Archive for the ‘Lao-tzu’ Category

This blog like my mind is all over the place. Since 2014 the only connection between my posts is their randomness. I never considered if this was a good thing or not, and battled with my format several times. In the end I need to stay true to my mind and keep the randomness intact. Looking through my stats my most read posts involve Taoism and my interpretation of the verses, this is nothing new, although the theologian in me finds this rather intriguing. 

It’s been ages since I wrote my last post about the Tao Te Ching, in fact it has been ages since I have actively studied and put into practice the teachings of the Tao. As a result it is no surprise how unmanageable my life has become. 

Whether this is a direct coorilation or simply a coincidence is yet to be known. It’s been over a year since my mind has failed me leaving me broken and scattered. Perhaps returning to the teachings of the Tao things will begin to look a bit brighter as I become more centered. Now whether I actually wipe the dust from these ancient teachings remains to be seen. 

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Verse 24

If you stand on tiptoe, you cannot stand firmly.

If you take long steps, you cannot walk far.

Showing off does not reveal enlightenment.

Boasting will not produce accomplishment.

He who is self-righteous is not respected

He who brags will not endure.

All these ways of acting are loathsome, distasteful.

They are unnecessary excesses.

They are like a pain in the stomach,

a tumor in the body

when walking the path of the Tao,

this is the very stuff that must be

uprooted, thrown out, and left behind.

Lao-tzu

The 24th verse is about living without excess, Lao-tzu advises us to pull and discard our excess weeds. These weeds are ego-driven desires of self-importance. Our desire to feel important and our desires to brag and be boastful of our accomplishments are allowing our ego to drive us instead of the all giving Tao. It is this desire which keeps us away from walking the path of the Tao. The Tao teaches us that inner approval is healthy, but it is these mind frames of thinking you are better than anyone else which is destructive. These desires for self-importance are like a cancer on our souls. Our ego is our greatest enemy on our journey to discover the Way.

The verse starts with an analogy of standing on our tip toes. I believe this represents us trying to be greater than we are. If we try to fill ourselves with self-importance we will not be able to stand firmly. Lao-tzu’s advice is to stop trying to be what we are not, and instead live as we are. We should be humble in our daily affairs, and be content with who we are at all times. Everyday we should show gratitude for everything we have, and everything we are. Showing daily gratitude centers us and keeps us on the path of the Way. Practice focusing on what you have, and not what you want, then show gratitude for everything the Tao has given you. In the part about taking long steps; I think this advises us to live in the moment and not try so hard to get were going. Instead of focusing on our end goal we should be humble and enjoy the process.

The next part of this verse is advising us to not brag or be boastful. Showing off does not show enlightenment. Bragging about our accomplishments only make us look like fools. In the second verse of the Tao Te Ching it says “when the work is done, it is forgotten. That is why it lasts forever,” or in the ninth verse it says “retire when the work is done; this is the way to heaven.” These are all examples of working without bragging or taking credit for your hard work. It is nice to be acknowledged, but this should not be our primary goal. I see my faults in this part of the verse. I have written posts on my frustration with my writing career progress. I want to have five thousand visitors a day, and in my mind this would be an accomplishment worthy of bragging. In my mind I need to be successful immediately, or I am disappointed. I am standing on my tip toes and taking long steps. I need to just sit back and allow my writing career to happen.

I am most interested in the line “He who is self-righteous is not respected.” The definition of self-righteous is “a feeling of smug moral superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person.” This is an interesting line in that the Tao condemns being holier than thou in our religious affairs. Unlike Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism do not send its followers out on missionary trips to spread the word. They do not pretend to be superior to others who believe differently. This is why you have never seen an inquisition in these faiths. The Tao does not judge you based on if you believe in the Way or not. It will still provide you with everything you need. I think this lesson is far different from some other religions out there, which is why I have found a spiritual home in this religion.

Instead of letting our ego drive us with the desire to boast, or only work for the accolades of a good job, we should instead be grateful for everything the Tao has given us. The Tao does not seek acknowledgement for all it does for us. The Tao does not come to us saying “look what I have done for you, now what will you do for me.” This is a lesson the Tao tries to teach us by example. We should not see ourselves as important or special for the gifts the Tao has given us. We should appreciate her, and her unselfish giving. The Tao teaches us to be a giver rather than a taker, we should be providing for others and ask nothing in return. The Tao always exists in a state of unlimited giving, and teaches us to do the same. If we are able to mimic this sense of gratitude and giving we will be closer to walking the path of the Way.

“By returning to radical humility and seeing the greatness within everyone you’ve than cleared your life of excessive self-importance…and this is the way of the Tao.”

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Verse 23

To talk little is natural:

Fierce winds do not blow all morning;

a downpour of rain does not last all day.

Who does this? Heaven and earth.

But these are exaggerated, forced effects,

and that is why they cannot be sustained.

If heaven and earth cannot sustain a forced action,

how much less is man able to do?

Those who follow the Way

become one with the Way.

Those who follow goodness

Become one with goodness.

Those who stray from the Way and goodness

become one with failure.

If you conform to the Way

its powers flow through you.

Your actions become those of nature,

your ways those of heaven.

Open yourself to the Tao

and trust your natural responses…

Then everything will fall into place.

Lao-tzu

I have been reading this verse over and over again and doing nothing but spinning my wheels. I just kept trying to find the meaning and how to articulate it. Whenever I am stuck in life, or in my journey through the Tao I will consult my wife. If I read her a verse she immediately can point out the meaning as if she has known this stuff her entire life. My wife and my son are the two most enlightened Taoist I have ever known, and neither are Taoists. The amazing thing is how quick she picks up the meanings and does a wonderful job articulating that meaning to me. I am being honest with you when I say she should really be writing these things not me. When I read it to her she looked at me funny and said “how do you not get it?” She went on to say that this verse is a great lesson to be learned by me. After a brief talk my eyes were opened to a few things.

When I looked into the analogy of storms not lasting forever I think the message is no matter how hard life gets it is but a passing storm. When it talks about heaven and earth not being able to sustain a forced action I translated that to mean if Mother Nature cannot sustain a storm that lasts a lifetime, than neither can any of our troubles last forever. This is a comforting statement for me considering I have a penchant for dealing with dark storms. When my darkness comes my mantra I say over and over in my head is “this to shall pass.” I think this is part of what the message Lao-tzu was trying to get across.

My wife saw a different translation. She said that heaven and earth not being able to sustain a forced action (storm) means that man cannot sustain a forced life. In this she explained trying to force things that should just be let go and allowed to flow. She brings up my OCD and how because of my compulsions I try to force things to be a certain way and control my surroundings to ease my anxiety. She said that this type of lifestyle cannot be sustained because things are being forced, being forced is not natural and will eventually wear you and the world around you down, just as if it were to storm and blow fiercely for days on end, nothing could sustain that.. This can also be true in the sense of trying to always be in charge, always be right and always in control. These types of behaviors cannot last forever and indeed go against the very laws of nature.

Lao-tzu urges us to follow the Way and to follow goodness. How true is it that those who follow goodness become goodness!! Its simple, you are what you do, you follow negativity, negative will come, you are disrespectful, disrespect will come to you, you are self-centered, and you will be all by yourself. Life will always give back what you give to it. Living as nature does is how we are supposed to live. When troubles come bend not break, for after the storm you will be standing tall once again. Nature moves along naturally nothing is forced every action is as it is supposed to be. Every reaction is in line with the Way. I think conforming to the Way is probably one of the hardest steps. First when I see the word conform or what have you I immediately feel the urge to do the complete opposite. If we live as nature does, if we flow like a river, listen more and talk less the power of the Way flows through us and with us. When our actions are one with nature we are living a Tao centered life, and our ways transform into the ways of heaven.

I look at a current conundrum I am in. I had this great idea for a gift for my wife. My wife sacrifices everyday for our family and I cannot remember the last time she thought about her self first. So I had this great gift idea, but the problem comes where we may not have the money to get it. She chose to get gifts for others instead of the gift for herself. I get this, but I really think she deserves this gift and it is perfect in my mind. My ego wants to step in and control the situation and say “this is what we are going to do, okay great let’s get it done.” This forceful approach has done nothing but cause problems. I need to step back take a deep breath and just allow whatever was meant to happen will happen. If we have the money then the gift will come if we don’t then it wont. I need to be at peace with this situation regardless of the outcome, and let the natural order just happen. I am happy to report that I was able to get her gift and she loved it. Amazing how the Tao works.

If we are living a Tao centered life trusting our natural actions and reaction without ego-driven thought and actions then we are at one with nature. If we are one with nature and ultimately the Tao then everything will always fall into place. This is by far the most comforting piece for me. The knowledge that if I trust in a power greater than myself and follow the Taos lessons then everything will always fall into the exact place it is supposed to be.

 Verse 22

The flexible are preserved unbroken.

The bent become straight.

The empty are filled.

The exhausted become renewed.

The poor are enriched.

The rich are confounded.

Therefore wise men embrace the one

And set an example to all.

Not putting on a display,

They shine forth.

Not justifying themselves,

They are distinguished.

Not boasting,

They receive recognition.

Not bragging,

They never falter.

They do not quarrel,

So no one quarrels with them.

Therefore the ancients say, “Yield and overcome.”

Is that an empty saying?

Be really whole,

And all things will come to you.

Lao-tzu

When I read this verse I think about my very good friend who is going through a rather rough patch in his life. He is suffering some great trials and tribulations and I feel how he handles it will make or break him. If he stands rigid and wallows in his misfortunes he will most likely break amidst his personal storm. If he stays flexible and goes with the storm like a palm tree he will be preserved unbroken. If he yields he will overcome. Dr. Dyer uses the example of a palm tree in a hurricane to illustrate the lessons in this verse. Even with winds of up to 200 mph the palm tree survives even though other trees are being ripped from the ground. The secret of the palm tree is its flexibility. It moves with the winds sometimes all the way to the ground. When the storm has passed the palm tree remains straight.

The first few lines of the 22nd verse of the Tao Te Ching gives me the same feeling of hope as in the book of Matthew. I know it is not an exact match but the feeling I get from this verse is the same I get from reading Jesus’ speech on top of the mountain. I feel a great sense of hope when I read these words. In embracing the one you will become flexible able to withstand anything life throws your way. When you hit a point where you are empty and life is dragging you by the heels rejoice because you will be filled. There is something comforting in these words. To me it gives me strength to weather my own personal storms. I take solace in knowing when I am completely empty I will be filled. I find peace in realizing everything I need is already given to me. I hope one day I can completely embrace the one and be a teacher to others.

I know I have said this before but the Tao Te Ching like other religious scriptures covers many of the same concepts. This verse gives us lessons to confront our greatest enemy our very own ego. If we stop trying to become noticed all the time whether it be at our jobs, with our friends, or in a relationship we will shine brighter. If we stop justifying ourselves all the time we will be heard. This is hard for me because I feel I need to justify myself all the time. I feel a compelling urge to always be right, and I will fight my point to the bitter end. I am certain if I were to shut my mouth and remain open minded to the words I am hearing the outcomes would improve ten fold. Not only would I truly hear what is being said; my points will then be better received. If we choose to listen and not argue or fight with those around us then no one will quarrel with us. If we are living a Tao centered life, then how can anyone truly be offended by your actions?

We need to plant a palm tree seed within ourselves nurtured with the greatness of the Tao. Our roots should be grounded in a Tao centered life. If we can accomplish this we can weather any storm. Like the palm trees in nature everything they need to survive is provided to them by the Tao. The reason these things are provided because the tree is receptive to the Tao’s nourishment. We need to have this same kind of faith, we need to trust that everything we need is here right now, and everything we will ever need will be provided as long as we are receptive. The Tao isn’t trying to get somewhere other than where it is. It has no goals, desires, or judgments it flows everywhere because it is the energy of creation. We are taught to be empty. I think the only way we can be filled is by becoming completely empty. We need to rid ourselves of possessions, attachments, desires, and ego. If we become empty and receptive we will be filled with the loving energy of the Tao.

Verse 21

The greatest virtue is to follow the Tao and the Tao alone.

The Tao is elusive and intangible.

Although formless and intangible,

it gives rise to form.

Although vague and elusive,

it gives rise to shapes.

Although dark and obscure,

it is the spirit, the essence,

the life breath of all things.

Throughout the ages, its name has been preserved

in order to recall the beginning of all things.

How do I know the ways of all things at the beginning?

I look inside myself and see what is within me.

Lao-tzu

Here is where I get lost and almost turned off by the Tao Te Ching. I am not going to try and guess what Lao-tzu may or may not be saying in this verse; instead I am going to give my theory on what the Tao is. I do not like the first line where it says to “follow the Tao and the Tao alone.” I think this is greatly out of place for any conceptions of what the Tao is supposed to stand for. The Tao does not pass judgments based on whether we believe or not. The Tao will always provide for us whenever or whatever we need. I suppose I was hoping the Tao Te Ching would not take me down the path of an “exclusive” faith. With that being said I am still in the infancy stages of learning about the great Tao, just like the Bible I cannot expect to fully understand by just reading and meditating on the first twenty-one verses. I hope by the time I reach the 81st verse I will have a great understanding of the Tao’s teachings, and with guidance from such readers as “The Rambling Taoist” I may obtain better understanding. I am sure this will be a long process there are times I still find myself going back to the first verse.

I believe the Tao is the beginning of life itself. I think the big bang was the Tao giving birth to everything in the universe. The Tao continue to create and take away life. It is never-ending. In some verses of the Tao Te Ching the Tao is referred to as the “Mother of 10,000 things.” In my translation I have changed this to the Mother of the universe.” I think this fits better. In the fourth verse of the Tao Te Ching it states that the Tao is the father of God Himself. I believe this is the very God of the Bible, Quran, Torah, and insert any religious belief here_______. I find it interesting that the Tao says “Father.” This insinuates to me that God’s are created by the masculine which is destructive compared to the life giving essence of the feminine.

I was having a conversation with an old friend months ago, and he was telling me about his religious beliefs. I was amazed by his insight, and while I was listening to him a light bulb went off inside of me and it made so much of the Tao’s origin made sense to me. I am not going to get into great detail on his beliefs, but he describes the center of the universe is where all life goes and returns to. It sounded like this giant sphere of light and energy. He said this is heaven, the place where all life comes and returns to. I believe this to be the center of the Tao; the center of all creation. I believe Nebulas are the Tao’s womb, the birthplace of stars, and with stars comes solar systems, within solar systems are planets, and within planets are life or death. We as humans would not have evolved if things were just slightly different. We may have ended up like Venus or Mars, but we didn’t and through billions of years we are what we have become. A blessing mixed with happenstance.

I believe when you die your shen returns to the center only to return to another place when it is ready. I believe in reincarnation, but not in the sense the Buddhist believe. I do not think you need to reincarnate in stages until you reach Nirvana, I believe Nirvana is the center and you travel to it every time you pass. This is the place where everything becomes one. I believe your shen is aware and possess conscience. This is where you reunite with loved ones.

In the end I have no idea if this is true. I want so badly to believe this to curb my sense of fear over death. I want to know my loved ones are in a better place. When I first started re-reading the Tao Te Ching I tried to look at Taoism as a philosophical guiding stick on the proper way to live. It was a year ago I really tried to understand Taoism on a spiritual level, since then it has had a bigger impact on my development as a person. This desire to believe and have faith in the Tao on a spiritual level only came after my best friend passed and I was once again confronted with my own mortality. Like the first verse says no one can describe or define the Tao, when we try it is not the eternal name. I think this is something we all must try to describe to further us down our spiritual path.

Give up learning and you will be free

from all your cares.

What is the difference between yes and no?

What is the difference between good and evil?

Must I fear what others fear?

Should I fear desolation

when there is abundance?

Should I fear darkness

when that light is shining everywhere?

In spring, some go to the park and climb the terrace,

but I alone am drifting, not knowing where I am.

Like a newborn babe before it learns to smile,

I am alone, without a place to go.

Most people have too much;

I alone seem to be missing something.

Mine is indeed the mind of an ignoramus

in its unadulterated simplicity.

I am but a guest in this world.

While others rush about to get things done,

I accept what is offered.

I alone seem foolish,

earning little, spending less.

Other people strive for fame;

I avoid the limelight,

preferring to be left alone.

Indeed, I seem like an idiot:

no mind, no worries.

I drift like a wave on the ocean.

I blow as aimless as the wind.

All men settle down in their grooves;

I alone am stubborn and remain outside.

But wherein I am most different from others is

in knowing to take sustenance from the great Mother!

Lao-tzu

One of the central themes behind most eastern religions is the concept of living in the moment, and live free from striving for more of this or that. It is about being content and being free from our lives of constant hustle and bustle. This verse discusses these issues. The 20th verse asks me to live a life free of striving not only for possessions, but for attachments to anything that doesn’t include the here and now such as what work am I going to get done tomorrow when it is only 11:00am today. I need to learn to slow down my demands for more, and slow down my anticipation to be somewhere else. I need to live in the moment. I need to enjoy each key stroke while my office fills with great music. I should take the time to stop for a moment and soak the process in not just hurrying to get the process done.

I need to not only be here in my body but I also must be here in my mind. I should achieve a state of appreciation of what is now with an absence of longing. Often times I write multiple posts in a day especially the days where I am in a mania state. The words just pour out at a rapid pace and I do everything I can to write them down as fast as I am thinking them. When I go to type them I am often times concerned about my next thought and not my current piece. This causes me to write poorly thought out posts. I am also consumed with this idea of completing my query letter to agents, and the what-ifs of me sending them out. This one thought cycles in my mind over and over again until it completely consumes me and the writing is all but stunted. This is also the case with my future readings plan. I cannot stop thinking about getting my business cards, buying my “reading” book, and what my set list is going to be. I am looking into what the future may be, completely neglecting the here and now. I need to release the what-ifs and all my goals for the future, and replace them with the power of this instant. Thinking of being someplace else uses up your precious present moments.

In my studying I have found that “being” here now is accomplished by adopting an acceptance of life as it is presented by the Great Mother. This is a hard concept for me because it requires me to have faith and surrender to a higher power above myself. Instead of trying to live a life of routines I should just allow this great all-creating, all nourishing source to take me where it will. I think with any religion surrendering is a key process into becoming religious; every religion is built on faith. This surrendering allows me to not fear desolation because the Tao is abundant. This surrendering allows me to not fear death because why should I fear the darkness when light is shining everywhere. I need to trust in the great source to provide me with what I need, as it has done for all beings.

The Tao teaches us to simplify our lives by not seeking another thing or striving to be somewhere or someone else. You’re no longer living inside yourself with a desire to be someone else. Am I totally missing out on the experience to becoming a published author by consistently striving to become said writer? I need to trade striving for arriving and enjoy the ride with all the good and bad things that may come my way. I think Lao-tzu is telling me to change how I see what’s here now in my life, for then it will become exactly what I need in order to BE happy. I don’t NEED another thing or accomplishment to be happy; it’s always being provided for me right here and right now. I need to be in the moment, and free myself of striving for something more or to become someone else.

I need to let go of my daily demands, along with my beliefs that I can’t be happy because of what is supposedly missing in my life. Insisting that I need what I don’t have is insane and robs us years worth of present moments. The fact that I am okay without what I think I need is proving I do not really need this thing after all. I did a post on Facebook after reading this verse several times and I think it is fitting to end on it.

“The foolish live today thriving for tomorrow; the wise live today loving each moment.”

Tim

Give up sainthood, renounce wisdom

and it will be a hundred times better for everyone.

Throw away morality and justice

and the people will do the right thing.

Throw away industry and profit

and there will be no thieves

All of these things are outward forms alone;

They are not sufficient in themselves.

It is more important

to see the simplicity,

to realize one’s true nature,

to cast off selfishness

and temper desire.

Lao-tzu

This was a tough verse for me to fully grasp. I am aware that the concepts within this verse are much the same as in verse 18. If is as if I forgot the lessons learned and just spun my mental wheel because I was continually stuck on the first six lines. Lao-tzu was asking me to give up some of the very lessons the Tao has been teaching me. This was really throwing me off guard. I grew frustrated focusing all my energy on discovering the meaning of these six lines. I became blinded by them; causing me to ignore the remainder of this verse. The one aspect I was able to get and have always gotten is the benefit of throwing away industry and profit. In my opinion these two things have become a cancer on our society.

After meditating on this subject several times; I was urged to look at my interpretation of the 18th verse, then completely skip the first six lines all together and focus on the remainder of the verse. I went back and read my post on the 18th verse, and the next few times I read this verse; I was finally able to see some clarity. I focused on the main lesson I learned from the previous verse and focused on how the Tao tells us to not act virtuous but to be virtuous. Armed with this mode of thinking, the remainder of this verse seemed to fall into perspective. I was finally able to understand how these six lines played into the greater picture.

Starting out reading the seventh and eighth lines made the previous six lines make more sense. Lao-tzu was saying education, morality, and business are “outward forms” and “were not sufficient in themselves.” Lao-tzu was not asking me to throw these things out, he was saying I should not just seek out sainthood and act as how I view a saint should act. I should be saintly in all my endeavors. He was not renouncing the importance of wisdom; he was asking me to renounce my complex societal interpretation of what constitutes wisdom. He was not asking me to throw my morals and concept of justice out the window, he was asking me to not let these “laws” define how I act, but how I act should be in a manner that is inline with the Tao. He was asking me to see the simplicity of these things and tap into my true inner self, the self that is one with the Tao. If I am able to properly tap into and become one with this true inner self then I will go beyond these “outward forms.”

We need to find the true simplicity and our own inner nature; then we will become the saint we not only wanted to be, but one that is inline with the eternal Tao. Lao-tzu does not want us to be without wisdom. He warns us against seeking wisdom for wisdoms sake. Going to college, just because it is what we are suppose to do is not obtaining true wisdom. You may hold in your hand a fancy diploma from a top notch university, but this does not mean you automatically possess knowledge or wisdom. You may just end up possessing a $150K piece of paper. The simplest man living on the streets could very well be wiser, because he has within him discovered his true nature, and learned the valuable lesson of not complicating life.    

Perhaps in our search for wisdom, our desire for money, and our thought on societal obligations of morality we have some how complicated these simple things. A truth is a truth until you organize it, and then it becomes a lie. Why? Because the purpose of the organization begin to take precedence over that which it first attempted to keep in order. I think Lao-tzu is telling us we place too much attachment on these things. We hold these things in too high of regard in our lives. We blindly and selfishly desire to obtain these labels, until the labels become what we seek, not what is behind them. We begin to think these things define us as human beings; instead of being human beings that describe our labels.  

We all have a piece of God in each and every one of us, and becoming one with this part allows us to live everyday as being one with the Tao. This way of living will be “a hundred times greater for everyone” because we are living as a divine being. We look beyond these labels and become better than what we previously thought of. Our inner piece of God wants us to care for our fellow man. He wants us to obtain wisdom. He wants us to live with infinite kindness. He wants us to live within and become one with the eternal Tao. Now as for the industry and profit…well, I think he really wants us to throw them away.

When the greatness of the Tao is present,

action arises from one’s own heart.

When the greatness of the Tao is absent,

action comes from the rules

of “kindness and justice.”

If you need rules to be kind and just,

if you act virtuous,

this is a sure sign that virtue is absent.

Thus we see the great hypocrisy.

When kinship falls into discord,

piety and rites of devotion arise.

When the country falls into chaos,

official loyalists will appear;

patriotism is born.

Lao-tzu

To sum up the 18th verse of the “Tao Te Ching”, Lao-tzu is telling us we don’t need rules to be kind and just. We do not need society to dictate to us how to live from our hearts. If we are following the greatness of the Tao then we would be kind and love without doing it because society’s rules dictate us to. We would be kind and love because the Tao is part of us, so these behaviors come naturally.

I don’t think Lao-tzu is saying rules are necessarily bad, he is just saying it is unfortunate we even need them. If we were all one with the Tao life would be a utopia where there would be no war, murder, greed, stealing, or any other negative behavior. People would live peacefully and in harmony with the seasons of the Tao. There would be no need for money, possessions, insane working hours, and stress. We would get up, work when needed, laugh, play, relax, and enjoy the present moment everyday of our lives. I suppose the same thing could be said about the Bible or any other religious texts. If people were to follow the lessons of their faiths then life would be more peaceful. This does not include those who misread religious texts and turn it into a destructive force.

The most powerful and moving part about this verse is Lao-tzu asking us to not act virtuous but to be virtuous. Many of us act virtuous because it is how society or our faiths require us to be, not because it is one of our core values. I think the world we live in today has lost the true Way. In this process of societal deterioration there are fewer and fewer people who are virtuous not because they have to be; they do this because kindness and love are part of their core values. This is a tough verse for me to meditate on because it calls to the forefront my core values. I sit and try to look into my soul and identify exactly what they are. There are times I don’t like what I see, and there are times I try to fool myself. I do know since I have started studying the Tao Te Ching some of my core values have changed to more selfless ones.  

I think the society we live in today is a society of greed, self interest, and entitlement. We follow rules because of what is legal and illegal. We do not steal because it is illegal, but when society breaks down the human race shows its true values. When Katrina hit in New Orleans, society broke down and erupted into chaos. The people began looting and killing. They knew there was no one to stop them so they acted according to their values. Then there were the people who were in tune with the greatness of the Tao. They made every effort to do everything in their power to help their fellow man. I do not think New Orleans is an isolated incident or case study. I believe if society broke down nation wide, and our laws could no longer be enforced; you would see how your neighbor truly is. There would be those who put their ego above all else and there would be those who put the Tao above all else. Although this would be an interesting social experiment, I would not want to be around if this were to happen.

I am a bit lost in what Lao-tzu is saying in the last five lines of this verse. Is he saying when man fails to be kind to his fellow man then piety and rites of religion are created? Is he talking about other religions of his time being created to keep the people in line? When he talks about countries falling into chaos is he also speaking of what was happening in his time, like Revaluations in the Bible? Is he saying when the kindness and love of man breaks down first comes the need to control “religion” then comes government based on religious values? I am a bit lost here.

With the greatest leader above them,

people barely know one exists.

Next comes one whom they love and praise.

Next comes one whom they fear.

Next comes one whom they despise and defy.

When a leader trusts no one,

no one trusts him.

The great leader speaks little.

He never speaks carelessly.

He works without self-interest

and leaves no trace.

When all is finished, the people say

“We did it ourselves.”

Lao-tzu

The 17th verse of the Tao Te Ching is focused on the different ways you can lead or govern people. I would like to take out leader and supplant it with parent while I highlight what I see as the meaning of this verse. We can all take away some valuable parenting lessons from studying this verse. The first step is relinquishing control for a moment and become an astute observer of how your kids are behaving, or how they go about making their daily decisions in life. Now ask yourself without interfering can I create an environment that will help my children act responsibly.

Lao-tzu advises making yourself as invisible as possible if you want to become a good parent or leader. Try allowing your children to act without feeling they need to impress you. If your child is confronted with a problem or a decision instead of giving them what you want them to do instead offer a slight suggestion or tell a brief story about what others have done to resolve a similar issue. Leave it as that; then leave it up to your children to utilize that suggestion or not. Leave them with the feeling that you trust them to come up with the right decision. Whatever decisions your child comes up with whether it is your slight suggestion, your parable of a similar situation, combination of the two, or something completely different. This will leave your child with the feeling “I fixed this on my own.” Over time this will lead to healthy decision making their entire lives.

The one part the Tao warns us against is the urge to rule with fear. If I as a parent use fear to govern my children then my children will only behave in a proper manner as long as the fear (myself) is present. This does nothing to account for how they will behave when I am not around. There was a study done on just this example. They studied two separate classrooms. The first was done on a teacher who was a strict disciplinarian; the other was done on a teacher who teaches with praise and freedom. When the teacher who was a disciplinarian left the classroom the students became chaotic. When the teacher who praised their students left; the kids behaved as if she was still in the room.

The most profound part for me of this verse is when Lao-tzu is speaking about great leaders/parents. He advises us to speak little, and never speak carelessly. I think as parents when we are frustrated with our children we can speak without thinking. Speaking carelessly can have a lasting negative affect on our children, whether we can see it or not. We should raise our children with love and without self-interest. As parents we should be in the background trusting and cultivating our children to make good decisions; not from our rules, but from the true inner goodness of our children.

Truly inspiring leaders and parents get results by their own examples. They encourage their children to do the right thing not by bragging about their perfections or their own personal view on how they should be. They create space for others to be inspired and to achieve their own greatness. The Taosist leader always leaves people to choose and pursue their own way of life, their own conception of good. Dr. Wayne W. Dyer said it best:

“I’ve always believed that parents are not for leaning upon, but rather exist to make leaning unnecessary.”

Become totally empty.

Let your heart be at peace.

Amidst the rush of worldly comings and goings,

observe how endings become beginnings.

Things flourish, each by each,

only to return to the source…

To what is and what is to be.

To return to the root is to find peace.

To find peace is to fulfill one’s destiny.

To fulfill one’s destiny is to be constant.

To know the constant is called insight.

Not knowing this cycle

leads to eternal disaster.

Knowing the constant gives perspective.

This perspective is impartial.

Impartiality is the highest nobility;

the highest nobility is Divine.

Being Divine, you will be at one with the Tao.

Being at one with the Tao is eternal.

This way is everlasting,

not endangered by physical death.

Lao-tzu

 The sixteenth verse describes the constant of change, while recounting the cycles of life. The one thing we can always count on in life is change. Nothing ever remains the same. The seasons change, relationships begin then end, and all life will someday become death. All things come then they go. The Tao does not play favorites in this process The Tao will bring winter whether we are ready for it or not. The Tao will return all things to the source whether we believe in it or not. The Tao does not answer prayers, but provides you with everything you will ever need. When a door closes the Tao opens a new one. These examples all show change. Observing endings becoming beginnings is a great way to deal with death, the loss of a job, or the ending of a relationship. Understanding when one door closes another one opens is a great coping method and a divine way to live ones life.

Lao-tzu advises us to become empty and allow our hearts to be at peace amidst the rush of worldly comings and goings. I think Lao-tzu is trying to teach us coping methods for how to deal with the numerous changes we encounter in life. His 2,500 year old description of the “rush of worldly comings and goings” fits perfectly well with where we are today. Life is hectic and crazy, and many of us have issues with the consistent changes we encounter.

Many of us are afraid of change. We avoid it as much as we can. I am a creature of habit. When things change around me whether it be changing of routines, or the changing of the seasons I am unable to cope. I become either manic or slip into a depression. I need to learn to embrace this constant and allow myself to be in harmony with the Tao. I need to become an observer of the life around me and appreciate the cyclical nature of all things.

I suffer from a mild case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, because of this I have a harder time with things outside my routines. For example I need to park in the exact same spot when I go to therapy. If I am not able to park in my spot I become agitated and then flip into the mode of needing to control every aspect of my surroundings. I try to recreate how everything looked the last time I was there. I will try and arrange the chairs in the waiting room in perfect order. I begin to have severe anxiety and panic attacks. I tried this lesson on Tuesday when I went to therapy. I grabbed my prayer beads and counted my twenty seven progressions. With each deep breath I imagined myself becoming empty, and my heart being at peace. To my surprise this tactic worked. I still had anxiety, but it was reduced to just a minor bother.

In the sixteenth line of the sixteenth verse it say “impartiality is the highest nobility.” The seventeenth line says the highest nobility is divine. For some reason I am drawn to these two lines. I had an idea, but I was not 100% sure the exact meaning of “impartiality.” The definition I received was the ability to weigh both views and opinions equally. I look into myself, and realized this is a trait I am lacking in. When it comes to things affecting me personally I am unable to see others views and feelings as equally as my own. I am not sure I can even say I am impartial when it comes to looking outside my circle and see issues equally. I will continue to meditate on this to try and find the answer.

Every religion has an explanation for what happens to you when you die; Taoism is no exception. Taoism says everything will return to the source to what is and what is to be. Now whether this is Heaven, Nirvana, or reincarnation no one will know until we pass. I interpret this as reincarnation. My theory is your shen (what is) leaves your body, and returns to the center of everything in the womb of our mother the great Tao. When you leave this womb you return back to any planet and enter into a new life (what is to be.) As a former atheist I know this sounds crazy, but somehow seems right. I have always been afraid of death and the great unknown; but the sixteenth verse brings me peace. I may not know what the outcome is, nor will I attempt to understand it, because the Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao. The constancy between life and death returns us to our root. I find peace in knowing I will return to the source of all things, this nameless placeless site of all of our origination.