So this week, our journey with the Tao Te Ching comes to an end..or a beginning, I guess. We have looked deeply within the timely messages of Lao Tzu, and now it is time for us to take them away and weave them into our lives.
Our last chapter to unravel together, was chapter 38…
The Master doesn’t try to be powerful; thus he is truly powerful. The ordinary man keeps reaching for power; thus he never has enough.
The Master does nothing, yet he leaves nothing undone. The ordinary man is always doing things, yet many more are left to be done.
The kind man does something, yet something remains undone. The just man does something, and leaves many things to be done. The moral man does something, and when no one responds he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.
When the Tao is lost, there is goodness. When goodness is lost, there is morality. When morality is lost, there is ritual. Ritual is the husk of true faith, the beginning of chaos.
Therefore the Master concerns himself with the depths and not the surface, with the fruit and not the flower. He has no will of his own. He dwells in reality, and lets all illusions go.
This chapter explores what can be described as ‘nameless simplicity'. Nameless simplicity is when we choose not to take sides and refuse to create complexities. Therefore, we break free from the illusions that we create in our minds and all illusion around us. When we let go of our illusions, we are then able to see the true reality.
The first illusion Lao Tzu speaks of is power. The illusion that power is something outside of ourselves that we must fight to attain. We fall into this when our actions come from a place of lack or neediness – when we don’t feel enough. We’re seeking to add things onto ourselves, when really, what we need to do is strip things away. When our actions come from a place of composure, and okay-ness within ourselves, the outcome is less critical to us. We don’t give our power away. It is then when our actions can bring more fun and more joy, because they are not trying to fill a void.
The next illusion is that of doing – the illusion that something must be done. That we cannot trust that life is working from a deeper momentum that doesn’t require our interference. When truly, within the Tao, everything is fundamentally alright, without us needing to do anything. Everything is already under control, even if it’s not under our control. Lao Tzu points out to us the importance of doing less – and the removing of so much doing of things that don’t need to be done from our lives. Doing so, creates less drama and instead, builds up our energy. Busy yourself with doing less, Lao Tzu tells us….and there will always be more for you.
Life is wanting to show us the way, sometimes it is just waiting for us to slow down enough, strip back enough, so that it can speak to us. In a paradox, we must first exert our will in order to burn our will out. We use our will to get out of our bed and on to our yoga mat every day…for what? In order to let go of our will. It seems strange, but in giving up our will, we give up our controlling and our organising of life to be a certain way. Of course, in the process of this, we might feel a bit lost. (But it is always totally okay to not have a clue what you’re doing or where you’re headed). It is a good thing, your ideas have started to fall away. Enjoy the re-balancing stage, while the Tao and the truth reconstructs everything in front of you.
The next illusion is that of ‘goodness’. If we are ‘trying’ to be good, we instantly have an agenda. We don’t need to be good, we just need to be ourselves. To be real. No matter how ‘good’ that agenda is, goodness is always inferior to the Tao. The moment we try and lead someone to the light, we leave the light. We only need to stay centred in our hearts. When we do this, we are at the most natural help to those around us. If we just relax and allow ourselves to enter this process of the Tao, we will be cleaned through it. Replace being ‘good’ with being real. Then you are truly free.
When we don’t trust in the natural goodness, we create morality and ritual. These illusions bind us to a conditioned fear of chaos. We disbelieve that spontaneous order will fall into place all by itself. Why are we still doing things the way we are doing them? Because of those reaching for power, that need to control, because they feel the world would fall into disorder otherwise? But nothing can ever really be out of place. Perhaps momentarily, but necessarily…only to find its way back into communion the Tao.
How can we move through these habitual binds? How can we come to be truly free?
By concerning ourselves with the depths, not the surface, Lao Tzu tells us. By looking beyond the flower to the fruit. By dropping our desires and demands. By letting all illusions go, and resting back into the energy of the great Tao.
The Tao is now your own Yogis...now and always, to merge your life with and perpetually expand into.
Remember when you can: do less.
Thank you again to Steve for another mind-expanding living wisdom, and for the wonderful exploration of the Tao Te Ching.
Your inherent goodness, is as common as the grass... (Tao Te Ching part 6)
~ by Adele.
Capturing the essence of the Living Wisdom sessions could potentially take me days sometimes. You yogis bring sooo much to each session I could probably write 10 blog posts just from one night! My notes always starts off so neat, and then towards the end they are scribbles, as there is so much to capture. It’s so good. Thank you. I hope I manage to do it all justice, squishing it all together in cohesive summary to the best of my ability!
Last week we took away chapter 22 to work with on our own….What did we make of it?
The first part:
If you want to become whole, let yourself be partial. If you want to become straight, let yourself be crooked. If you want to become full, let yourself be empty. If you want to be reborn, let yourself die. If you want to be given everything, give everything up.
Did it give us some permission to cut ourselves some slack?
Maybe feeling into it, we felt that we can allow ourselves some room to learn…to experience the duality that we have been talking about within the Tao. Or as Steve put it, to allow ourselves to “righteously cock up” from time to time! This of course, is in exchange for a more intuitive relationship with life. To feel into the disharmony, and perhaps even see a beauty in it. Like our Katie playing violin….noticing that even if a few notes are out of tune, we can cultivate a patience for them eventually coming together into harmony in their own perfect timing.
Once our Bhakti is strong, life may also know that it’s ‘game on’. It will inevitably notice that we are more open and ready to see the places where we may be out of harmony and start to draw in certain life situations to highlight that to us. Once it realises that you’re on board, it will think “Cool, let’s send in our men!” and cause apparent moments of dis-ease that bring to light the places within us where we are now ready to tend to.
First, it’s recognising that there is something there to work on. It’s always the way isn’t it? The only way we can change something is by accepting it initially. We have to let whatever it is do its dance before we make the decision to let it go. With the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu is telling us that it is totally okay for us to let an unwanted trait within us express itself fully. ‘Otherwise, it’s a game of bashing the mole’, Steve says. We’d be running around forever trying to bash the mole on its head, only for it to pop up again and again because it hasn’t been quite allowed to get it’s popping up out of its system just yet.
The second part:
The Master, by residing in the Tao, sets an example for all beings. Because he doesn’t display himself, people can see his light. Because he has nothing to prove, people can trust his words. Because he doesn’t know who he is, people recognize themselves in him. Because he has no goal in mind, everything he does succeeds.
“Doesn’t it sound like the ultimate Asana?”, Steve says.
One where we’re not trying really hard to be in it, nor hiding shyly away not daring to embody it fully….but instead, being in it totally, steadily. There is a quality of translucence, of purity in this naturalness. Isn’t it true that people seem the most beautiful to us when they are just being themselves, without effort? Not ‘trying’ to be someone or something. If I hold a definition of myself, a fixed identity…you will only see me in front of you, not yourself. When we have nothing to prove, nor seeking validation from those outside of us, we become quite vacant. (In a good way!). We become a stillness – a mirror for others to see themselves in.
The third part….
When the ancient Masters said, ‘If you want to be given everything, give everything up,” they weren’t using empty phrases. Only in being lived by the Tao can you be truly yourself.
The biggest religion on the planet seems to be making something of ourselves, becoming a ‘somebody’. We put stuff onto ourselves…titles, labels, personalities… and can think in our head, ‘this is who I am’. But if we limit ourselves to just being this ‘somebody’, we have no room to expand, grow or be ‘anybody’! In this verse, Lao Tzu gives us the paradox – by being something other than ourselves by living in the Tao, we get to be truly ourselves. So perhaps, we don’t need to try so hard or ‘achieve’ as much as the rest of the world tells us…..
This week, our verse for exploration is verse 57. Although it may sound like a rather political verse, Steve asks if we can look at it first on a microcosm level, so within ourselves, before we extend it out to the macrocosm.
Here it is….
If you want to be a great leader, you must learn to follow the Tao. Stop trying to control. Let go of fixed plans and concepts, and the world will govern itself.
The more prohibitions you have, the less virtuous people will be. The more weapons you have, the less secure people will be. The more subsidies you have, the less self-reliant people will be.
Therefore the Master says: I let go of the law, and people become honest. I let go of economics, and people become prosperous. I let go of religion, and people become serene. I let go of all desire for the common good, and the good becomes common as grass.
What Lao Tzu is saying is, the more ‘shoulds and ‘musts’ we bind ourselves to, the less honest we become. The more we wrap ourselves in ideas, the less chance we have of becoming who we actually are. The more we defend ourselves, the more insecure we feel. The more we rely on others for our validation, the less empowered we feel.
At our core, we are inherently pure, honest and good, but our world is surrounded by our laws, rules and walls because this is not yet trusted. We need morality because we are afraid that we are not innately good at our deepest essence. So we have ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ to make us good….but we are not here to be ‘good’, we are here to be free. And of course, if we were suddenly to be made free from these, most would fear the mess. The mess that would be created through people being suddenly lawless. And yes, there would most likely be mess that would play out, but it would be a temporary mess that has been built up through repression. It would need to come out before it all simmers back down. There would be turmoil, it will inevitably be making its way back to equilibrium.
So yogis, again this week, this verse is for you to go and weave it’s awareness into your life. Where are you painting rules onto the walls of your life? What ideas do you have of being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, that limit you from being ultimately free? What barriers have you built around yourself as to hold up an image of the ‘somebody’ you may have tried to be?
I work alongside you, to find these walls within myself and work to break them down.
It is as it is, and it is all good...(Tao Te Ching part 5)
~ by Adele
If you can, take a breath or two to drop into yourself. Down into an expansive space somewhere within, where the Tao resides. And then, with a feeling sense into your energy, see if you can delicately drop in the following exploration...
If there were two ways to look at our relationship life, which one would resonate with you the most?
“It is as it is”, offering a possible surrender into whatever is happening…or
“It’s all good”, meaning of course, that everything is ultimately good. That even the bad stuff, is all headed in the direction of the ultimate good.
And knowing that there is not a ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer, ask yourself - your truest self…which one of those two ideas open you up? Which one starts to fizzle away your armour, and your resistance to life?
Even though they consist of different feeling tones, they are of course going in the same direction. We have learnt, through exploring into the Tao Te Ching, that the power of the Tao is all-knowing, all-pervading, and beyond our comprehension. We cannot control it, but we can totally co-exist with this life force by accepting that it is bigger than us and letting go of the reigns a little. Dropping into the Tao means we stop resisting what is happening and trust in the great wisdom of life.
“It is as it is”, can drop us into the Tao by bringing up that initial wave of acceptance on all levels. Once we accept it is as it is, we might stop fighting and be able to choose instead to be with it. To go through and feel whatever life is asking us to go through and feel at that time. Which is all life is ever really asking us to do!
“It’s all good”, is of course, totally true too. Even if something is bad, it’s still good for us. It’s good because we can grow through it, no matter how impossibly difficult it might feel. There is a quote from Sadhguru which puts this quite straightforwardly. He says…
“Once you are a Yogi, nothing bad can ever happen to you again because there is nothing that you cannot use for your ultimate growth”.
Sometimes, we may feel like “it’s all good”, could have the potential to try and wash things over with ingenuine positivity. It is truth, and it is all ultimately good, but nobody here is trying to force a smile on the face when it’s not in the heart. Rather, it’s a quiet kind of ‘good’. Not such a smiley-happy-show-off kind of good, but a willingness to believe in the bigger picture and unfolding. Even through pain, with a broken-heart, or feeling totally de-railed by life.
Whichever one of these you rest with more comfortably, pick it up and help it to drop you in to that feeling place of the Tao. If there’s some difficulty and resistance going on in our head, we try if we can remember to ‘take a breath in the head’, like our Izzy does! We see if we can drop the hot coal, drop that painful thought-stream, and realise that we don’t need to pick it back up when it’s burning us.
There is no way that I want to ever downplay the immense difficulty in breaking our habits. But instead of expending so much energy trying to ‘fix’ them, or pour positivity all over them, we can take another route of remembering the Tao. Most of the time, our one and only problem is that life is not happening the way that we think it should be happening. We can become quite insistent it has all gone wrong, and not quite realising yet how ‘right’ it all might be because of our ideas. But whatever we’re having difficulty with, we could choose to take a moment to believe that this is just one page in a huge book. That we don’t have to pre-live tomorrow’s experience over and over again so that we’re equipped for it. We don’t have to ‘make’ anything happen. We can trust that once we centre into ourselves, what needs to happen will happen. What needs to be said, will be said. And sometimes what needs to happen might be painful, uncomfortable and confusing. But can we stick with it, for the future evolved version of ourselves?
It is ultimately a lifelong practice of trust. Lifelong, because it doesn’t happen overnight. And that’s okay! We try to remember it when we possibly can. If life has a bigger plan for me, that means I will have to let go of the outcomes that I can so desperately cling to. If I have an idea that I know best, I might be in the way of something miraculous unfolding. We don’t become nonchalant and boring about it, though. We become just curious….and uninvested if we can. When I have made an energetic investment into an outcome of a situation, I have so much to lose. But when I totally take my hands and ideas off, I cannot possibly lose. We can become so wonderfully present with something or someone when we have no investment of the outcome….when there is no manipulating, agendas, or steering each other into what we want. It is then we can truly connect.
I say none of this lightly. This practice is one that goes on for me daily, and in fact moment by moment sometimes. But there are times where I have been so totally blindsided by the wisdom of the unfolding of my life that have proven to me I have no idea what’s going on. So I effort as much as I can to offer my hand to be led instead of push. I have a little scene in my mind where I imagine life is holding a huge surprise party for me that is so perfect in every way for me. But because I don’t know about it yet, I try and set up my own party and it’s just not working out so well. Things aren’t going to my plan. But I keep trying and trying, and then I feel a little frustrated and disappointed. When all the while I’ve got no clue that the party that I’m setting up is nowhere near as cool as the party life has planned for me!
Life is wiser than us, funnier than us, and much better at planning our surprise parties. But it can feel really weird to give up the fight. There will be some inevitable inner resistance. “So hold on….a bigger energy is now going to do all this stuff that I used to do?! What am I going to do now with my time when I don’t have to hold everything together anymore?”
We will undoubtedly get caught in our old thought patterns and beliefs until they eventually run out of juice. Unfortunately, they don’t just ‘pop’ and disappear just like that. We’ve got to let them run the rest of their battery life! Instead, we choose not to feed them with new energy and see if we can drop the outcome a little bit….but also still be willing to do the work to get through them. We do this with our Sadhana, our practice, our meditation, our prayer, and our watchfulness to stop ourselves from plugging into these. And this isn’t always linear either. We can feel like we’ve got through something, only for it to come back into our mind with a vengeance. “Oh you thought you could get rid of me!?” an old thought pattern might say. Some even pop off into hibernation for years, one day to return. Old habits really do die hard – and they will try and get as much juice out of themselves before they eventually burn out. But they are wearing down bit by bit, and parts of us attached to them may start to wear down too. The people we thought we were may start to dissolve a little and the personality framework we were so convinced by might blur. Perhaps if we loosen up the ‘me’ that we think we are, the 'greater me’ could emerge….
Our work for this week ahead, is to work with and feel into the verse from the Tao below. To go away and explore it on our own and what it means to us. Until next week when we will meet back and share all our endeavours and discoveries in our Sangha….