A few weeks ago I was a guest on The Change Paradox with Dr. Dodge Rea. We spoke of the Tao Te Ching and other things that you might find interesting.
A person in pain does not need philosophy.
Philosophy keeps us safe, we think.
We do not want to wail and weep,
so instead we philosophize and say,
“there must be answers somewhere, somehow,
help me, please, to find them.”
And philosophers in their towers ponder
and fill shelves with their learned tomes
that bring no help to anyone.
Is there an answer anywhere
that can bring an end to sorrow?
When sorrow comes, it’s best to wail and weep.
If one can wail and weep with others, even better.
Don’t try to find the answers.
Let the sorrow fill you to the brim and overflow,
but when the sorrow passes, let it go.
It will return, and pass again,
and return again, and pass again.
Each time it returns, greet it gently,
“Hello sorrow, I recognize you.
Come on in. You are welcome here.
Let us weep together.”
Time passes and it drops in less and less,
and eventually simply goes by on the path
and nods a greeting as it passes.
In the meantime compassion sprouts and grows
and soon it fills our hearts completely.
It is in the muddy soil of pain
that the seeds of true compassion spring.
As a teacher wisely said,
“The mud is in the Lotus,
the Lotus is in the mud.”
In this divided world, how does one take action
without opposing, judging,
and trying always to fix the others?
Getting “them” to behave as I would wish
by argument, shame, or force of law
When polarities exist
(and in the world of form they always do)
we must move and act in another way,
and that “way” is “wu.”
“Wu-wei,” the Tao Te Ching reveals,
is an effortless way of living
that does not let the poles demand
a response of either “this,” or, “that.”
It is another way of being.
“Wu” means “not”
and “Wei” means “action, doing.”
So, “not doing, doing” is the way.
Sounds crazy, no?
But in our crazy world there is but one way out
and that, “wei” is “wu.”
Authentic action flows and slaloms its path
along a course of least resistance,
never constellating the polarities to such a degree
that suffering and resistance drag us down.
So I don’t attack the problem.
I sit and wait, and watch, and open
that part of my mind that does not think or problem-solve,
but simply sees with clarity, with ease,
and without urgency, without attachment.
The “wei” reveals itself, and surprise!
It also does itself.
And that “wei” that does itself is “wu.”
When someone tells me to, “pay attention,”
I am immediately confused.
To what am I to pay this attention?
And just what is this attention I am to pay?
If I turn to a sound or a sight
and ‘attend” my mind upon it,
a myriad other sights and sounds
no longer constellate within me.
The very quality of my experience is formed
by the focus of this mysterious process.
My attention creates my life.
So the command to pay attention
and the question of to what,
are perhaps the keys to happiness.
A narrow focus of attention on an object of desire,
may bring me what I think I want,
while cutting me off completely
from a broader and more wondrous world.
An open, diffuse, and spacious attending
may fill my heart with awe and joy,
while leaving me hungry for a sandwich.
I’ve learned this from my practice:
that narrow focus is a helpful tool,
best used infrequently and mindfully.
Life itself is lived most fully out in the open field
where narrow worries and concerns
float like insubstantial wisps carried
by the fresh breezes of existence.
The things my culture says should be my focus
have led me down a path of fear and strife
and cut me off from life.
I’ve set a bell sound on my phone that rings
each hour, a clear bright tone.
When I hear it I stop and ask,
“To what am I attending?”
A virtual meeting with William Martin
I will be hosting a Zoom meeting on Sunday, June 6, at 10:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time (US and Canada). I would like to use this meeting as a chance for us to connect after such a long period of being out of touch. As I continue to explore the work of my deeper Soul during my elder years, I want to be in community with my fellow travelers along this Tao/Way – for my own Spirit’s peace and joy, and also for whatever contribution I might still make to a culture in chaos.
I will be exploring the use of the Tao Te Ching as guidance for this journey. In this first meeting there will be time for sharing experiences and for asking questions. We will also explore what continuing connections we might want to build.
I’m a beginner at Zoom meetings, so I ask for your patience and assistance as I navigate, what are for me uncharted (also nerve-wracking) technological waters.
If you would like to participate, drop an email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you an invitation containing the links you will need. In your email, please include any questions and/or subjects you would like me to explore.
I would love to connect/reconnect with you.
Everything that makes up
that which I call, “me,”
It is stardust, sunlight, and rain.
It is manure, seed, and plant.
It is animal, vegetable, and mineral.
These elements dance together for awhile
and from their dance comes, “me.”
I am only and ever the dance
whose rhythms and melodies flow
in constant interchange of sounds and silence,
andante and allegro, pianissimo and fortissimo,
always changing, never ending.
If I try to cling to, “me,”
I stop the song and end the dance.
When I understand that I’m not, “me,”
I find the dance will never end
and that I will always be.
Trust is elusive, to say the least.
I trust in something Whole that may be called
the Tao, the Ultimate, or God.
I confess though, I don’t trust the separate parts.
The components, so to speak, are insubstantial
and cannot bear my weight.
I don’t trust that life will always bring
what I assume that it has promised,
not because life is somehow bent,
but because so many factors hide between the promise
and my idea of how it should be kept.
“I’ll be there in the morning,” is sincerely spoken,
but it may be this morning, or tomorrow,
or next week, or maybe never.
I don’t trust events to unfold
according to some plan of mine,
born within the synapses of my brain.
How, then, do I find a place for trust to rest?
The Tao Te Ching asks me:
“Can you wait patiently for the dust to settle
so the way ahead comes clear?”
This is trust – to sit and wait.
Wu-wei – “letting life live itself,” requires patience.
Not to do; not to fix; not to force…
I can hold out for a while, but soon,
I jump back into the fray, for,
if I don’t, what then becomes of me?
Ah, there is the question.
There is the key.
If I wait for long enough, I sink
into the flow that does not simply carry me,
but envelops me, infuses me, and becomes me.
Trust, then, becomes the very nature of my being.
What else, who else could I be?
The Great Way of Tao
is not a way of getting what I want.
Sometimes I struggle so with life,
that I neglect to live.
I try so hard to have my way,
that I forget to play.
I mistake events that daily come
as stumbling blocks to be avoided,
or as knots to be untied.
Yet an ordinary day is filled with wonders
concealed by my conditioned way of thinking.
Each moment contains a buried treasure
awaiting my discovery.
Even when my psyche aches within
the dark and painful passages of life,
a hidden gem anticipates revealing
in a blinding flash of light.
Adversity becomes an opportunity,
and adversaries are revealed as friends.
Gratitude blossoms in my being.
Tiny cracks appear in my facade
of doubting melancholy.
A playful mood insists on coming in
no matter how I try to stop it,
and soon I smile.
I just can’t help it.
I’m looking for contentment by removing
anything that bothers me,
by ordering events according to my whims,
or by building barriers against the chaos of the world.
“Nyah, nyah, nyah, I can’t hear you.”
It doesn’t seem to work.
I’d be content, I really would.
But the deer nibble the fresh green tops of my carrots.
The moles and gophers honeycomb my yard and pasture.
The chickadees make holes in the ancient siding of my cabin,
and my naps are interrupted by their constant rapping.
The septic tank is ancient and requires time and dollars,
as does the deck and fencing.
So contentment is postponed until these things,
and others too numerous to list,
are restrained and tamed at last.
Until that time I rant at wildlife,
curse the winds that rip the siding,
suffer the arrows of fortune,
and wait and hope and strive
to hold things stable long enough
to find that peace I seek.
Or might there be another way?
Is there something I am missing?
It’s possible I’m not as charming
as I was when I was younger.
Ingratiation used to be my modus operandi,
and being liked my way of weaving safety nets.
Now I work without a net,
since nets are illusions after all.
Someday, without a doubt, I’ll fall
as everybody does, so why not
fly and somersault and soar
according to my soul’s true nature?
So much time and effort spent
in weaving nets, not understanding
that the fall’s essential to the act.
I’ve been falling since I was born.
No amount of flapping will ever help.
So I gently softly glide and see
the wondrous sights spread out before me
and feel the wind against my skin.
Perhaps I’ll land and find myself
back to where I began it all.
To misquote the Bard,
“When the fall is all there is,
the manner of our falling matters.”
It’s not that I’m no longer nice,
whatever, “niceness” really is.
I have an intrinsic kindness, I am sure,
and would never seek to harm.
In fact, I’d like to do some good
as I glide down through the years.
It’s the facade of nice that now is crumbling,
revealing that it, instead of making me secure,
has walled out life and joy;
and kept at bay the deepest parts
of who I truly am.
So when the question rises up and asks,
“But do they still like me now?”
I remind myself that now I like me,
more than ever, and with that thought
I’m probably nicer to be around.