Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Healing the Great Split...(The Tao Te Ching part 3)

~ by Adele

Every being in the universe
is an expression of the Tao.
It springs into existence,
unconscious, perfect, free,
takes on a physical body,
let's circumstances complete it.
That is why every being
spontaneously honours the Tao.

In our third week of checking out the Tao Te Ching, we begin by reflecting back on what we’ve learnt so far…

We’ve learnt that the theme of the Tao is ‘effortless effort’….it just is, and everything is it. That it unfolds naturally, and we are already totally one with it. However, to become effortless, to relax into this ‘non-doing’, first takes quite a bit of ‘doing’. Hence the ‘effortless effort’!

We’ve learnt that the Tao itself is undefinable and unnameable…although we can do our very best to describe how it feels. The combination of words ‘confusing-simple’, comes to my mind (which is so very Tao of me…!)

As we know, the Tao is a dance with opposition, and so an endeavour to find the middle way within this. It asks us to fully participate with the extremes of the opposites, to know sorrow as much as joy, exhaustion as much as energy, inauthentic as much as authentic, and therefore the nature of all existence.

But despite nudging us to open up to both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’, the Tao asks us to keep it whole. Which brings us to this week’s theme….dissolving the great divide.

Whatever experience we have that brings us into our centres is a very valuable experience. Perhaps it’s a moment of joy or connection, even simply being in nature that brings us home into ourselves and the Tao. When everything is suddenly perfect just as it is, and our minds for a moment stop grasping…allowing the naturalness intended to flow out in front of us.

I can notice, as we explored tonight, perhaps what exactly occurs in my psycho-physiology when I come back to myself, or check in with the Tao. It could even be to me, or you, described in a word that is as simple as “open”, or “centre”. Or anything that reminds me what this place is. India have such a thing as the “Thousand Words”…which are a collection of a thousand words to describe this feeling, this place. They have loads of different Gods just to represent this one. I encourage you to use anything that resonates with you that you can perhaps use as an anchor to find your way back in, in times you may stumble out.

Knowing these moments, means we are aware of the moments that we’re thrown out of our centres. These moments are so equally valuable…as they allow us the opportunities to find our way home again and again. Last week, we spoke about desire being the main pull that causes us to leave our centres.

What is desire? Where does desire come from? Of course, natural desire is an evolutionary impulse, which is organically part of the Tao. A desire to expand, a desire to be. It is where all life springs forth from.

But it is when our little egoic desires start to creep in, that they start to mess with the natural flow of life. When our singular, personal likes or dislikes come in and clash with life, we start to cut ourselves off from it. When life’s natural flow or celebration of itself doesn’t ‘match up’ to our wants and ideas, we can block the great idea. The one that life has for us. And we could end up missing the point!

When we hold a desire for things to be different than what they are, it means we are saying ‘no’ to life. We create an alternative reality…which in turn separates us from the experience of life. When life is just really asking us to join in on this one we’re in!

The more we relax into ourselves and let go of our personal desires and demands, we can come into tune with the bigger picture. I know within my own life, I have been disappointed by what’s happened when life hasn’t gone to my plan….only to have a greater clarity a few years down the line. It all works out. It really does. Maybe not the way 'we' want it to, but it does. Even when it doesn’t go to my plan….it works out. Then when I can finally see it from a new perspective, I can laugh a little at the things I wanted and why I put up such a fight. Life waits for you to have that little ‘aha’ moment and then it whispers in your ear…”See! You could have just chilled out a little and trusted in something bigger than little you! The big ol’ Tao!”.  It really has got your back, trust.

We’re taught almost straight away in childhood, that “This is good, this is bad”, and when we bring in our judgements and reviews on how life’s going according to our wishes, we cause the great split. We judge one thing as ‘right’ and another as ‘wrong’, and therefore cut life into small pieces, when it’s actually all just a great expression of the infinite. We become okay with this tiny little bit of life if it matches up for me, but not okay with all of that which doesn’t. As if we are somehow entitled to boss the great infinite about, like our opinion really matters. It’s really weird. And I think I have moments of doing it most days!

But the Tao doesn’t take sides. It’s not opinionated. In this modern day world, where standing up for your beliefs and ‘fighting for what’s right’, is seen as the heroic thing to do, it may sound like the way of the Tao is lazy. But I don’t think so. It is the ultimate wisdom. It takes care of itself and lets the rest be. It leaves the world alone. The Tao knows that if we all managed to drop into this space where the Tao runs through, we are already geared to do the ‘right’ thing. The vibration of the Tao is already peace. The vibration of the Tao is already kindness, love and joy. If we stand up and fight against those who are fighting, we split ourselves for the split. But if we drop into the space of the Tao for ourselves, it must really be the biggest thing we can do for humanity.

There is of course a time for courage, a time for bravery and there is always a time for sticking to our truth. But to heal the great split in the world, is to heal the split within ourselves first. To stop labelling things that happen as unjust or unfair, or wonderful. It just is, and it all has its place.

It sounds like a bit of a harsh truth, but it’s really a liberation. A dissolving of the divide. ‘Good’ and ‘bad’ things happen, and we can get emotionally fired up about them. Which is sometimes great, it means we learn from our mistakes as a human race. But trying to figure them out and understand them is still using our little mind, and not the huge wisdom of the Tao. Life’s great intelligence.

Things must play out, and we must let them. Trusting in the bigger picture we might not yet see.

Living with, living from and living for the Tao, means we accept the challenge to accept the entirety of life. To be in tune with the Tao means we don’t split ourselves or life into pieces. We rest back into the bigger picture and see it all as it is.

And if we’re feeling particularly daring one day…we could even go as far as calling it all ‘perfect’...

Adele x 

Friday, 20 January 2017

The Tao that can be spoken is not the Tao…. 

(Tao Te Ching part 2)

~ by Adele

Last week, in our first session of exploring the Tao Te Ching, we contemplated the meaning of ‘Effortless Effort’; the theme of Lao Tzu’s ancient text. This week, we play with contemplating the uncontemplateable….What is the ‘Tao’?

Steve lets us know early on that our efforts to pinpoint the Tao might be futile, for the true Tao is unnameable and indescribable. Even Mr-Tao, Lao Tzu, can’t find the words himself! We can point to it, but ultimately we have to find it within our own heart.

The Tao is this place of naturalness we fall into when we let go…when choose to loosen the grip on the reigns and leave the world alone a little bit. Since we cannot taint this place with names or labels, we can choose instead to ask….how does this place feel for you? When you drop into that natural, expansive place within yourself...

Spacious? Non-judgemental? Quiet? Rooted? Secure? Wise? Safe? Invincible? Empty? Full?


Please feel free to play in your own way at expressing what it feels like to seek refuge only inside yourself…. in the always present, mysterious energy of the Tao. See what words come up, and don’t let yourself shrug off big words like ‘peaceful’ or ‘expansive’. Our minds sometimes try to downplay those descriptions as something very ordinary, when in fact ‘peaceful’ is extremely extraordinary. Perhaps it is the most sought after feeling in the whole world by us. And if it’s inside…in there…maybe we don’t have keep looking. (Super, super cool).

The more we choose to drop into this place within, the more active it becomes. The more we recognise it as home. As truth. And connecting to this place means we create a ripple effect to everything else that’s connected to the Tao. (Which is of course…the whole of life!)

Okay, so I know we said the Tao can’t be named. But Lao Tzu does still have a good old go at putting it into words. Steve shares these extracts from the Tao Te Ching to help us feel into the mystery….

It is hidden but always present.
I don't know who gave birth to it.
It is older than God.

The great Tao flows everywhere.
All things are born from it, yet it doesn't create them.
It pours itself into its work, yet it makes no claim.

It nourishes infinite worlds, yet it doesn't hold on to them.
Since it is merged with all things and hidden in their hearts,
it can be called humble.
Since all things vanish into it and it alone endures,
it can be called great.
It isn't aware of its greatness; thus it is truly great.

The Tao is called the Great Mother;
empty yet inexhaustible,
it gives birth to infinite worlds.
The Tao is infinite, eternal. Why is it eternal?
It was never born; thus it can never die.
Why is it infinite?
It has no desires for itself; thus it is present for all beings.

It is always present within you.
You can use it any way you want.

Confused? That’s good…it must mean that we’re reaching for the true Tao, for it is beyond our little noggins’ capability of understanding! :) But it sounds very powerful, doesn’t it? Our grasping of the Tao is that it is totally super-functional, and that it is everybody’s birth right to connect to this place. But what is it that holds us back from dropping into it?

Desire is one major obstacle to being in the energy of the Tao. When we are able to accept what is currently happening, then fundamentally we can relax into what is…which is in sync with the Tao. If we are unwilling to accept what is, if we refuse to open by holding onto our desires, our access to the Tao is restricted. Of course, it’s always there, but we are cutting ourselves off from the Tao, and our happiness, by wanting things to be different than the way they are.

By relaxing our grip on our desires, Steve says, in turn our point of view will expand…and the mystery of the Tao will become available to us. How would the world look if we relax our opinions? Can we really let it go that much? Can we let our little contracted mind expand out into its bigger mind? Our little mind is of course our big mind just restricted with our judgements, desires and intellect. But we cannot practice or experience the Tao with our intellect….it is our intellect which we need to relax to see the unlimited, mysterious intelligence of the Tao.

So we can only energetically choose to drop in as often as possible….to that spacious, internal place where the Tao resides. We can open ourselves to the Tao and trust our natural responses from there. We don’t have to start thinking from the Tao though…”is this the Tao or not?!”. We practice being there, with our Yoga, with our energy, and from there…Lao Tzu says:

Practice not-doing,
and everything will fall into place.

Adele x

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Effortless Effort....(Tao Te Ching - part 1)

~ by Adele.

When life asks you to throw a spanner in the works…you must answer the call! Throwing the good kind of spanner in the works, we follow Steve’s calling to bring in the Tao te Ching as our text for the next 9 weeks of our Living Wisdom course. A Chinese Taoist scripture attributed to Lao-Tzu (Laozi), is a peaceful and timeless text, thought to be written at around the fourth century BC. “Tao” meaning “the Way”, and “te Ching” translating to “book of virtue”, the title can be translated in one way as “The Book of the Way”.

It is a profound teaching of understanding the laws of opposition, and in doing so, finding the middle path. Of recognising the unavoidable co-existence of sorrow and joy, anger and peace, hot and cold, night and day….and all of the opposing forces that make up this world. And tonight we just dip our yogi toes lightly into what we have to look forward to in the coming 9 weeks!

Steve describes the core theme of the book as the endeavour for “Effortless Effort”. Which sounds very simple and blissful….but Steve assures us, that to become effortless actually takes an enormous amount of effort. For example, learning to play the piano beautifully doesn’t happen overnight. The pianist spends hours, years…perfecting the keys, until it is inside his bones, a part of him. Until the music flows out of his soul.. .easily, effortlessly.

The ‘effortless effort’ is what followers of the Tao, or the way, describe as ‘doing non-doing”. So the ‘non-doing’ of life, actually first requires us…to do life! It all sounds a little bit like opposition, which is exactly the message of the Tao.

So how do we get in touch with this?

We explore the truth that the world we live in is full of polarity, duality, and opposing forces. Where there is night, there will be day, where there is ‘good’ there will also be ‘bad’, and as long as one side of the coin exists we cannot pick it up without touching both sides. We cannot experience joy without also knowing sorrow. And to accept and work with this unavoidable truth means that we stretch ourselves, and in turn, e x p a n d.

We don’t find our centre, or our ‘middle way’, by avoiding these things…but rather we create a greater space of ‘non-duality’, by moving into the dualities. We learn how to maintain our composure, and be okay in a full spectrum of experiences. And we know how to do this…we already do it on the mat! We stretch ourselves in our asanas one way, then the other, we work with the intensities and tension… and then we return to a centre. To an equilibrium. By stretching ourselves out in the poses, we create more space to be in our centres.

By letting ourselves dive fully into these opposites, we begin to build up a stamina. We learn to know our way home, to our centre, even within the turbulence. And we also learn to know when we’ve left that centre. Over time, as the space of our centre increases through a participation with the inevitable dualities… it takes more and more to disturb us  And perhaps eventually, through learning and applying our effortless effort, we may become quite undisturbable!

But, Steve says, to get there, we must first know what it is to not be there. We have got to go astray, in order to know what it is to be on the right path. We have to go wrong in order to know what is right. You have to know what it’s like to be the inauthentic you in order to know the real, authentic version of yourself. We have to wobble in tree pose, in order to know what it is to balance. (It’s nice to know that yoga teachers aren’t just torturing us with long hold balances!)

Steve ends tonight with the simple analogy of using a saw. If we try really hard and saw as hard as we can, it can become exhausting and we might not get very far. But if we let go a little and let the saw kind of do its own work a little bit, it does a much better job. If we try to make life ‘our way’ too much we can burn ourselves out, but if we go along with life a little more willingly, things loosen up. Maybe, life is just doing a naturally perfect job totally on its own.

But of course….it takes willingness to let go. Effort to become effortless. And we find this place, our unshakeable centre, by first letting ourselves be shook.

So”, Steve ends, “If the wind blows, we let it blow…


Adéle x