April 1

When the Tao acts, it acts powerfully and quickly,

and returns to its natural state of peace and rest.

One who follows the Tao esteems tranquility,

and takes action only when necessary.

One who values action above all does great damage
and will never find true peace in life.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 31

Our cat is capable of fluid, powerful, and effective action

but she does not spend her life

looking for things that need to be done.

Her power arises from her natural state

of complete tranquility

No animal in nature,

other than the human being,

spends a moment looking for

things that need to be done.

Yet everything needed

is accomplished naturally,

powerfully, and at the proper time.

Those whose lives are filled with action

are often simply trying to undo

the results of other actions.

In our culture, rest is something to be grudgingly granted, but only when we have exhausted ourselves. Anything short of this is considered lazy and irresponsible. We believe that otherwise nothing will be accomplished. Yet the default setting of the Tao, indeed of all nature, is rest and tranquility. All effective action finds its origin in that place of peaceful stillness and, when done, returns immediately to that place again.

April 2

If we only understood our place,

our unity with the Tao,
our courts of law would disappear

and armies would disband.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 32

Courts of law and armies are built

on the assumption that we are separate,

each of us from one another.

We don’t connect.

We don’t trust.

We don’t feel safe.

Someone, something,

must stand between me

and those who would bring me harm.

There was a time when the community elders arbitrated disputes and we trusted them to do so. There was a time when we would defend ourselves from threats, up close and personal. It’s not that threats and disputes would disappear if the Tao were followed, but they would be settled in the natural flow. It is the institutionalized form of defense that has put a kink in things. Once a law or an army becomes an institution, it takes on a life of its own and requires a constant influx of energy. The courts and the armies must have battles to fight to stay alive. So we feed them.

April 3

Everything we are was formed

when the Tao exploded itself into the Cosmos.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 32

Matter and energy, space and time,

all erupted from the Tao,

expanded and filled the universe.  

Countless stars forged atoms
in their furnace heat,
then exploded them into the cosmos,

where they formed the elements
that now appear as “us.”

When we understand that we are “star-stuff,”

our lives become a flowing part
of the eternal stream of Tao.

I love Carl Sagan’s words that, “we are the stuff of the stars, looking back at the stars.” We weren’t formed separately and plopped into an pre-existing separate universe. The very atoms in my body were literally formed in the furnace of stars; stars that went Nova and hurled the atoms into space where they, after billions of years, became Earth. Another billion years and they now dance as me. I am, have been, and always will be a part of this great eternal Flow.

April 4

The intelligent person knows about things and people.
The wise person knows about himself.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 33

I think I know about myself,

but it turns out to be the “self,”

that I think other people see.

I modify this persona, this mask,

so often that I begin to think

it’s really who I am:

this shifting amorphous shadow

of the authentic person.

I want you to know the “real me,” I say,

but first I have to find that me;

to know him and to love him,

rather than working so hard

to build the me

I think you want to see.

We all know the stress that comes from building the masks and keeping them in place. Creating a self is not the same as discovering the Self, the Essence, the truth of who we are and always have been, beneath the layers of conditioned ego structures. My intellect can often be my foe, as I call on it to design and construct sophisticated modifications to the masks, and use my words to hide myself from both myself and you. My spiritual practices have become more and more a willingness to enter the realm of true self-discovery; the self that abides within and is always a part of the Greater Self.

April 5

The strong person overcomes others.

But the most powerful person
overcomes his own conditioned mind.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 33

The me I’ve learned myself to be

resists the implication that he

is not the true identity.

Intuitions that there is something more,

something underneath,

something deeper at the core

of who I really am,

are rejected,



This conditioned sense of self

must ultimately yield

before I can be

truly free.

“Conditioned mind,” is my label for all the complex personality formations that are a natural part of human psychological development. There is nothing wrong with this process. The brain is designed to respond to input from the world “outside” of it. It forms connections and patterns based on all the sensory stimuli that it receives, and these patterns become so familiar that they acquire an illusory sense of permanence. But this “mind” cannot help but feel separate from all the “outside” world and is therefore always somewhat afraid and defensive. Only when we identify with a more Mysterious Mind can we loosen the chains of fear and protection.

April 6

The grasping person gathers treasures.
The tranquil person already has everything.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 33

I could be tranquil, I assume,

if I have the things I think I want.

No problem!

So I go about seeking tranquility

by gathering, grasping, keeping,

and all the while tranquility

waits for me to stop,

turn around,

sit down,

and visit for awhile.

The classic Taoist conundrum: seeking never leads to finding and gathering never leads to having. Appreciation of the moment, even in the midst of chaos, sadness, or depression, is a choice I am finding the ability to make more often lately. For instance I went to bed last night a bit depressed - nothing specific, just the vague message that I’m somehow not being the right person and getting the right things done. That mood lingers this morning but a part of me has made a choice to stop listening to the nattering, whispering, subtle voice of “something’s wrong.” I look about and see the Cosmos waiting in the coffee, biscuits, and Nancy’s eyes - waiting for me to visit for awhile.

April 7

In the world, long life is valued.
In the Tao, life and death are the same.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 33

I want a long life.

Scary thing is,

I’ve already had 72 years -

by all standards a good run.

I want more!

I like it!

“I” will always want more.

Another “me,”

(what shall we call him?)

knows that “more”

is an illusory word,

limited in time and space.

That me changes from moment to moment,

a change that flows eternal.

Of course they’re not the “same.” Life is living, death is … well… dead! My conditioned mind can never reconcile the two. My Tao Mind, that mysterious identity beyond all words, doesn’t need to reconcile them because they are both made-up words; words that attempt to stop the river, to divide its flow into “this” and “that.” Occasionally I glimpse that there is no problem, no this or that to divide, just the River flowing through.

April 8

The Tao fills the universe with Itself.

All that is, is part of It
and It cannot lose
a single atom of Itself.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 34

I cannot be lost.

I feel adrift sometimes,

unsure of what to do

or where to go.

But, lost?

Oh no.

How could I be lost

when I am part of Tao,

surrounded by life

seen and unseen.

Never alone.

Never lost.

Actually being lost in an unknown forest would be a frightening experience, I imagine. But even then wisdom dictates not to panic and to remain “with yourself.”  It is the decades of training to see ourselves as “separate” that makes being lost seem possible. If I am separate and if “out there” is an impersonal world, then “lost” is a fearful thing. But if all this social training is mistaken and I am not really separate, then all is well. I am always with life and unseen mysteries wait to lead me along the way.

April 9

Since nothing is outside of the Tao,
It needs no thanks or honor.
It makes no claim of ownership.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 34

Ownership implies separation.

I, over here,

own something, over there.

It’s mine!

It belongs to me!

I own it!

In the reality of the Tao

nothing is separate

thus nothing can be owned.

I don’t need to thank the Tao,

simply appreciate it

in every single facet of its being.

The Cosmos is something akin to a family or a community. We’re all in this together and have the deep natural inclination to care for one another to the best of our ability; but we certainly don’t “own” each other. (Parents sometimes slip into the illusion of ownership - “my” children.) Imagine the whole Universe as a family, a community, in which we appreciate, honor, and care for everything simply because we’re all “in this together.”

April 10

The Tao wants nothing from us.
It needs no worship.

No wonder we love it so.

It is our very Self.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 34

Religion commands us to love;

one another and god.

Morality instructs us in all the implications

and duties of love.

Gods demand worship

and religions teach us how to do that.

Gods require obedience

to intricate laws;

and belief in certain tenets.

When I realize that the Tao

neither needs nor wants

any of this;

I feel my lungs and heart expand

and I realize I am free to truly love.

This is one of several chapters where Lao-Tzu expresses the distinction between the Tao and the common concepts of God. Much of conventional religion speaks of God as standing outside of creation and relating to it as a craftsman relates to the object of his craft. Human beings, then, relate “to” God, who stands apart from them. This gives rise to the ideas of obedience to and worship of the deity. These ideas are absent in Lao-Tzu’s Taoism because there is no separation between the Tao and us. It needs nothing from us because it is us, and this is the very heart of our love for it.

April 11

Within the Taoall forms are in constant motion.

Clinging to the forms,we feel great loss.

Holding to the Tao,we are content and happy.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 35

I’m a form.

You’re a form.

Everything we see is a form,

and forms cannot be held.

Yet I want to hold something,

to feel it solid and unchanging

in my enfolding arms.

But my arms themselves

are energy in motion,

so I can let the energy of me

flow amidst the energy of you

and thus we both embrace

the truly real.

The feeling of loss is an inevitable by-product of the desire to hold on to something. It is an inescapable equation: attachment to form + impermanence = loss and grief. I love the forms in my life; Nancy, my own body, friends, family, the mountains and forests around my home, all the myriad expressions of the flow of Tao. My love of them will assuredly lead to loss and grief because as forms they are all impermanent. Even Mount Shasta, that great Spirit Mountain, is impermanent. But as spiritual/quantum energy they all remain, shifting form, flowing and dancing endlessly. That is where I place my confidence. That is what I embrace.

April 12

If we try to push away our thoughts,

they will resist us, and naturally remain.If we cling to them,

they will be reinforced, and naturally remain.If we let them rest in an open spacious mind,

neither resisting nor clinging,

they will fade into the mists.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 36

Either clinging to or resisting my thoughts

infuses those thoughts with energy,

reinforces the synaptic connections,

and keeps the cycle in place.

A spacious mind lets my thoughts flow by,

gathering nurture from some,

letting others pass on through

without harm.

(Some people say I have an empty mind.

Maybe that’s a good thing.)

If I want to live in the effortless flow of the Tao, I must begin with my mind. If my mind is a battleground of resistance, strain, and stress it is a certainty that my outer life will be the same. My mind is the first place that things get stuck. From there the “stuckness” manifests in the outer world in physical stress, hasty actions, misunderstandings, and slip-ups. These things then reinforce the struggle within my mind and the whole process tightens up more and more. I am learning to imagine my mind as a smoothy flowing stream of effortless thought. Whenever eddies form I see them as quickly dissipating and returning to the fluid movement of the stream. My experience of life then begins to pattern itself in the same manner.

April 13

This is the secret of our path:

gentleness and flexibility bring the results

that force and rigidity

fail to achieve.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 36

I watch my culture force its way

through a “show of strength”

in every situation;

No backing down, no giving in,

no value for the ways of others.

I watch myself go rigid and inflexible

when fears possess my mind;

creativity stifled, options limited,

blinded to the possibilities.

Despite the habits of a lifetime,

there just might be a better way.

There are so many ways that force and rigidity manifest in my life besides the typical overt displays. I can look, they say, relaxed and like I’m “going with the flow,” while inside I am white-knuckling the whole experience. That inner rigidity, arising primarily from fear and anxiety, eventually makes its way into outer behavior no matter how carefully I try to keep the “good Taoist” mask in place. The lovely paradox, of course, is that the more I accept that process in myself, the less often it occurs. I don’t resist my resistance and the whole illusion tumbles down.

April 14

Our practice is that of effortless effort.

It seems as if we do nothing,

yet everything gets done.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 37

The “movers and shakers” of our world

spend their time moving and shaking.

Nothing of true importance gets done.

The appearance of effort is more important

than helpful action itself.

Looking busy, even to ourselves,

is more important than immersion in the moment.

So our actions are accompanied

by extra effort and wasted energy.

This agitation is not necessary.

Wu-wei remains the way of power.

“Wu-wei” is a Chinese phrase composed of the characters for “not” and “doing.” Lao-Tzu uses this concept throughout The Tao Te Ching to illustrate the Taoist way of effective action. It is not simply “going with the flow” as characterized by some. It is the wisdom of acting with full energy, nothing held back, when action is appropriate; but without any second-guessing or ego attachment to outcome. It is also waiting with patience and serenity until the appropriate action arises naturally; without any fidgeting, restlessness, or anxiety - thus keeping all our energy available rather than squandered. It is a difficult concept, but one greatly needed in my life and in my society.

April 15

If leaders could center themselves in the Tao,

the people would live in peace and contentment

with no one to stir them up

or disturb their natural harmony.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 37

No one wants true harmony.

It does not sell cars,

elicit votes,

or seek advantage.

Contentment does not desire more,

and if we don’t desire more

how can wealth increase?

I remember once a President

suggested we turn down our thermostats

and wear warm sweaters.

He was laughed out of office

and ended up building houses for the poor.

So, despite our words, we must not want

contentment and peace.

We must want exactly what we have.

Lao-Tzu’s words will not allow me to always hide behind philosophical niceties. Sometimes he forces me to look at my culture’s leadership and admit how terribly far from the center of the Tao we have strayed. Lao-Tzu saw the same process unfolding in his own culture and was dismayed. Yet he continued to hold leaders to the counter-intuitive standard of service, humility, and simplicity. In tribal cultures, when leadership strayed as far from the people as have ours, the people simply moved away, leaving the leader alone with no one to “lead.” Is there a modern equivalent we might use?

April 16

There is a Still Point

at the center of our life.

It will be waiting for us

when we cease our efforts

to control, manage, and master life.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 37

A Still Point sounds great.

If I can get my finances under control;

manage my time more efficiently;

generate more productivity;

get government to behave;

and tidy up some loose ends;

I think things will become

quiet and still at last.


The built-in contradiction of our cultural paradigm insures that we will never find the peace and happiness that the paradigm promises. It is a control issue; or rather an illusion of control issue. Stillness, we believe, will come when we can finally get things to stop thwarting our efforts. We’d be still more, we say, if things, people, and events would just behave as they should. Until then, have to keep moving and manipulating with the hope that, some day, things will quiet down. It is an illusion, an illusion that keeps us from seeing that peace is here in every step we take.

April 17

Not trying to be good,

we experience natural goodness.

Being good, while hoping for reward,

has nothing to do with natural goodness.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 38

I’ve tried for so many years

to be the “good boy”

my mother wanted.

It was my first line of survival,

the strategy that kept me safe.

It’s only been in recent years

that I’ve stopped trying.

It leaves a vacuum inside,

a confusion about who and what I am.

The natural goodness that I believe

has been within me all along

is difficult to see.

You can’t tell from the outside

which is which.

It is an inside thing.

It’s not that I’ve become a “bad boy,” though some might disagree. It’s just that all the masks I’ve worn that used to bring me the “treats” of life, like a dog gets biscuits for sitting up and being cute, no longer seem to work. I don’t feel like sitting up and being cute. At the same time, I don’t want to do harm or cause sorrow. I want to be of help and bring a healing touch. Too much thinking, trying to figure it out, doesn’t seem to work. I’ll just keep doing what seems natural to do. I’m glad the Tao keeps flowing through me, good boy or bad boy.

April 18

Natural goodness works effortlessly and benefits all.

Contrived goodness requires great effort and accomplishes very little.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 38

It’s sometimes hard to tell

the difference in the two.

But anonymity is a clue.

When trumpets blare

and cameras flash their lights

you can be sure that energy

is being wasted somewhere.

With no need for anyone to know,

goodness is free to flow

and nurture all without distinction.

That’s one way to tell.

Jesus once talked of not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing. I see the point of that more clearly now as I look at the difference between natural and contrived goodness. It’s not simply avoiding the spotlight of publicity; it’s avoiding the subtle spotlight of the ego. I can usually spot when I am seeking affirmation from external sources. It’s harder to notice the subtle approval I am seeking from my conditioned mind - that crafty judge within that keeps me always trying harder and doing less.

April 19

Compassion acts and seeks nothing.

Justice acts and seeks specific results.

Morality acts, then demands,

and then forces correct behavior.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 38

The quest for justice goes astray

when courts increase their power.

Morality fails when it is imposed.

My justice and your justice

often diverge from one another.

Whose will rule?

Whichever has the power,

and, without doubt, the money.

My morality and yours

may be poles apart.

Which will triumph?

Perhaps the loudest?

But compassion - ah, compassion.

That is where my hope resides.

As a life-long Democrat and knee-jerk liberal, I seldom see how much I seek to control the justice and morality of others. After all, I reason, I am right. What hubris. What a crock. Compassion is the only hope for humankind and compassion does not reside in forms and laws and rules of conduct. Oh, guidelines can be of some help to be sure. But unless they are suffused with individual human compassion they are tyrants, no matter how carefully structured or well-intentioned they may be. My question must be: how do we tap into the reservoir of human compassion that is waiting to be used?

April 20

Separated from our true nature,

we make more detailed rules

to govern our lives.

When these rules don’t work,

we pretend that empty rituals will suffice.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 38

Rituals can be full of meaning,

or as empty as the wind.

It depends on the energy,

the nature within the act.

A vow without an inner truth

is a mere babble of noise.

A rite without a true intention,

is superstitious drivel.

Rules may give us the appearance

of kindness and justice,

but only our true nature

can satisfy our longings.

I’m not a total anarchist. I think there is a helpful, though very limited, benefit in certain rules of behavior. They can be guidelines that aid us translate our intentions into concrete acts of benefit to others. I also use rituals in my spiritual practice. They support me when my mind is cluttered and confused. But they do not override my deep intentions - like the desire to be compassionate, awake, grateful, and attentive. It is these intentions that arise from my true nature that are the key to a truly supportive life.

April 21

The Tao provides clarity and tranquility.

Absence of the Tao brings confusion and anxiety.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 39

Confusion and anxiety are familiar companions.

They often greet me early,

before the morning coffee.

Clarity comes later, if it comes at all,

as I try to orient myself

to the “is-ness” of my life.

The conundrum lies in my perspective.

Which lens shall I put in place:

The clear and tranquil view,

accepting and grateful for any experience?

Or the confused and anxious view,

frightened of any noise out there?

It is a wonder to me,

how simple the choice can be.

My morning can turn on a dime. As I write these words, Nancy and I are at a hotel on a large military base in Southern Arizona. We are visiting my son and his family, including our new granddaughter, Emma, who is now about 10 days old and the most delicate and beautiful being you can imagine. I am at a table in a crowded dining hall, surrounded by young men and women in uniform who are hurrying into their day of classes, drills, and whatever. My experience bounces from serenity to confusion in the space of a breath, then back again to serenity. Maybe the view from Tao requires a step back from either of these two, encompassing them both, and letting both reside in a deeper Serenity than I can conjure on my own.

April 22

The Tao fills society with trust and creative power.

Without the Tao, society flounders and exhausts itself.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 39

It’s hard to trust my world

when I struggle to trust my own nature.

Perhaps that’s why my culture

seems so schizophrenic;

enlightened one moment,

barbaric the next.

Exhaustion seems the norm

as we see-saw between our greater

and our lesser angels.

If I feel drained and weary,

how can I contribute to an inspired world?

There is a place inside of me

that is neither weary nor afraid.

I want to live from there.

Once again I find my life to turn on the pivot of perspective. Neither you nor I lack the power to live authentic, creative, powerful lives. That reservoir of energy is within us. We will never be without its supply of genuine vitality. It may express itself in different ways as we circle through the stages of our life, but it will always flow in ways that support us and enable us to contribute to life. The choice of “where to live” will be available in every step we take.

April 23

With the Tao life rolls like a wagon,

simply doing its work without fanfare.

And we too just roll along,

like common stones in a river.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 39

All around me is the subtle message,

“If you’re not special, you’re nothing.”

The image of rolling along like a common stone

becomes tinged with thoughts of “not enough.”

Yet the one who thinks these thoughts

is not the one I want to live my life.

This particular “thinker” isn’t real.

He is a figment spun by a cultural paradigm

I no longer believe or trust.

Rolling along is really lots of fun.

I don’t need an commentator

to tell me how I’m rolling.

Shifting paradigms isn’t easy. Knowing that the trajectory of my culture is fundamentally flawed is not a comfortable bit of knowledge. I trust that a new, more balanced paradigm, is on the way but the messages in my head retain the language of the old. It’s late in life to learn a new language, but that seems to be the unavoidable challenge we all face. The most effective way to learn a new language, I am told, is to completely immerse yourself in that new language. So as we struggle to learn the language of a new way of living, perhaps we would benefit from ceasing to speak the old one in our heads.

April 24

Instead of struggling to get ahead,

the way of Tao is to return

to what we left behind.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 40

All cultures seem to have an Eden Myth:

the longing for a time that was,

or should have been.

I wonder if our struggle comes

from going in the wrong direction?

We were born to live a simple life

and have forgotten it.

We try to find it once again

by ever more complex

and convoluted means.

No wonder the Tao

seems elusive.


We’ve forgotten, I think, that we once knew what life was all about. It was the pleasure of touch and taste; of beauty seen and felt; of love and belonging to one another and to the Earth. It was an unforced alternation of activity and rest, woven into a seamless way of living. I doubt that such a life can be found by the kind of efforts we are undertaking. We can’t spend or work our way into that lost paradise. We can only turn around and return. I find myself asking the question, “What have I forgotten? What did I leave behind in my hurry to grow up that turns out to be essential for my life?”

April 25

Instead of controlling events,

the way of the Tao is to yield.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 40

Am I always to yield?

When will it be my turn?

Don’t I ever get my way?

What about me?

These questions circle in my mind

and keep me scrutinizing events,

searching for some elusive handle,

some way of grasping hold

and twisting them to my liking.

Without these harping thoughts

my mind would simply, calmly,

effectively and naturally respond.

No control needed.

There are many definitions of the word, “yield.” It can mean to surrender and admit defeat, but that is not the meaning Lao-Tzu implies. As we follow the way of the Tao, he suggests that we try to discern the flow of its energy and then comply with, agree with, and consent to this flow. It is a far cry from passively yielding to an aggressive bullying force. It is an active participation in the movement of the Tao - minus the wasted energy of attempting to impose our will. This allows  for energetic action or for patient and quiet waiting - all depending on the flow of the moment.

April 26

What we call “life”

emerges from what we call “death”

Therefore there is nothing to fear.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 40

What is it about death

that creates such terrible fear,

causes untold suffering,

and triggers so many acts of violence?

What separates life from death?

Simple biology cannot answer.

Wishful thinking doesn’t work

This thinking mind does not know

how not to know,

and is thus afraid.

Knowing what I do not know,

I am content.

My brain cannot stretch beyond the arbitrary points of birth and death. I therefore cannot solve my existential fears by thinking. But there is a mysterious confidence that lies beneath the turmoil of my conditioned thoughts. It tells me that a life that seems to be a brief candle flicker is actually an eternal flame. I can give no justification for this confidence other than an growing awareness of a complex Web of Life. Quantum particles flicker in and out of what we call existence, not obeying any ordinary rules. Galaxies and even Universes seem to come and go, yet nothing is ever lost. It boggles the mind, and only a boggled mind can find the Tao.

April 27

There seem to be three responses to the Tao:

Some hear of it, know in their souls that it is true,

and devote their lives to knowing it more fully.

Some hear of it and say,“that sounds interesting”
and think about it now and then.

Some hear of it and say, “Absurd! Airy-fairy nonsense!”

and laugh out loud.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 41

I find all three responses alive within me.

I want to know the Tao more fully,

but so many things crowd in

and capture my attention.

Another voice inside my head

assures me that the Tao is impractical

in the real world; that this way of living

makes no sense.

But my soul does know

that the Tao is Real and True.

My distractions and my fears

diminish day by day.

Cultural distractions abound and a mindset of power, aggression, and consumerism seems to dominate. I slip into my fearful responses all too often. But I have reached the point in my life where distraction is no longer that effective. Voices that call me impractical have lost much of their power as well. I no longer have the luxury of distraction and I am learning to face the emptiness of my society’s assumptions. My fears are lessening and my dedication to a deeper and more authentic way of living is growing stronger. Something deep and mysterious is moving in me and in the world. Can you feel it too?

April 28

Great wisdom seems childlike.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 41

I notice that the wisest of our race

throughout our history have been

treated much like children;

patted on the head and told

how special they are.

Their words are gathered

into special books;

their images placed

in special places;

admired, applauded,

and eventually ignored

while we follow the grown-up

and ignorant.

The search engines of the internet are filled with images of Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Lao-Tzu, and the other sages and wisdom-keepers of history. Memes and quotes abound and serve to deliver a moment of inspiration, very much like the countless images of cute babies and children serve to elicit an, “Awww, isn’t he cute.”  Both images touch a place in our heart, but our daily lives and cultural directions are not directed by this place. I wonder if we can ever find a way to relearn trust in a childlike approach to life?

April 29

Great power seems weak.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 41

Power is not domination

nor is it the ability to control.

Images of so-called powerful men and women

create an tragic delusion in our mind,

one that threatens to destroy us.

True power resides in those

who align themselves with the Tao.

They seem weak because they do not use

their own power or strength.

They rely on Something greater;

Something that flows through the Cosmos

igniting suns and binding together galaxies.

They do not move mountains.

They let the mountains move themselves.

I wonder why I have had this life-long attraction to the images of Lao-Tzu portrayed in Chinese art? He is old and slender, often shown riding on an ox on his way into the mountains. He had no formal position in Chinese government and no great following of people, yet somehow his words and influence have wound their way throughout the centuries - softly, subtly, without fanfare or publicity. This image of a truly powerful man stirs me somehow. Yet it conflicts with the cultural images of power that assail me every day. It’s hard to trust true power when false power of armies, bullying leaders, and economic domination seems to rule the day. But this false power has revealed its emptiness, allowing me to turn to the Tao and finding true power has been here all the time.

April 30

True goodness seems suspect.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 41

What passes for goodness in our world

is often simply a balance of power:

I have something you need

and you have something I need.

Let’s make a deal.

Giving without getting

makes you seem weak, they say.

What’s he really want? they ask.

Lip service to goodness is easy.

True goodness is difficult.

It seems to put us in a “weakened “ position;

vulnerable, apt to be abused.

Still, it is the foundation of the world,

and is far stronger than its imitators

because it has no needs for approval or gain.

I have often written of my conditioning that insists that I endeavor to be, “good.” As I have tried to live out this conditioned goodness, I have found it to be without true strength. It has been a coping mechanism designed to keep me safe and out of trouble. The natural goodness inherent in the Tao has no agenda and cannot be trusted to obey the rules of society. It may be gentle one moment and fierce the next. It is not a bartering system. It is not tame and domesticated. It is a raw power and is one of the energies that forms and reforms all of life, not necessarily according to our whims and wishes. Can I let this wild goodness flow in me? I wonder.