world where interference and control are simply the way things are done, it is difficult to conceive of another way. The certainty of our beliefs and the imposition of our own values on other people are basic strategies that we hope will help us avoid the terror of vulnerability. But this false certainty only numbs our ability to live joyful and creative lives.

It seems to all come down to our need for control; to force events and people to be what we want them to be. Somehow this, we think, will keep us safe, secure, and comfortable. But it doesn’t work. Life is a complex mixture of events and the Tao flows in each of us in unique ways. This period in history makes us even more desperate to impose some sort of order on the chaos, but chaos is what is right now. Imposing my idea of order may not be as helpful as my conditioned mind wants to believe. It is enough to remain true to myself.

Wu-Wei Again

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 57

 

To guide a country,
use administrative skills.
To wage a war,
use surprise tactics.
But to gain joy in living,
let life live itself.

What does, “let life live itself” mean?
The harder we try
the more our efforts fail.
The more we arm ourselves,
the more chaos we experience.
The more schemes we plan,
the less predictable are the results.
The more rules we impose,
the more we become rule-breakers.

So in this practice
we stop trying to change ourselves and find that we naturally change.
We stop trying to be good and find that goodness is our nature.
We stop trying to get rich and find that life is full of abundance.
We stop trying to get our own way and find that we enjoy our life.

 

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I love the days when “wu-wei” (effortless living, non-doing doing) is the theme of Lao-Tzu’s poetry. Letting life live itself might sound naive to an administrator of business or government, but it depends on what we believe the essence of life to be. If there is no fundamental joy in living, of what purpose is efficient administration?

Today is forecast to be sunny and pleasant, so my intentions for the day include work on the property. I need to contact a carpenter for some drywall work. I need to haul firewood closer to the cabin. Etc. What I don’t need to do is force anything to happen. I will work and rest according to the flow of energy. I will find that accomplishment and joy will be natural byproducts of wu-wei. Nice to contemplate.

Convincing Others

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 56

 

The more we understand this path,
the less we need to convince others.
The more we need to convince others,
the less we really understand.

So we become silent.
We stop looking about for approval.
We cease taking offense
at the opinions of others.
We no longer complicate our thinking or our lives.
We do not seek the spotlight
but instead become a simple part of all that is.

We can be loved or shunned,
make a profit or suffer a loss,
be honored or disgraced,
and never lose the treasure of our being.

 

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As I have aged, I have become less argumentative – at least outwardly. I don’t speak at events as often and when I do I am fairly non-polemic. But, in my mind I still carry on some beautiful, incisive, and powerful arguments with “conservatives and fundamentalists” that are absolutely brilliant! I rant, instruct, put-down, and in general behave like an pedantic professor. While driving into town my mental rejoinders make Trump into the buffoon I see him to be. Climate deniers are stripped of their position by my scientific acumen.

I do feel a growing contentment and spend very little time looking for outward approval. But it is important to note that the place where real growth is measured is within my mind. There is where I am learning to be silent, non-judgmental, simple, and understanding. It is here that I have lots of work left to do.