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...
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.