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More than Mao’s “Little Red Book;” more than Marx’s “Manifesto;” Lao-Tu’s “Tao Te Ching” - a short book of wisdom poetry, crafted more than 2,500 years ago stands as perhaps the most revolutionary, seditious, and counter-cultural treatise ever written. If you spend a year with it, letting it’s message gradually seep through your conditioned defenses, you will find your life transformed and your perception of the present social order turned

Each week for the coming year of 2017, I will publish 7 days of my own brief poetic and prose reflections on a single verse from The Tao Te Ching. The translation of the verses will be my own, based on the original text and also on my current understanding and perspective.

My own verses are not really “wisdom,” but simply honest reflections on the paradoxes and conundrums of my life, viewed from a Taoist perspective. They are brief, in keeping with Lao-Tzu’s classic warning, “Those who speak, do not know. Those who know, do not speak.” As always, I do not speak as one who “knows.” I speak as one who wonders, wanders, and ponders the Mystery of life, which will always be unspeakable, but always available to the direct experience of anyone who pays attention.

I hope this approach might be of help to you as you walk your own path of Tao. Peace and joy to you on your wandering journey.


It’s been snowing here in Mount Shasta. The pines, firs, cedars, and junipers are a lovely combination of white and green. As the sun sets the whole mountainside looks like an Ansel Adams photograph. My New Year begins with the Winter Solstice, and though I have to pay some attention to the Gregorian calendar, my intentions for the coming year began today, the 21st. So, for me, today is “Day One” of our walk together. The earth is an altogether lovely place. I hope we all can find a multitude of ways this week, and this coming year, to savor and appreciate it; to nurture and sustain it in return for the gifts of life, warmth, nurture, and care it freely gives to us. On to “Week One, Day One.”



1/1   (video available at https://youtu.be/8eqbhCHX7MM)


The Tao that can be put in words is not the true eternal Tao.

If you were to use any other name,

it would still remain elusive.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 1


——-


I’ve been using words for decades,

trying to walk the line between prattling on

and withdrawing into silence.

I tell myself I’m looking for

a place to stand that won’t be yanked away;

that somehow words, if I can get them right,

will stabilize and steady things.

But I can’t talk, or write, or think my way

into an understanding of the Tao.

Mountain Quail are feeding on the ground

outside my window, feathers puffed like down jackets

against the winter cold.

So I watch the Tao I cannot talk about,

going about its business without worry, fret, or bother.


——-


We’re all searching for something steady and unchangeable, but the nature of the Tao is ever changing. If the elusiveness of our search becomes frustrating, it may help to ask: “What is it we are really looking for?” So often our desire to “find” an answer is actually seeking to gain control of life, to confine the Divine Mystery within the synapses of our brain. Just for today, let’s allow ourselves be comfortable with not knowing where the Wave is taking us, simply feeling its motion and enjoying the ride. In this way, I think, we will be able to live the life that’s ours to live; and give the gift that’s ours to give.




1/2

Naming things separates them

from the Eternal Name from which they came.

     From The Tao Te Ching, Chapter 1


——-


The trees on the nearby hillside

are letting their branches bend beneath

a weight of thick white snow.

In Summer my mind does its naming thing:

“That’s a Ponderosa Pine, that’s a Douglas Fir,

and over there’s a Juniper.”

Today, outside my window,

they are simply “trees.”

A coat of snow unites the separate things

into a kind of unity that lets me rest awhile

from naming everything I see.

I think that’s why the winter brings

an interval of hibernation, a rest it seems,

from the busy stressful effort

of keeping all things separate

and in their proper place.

I’m going to hibernate more this winter;

take more naps and read more gentle books

that speak of hope and joy and lives lived fully.


It seems that there is so much to do, to fix, to set right, and to confront. How can we possibly take a winter’s rest? I could be wrong, but it seems to me that we all need a time of reflection, of sinking back into the Mystery of which we are a part. The time ahead may very well be an amazing mixture of mysticism and practicality; a blend seldom practiced in our divided minds and our divided world. Rest awhile in the Unity of All That Is.




1/3


Ordinary things and the mysterious Tao seem separate,

only because our mind has made the separation.

The unknown dark country of the Tao is entered

through the gate of ordinary things.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 1


——-


My mind looks for esoteric truths

in philosophy and dusty books,

and finds merely ideas.

Then my mind looks around

and perceives a world of separate forms:

there’s this, and that, and that over there…

a billion things that are not me.

My attention flits from one to another

and never sees the gossamer threads of light

that connects them to each other,

and to me.

If I look with patient willing eyes,

the little grey bird scratching in the melting snow

will be a gateway to the Tao.


——-


It really is a matter of willingness. The gateways into the Mystery abound around me, but I need to see them with a mind that is willing to set aside the things it thinks it knows. It is as if I were of “two minds.” One mind, my ordinary conditioned mind sees all the forms and assumes it has a solid understanding of the world as it is. The other mind, the Tao Mind, sees the forms but also sees the transparency of the forms - sees through them to the underlying quantum field; the eternal mystery that is their true nature.



1/4


Life consists of birth and death.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2


——-


As winter settles into this mountainside,

and the little watering pond freezes solid,

I feel the primal fear of death

and know that someday the winter of my life will end

without a spring to follow.

Yet my Tao mind sees

the snow and ice and dormant trees

as beautiful in their simple resting,

waiting for the spring which always comes.

And in this mind I know,

that just as birth leads always to a death,

so must a death lead always to a birth.


——-


Today let’s set aside our winter fears and trust that spring will always come somehow, one way or another. So many things are threatening to end; things we have always counted on to keep us safe. We fear they will be replaced with awful things, but what if room is being made for something even more wondrous, compassionate, and fine; something that can only come when we are ready and willing to give it birth? This is the truth of the Tao. Endings always lead to beginnings. This is the wonder of Yin and Yang. Let the Yin of winter do its work. Light is already growing stronger.




1/5


Music consists of sound and silence

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2


——-


Descartes was wrong.

It’s not the thinking that makes me

what I truly am.

The song that’s me is found

by listening to the silence

in between the thoughts.

Without the silence of the Tao

my thoughts would be mere useless noise.

(Know the feeling?)

Only thoughts born in the silence

can make their contribution

to the melody the Tao is playing

through the instrument called me.


——-


Pay attention today to those spaces in between your your thoughts. Practice letting those moments expand a bit, last a few seconds longer. Look around without thinking about it for a bit. Don’t worry, you won’t lose your mind. In fact, your may find it once again.




1/6


Journeys consist of leaving

and arriving.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2


——-


It’s hard to travel freely on the Path of Life,

while lugging memories along,

watching them replay in endless loops

while the scenery in the moment

is used as a projection screen.

Living in the present moment

requires shutting off the projector,

and letting “now” create new memories

instead of twisted forms of old ones.

Memory weaves an illusory web

that seems to create a solid thing called “me,”

but I am really this,

then this,

then this,

always leaving,

always arriving.


——-


We naturally have a sense of “identity” that comes from the process of memory. It is a useful tool for a human life. But it is important to know that we are something more mysterious than this brain-spun web. Experience each moment as it really is rather than simply something spun of memories and fears. Let’s appreciate our memories, but not overemphasize their importance, or even their reality. If it’s painful, it will pass. If it’s full of joy, it will pass. Don’t miss it while lost in thoughts.





1/7


The wise person doesn’t interfere

with the natural flow of things;

feels no need to instruct or persuade,

so acts and works in silence.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2


——-


I’m filled with agitation when I wonder

how screwed up the world has come to be.

I long to figure out a way to “fix” it;

make it somehow come to see

the error of its ways.

What hubris I have within me,

to think that I can make the water

flow uphill and have it start again

upon its journey to the sea.

Please see behind my words

to the silence I’m trying to find;

the place where my work and life

are truly built on solid ground.


——-


I’m not that wise. I’m feeling my way along and stumbling often. This coming year I’m seeking more and more to find the silence within me. It’s there. I’ve felt it and know that it is truly where I want to live. Without that foundation, the events of the coming year will knock the ground out from under me and I won’t be able to contribute my own energy to the healing and community we are all seeking. There are far too many voices filling the world with persuasive arguments, rants, and cants. We all have important work to do. Can we do it in silence?


Blessings to each and all of us. It’s lovely to share, even in this limited medium, with you. Feel free to contact me through the website www.taoistliving.com. I’ll talk with you again next week.


Bill






Week Two

Day 1


Everything that comes to the sage’s life is accepted and used for benefit.

Nothing is rejected. Nothing is assumed to last.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2


——-


So much has happened in the past few months,

most of it disturbs me and dismays me.

I can’t imagine it being beneficial,

only harmful, dangerous, and destructive.

Yet the verse says, “… used for benefit…”

That’s a different thing I suppose.

If I am honest, I can see the possibilities:

We may at last dream something new,

and set about to make it true

in our lives and communities.

Ignorance in leadership may call forth

wisdom in the people.

Indifference in government may call forth

compassion in the people.

Bigotry in high places may call forth

acceptance in the people.


——-


Acceptance is a central theme in Lao-Tzu’s writing. It is not a passive and resigned acceptance, but a clear-eyed willingness to work with the raw materials that are given and, by willingness, wisdom, and creative energy, fashion something that is beneficial for all. Many people are beginning to wake up and assume responsibility for the future - their own future, and the future of society and of the planet. We can’t control what flows in, but we can affect what flows out from our hearts.



Day2


Nothing is taken personally.

So life is never lived in vain.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 2


——-


I take it all so personally

because I take my self so personally;

as if I have to do it right

in every moment.

It’s all about me, you know.

“Vain” is from the Latin “vanus"

meaning “empty, without substance.”

“Personal” is from the Latin “persona”

meaning “the mask an actor wears.”

So perhaps my so-called personal drama

is the vainest thing of all.


——-


It may be helpful to de-dramatize my life a bit. I am part of all that is. All of my mistakes and secret shames are woven into the Whole in ways I’ll never understand. Maybe the ubiquitous question, “How is this going to affect me?” is not the most important question. Maybe my drama and the persona mask I wear is keeping me from the heart and soul of life itself.



Day 3


If you don’t strive to be noticed, no one will compete with you.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 3




——-



“It’s a dog-eat-dog world,” they say.

“If you’re not the lead dog,

the view is always the same,” they say.

“We’re number one!” they say.

And they have ruled the day

for so long that we believe them.

To question competition is to question

the fabric of our social order.

Who will I be if you don’t notice me?

A loser?

Or simply alive and in awe

at the wonder of it all?





I went to an “author’s event” one afternoon, not so long ago. There were five of us on a “panel of experts.” I sat there with a sinking feeling in my stomach and longed to dig a tunnel under the table and crawl away to anonymity. Yet, here I am, writing for readers from around the world. Not only that, I’m (gasp!) making a video! The only way I can keep my sanity is by simply doing what I do. I like words. I love the wonder of the Cosmos and the mystery of the Tao. What we do might be important; but how we do it is even more important. Let’s live from a spirit of anonymity, no matter how public our lives might appear.



Day 4


If you don’t have a house full of treasures,

no one will steal from you.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 3



——-



To know the meaning of “just enough” is,

I think, the secret lost treasure that was stolen,

lifted from our hearts by the pirates of commerce,

who left in its place the seed of perpetual desire;

a desire that drives us through our days

and disturbs our sleep at night.

There is a freedom and beauty in simplicity,

in having just enough;

that an abundance of possessions can never provide,

no matter how high they pile themselves.





I’d like to recommend a wonderful book by Azby Brown, titled Just Enough - Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan. It is about life and culture in the Edo period of Japan’s history (1603-1868). The title is derived from the inscription on a stone in the Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto - “I know what just enough is.” For more than two hundred and fifty years Japan was a closed society, an island nation whose population knew that the resources of the nation were essentially a closed system. Therefore they developed an ethic of conservation, gratitude for natural resources, and an appreciation of simplicity unique in the history of nations. Such and ethic, I believe, will be essential to us in the coming days.



Day 5


Discipline yourself by quieting your worries

and concentrating on those things that truly satisfy.

From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 3


——-


Lots to worry about, you say?

Don’t I know it!

What if “they” do “this?”

What if “that” happens?

I could go on and on,

and often do.

My mother trained me well

in the subtle art of worry.

Storms, illness, and accidents

were constantly lurking in the dark corners.

Bless her heart, she was only living out the stories

taught to her by countless generations.

Yet all my anxious thoughts

serve only to blind me

to the constant flow of simple satisfactions

I somehow never see.


——-


My mind is an exercise arena, the place where mental muscles are built and the overall health of my body is sustained. I have always exercised my body, even disciplined it to run marathons when I was younger. I still enjoy the benefits of a body that remembers the joy of running for miles through the desert wildflower springs. (Now it’s meandering walks alongside mountain streams - just as joyous, really.) But my mind, though fluent in words and phrases, has been an undisciplined mess in the vital area of true satisfaction. My current practice is to gently retrain my thoughts from flabby worries and appreciate with robust joy the wonder of simply being alive.



Day 6


Weaken your ambition and strengthen your enjoyment

of the simple things that matter.

If you do this, you will not be vulnerable

to the whims and wiles of clever scoundrels

who rob you of your peace.

From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 3


——-


We are all afraid of ruthless people.

We have been burned by the avarice of others

whose schemes had caught us unawares.

Lies and stories to manipulate

our conscious and unconscious wants and fears,

have led us into worlds of trouble.

We are angry and afraid

that “they” will take from us

the things we value most.

But fear and blaming never helps,

and joy resides in seeking things no one can steal;

and pleasures no one can sell us.


——-


I have always enjoyed the phrase from the song, “Me and Bobby McGee.” - “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” Of course we can, and will, lose loved ones, health, and life - this is a given. But the freedom we can enjoy in ordinary simple things, things that cost little or nothing and can easily be replaced and found again; this freedom can be our companion all the days of our life. And rather than let the loss of loved ones, health, and life be a terrible tragedy, can it too be released and not held hostage by the fear?



Day 7


The emptiness of the Tao contains every possibility

From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 4


——-

(This poem was written for an earlier book, but I include it here today because it says exactly what I feel)


Filled with chatter,

my mind cannot create.


Filled with junk,

my belly cannot digest.


Filled with tension,

my shoulders cannot move freely.


Filled with fear,

my heart cannot love.


Only the emptiness I so avoid,

can bring me what I truly want.


——-


I am trying to begin my days with emptiness rather than plans, hopes, fears, and the cacophony of chatter that fills the air. A meditative Qigong session helps. I also am using simple prayers from the traditions of indigenous peoples that help connect me to the nurture of earth, sky, plants, and life as the Tao is manifesting it all around me. I also use a simple prayer for forgiveness for the mindlessness and lack of harmony in which I, and all humans, have lived for so long. Without punishment or self-recrimination, I seek a restoration to a compassionate and beautiful way of living in the Tao. So I empty and look to the day to fill me with awareness of beauty, courage, and compassion. Blessings of this Path to all who walk along it; and to all who have wandered far from it.




Week Three


Day 1


The Tao is the reality beneath all names of God.  

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 4


——-


I used to be a clergyman.

I stood in a pulpit and spoke of “God”

and everyone, including me,

pretended we all knew

what in the world we meant.

Names are helpful, I suppose.

When I say, “Nancy,” the name

speaks of love and warmth

to my dear spouse.

Many names can communicate

acknowledgement, value, and respect.

But names for God are futile.

The Tao prefers to remain unnamed,

never “there,”

while we are “here.”

Never separate from us.


——-


Anthropomorphizing is always dangerous. Projecting human emotions, characteristics, and desires onto the Divine Mystery leads to tiny little gods, incapable of satisfying the longing we all have for belonging and subject to being used for our own selfish aims. As Lao-Tzu said in Chapter 1, even using the word, “Tao,” was to lessen the reality of the True, Eternal Way. I do speak metaphor in my prayers: - Mother Earth, Father Sky, Spirit of Life, etc. - but I know I am only using my imagination to direct my spirit to things unknown. The “Tao” doesn’t care about my names or words. Whatever helps us connect is good, but must be used carefully.




Day 2


The workings of the Tao do not favor one thing over another.

All things are given life, and breath, and a place beneath the sun.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 5


——-


I favor certain things

while the Tao smiles upon them all.

I favor Bristlecone Pines over thistles.

I favor Eagles over Buzzards.

I favor Mountain Quail over Stellar’s Jays

Finches flourish among thistles.

Buzzards (Eagles too!)

recycle carrion.

And if I sit and truly watch a Stellar’s Jay,

the lovely shades of blue reveal themselves.

I favor certain things

while the Tao smiles upon them all.



——-


Of course we have our preferences. Pretending otherwise is disingenuous. Yet every being in existence, on two legs, four legs, crawling on the ground, swimming in the sea, or flying through the air occupies a special niche, a place in the grand unfolding of the Cosmos according to what we call “the Tao.”  We can’t completely lose our preferences, but we can notice that they are, indeed, conditioned by our mind, and hold them lightly.




Day 3


The Master sees every person, good or bad,

as belonging to the Tao

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 5


The worst of people still belong, somehow,

to this all-inclusive Tao.

But they frighten me

and I would exclude them,

and keep them far away.

Thing is, these things we call the good and bad

are all inside of me.

I sometimes think some awful thoughts,

and fantasize some violent acts.

I know my secret shames.

Nothing in me can be excluded

from this all pervasive Tao.

I have no knowledge of the path

another person may have walked

along the wilderness of their life,

so exclusion is not an option,

no matter how attractive it may seem.



As this year unfolds along an uncomfortable and uncertain path, it is easy for me to place some people in the category of “bad - dangerous, ignorant, arrogant, greedy, and insane.” Yet who’s to say what trail is being blazed through the wilderness? Who knows what sleeping power is being awakened within us by people and events? Who knows what the Tao is doing, really? Who knows the good that comes from we call bad, or the bad that comes from we call good?



Day 4


The Tao is never tired,

it is always new and fresh.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 5


——-


I am sometimes weary in my bones

and burned-out in my spirit.

I need to rest and refresh myself,

and gather hope and courage

from whatever source I find

that can hearten me, inspire me,

and stir me up again.

Even as I lay by the fire,

turning the pages of a book

the only activity I can muster,

I can sense the eternal fire,

heat, and energy of the Cosmos

that has come together in this moment…

… as me … continuing to flow

and go about its mysterious work,

tirelessly.


The winter weather this past few days has been wild and wooly. My muscles are aching in unaccustomed places from clearing driveway and sidewalks. My fingers almost froze today as the temperature dropped into the negative numbers. These things tire me out and, as I rest beside the wood stove in the evenings, I hear a voice that tells me that I have gotten old and that my useful days were wasted in my misspent youth. Yet, even at these times there is a part of me who feels the ever present energy flowing in, and as, me. The expression of that energy may be more sedate now, but it is the same energy that never tires, never ceases in its eternal dance.



Day 5


Everything that is, has been, or will be;

emerges from, is contained in,

and returns to the Tao.

     FromTao Te Ching, Chapter 6


——-


I sometimes have the  feeling

that I am a skin-enclosed thing,

adrift on a endless ocean,

having a limited store of necessary supplies,

and above all… all alone.

It’s easy to understand the feeling.

Something that sometime, somehow,

managed to be labeled, “I,”

looks out with eyes upon all else

as separate.

Another feeling also arises,

more and more often I’m glad to say,

that feels the snow upon my nose as me,

and I shovel myself about the yard

with wild unfettered glee.


—-


I wonder why this separate feeling is so common? It is, they say, part of “being human.” I’m beginning to doubt that old truism. I wonder if we have forgotten, or perhaps not yet learned, what “being human” really is. There is, of course, a certain benefit in this sense of separation. It gives us an individuality that contributes uniquely to the whole, I think. But it is only one aspect of being human and alive as part of the Tao in this particular place at this particular time. Another aspect is in being a part of the Whole Thing. Not alone, not separate, not limited to skin, or thoughts, or years, but a dancer in an infinite, eternal, wonderful dance.




Day 6


The Spirit of the Tao is the Mother of all that is.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 6


——-


The patriarchal desert religions tell

that a Father God created all,

made and built and formed it.

In the Taoist mind

there is a different spirit.

The Cosmos was not made and formed

by some external craftsman.

It was born of Mother Tao.

What we see and what we are

and all that we will be,

was grown from deep inside.

It is growing yet today.


——-


The Feminine Principle (Yin) is considered the “Mother” of creation. The term, “Mother,” implies bringing into existence by birthing rather than by making or fashioning. It also implies that we are never separate from the Tao which contains both Yin and Yang. When we see ourselves as being "created" it is easy to imagine that we are something separate, something made and set in motion by Someone apart from us. In "birthing" we instead emerge from within, from the very nature of the Tao and we remain the same "stuff" as the Tao.



Day 7


We dont need to search for her.

No effort is needed to find her.

She is always with us.She is us.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 6


——-


A self-described “searcher,”

I’ve wandered along several separate paths,

or at least they seemed separate at the time.

Now I look back and see but One Path,

meandering to be sure, but just One Path.

It is a path that can be followed

consciously and mindfully,

or it can be ignored completely.

It’s still One Path

from which we only think we stray.

We can no more be lost

than a child can be lost

while his Mother holds his hand.


Searching, people say, leads to finding. But sometimes the searching process becomes so convoluted that it simply leads to more searching, never to finding. The conditioned mind is programmed for the search and doesn’t know how to process finding. It just files the information away and turns its attention back to the search. It is the classic conundrum of the fish swimming through the ocean in a dedicated search for this thing called, “water.” What does it take to convince me that I have already found that for which I was searching? As I sit here this stormy morning, looking out at a mixture of rain and snow, I am aware that I have never been without the Object of my search.





Day 1


The Tao needs no prayers

before it acts on our behalf.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 6


——-


The cold glacier water gushing from the earth

in the little city park in town

does not need my prayer

before it gives me drink.

A whisper of gratitude, however,

seems appropriate.

Everything I need is offered,

without my asking for it.

Only I am often busy worrying

and neglect to see it, partake of it,

and celebrate it.

“Thank you” might be

the prayer that helps me see

the wonder of my life.


——-


It’s not that I don’t pray. I’ve been praying more and more lately, in my own way, looking to align myself with the flow and strength that is inherent in the Cosmos and available to me in every moment. I have no thought of bending this flow to my own will, but only of aligning myself with its power and energy. “Thank you,” seems to keep presenting itself as the most helpful phrase of connection. Thank you for reading. Thank you for listening. Thank you for being part of this dance together. Thank you.



Day 2


The Tao does not die,

because it was never born.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 7


——-


At my age, on certain winter days,

death seems starkly evident

and it takes some effort

to turn my mind to thoughts of living.

Because, at the moment, I am alive

and will be alive until I die.

There is, however, a part of me

that’s never been born

and will never die.

Small comfort to my human mind,

but to my Tao Mind a simple truth.

When the human mind lays down its burden,

that other Mind will still be there.


——-


Don’t ask me how there is no birth nor death. I haven’t the faintest idea what such slippery concepts represent. I only know that there is “Something More” to this wild ride than the brief flicker of the ego consciousness I call “me.” Albert Einstein postulated that time and space are relative terms. The Cosmos is vast and mysterious beyond all imagining and cannot be contained within my little mind. However I am contained within the Cosmos, not by accident. When the Cosmos “Banged” itself into existence the seeds of me, and you, were already there. What those seeds have gone through and will ultimately produce is a mysterious and enthralling story.




Day 3




The Tao has no needs for itself

so it is available to all.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 7


——-


I am so grateful that the Tao needs nothing.

Otherwise I would be forever glancing around,

wondering if I were pleasing,

or displeasing this Mystery.

What if I should fail to meet some hidden need it has?

What if the Tao should tire of me,

or perhaps find me annoying?

I would hesitate to use its energy,

thinking perhaps I was not worthy.

How wonderful to know that,

like the spring water from the mountainside,

it is always there for all to drink.


——-


Lao-Tzu often emphasizes the point that the Tao is always available without strings. There is no, “will of the Tao” to which we must somehow conform. It does not punish me if I spend years wandering far from its principles and qualities. It simply flows on in its eternal mystery. The moment I turn my attention back, it is there in all its wonder, offering me energy and grace. If I take the risk of personifying it just a bit, I would tell it, “I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long.” and it would smile and say, “You’ve not been gone at all.”




Day 4



Like the Tao, we do not need our desires fulfilled,

therefore we are available to all of life.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 7


——-


I’ve tried at times, to be without desires,

thinking this was wise and perhaps holy.

Then, of course, I desired

to be without desires,

and tied myself in knots

until laughter at my silly self

loosened the whole thing up.

Now I watch desires come and go,

bubbling up from my conditioned mind,

and returning to the same mind.

No problem.


——-


To be alive is to desire. To be happy and content is to hold these desires loosely, I think. I neither seek to fulfill my desires nor to push them away in denial. Too many years of my life have been spent pursuing the most ephemeral of desires, mostly rooted in my ego’s needs for comfort, pleasure, and approval. No blame here, just an awareness of the impossibility of both satisfying such desires and finding a purposeful joy in living. I used to seek happiness by satisfying my desires. Now I find my authentic desires satisfied by being available to the Mystery of Life in all its myriad forms.



Day 5



We do not need to cling in order to be safe.

Because we do not cling, we always remain content.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 7


——-


Of all things it can be said,

“this too will pass.”

The most solid things of earth and stone

are only passing through

and will return to the Tao in time.

My loves and fears,

my toys and tears

are brief wavelets

on the Eternal River.

I can’t hold the waves in my hands.

Why try?

Why not let them wash through

and leave behind their perfect gift

of a richer, wiser, more grateful me?


——-


Clinging is a habit born of fear. We somehow learn that holding tight to things will keep us safe and in control of our environment. The idea that everything is in flux, is an eternal Flow, is disconcerting to say the least. I would like some things to be stable and secure in such a way that I can count on them being there tomorrow, the next day, and on into the future. I want to depend upon them. I must learn to delight in being part of the river for it is eternal. It is the Flow Itself in which my contentment and my safety lie.




Day 6

Tao is the watercourse way.

It opposes nothing,

yet flows through everything.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 8


——-

Opposition seems to be in the air today.

If I were to visit the internet

I would quickly find a dozen things

to take a stand against.

I’m “for” universal health care,

so I am “against” those who are “against” it.

My “for” turns quickly into opposition

and the structure stays firmly

locked in place,

held immobile by the opposing forces.

The Tao does not oppose the things

that seem to block its flow.

It ignores them, flows around them,

or rains its water on the other side of them.

Nothing can stop it in its journey.


——-

The paradigm that has guided our country and our society for centuries has become dysfunctional and is in its death throes. It is a dangerous time and great creative care must be taken as we begin to live from a new vision and dream a new dream. I want to begin living from a totally new paradigm and let the new communities, structures, systems, and economies emerge from that living. I’m not interested in arguing with those who are pretending that the Titanic isn’t sinking. There is still time, but not to be wasted in opposition. Let’s flow with the Tao and build a new vessel that will embody a deeper, broader, and higher way of life.



Day 7


In flowing with the Tao

we live in simple humble homes.

     From Tao Te Ching, Chapter 8


——-


I used to walk by estate-type houses

and imagine the joys of living there.

There’d be space for every whim,

a room for every indulgence.

A kitchen full of cooking tools.

A workshop full of carving tools.

A garage for all the other tools,

not to mention a car or two.

And storage! Storage everywhere

so I could keep the things

seen only every year or two,

but still, I’d know that they were there.

How happy one would be

if there were room for everything.



——-


For a majority of people in our society, a house has become a financial investment, the dominant factor in determining how one’s working life will be spent. One becomes a work horse, “saddled with a mortgage,” as the saying goes. The purpose of a house is to give us shelter and provide us a commune; a place of intimate communication, mutual support, and the warmth of relationships. But is it really the house that provides these things, or are they actually a product of the time we are willing and able to invest in them? These qualities actually cost nothing and require very little space. In fact, the larger the space, the harder it is to create the warmth and connection necessary. Often the mortgage and other expenses of the house are so great that we must sacrifice the very commune for which the house is intended.