Walking the Tao,

we work at tasks that satisfy us

and take action only when the time is right.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 8

I’ve seldom held a job for long.

Four years as an engineer, decades ago

was about my record.

Most of my life has been made up

as I went along.

I’m still making it up as I go.

I try to do good work

and be of benefit.

I try to enjoy my days

and do what arises.

Striving to “make a living”

seems strange to me.

Isn’t life a gift?

Do I have to “make it” something?

Isn’t it enough to “live it?”

The concept of a “job” is a bill of goods sold to us at the outset of the Industrial Revolution. We ceased being part of a community and became an “income producing unit.” Jobs were to earn money so we could spend the money on an ever increasing array of trinkets to enjoy on those rare moments when we weren’t at the job. I hear already an internal voice saying, “Be real, Bill. Jobs are necessary. People need to earn a living.” Really? How’s that been working out for us? Leaders talk about “creating jobs.” What a crock! We don’t need jobs. We need to quit out jobs and start doing the massive amount of work that has been left undone while we were earning money.


If we hold on to thoughts, judgments, and opinions,

our minds will be cluttered and useless.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9

Oh, the clutter!

Creative thought? No room!

Innovative action? No chance!

New way of living? Get real!

A glass full of sand

cannot hold the clear, cold, offering

of the mountain spring.

We die of thirst

thinking that the sand

is water.

In the turmoil of these times we tend to fill our minds with all the stories that make us afraid, all the opinions we believe are stupid, and all the sound bites and memes that confirm our take on things. Where is the room for something entirely new? Believe me, something New is being birthed. It has been gestating for a long time and perhaps the labor pains have just begun. I am convinced that a FaceBook society and a Twitter world cannot be the midwife to the New Flow of Tao. Do you really need to see the repost of the latest idiocy? Why? Why clutter your mind and heart when there is so much work to be done - planting, nurturing, tending, and perhaps even beginning to harvest the fruit of a New Society being born in the shadow of the old?


If we hold on to possessions,
our minds will contract in fear of loss. From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9

Houses are not homes but merely

storage sheds for stuff.

Scary stuff that sits and suggests

that thieves or fires or repo men

might come and take it all away.

Then where would we be?

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty,

I’m free at last!

In many native cultures a person who has much is considered to have “left the path of beauty.” Accumulation is thought to be a sickness of the mind that cuts a person off from the community, leaving that person isolated, alone, and afraid. The most venerated members of the community are those whose possession are in a constant state of flow - in for a moment - then out to serve the needs of others. A guest room, unoccupied for fifty-one weeks each year, is an affront to the nature of life. A storage shed for excess is a middle finger raised to those who struggle. But most of all, these things are chains wound tightly around our chests making it impossible to breathe, expand, and live from the region of our heart. That wise Taoist Master, Jesus, said it well, “If you want true blessing, sell all you have or give it away, and walk along the path that I am walking.” So - which way shall we choose?


If we hold on to the opinions of others,

our minds will be confused and exhausted.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9

Wandering through the shelves

of a bookstore long ago,

I noticed a title that remains in my mind.

I didn’t read the book,

the title was enough

to cause a shift inside.

“What You Think of Me

Is None of My Business.”

We are social creatures and our conditioned mind is unavoidably formed by the input and feedback we receive from others. We learn the conventions and norms of our culture and this helps the relationships within a society remain somewhat dependable. However, this “conditioned mind” does not stop with helpful social etiquette. Its radar remains in continuous scan mode and tries to relate every little signal it receives to itself. The ability to  refer to an internal sense of self for guidance becomes displaced by a myriad of external references and we become “stray dogs at a whistler’s convention,” never at rest, always at the mercy of others. Let’s trust ourselves to be the compassionate and kind beings we truly are inside, and let the opinions of others remain their own.


There is only One Life that enlivens and unifies the Cosmos.

Knowing we are part of this Life reveals the world,

and ourselves, as perfect.

Living in this One Life we find
our true and primal nature.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 10


Primal things can frighten us,

seeming wild and uncontrollable,

menacing and dangerous.

Yet “primal” means basic,

fundamental and essential.

The “human nature” we think is ours,

is often nothing more than learned behavior;

more vicious and treacherous

than any primal urges we have buried.


My meditation practice has shifted in the past few months. I still use Qigong forms for a period of time each day, but my time of sitting quietly now includes drum music - drawn from several different traditions but all of the same rhythmic 6 -7 beats per second that corresponds to the theta, or meditative, brain wave cycle. I primarily listen to Taiko drumming from the Japanese tradition and simple rhythmic drumming from the Native American tradition. I sit, I move, I dance, I become aware of different mental states and “realities,” and, in general, I become quite primal - and in touching that primal nature I touch into the One Life. It’s a trip!


We become supple, accepting, compassionate,

and undisturbed by the way things seem to come and go.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 10

Accepting, I have discovered,

is not a rigid process.

No gritting of the teeth.

No stiffening of the backbone

or of the upper lip.

No grinning while bearing it.

It is a flowing supple dance.

Like the pine tree

that chooses neither rain, nor sun,

nor snow, nor blowing gale

yet takes them all into itself

and grows into the sky.

Perhaps my most intense practice in acceptance this season is with the heavy snowfall we have been experiencing. I am safe, warm, and comfortable. I have a snow blower, a sturdy all-wheel-drive car, and a community that is experienced in coping with winter. Yet I read the weather forecasts with a tense mind and tight body, hoping for… well, I don’t know what I’m hoping for because when I allow myself to relax I experience all of winter as lovely. I love to watch the Pine and Cedar boughs bend under the weight of the pristine snow, letting themselves carry it until the weight itself causes a small avalanche and the limb bounces up once again. The weather is not something predicted on my iPhone screen. It is what’s outside right at this moment, and it is wonderful!


Not needing to control,
we do not become fatigued.
     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 10


I worked hard today.

I kept the Earth spinning on its axis.

I kept the Moon and galaxies in their places.

I kept the rain steady all morning

and showed the sun in the afternoon.

It’s strenuous labor, believe me,

but somebody’s got to do it.

Don’t they?

The illusion of control is perhaps the most pervasive self-deception of humanity. Predictability equals safety in our fearful minds and the greatest part of our mental and physical efforts are expended in keeping things in their expected places. A mindful practice of prudence can be a helpful thing. Common sense allows us to make reasonable plans and intentions. But no amount of effort will insure the future, not even five minutes from now. The question is: can we make these plans and intentions without gripping them with an anxious mind and rigid body? Think of the energy we’d have available for moment-to-moment action!


Not needing credit,
we work with ease and effectiveness.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 10

Anonymity is not among

the valued virtues of our time.

If no one knows that it was me

who did this brave and awesome thing,

why bother?

If no one is keeping score

why play the game?

So put it up on FaceBook

for all to see that it was me

who gave the donation,

me who worked so hard,

and we who are really number one!

It would be easier if I were unknown and I was writing under a pseudonym. I wonder if it is too late to make that switch? It’s hard, because in the modern world the “name’s the brand,” and its the name that people seek. We like to see and be seen; to know and be known. Still, the work flows more smoothly and effectively when we have no thought of who’s getting the credit. I planted a tree once, far out in the wild. It’s still there. No one knows that it is there because of an action of mine, but there it is! Is there something you can do today that will be helpful, kind, and generous and completely without notice or credit?


Our life touches the world with an easygoing lightness.
Not clinging to anything,
we enjoy everything.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 10

Native Americans in the arctic regions

give arm bands of goose feathers

to children as they come of age.

“To help them go lightly through life.”

So many of us give our children

heavy burdens as they come of age.

Goals, degrees, jobs, and responsibilities.

“Grow up!” we say.

“Life is not a lark.” we say.

And so our children learn

to trod heavily through their life.

I hear an inner voice remonstrate with me. “Bill,” it intones, “life is not a lighthearted thing. Look at the state of the world. My god, it’s a mess. You can’t possibly take that lightly!” … Well, yes, as a matter of fact taking it lightly is the only rational possibility. Any other option allows the insanity to rule; lets the fear set the tone. Life is but a dream and I intend to dream a dream that can be enjoyed in all of its moods. Birth and death are steps in the dance and when they are seen in perspective, everything becomes a dance of light.


A wheel spins around an empty center point.

A cup holds water within its emptiness.

Four walls become a room when a doorway is cut.

The physical body we cherish
is energy in motion - empty space.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 11

The world seems solid.

The roof keeps the rain off.

The floor supports the table

and the glass sits stable on the table top.

Yet all the so-called “things” I see,

including me,

are really not things at all

but formless dances in the dark;

vibrations in the cosmic womb.

All these things I see,

including me,

will dance forever

in the endless gambol of the Tao.

This is one of the classic, oft-quoted chapters of the Tao Te Ching. It explores the mind-bending idea of “emptiness.” Rather than ask the philosophical “why” question, “Why is there something rather than nothing?” It simply assumes that nothing and something naturally go together. It is a concept our conditioned mind cannot grasp, but it is worth some reflection. All the forms I see as I sit here at my writing table are truly empty space, energy spinning in myriad complex patterns that my brain interprets as, “cup, body, tree, snow, coat, scissors, paper, etc.” It is at once a frightening and a comforting idea. But it is reassuring to think that when this flowing, dancing, form of light that I interpret as me flows on to something else, that "I" might see the Cosmic Dance as it really is.


Over-stimulation of the senses desensitizes our life.
Garish colors, constant noise, gluttony, information overload,
and the artificial stimulation of desires

waste our time and energy.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 12

How can I find quiet

when my brain demands noise?

Where is tranquility

when activity is expected?

Where is rest

when craving never stops?

Where is happiness

when discontentment drives society?

Who knows the secret of “enough?”

The “Super Bowl” was aired a few days ago. People are arguing over which corporation aired the best commercial in the multi-million dollar 30 second spot of time. It’s not a sport, people, it’s a mega-business and its purpose is only secondarily to entertain us. It’s purpose is stimulation of artificial desire and illusory gratification, feeding the already out-of-control addictive nature of our culture. Believe me, such things are tragic wastes of resources, energy, and time. The Super Bowl only brings the whole process front and center, but it is a constant presence in our lives. It never sleeps and never ceases its assault upon our humanity.  (Recommended reading: The Capitalism Papers - by Jerry Mander, published by Counterpoint Press, 2013)


Do not let outer things define you.

Remain somewhat detached
and let the inner mystery of your being

be your guide in life.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 12

The inner mystery of my being

is … well… so mysterious

and so interior,

that its guidance is hard to notice.

All the signposts along the way

seem to have been placed

by advertising agencies,

self-help gurus,

and other vested interests

whose interest in my life

is centered on gaining control

and a commercial advantage over me.

I no longer believe them.

Their cacophony still fills my life,

but I don’t believe a word.

Of course guidance from the “outer world” is still strong in my life. I have been conditioned for seven decades to believe that “I” am defined by the events and circumstances of my life. I am a “success” or a “failure” by external values. I am “strong” or “weak” by the same external values. But one of the many blessings of growing older is the realization that such definitions are complete bullshit. I honestly don’t believe it any more, at least not at a deep and fundamental level. Something inside of me is awake and will not return to sleep no matter how mesmerizing the messages of culture might be. Waking up is difficult, but reality is never the same again.


Don’t be concerned with success or failure.

Don’t worry about your health and safety.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 13

All parents want their children to be:

successful, healthy, and safe.

Has, I wonder, this desire

led to peaceful, joyful,

satisfied and loving children?

What do we really want;

for them, and for ourselves?

Lives of harmony and love.

Lives of courage and devotion.

Lives of dancing and singing.

Lives that take the roads least traveled.

Lives well spent in simple pleasures.

Lives that return more than they receive.

It is so very easy to learn and to teach self-protection to an extreme degree. A small part of it is instinctual - the natural ability of an organism to protect itself. But most of what we learn is artificial, a manufactured fear that keeps us in line, toeing the mark, and obedient to the rules. If we’re good and prudent we will be rewarded. So life unfolds surrounded with anxiety and tension. Brave and creative actions are dismissed before they are fully formed for they are always, “unsafe.” Billions are spent on “insurance” against the inevitable in life and we go to our graves huddled against the darkness which, if we were to venture out into it, would be discovered to be Light Itself.


The idea that we are simply bodies

keeps us isolated and afraid.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 13

If I could see with eyes attuned

to wavelengths broad enough

and high enough,

You would not look like you

nor would I seem “I” to me.

All would be a dance of light;

energy shimmering in waves

and shooting in beams

in patterns too complex

to comprehend.

That is who and what we are.

Never separate.

Never isolated.

A few, perhaps a very few, human beings have known with certainty something the rest of us only faintly “believe.” They knew the underlying reality of being. They experienced it directly. Fear, grief, and loneliness were banished to the dim recesses of consciousness, never again to dominate their lives or determine their directions. They could express the complete range of human experience without holding anything back. They could love and be loved without strings because they knew, actually knew, that nothing could ever separate them from the eternal flow of being.


Only when we cease striving for success,

or struggling to avoid failure,
will we be able to act effectively.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 13

Ceasing to seek success,

no longer fearing failure,

I do not sink, as some suggest,

into a passive pool of stagnant water.

Instead, when action comes

it is expressed with no holds barred.

When rest comes,

it is full and complete.

Nothing in-between.

This is the power of the Way of Tao.

When my body says it needs to rest, my mind often comes alive with things I need to do. When my mind goes fuzzy, my body looks around for stimulation.  When I write, I want to rest. When I rest, I want to write. Doing this and thinking that is a process with which we all have experience. That arises from the dual pulls of seeking success and fearing failure. Whenever we start to commit fully to either action or leisure, the reaction pulls in the other direction. The only way out that I have found, is to stop the dialogue and just “do it.” Sleep, reading, working, cooking, walking, whatever - just do that. I am able to do this because I am losing my attachment to either of the illusions that culture calls success and failure.


Our mind is fascinating and necessary,

but it can’t lead us to the Real,
only to ideas about it.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14

Does my brain contain my mind?

Or does my mind contain my brain?

Brain, mind, thoughts, ideas…

creating intricate metaphors of the Real.

I love my mind because

it tells me what I think I am.

It tells me what I think

about everything that is.

But it has yet to tell me

what it’s all about.

Perhaps I’ll only know

when brain and mind are gone.

There is a saying that, “You have to lose your mind to find the truth.” Whatever is, is. It is the fundamental essence of Reality. It is whatever underlies the dance of matter and energy. It is not possible for my brain to conceptualize this Reality so I’m left with metaphors. The word “mind” is a metaphor for the complex awareness that is somehow, “me.” Even this thing called, “Bill,” is a metaphor; a symbol created by my mind and your mind for something more mysterious and wonderful. “You” are a similar metaphor. All we can grasp is symbol and metaphor. This is fine. Let’s not mistake it, however, for the Real.


The Tao is not obvious to the mind,

yet it is never hidden from the heart.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14

The elusiveness of the Tao

is really an illusion.

It is not as slippery as we think.

It is always present when our heart is open

and when our thoughts are clear.

We’ve learned to accept the many substitutes

offered by our mind as somehow

easier to understand.

And all the while the Tao remains

the Real beneath the hoax.

Reading the many translations of The Tao Te Ching, can leave one with the impression of an obscure and esoteric text, written to hide and confuse rather than plainly reveal. But the confusion only arises in the head, not in the intuition of the heart. It is not something that can be figured out, broken down into bullet points, and sold in self-help bookstores. There is even something about the word, “Tao,” that peals a bell somewhere within that rings a tone we know is true, even though we have no way of pinning it beneath our words. Trust that bell. Let it echo within you and guide you in ways that words can never do.


This is what following the Tao might look like in our life:

We would be completely engrossed

in whatever we were doing,
yet aware of subtle signals
from life around us.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 15

A teacher once told me,

“The focus of your attention

determines the quality of your experience.”

Life seems problematic to us

because we are often doing something.

and thinking something else.

Right now I’m writing these words.

I’m vaguely aware of a fan outside my room,

the feel of my shirt against my skin,

and the light filtering through the blinds.

But I’m thinking only what I’m writing.

Oops. Now I’m writing while thinking

about dinner.

There are no rules for living a life of the Tao. It charts a unique path for each individual, each being, each expression in the Cosmos. But, for human beings, there are some hints. One of these hints regards the practice of complete absorption in the present moment. This focus is not to the exclusion of the life around us. It is a natural ability of the mind/brain to “soft focus” - the task at hand receives our conscious attention while the life surrounding us is perceived by another part of our attention. This allows us to work and live in an effortless manner - not tensing up the mental or physical muscles, yet remaining alert and on task.


This is what following the Tao might look like in our life:

We would be quiet and reserved,

not pushing ourselves forward.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 15

I have a reserved persona;

quiet and unassuming on the outside.

Inside, however, I want people to notice

what a quiet unassuming man I really am,

and perhaps admire me for it.

I want to be first in line

and never have to wait.

I want to get the best produce

at the Farmer’s Market,

so I get there early

and resent the crowds

if they have already gathered.

I guess I really want to push myself forward,

in a quiet and reserved sort of way.

At the risk of repeating one of my favorite rants, I wonder what place FaceBook has in the flow of Tao. I suppose there is a quiet and reserved approach to social media, but I’ve never seen it. I’m uncomfortable with the necessary “pushing forward” my publishers demand of me. Oh, the ego is in there, that’s for sure. It is a continuing process for me because I’ve been taught that hanging back will result in being left out. But I am beginning to notice what feels false, strained, and awkward. I then try to shift my perspective and realize that, in the Tao, being “left out” is impossible.


This is what following the Tao might look like in our life:

We would be simple
rather than sophisticated.
     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 15

When every stone is polished and buffed,

each trying to outshine the others;

a plain and natural river rock

becomes beautiful to behold.

I want a simple life,

but I have made myself

so very complicated.

Can I pare myself down

to something elemental and basic?

Can I lose the layers

of accumulated dross and frippery

and risk being seen

as just a plain

and simple man?

In a society where “Look at me!” is the password to success and power, who takes the time to pay attention to the unpretentious and straightforward person? Yet it is the simple and ordinary that will save the world. When the glitter and excess of ego-centered living finally wear out, the reservoir of strength that waits in the natural world, and in the natural person, will begin “cooling” the overheated species of humanity - which, in turn, will begin cooling the overheated world. It might be possible that the plain and simple life is the key to restoring a balanced climate on this planet.


This is what following the Tao might look like in our life:

We would be open and receptive
rather than guarded and defensive.
     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 15

Since we have, as a species, lost our way,

we enter each encounter

no matter how benign it seems

as a struggle for position.

Every conversation becomes:

Did I gain or lose something?

Did I get what I wanted?

Did my position prevail?

Was I understood?

Am I better off now?

Am I more secure,

or more at risk?

Every encounter, whether with people, animals, or the natural world is, at heart, an energy exchange. It takes a fundamental trust in the flow of Energy to resist the temptation to dominate the exchange. We learn a multitude of strategies to insure that we “win” the exchange; some aggressive, some passive, all designed to self-protect and self-enhance. But in the Way of Tao we learn to trust that we do not need to wrest energy away from another. There is an infinite flow and supply of energy throughout the Cosmos that is available to us at all times in all places. So each encounter becomes a free and generous flow-thru of energy and everyone wins.


This is what following the Tao might look like in our life:

We would lose all sense of urgency
and wait patiently until we saw things clearly,

and right action emerged all by itself.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 15

Acting with patience and without urgency

remains action, make no mistake.

It is focused, effective, and powerful;

it is practical, helpful, and strong.

It is not hindered by tension and anxiety.

It is not impeded by agendas and deadlines.

It moves like a river,

natural, flowing, and fluid.

No pushing, no pulling,

no twisting out of shape.

This is the way of true power.

This effortless power is a recurring theme in The Tao Te Ching. The Chinese phrase used to describe it is, “wu-wei,” which literally means, “not doing” or “effortless effort.” It is a familiar paradox; being lost in an activity and losing all sense of ego identity. It is not “me” doing this thing, the thing is literally “doing itself.”  In a success-driven society, working without strain and stress seems unproductive and unprofitable. All I can say is, “Try it. You’ll like it.” Plus you’ll end up accomplishing far more, with fewer mistakes, than by any other process.


A quiet mind is the still point
about which all of life turns.
Here we must stand
and watch as all things
arise from a common Source
and return to that same Source.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 16

Everything is moving, changing,

morphing from one thing into another.

The Tao, in one sense, never stands still.

Change is the very nature of the Cosmos;

it is always giving birth to the new,

and taking the old back to itself.

I understand this,

But I still hope for some place to stand

and watch the constant change

without being tossed about

in perpetual disequilibrium.

My mind turns out to be the only still point in life. It seems odd because my mind is not by nature a sea of serenity. Part of it chatters like a Jay from morning to night. Yet it remains the place where a quiet and meditative perspective on life can be found. It requires practice; some type of meditative practice. Some people are able to fine it in traditional quiet meditation. Others find in in dance, drumming, singing, or the arts. There is no right way to find this Still Point, but when you discover your own unique way, practice it consistently. It is the only way to avoid being swept off your feet by life.


When our mind is still and quiet,

we are open and non-judgmental.

We know that we belong
and we act accordingly.

We are ready for all life brings, including death.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 16

A still and quiet mind

is an open and accepting mind.

It is not tossed about

by waves of fear,

by tides of desire,

or by winds of change.

It senses the Web of Life

and feels the connections that exist

between every part of the Cosmos.

It knows that being lost, forgotten,

abandoned, or forsaken

is impossible.

So it is free to act

with power, joy, and love.

What stops me from doing the kind, generous, and courageous acts that arise so naturally in my spirit?  - My fearful mind that tells me stories of injury, loss, and even death. - My wanting mind that tells me to go get the things I want and let others worry about themselves.  - My “monkey mind” that keeps me in a state of Attention Deficit Disorder through its inane chatter.  But my quiet mind is my natural mind and it always brings me back to myself.


To be aware of a separate self

is to love it or despise it,

either of which can bring misery.

To be unaware of a separate self
is to be supremely content.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 17

I’m told that self-awareness is to be valued,

and I suppose, by certain definitions,

it is helpful.

But ho is the “I” who is urged

to be “aware?”

And who is this “self”

that is the object of awareness?

Am “I” to be aware of “me?”

Are there two people here?

It is sometimes so confusing

that just forgetting all these “selfs”

might be the best approach.

My happiest times are those when the sense of a separate “me” has receded far into the background and life is just living itself as me. There is “someone” here during those times, but he is not the one who self-reflects. He is the one who simply lives, loves, acts, plays, dances, works, and is deeply content with all of life.


When a leader forgets himself
and works with no trace of ego, people will say,

"look what we did, naturally, all by ourselves!”

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 17

… Oh my,

I don’t know what to say.

… I mean…

It’s just that…


Maybe I could paraphrase:

When a “leader” says,


The people will say,

“F… that! Let’s do it ourselves!”

Lao-Tzu was a revolutionary anarchist. I have to face that fact. He was peaceful, non-confrontational, and trusted small communities of people, but he was a revolutionary nonetheless. Perhaps the most hopeful sign I see in today’s society is the growing number of people who are saying, in one way or another, “We have to live differently. How shall we go about it?” Perhaps the greatest contribution of current leadership is a public recognition that such leadership is irrelevant, useless, and bankrupt. So… what’s next!


When the Tao flows in our life,
action arises naturally from our heart.

When the Tao is forgotten,
action comes from moral rules.
If we need moral rules
in order to act with virtue,
virtue is surely absent.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 18

I’ve struggled with morality all my life.

It’s not that I’ve been blatantly immoral.

It’s just that every time I encounter a rule,

I seem to feel an urge to break that rule.

I usually keep that urge in check,

but underneath it all,

a rebellious spirit stirs

and my actions become a mixed bag

of unconscious motives.

Lao-Tzu was not completely opposed to the Confucian philosophy that undergirded much of China’s social structure during his lifetime, but he did not trust that philosophy’s complex system of rules as a means of bringing about truly “moral” behavior. The best that moral rules can ever provide is a set of guidelines that have different applications depending on the circumstances. Deeper than rules; deeper than morality; deeper than trying to “be good;” lies the true human spirit which is empowered by the flow of the Tao and naturally acts with compassion and benefit.


Only when the country is in chaos
do we hear of “patriotism.”
Only when compassion is lost,
do we hear of “duty.”

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 18

Oh boy…

I wish Lao-Tzu would stop touching

the exposed nerve of my wounded society.

But I suppose it is necessary

to be reminded that certain words no longer

have the meaning of their origins.

Stripped of power, tamed, and put to use

as weapons of control,

they now promote the very opposite,

in a double-speak sort of way,

of what we are supposed to think they mean.

Some of the chapters of The Tao Te Ching are uncomfortable. I don’t like to be reminded of the chaos of my country. His words force me to face the fact that something new is needed. It is something new, but something old at the same time. There is a venerable wisdom and an ancient power at work. The original virtue of the human heart is being recovered by a painful stripping away of the calcified layers of concepts that are isolating us from all that is natural and full of spirit and truth. It is as if a powerful bear is raking his claws across our national skin in an attempt to get at what is buried inside. It feels as if it is going to kill us, and it might. But it is the only possible path to the new life we seek.