Archives for posts with tag: Tao Te Ching

Experience is a riverbed,
Its source hidden, forever flowing:
Its entrance, the root of the world,
The Way moves within it:
Draw upon it; it will not run dry.

— Tao te Ching adaptation by Peter Merel

Chi has a thing for the neighbor over the back fence.  It may have always been so. The neighbor is a kindly old man, rather like the Sage in the stories. He spends endless hours in his yard perfecting the grass, the beautiful flowers. Each tree is cared for and pruned with exquisite attention.

This care extends to Chi. As long as I can remember, the man has called Chi to come to him; preening, mugging, cajoling, teasing. And, as long as I can remember, Chi has had nothing to do with it. Chi runs to the fence like a sentry, barking, hairs standing at attention.  The dance goes back and forth between the two.

I’ve tried to help the old man. Surely, this man would have a treat for Chi. I greet the man, tell Chi the man is a friend. I tap my foot and look annoyed. I yell at our poor pugalicious. Normally, any of these things would stop Chi in mid-bark.  Not this situation; not this neighbor; not this day.

This ritual was playing itself out for the umpteenth time last weekend when a new thought emerged. Maybe this dance, this back-and-forth, was exactly the point. Both seem to enjoy it, no matter how noisy or frustrating it might appear to outsiders. It perfectly illustrates the endless spin of yin and yang, both circling, one sharp, one gentle, The play IS the point.

And, once again, I find Chi teaching me. Humans talk on and on about living life. But those damned rules sometimes stop us from experience. Don’t bark, don’t trample the flowers, don’t be rude, don’t, don’t, don’t.

Getting to the root, the essence of life, IS life. And sometimes, it’s loud and messy.

OUTSIDE VOICES, EVERYONE!

goodluckwiththat

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This morning my quarters were so cold
I suddenly thought of my friend in the mountains
gathering firewood down by the creek
lugging it back to boil white rocks
I wish I could bring him a gourd full of wine
to drive off the wind and rain at night
but fallen leaves cover the deserted slopes
and how could I find the trail

Wei Ying-wu

[Translated by Red Pine, from the book, ‘In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu’. Copper Canyon Press]

A Scholar's Retreat amidst Autumn Trees, Ming dynasty (1368-1644) Wang Fu (Chinese, 1362-1416)

A Scholar’s Retreat amidst Autumn Trees, Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Wang Fu (Chinese, 1362-1416)

This lovely poem speaks of a truth in many of our lives. How many times have we thought of a friend, just out of the blue. How nice it would be to see them. Then, the various problems associated with seeing this friend ensue.

Too snowy. Too rainy. Too hot. Too cold. Too busy. Too broke. Not enough time. Always something.

And then, there are the friends who are not embodied. The friends long since departed, gone to some distant coast, or perhaps location unknown. We think about the memories we shared, the times we wish we could have again. Our selves which always seem somehow better through the lens of time and distance.

Maybe what we truly miss is an ideal. A thought. A time we felt strong, or wise, or vital. It’s always in the past, or the future, or somewhere other than here.

How could I find the trail?

Many times the truth, sensation or experience we seek is deceptively near. Our brains search everywhere for this ephemeral thing called now. Maybe you can pick your way amongst the fallen leaves and find the trail to your friend’s house by taking a detour. Perhaps wandering with no destination will bring you home.

Allowing yourself the time and space to explore in the present moment is key.

Verse 26 – Gravity is the Root of Lightness

Gravity is the root of lightness,
Stillness is the master of passion.

The Sage travels all day
But does not leave the baggage-cart;
When surrounded by magnificent scenery
Remains calm and still.

When a lord of ten thousand chariots
Behaves lightly in this world,
Lightness loses its root,
Passion loses its master.”

~ “Tao Te Ching Lao-Tzu”, translated by Sephen Addiss & Stanley Lombardo

I’ve been reflecting still more on Chi’s sense of quiet, of flowing like water.  The thing that is really wonderful about working with the Tao Te Ching, of taking the low road, is that you learn an entirely new way of reacting — actually, not reacting — to things as you practice.

In our Western world we are encouraged to “strike while the iron is hot” ; “seize the day”; “take control”; “be assertive”; “don’t be a doormat”… and on and on the advice goes. Be strong, strike hard. Many of us become addicted to this confrontational, competitive style. It’s no wonder. These qualities are often listed among the most attractive traits for managers and entrepreneurs in the contemporary business world. These personality markers also thrive outside the office. Within sports, games, even personal improvement programs there is often found competition and different scenes of what could easily be called battle.

Chi sees most everything in his own puggy time. He is, as the Sage above, calm and still. (Unless there is a squirrel.) By allowing all of the millions things to move around him he gets to experience much more of his puggy world, rather than chase every single thing as his sisters do.

I am trying to allow time to flow like that for me as well, be it at work, or at home. Surrendering and flowing with things allows me to relax. It allows new creativity to flow. And, amazingly, I accomplish more than I would if I was running around after everything.

This also works beautifully in relationships. Allow people to come and go. Stay in the baggage cart being taken from place to place. Force nothing. Embrace the moment and be grateful. These seem like simple tasks. They are deceptive.

So, until next time, I am going to continue to practice this new receptivity, this new yin way of relating to the world. If you try it too, share how it goes for you!

English: Statue of Lao Tzu (Laozi) in Quanzhou...

English: Statue of Lao Tzu (Laozi) in Quanzhou 中文: 福建泉州老君岩 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Water overcomes the stone;

Without substance it requires no opening;

This is the benefit of taking no action.

 

Yet benefit without action,

And experience without abstraction,

Are practiced by very few.

TTC 43

Interpreted by Peter Merel

I learn a lot when I sit and watch Chi interact with his sisters. His sisters are two rambunctious Manchester Terriers. He lacks their energy and their speed. He cannot outrace them in one of their dizzying races around the yard. He can’t jump so fast and high that he almost catches a squirrel by the tail.

Still, Chi has something the flashier pair lack, and he uses it — often without fanfare. He can lie quiet and motionless. When they crawl all over him, he sinks into himself with a deep sigh. He’ll close his eyes and pretend he’s asleep. They will paw at him, push him, lick him. None of it matters. He’s oblivious. Sometimes, he seems longsuffering. Other times, he seems stubborn.

He uses this with his humans as well. If we want to put him in the kennel, and he doesn’t want to be there, he refuses to move. Quite literally, he becomes as water. Completely limp. The effects are comical as we drag him (gently) across the bed or the sofa or the floor. He is a conscientious objector. He is passive resistance incarnate. If you try to pick him up, his limp dead weight is hard to lift. If he slips from your grasp, he sinks back into the sofa, only for the cycle to begin again.

Chi is illustrating the overcoming of adversity with the humor of a sage. Water has no real substance; it flows, it moves, it molds to hard substances. And, over time, it carves stone. Water is the ultimate example of acting without acting. We can do the same, by flowing through difficult situations. If chaos is exploding around you, remaining low to the ground and flowing with the tide will serve you well. You can observe, witness from this place.

All this, from “doing nothing.”

be water

At times, everyone needs that little “bump” life brings. Maybe we have gone stale through routine; maybe we have gotten lost through grief. Whatever the reason, life has a way of bringing opportunity to our doors.  It encourages us to dip a toe back in the collective pool, as it were.

For me, life used dogs to remind me of innocence, to show me how simple it really can be. For me, I’ll even say it was God. I now understand why people say God = dog! It’s not as denigrating as some people like to make it.

Sometimes our human minds get all tied up in complexities. In my case, it was a broken heart. Life bumped me around a bit. I was depressed, and badly so. My mother and God seemed to abandon me at the same time. There was little point. I was scared of the world and unable to relax into outside life any longer. I barricaded myself into my house, resolutely staying away from the outside world. I was locked up tight, blocking the tiniest hint of Light from entering my world. God had little option but to bring something to break through the thousand layers of resistance. And thus, God = dog.

Chi arrived a little damaged as well. We understood each other, despite his peeing on my blanket. If he made the wrong move and sensed he’d displeased us, he’d cringe and hide. It took a while to coax Chi out of his darkness…. And, over time, I found myself being coaxed out of my darkness as well. Occasionally I’d get in a space where I would not want any attention from anyone, human or canine. Chi would stubbornly insist on coming wherever I was at those moments. When I would allow him next to me at those times, we would both benefit.

Eventually, looking back, I had to ask whom was healing whom. For a while I resented “life energy” being present. It was infinitely easier remaining in my comfortable husk of a life. Inevitably, just as the Tao te Ching says, the repeated presence and love of Yin wore its way through the rocks blocking the river of my heart. If it was so with the Grand Canyon, then it’s definitely so with lesser rock structures like the human heart.

To end our time today, I would ask you this question: What makes you come alive?

Now, go do it.

comealive

Blogger’s note: While there is some question of the attribution of this quote to Howard Thurman, it would appear the quote did occur in conversation with Thurman. Thus, I am using it.