Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Pathologically Yours

I can't say enough good things about Do Nothing: Peace for Everyday Living: Reflections on Chuang Tzu's Philosophy by Siroj Sorajjakool! Though it's a very small book -- the main section is a tad over 100 pages -- I keep finding one great insight after another. It seems that the author and I share many personality traits in common and so his personal stories really resonate with me.

I am reading the book very slowly. While I probably could polish it off in no more than a day or two, I've found that I only want to read a few pages at a time. After I read one of his many insights, I put the book down consciously to reflect on a particular sentiment or to allow his wisdom to sit with me for a while.

In the second section of Chapter 5, he writes about his social awkwardness, anxiety and depression. And then he wrote something that I too have come to see as a special gift.
These "pathologies" have granted me the permission to descend into the very depths of my soul...Our weakness, our deficiency, our pathology can be our calling as well.
The word pathology means "outside the norm." When an individual suffers from a not-so-common disease, syndrome or condition, you acutely FEEL outside of the normal parameters of life. You see yourself as isolated and alone. It's when you come face-to-face with your pathology that you dive deep within yourself and scrape around the core of who you really are.

Contrast this with someone leading a "happy go lucky" life. When things seem just to hum along, there is far less impetus to dig down inside. You skip along the surface and breath in all life has to offer. The world is your flower and you happily pluck its petals.

At some point, however, we each need to descend to the depths of our being. Often times, the "happy go lucky" person doesn't know where to begin. The depths appear frightening and dark, so they decide to find an escape route. They may run and run, but eventually it will swallow them up.

Consequently, in a manner of speaking, those of us who suffer from pathologies have a leg up on the norm. We have a blessed gift that we too often fail to recognize. Because of our isolation, we more readily descend into those depths and, from these experiences, we can gain some insights and wisdom that many others will never experience.

I can certainly say that, for the longest time, I certainly didn't see my struggles with autism and Klinefelter's Syndrome as gifts. I do now and the way I try to share this gift with others is by writing about my experiences and ruminations on this blog.

The Sayings - Life and Death Are Equal - 2

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Fifty-Nine
Life and death are equal.
Life and death are one.

Opposites exist only
in their opposition.

Since one does not exist
without the other,
neither can be said to
truly be.

If life and death do not exist,
what can be said of me?

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

She Speaks Loudly

Following in the footsteps of Chen Jen's Nature Speaks, we can certainly attest to the fact that Mother Nature has been speaking loudly as of late. She's roaring in the southern Gulf of Mexico in the form of Hurricane Alex. She's crackling in the forests of Arizona, Manitoba, New Jersey and northeast China. She rumbled this morning in southern Mexico. She flowed strongly through river valleys in Arkansas and Oklahoma a few weeks ago and she's blown through Tornado Alley and states like Connecticut, New York, Minnesota and Montana.

It seems that, when she wishes to get our attention, she does so in grandiose ways! When she puts her mind to it, she's next too impossible to ignore. If you don't believe me, ask Tim Scott of Springfield, Kentucky. He became the first person in modern history to have been attacked by a bear within state borders.

For all our technological advances and increase in intellectual knowledge, we still live at the mercy of nature. We sometimes like to delude ourselves into thinking we can subdue and overcome it, but anytime we start feeling too big for our britches, it slaps us down like a fly at a picnic!

But for all her perceived wrath, life wouldn't exist without her. She freely gives us air to breath, water to quench our thirst, food to sustain us, shelter to (somewhat) protect us and beauty to inspire us. Just as each human needs a mother, life itself is born of her.

She is the Way.

Daodejing, Verse 44

Daodejing - Other Voices
When you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble. Give a whistle!
And this'll help things turn out for the best. And...
Always look on the bright side of life.
- Monty Python (Always Look On The Bright Side of Life)

The pursuit of happiness. It's right there in the Declaration of Independence. One of our inalienable rights. The founding fathers were smart, but they were setting us up for failure on this one.

Because if we are constantly in pursuit of happiness, we will never find it. Happiness isn't a destination, it's the journey itself. If you're living with the mindset of "I'll be happy as soon as I get this" or "as soon as I finish this..." you'll never find it.

The key to happiness is simple. Just be happy. Admittedly, that's extremely hard to do. But only because we think it should be hard. And because of our expectation of what happiness is - which, frankly, is pretty unrealistic. It's just an emotion. It will come and go. Just like being sad. Or tired. Or gassy.

Happiness is not a process. It's not a reward. It's simply a state of mind. And, lucky for us, that's the one thing we have somewhat control over - regardless of our external circumstance.

You're not happy because of things you have (or don't have) or where you're at or who is in your life. You're just happy. Don't give it a reason.

Focus on being happy instead of finding happiness. Or as Nathaniel Hawthorne put it:

Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued,
Is always beyond our grasp,
But which, if you sit down quietly,
May alight upon you.

Your state of mind always defines your environment. So choose a happy state of mind. Close your eyes and put a smile on your mind. And when you find yourself in your happy place, enjoy it! Because when you're there, things just feel... happier!

Be content with what you have;
Rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
The whole world belongs to you. (v. 44)
~ from Tao for Today, author unknown, original post date: 5/21/09 ~
This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

The Sayings - Nature Speaks

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Fifty-Eight
Nature speaks
yet has no words.

Nature speaks
in the simplicity
of its being.

Being speaks to being,
let not words get in the way.

Surrender to harmony
and hear all it has to say.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Derivations on a Theme - It Ain't Easy

Over at Annastao Blog, she filed a post today that utilized a comment I had made on a previous post, in part, about goals and procrastination. I wrote,
Maybe the problem of procrastination is born of having “goals” in the first place. As I delve deeper and deeper into the Chuang Tzu, I’m beginning to understand his main thesis better: anything that involves the ego is what holds us back.

Developing goals with the rational mind creates immediate stress and tension. Is this goal realistic? Is it on the right path? Am I moving too swiftly or slowly? Will I even know when I’ve reached it?

By having no goals — meeting life head on in each moment — anything is possible. Goals, on the other hand, set up parameters which inhibits the natural flow of life.
In today's post, she wrote, "I totally get what is being said, but I don’t know how to apply it." For me, this represents the key difference between philosophy and practice.

When delving into the great mysteries of life, philosophers are able to draw out metaphors that are distilled in great thoughts and ideas. We look at these concepts or ideas and shout, "Eureka! That's it!" These thoughts resonate with us at the deepest level. It's like uncovering a great truth or discovering a path previously shrouded by the jungle.

But once the euphoria of discovery wears off, we're often perplexed exactly HOW to apply this new insight to our lives. It seems to make such perfect sense in the abstract. We can see the path marked clearly in theoretical constructs, but when we try to move the constructs to real life situations, the guideposts along the path magically seem to disappear!

I'm beginning to think that the difference in the two situations again has to do with the ego. When the ego is dampened or jettisoned from the equation -- when we are moved by great inspiration or insight -- there are no barriers and we see things clearly. However, when we try to apply the wisdom to our lives, the ego jumps back into control and barriers shoot up like weeds.

Like Anna, I often have great difficulty applying Taoist principles to my everyday life. I want to flow like a river, yet my life more often resembles a clogged storm drain!

The Sayings - When Hope Dies

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Fifty-Seven
When hope dies
trust is born.

When all is lost
freedom reigns.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

In the Here and Now

One of the themes that Zhuangzi talks about often is living in the here and now. The past is gone and the future has yet to come. So, about the only time we can comprehend and exercise some control over is the present moment. Of course, there are lots of other philosophers and thinkers who stress this same point too. Personally, I think it's great advice and it's something I've incorporated into my life to a large degree (though I still fret to much about the future).

While I do believe that being ever mindful of the present moment is the way to go if one seeks contentment, I do see one downside to it: If an individual is so focused on the here and now, it can lead to forgetfulness.

I often find that, because I tend to leave the past behind once it has passed, I easily forget what I was focused on several weeks, days, hours or even minutes ago! I was just at the grocery store and, as I headed to the aisle where the yeast is shelved, something else caught my eye. I shifted my focus to the sale on yogurt and, once I was done picking out my favorite varieties, I couldn't remember where I was originally headed. It only dawned on me what I had forgotten once I arrived home and had no yeast!

This led me to realize it's a good thing I am not a politician! In the game of politics, opponents and the media always are searching out what the opposing candidate said to someone long ago, something that doesn't jibe with what he or she is saying now. The aim is to show the candidate speaks out of both sides of their mouth or they are a hypocrite or they simply are a doofus.

I can just imagine an intrepid reporter utilizing this strategy with me.
Reporter: Back in 1984 at a meeting of Taoist Ox Herders you stated that "x and z were not compatible."
Me: Hmm. Interesting.
Reporter: Do you deny making that statement?
Me: I neither deny nor agree that I ever said such a thing.
Reporter: I think you're dodging my question. Did you or did you not say that?
Me: I don't remember. What is passed has passed.
Reporter: Earlier today you said that x and z ARE compatible.
Me: Did I?
Reporter: I was there. We have video of you saying that. Are you now denying it?
Me: No.
Reporter: So, explain to potential voters what has caused you to flip flop on this issue.
Me: Well, if I said that x and z are incompatible in 1984, then I suppose that's the way I saw this issue then. Earlier today I saw it differently.
Reporter: And what caused this change in position?
Me: You'd have to ask the me of 1984 why he held the one perspective and the me of earlier today why he held a different perspective. The me of now doesn't know.
As I wrote above, it's a good thing I'm not a candidate for anything today. You think American politics is screwed up now? What would the voting public think of such an "in this moment" candidate?

Daodejing, Verse 43

Daodejing - Other Voices
43 ~ Flowing Around Obstacles
The most flexible things in the world can run swiftly past the most rigid things in the world,
Without having to penetrate what has no openings.
From this we can understand the benefits of non-interference.

Some things in the world are rigid and impenetrable, like the trunk of a tree or a huge stone. And yet, a soft vine can easily twine itself up the tree trunk, and a gentle breeze can flow around a huge stone. The vine and the breeze don't need to change the nature of the tree trunk or the stone in order to keep going.

On the other hand, people tend to want to change the nature of anything that comes in their way. If they come upon an obstacle, their first reaction is to try to eliminate it using either their minds or brute force. If we don't interfere with the nature of anything else, it becomes much easier to simply flow around it.

Everything in Nature seems to work together without any intervention. A soft flexible vine will curl itself on the rigid trunk of a tree, and both plants flourish and reach maturity. It's the same with the natures of people. Some people softly intertwine with the world around them, and others act like ridgepoles around which the more flexible can move. Would there be any advantage in trying to make a vine rigid or trying to make a tree trunk supple? Then why would people try to change each other's nature?

This wordless teaching filled with the advantages of non-interference.
Few in the world have the ability to grasp it.

You can see the advantages of leaving things to pursue their own paths in Nature, but it's hard to express in words how that can relate to leaving people to follow their own paths. Most people seem so dead set on trying to tell the rest of the world how they should behave that they can't see the advantages in not interfering with others. Would you really want everyone to think and act like you do? It's much more fun to interact like the vine and the tree. There are times to caress, and times to be caressed.

Most people look to their minds to solve problems and try to find the answers through their own or other people's words. Although words are a great method of communicating, there are other ways to learn lessons about how to live a happier and more beneficial life. Look at the vine and the breeze - no words are necessary to accomplish what's most advantageous to them and whatever they come into contact with. Flowing around obstacles can allow each thing to follow their own course without interfering.
~ from Dao is Open, author Nina Correa, original post date: not listed ~
This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Take a Moment

Sometimes it seems that each of us can be immune to the travails of tragedy...when it happens to someONE else someWHERE else. This is not to suggest that we don't feel sympathy or say a prayer for the victims, but it's nothing more than a passing thought and then we get back into the trivialities of everyday life.

In a manner of speaking, we have to employ these types of methods to stay sane. Every single day a tragedy of one variety or another befalls someone, somewhere. It's near too impossible to turn on the TV or radio, surf the internet or read the newspaper and not hear or see a litany of human-caused and natural disasters that impact and forever alter lives, shatter dreams and/or destroy vast tracts of land or sea. If any of us spent all our time deeply ruminating about the ephemeral happenstance called life, we would have no time to accomplish much of anything else.

With all that said, I ask you to take a moment to consider how your little corner of the world would be changed if the BP oil spill was happening in your locale. (Note: If you're living in one of the gulf states, I realize there is no room for imagination as this tragedy is your reality!) Imagine a nearby waterway, be it a creek, river, lake, bay, harbor or coastline.

I can certainly tell you that it would destroy so much in my neck of the woods. South Bend sits at the entrance of Willapa Bay, an estuary described by many as the last pristine bay of its kind on the North American Pacific Coast. Our bay represents the nesting area of many birds and waterfowl. We also have a sizable Bald Eagle population that lives here most of the year.

One of the major industries of the northern part of our county -- the area I live in -- is oyster harvesting. Along with fishing and timber, these three industries form the backbone of our impoverished economy. Though greatly underutilized, canoeing, kayaking and sailing are becoming increasingly popular.

An oil spill, only a fraction of the size of the one currently befouling the gulf, would absolutely devastate this portion of Washington. As it is, good jobs are few and far between, so adding several hundred more to the unemployment rolls would break the meager social services available here. In fact, I dare say an oil spill of any size would bankrupt our county and our 4 incorporated towns.

It's not hard to imagine at all that South Bend would become a virtual ghost town!!

Aside from the economic considerations, I know that tar balls and oil sheen would break my heart. One of the things I love about this area is that we are surrounded by water and nature. If the water became degraded and toxic, it would kill untold numbers of birds, fish, oysters and wildlife. This would cause my heart to break ten times over.

I'm sure if you envision the devastation an oil spill (or any other large scale human-engineered disaster) would cause in your community, your heart would be just as broken. A way of life that is part of who you are would be torn asunder.

I ask you to keep these kinds of thoughts in mind every single time you run across reports or images of the gulf oil spill. Remember that there but for fortune walk you or I.

Laughs from the Past

Political humor is almost always topical and tends to be dated as well. While surfing YouTube, I came across the audio for one of my favorite comedy albums of my youth. If you're under the age of 45 or so, I'm not sure at all if you will get a lot of the tongue-in-cheek jokes. For those of us of a more mature age, I hope this video brings back some laughable memories.

The Sayings - Thankfulness Arises

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Fifty-Six
Thankfulness arises
from an empty heart.

All is as it should be.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

Monday, June 28, 2010

An Identity Crisis

Dylan, our ten year old cat, is suffering from an identity crisis. Throughout the history of cats, they have been predators of little beings that scurry. Cats chase them. Cats bat them around. It's not uncommon for a cat to eat them. And, when speaking of domesticated cats, they like to catch them and then bring them indoors to show you, their human companion, what they've caught AND to present it to you as an [icky] gift.

When Dylan was a younger feline, he kept to the program. Now, however, he has become a protector of mice!

Of course, there IS a ready explanation here. The mice that Dylan seeks to protect are of the computer peripheral variety.

He has developed the recent habit of sitting between Della or I and access to the mouse of our computers. When I have tried to point out to him that it's unbecoming of a cat to protect a mouse of any kind, his typical response is something akin to a yawn. He doesn't seem the least bit interested in moving at all.

Please do not share the above information with anyone! What would our neighbors thinks!!

The Sayings - Nature Does Not Care

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Fifty-Five
Nature does not care
but abounds in spontaneity.
A spring of endless giving
yet of giving nothing knows.

Nature does not care.
A fledgling falls
a world dies.
Is will always be.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

Go Gently Unto the Night

I just read a very interesting article, Americans are Treated, and Overtreated, to Death, from the Associated Press. It discusses how people in this nation fight tooth and nail to hold onto life, even in the face of incurable disease. Often times, the "cure" is as horrific as the illness itself.

I was particularly struck by the following:
The American way is "never giving up, hoping for a miracle," said Dr. Porter Storey, a former hospice medical director who is executive vice president of the hospice group that Morrison heads.

"We use sports metaphors and war metaphors all the time. We talk about never giving up and it's not over till the fat lady sings .... glorifying people who fought to their very last breath," when instead we should be helping them accept death as an inevitable part of life, he said.
Death -- being removed from this realm as a uniquely self-conscious entity -- will come to each of us. As Taoism and other belief perspectives see it, death and life are two sides of the same coin. Each derives its meaning from the other.

Since known of us KNOWS what, if anything, awaits us on the other side of the veil, it certainly is understandable why most people want to hold on so tightly to the existence they know. We don't wish to say goodbye to loved ones and we worry how they will cope once we are gone.

But no matter our fears at the unknown next step, eventually it will come. The yin and yang of the natural process will take over and nothing we do can forestall it.

I would like to think that, when my times comes, I will be able to employ the wisdom to allow myself to go gently unto the night. But I'm a realist and I understand that none of us can know how we will deal with our imminent death until we come face-to-face with it. We can offer up any amount of romantic speculation about what we will or will not do, but until it arrives at our door, all our talking is mere blather.

Daodejing, Verse 42

Daodejing - Other Voices
The 10,000 Things
In the philosophical schools of Taoism, there really isn't much of a creation myth. The most detailed equivalent to the Biblical book of Genesis is only one stanza in a brief chapter from the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing):

"Tao gives birth to one,
One gives birth to two,
Two gives birth to three,
Three gives birth to ten thousand beings.
Ten thousand beings carry yin on their backs and embrace yang in their front,
Blending these two vital breaths to attain harmony."
-- from chapter 42, E. Chen (tr.)

The idea is that Tao is the equivalent of nothingness or void that one finds in several traditions' creation stories. From it, the One was born, some sort of undifferentiated Something that might be compared to the Hindu concept of nirvana. The One then splits into darkness and light and all the other dichotomies that are included within the concepts of yin and yang, the two. When the two unite to form the yin-yang symbol or Supreme Ultimate, that is the three. From the Supreme Ultimate (yin and yang together) were born the ten thousand things.

It is sometimes translated as the "myriad creatures" or the "ten thousand beings," but that makes one falsely assume that the concept includes only living creatures. The ten thousand things also includes inanimate objects (such as rocks, buildings, stars), emptiness (like outer space or vacuums), and abstractions (such as dreams, thoughts, principles, beliefs, language, the Internet).

The concept of the ten thousand things is important in Taoism for several reasons. It distinguishes the world of manifestation from the mystical conepts of Tao, yin, and yang, for example.

It helps students of Tao to recognize the underlying connection and unity between all people and all animals and all plants and all things and all ideas. By recognizing the many manifestations, it sometimes brings us back to an awareness of the unity from which they all have sprung. Hopefully, it helps us to keep from judging things outside ourselves as better or worse than we are...
~ from Tao Manor, author unknown, original post date: not listed ~
This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Real Life Tao - Slow and Steady

It is when we slow down that we can better be able to notice the small and often fleeting moments that add up to a life. Life is not one big party after another, nor is it one terrible tragedy after another either. Much of the times our lives may seem boring or even trivial. But that is only when we are programmed, by television or unreal expectations, that life will always be exciting and fulfilling or else we are missing something grand and important. We must learn to treasure the small moments as well as the grand ones.
~ from Cha Dao: The Way of Tea, Tea as a Way of Life by Solala Towler ~
I certainly realize that, as a disabled individual, I possess a luxury that I bet most of you don't: I'm rarely in a hurry and slowness aptly describes my everyday existence. While so many of you are tossed about because of family, work, church and social group expectations and responsibilities, you often can't spare the time to sit in solitude, focus in on the beautiful, yet trivial, aspects of life and to reflect and ponder the sort of ideas and concepts that are part of my daily routine.

While my disability and social anxiety/isolation have set the stage for my slowish lifestyle, it hasn't always been this way. During the majority my working years as a social worker, investigator and political activist, I lived a fast-paced life. No matter how many items I moved off my plate, there always seemed to be hundreds more to take their place. I always seemed to be in a frenzy of activity and it was not uncommon at all for me to work myself to exhaustion.

Even worse, I couldn't seem to shut off the spigot in my head. Every waking nanosecond (I think it was just as true when I slept) ideas, concepts, images and words streamed through my mind. My few vacations were not very relaxing because I couldn't seem to relax. Falling asleep was extremely difficult because of the constant conversations ricocheting around in my cerebral cortex.

When my work output began to diminish because of my fibromyalgia and ongoing difficulties in navigating the social world, I thought this might aid me in slowing down the running commentaries in my noggin, but they actually increased. It got to a point about a decade or so ago that I thought I would drive myself mad. No matter how hard I tried to turn down the spigot, nothing seemed to work.

Completely frustrated, I threw up my hands and quit trying. I thought I would be relegated to suffer with this demon for the rest of my life!

It was around this time that I began to investigate Taoism. The more I read and contemplated, the more the Taoist perspective spoke to me deeply. It was during this time of study and deep reflection that I began to notice that my mind was slowing down. Initially, I thought it simply was an anomaly, a brief pause in the torrential downpour of my inner life.

In time, however, I realized I was undergoing a major shift of some sort. I couldn't put my finger on what it was, but I slowly began to realize that the traffic jam in my head had dissipated. By not overtly attempting to shut it off, it somehow shut itself off. Today I can sit for long periods of time with nothing or a few lazy thoughts meandering here and there.

Now that both my external and internal self has slowed to a crawl, I notice little imperceptible things I never had the wherewithal to notice before. I can become mesmerized by dust balls floating across the carpet or watch the birds or listen to the wind and not feel as if I'm neglecting some expectation or responsibility. I feel far less stressed and I now revel in all aspects of life.

Really. That's what slowing down is all about: taking the time to be present in every moment. When we're constantly rushing to and fro -- physically, mentally and/or emotionally -- we don't give ourselves the chance to catch our breath and enjoy the lives we've been blessed with.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

The Sayings - How Do I Know?

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Fifty-Four
How do I know
these things are true?

I know not.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tea Time

I've discovered that I have two different reading methods dependent on the type of book I'm reading. When it comes to subject matter that is strictly historical, biographies and the wee bit of outright fiction I read, I tend to focus my attention solely on one book at a time. Whatever I'm reading gets my sole undivided attention.

Most of what I choose to read, however, is philosophical, in nature. These works are not the kind that I can plow through unabated. It's not unusual for me to read only a few pages at a time, then to sit to ponder the points raised, whether this be overtly conscious thought or something that sits quietly in my subconscious mind.

Because I'm not trying to understand a chronology or sequence of events and how each relates to the other, I often read more than one philosophical book at a time. This is the case right now as I'm at the halfway point of Do Nothing: Peace for Everyday Living: Reflections on Chuang Tzu's Philosophy by Siroj Sorajjakool and today I started into Cha Dao: The Way of Tea, Tea As a Way of Life by Solala Towler.

As to this second book, I must admit that, though Taoism and the art of tea both originated in China, I had never thought about the connection between the two! In reading through the first chapter, I can already see I'm in for a delightful journey!

One of the first points Towler makes is that the drinking of tea is synonymous with the cultivation of the Taoist mindset as both emphasize the phrase "go slowly". As the author writes, "Tea Mind means brewing and drinking tea in a slow and unhurried manner." Sounds a lot like Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu's take on life in general, doesn't it?

After I collect my thoughts a bit more, I will write a post solely about the idea of taking life more slowly and how this concept has certainly had a positive effect on my life.

The Sayings - To Know the Unknown

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Fifty-Three
To know the unknown
tread the pathless

Find the gateless

Know nothing
at all.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

Real Life Tao - Be Open to Possibilities

There are many different ways to define the concept "go with the flow." For me, one of these definitions is for us to be open to the possibilities that lay before us. Too often, we get an idea in our heads and, regardless of the situation or circumstances, we doggedly cling to our preconceived notions, even when those very circumstances dictate that we alter our course.

When I was far younger, I experienced this sort of problem in relation to my writing process. In school, we were taught to make detailed outlines of what we proposed to write.

First, we had to think of a topic. Next, a strong introduction was emphasized and then we needed to think of all the bullet points that the body of the composition would entail. At the end, we needed restate the introduction, briefly sum up the bullet points and then tie them all together with the final paragraph. When the writing -- several drafts, of course -- was completed, we then needed to pick a title that captured the essence of the exposition.

In outline form, this blog post might look like:
I. Introduction - Go with the Flow
II. Definitions
II. Example 1
a. Importance of example
b. Supporting evidence or theory
III. Example 2
a. Importance of example
b. Supporting evidence or theory
IV. Example 3
a. Importance of example
b. Supporting evidence or theory
V. Summation
VI. Conclusion
While this methodology may work for some people, I found early on that it interrupted the flow of my creative process. For the most part, when I utilized this method, my writing was very mechanistic and stilted. Not only did the thought not flow throughout, but new ideas or ways to express my main thesis were ignored IF they didn't fit my prefabricated outline.

And so, by the time I was 9 or 10, I decided the outline process was not for me. To satisfy my teachers, I would make out the outline AFTER I wrote whatever was written. Yes, I admit this was deceptive, but it allowed me to be open to possibilities, while not negatively impacting my grades!

These days, when I sit down to write an entry for this blog, the method I employ would curl the fingernails of most of my former teachers. I wait for a thesis to pop into me noggin and then I write the title (which serves as a sort of guide to the post). As the words flow out, I allow them to take any direction they choose and, in some cases, I have to rewrite title later on.

Another example I will offer concerns soup making. For the longest time, my wife and I simply couldn't cook together. We would each have a set idea of what the finished product should look and taste like and we would engage in ongoing sniping as to which ingredients should be added, the quantifies of said ingredients and which spices should be included. It wasn't uncommon at all for one of us to throw up our hands and say to the other in huff, "Do whatever you want!" and then walk off.

In time, however, we both independently realized how counterproductive this protocol was and so we now cook together quite frequently with delicious results! What changed is that neither of us now is married to our preconceived notions. We start off with a general idea and see where it takes us.

Last night I started with the idea of curried pumpkin soup. We discussed the various vegetables to add and settled on red potatoes, sweet potatoes, leek and a shallot. Besides curry powder, we slowly added (tasting along the way) sea salt, ginger, nutmeg, nutritional yeast and a little pepper.

As the soup came together, we both agreed it was missing something. I suggested grating in a small amount of smoked Gouda and my wife suggested adding a slice of crumbled Velveeta. Once these two ingredients were added to the mix, we both gave a big thumbs up to our joint creation!!

I will be the first to admit that cheese was not part of my original idea. If this had been in my days of yore, I would have dismissed its addition out of hand. My soup might have been tasty, but not as tasty as what we created last night. Our delicious result was due to the fact that both of us have come to understand that being open to possibilities opens more doors and leads to the kind of success that preconceived notions could never fathom.

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

Daodejing, Verse 41

Daodejing - Other Voices
Verse 41
When a superior man hears of the Tao,
he immediately begins to embody it.
When an average man hears of the Tao,
he half believes it, half doubts it.
When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud.If he didn't laugh, it wouldn't be the Tao.

Thus it is said:
The path into the light seems dark,
the path forward seems to go back,
the direct path seems long,
true power seems weak,
true purity seems tarnished,
true steadfastness seems changeable,
true clarity seems obscure,
the greatest seem unsophisticated,
the greatest love seems indifferent,
the greatest wisdom seems childish.

The Tao is nowhere to be found.
Yet it nourishes and completes all things.

[For Personal Development]
  • How can a finch understand the ambitions of a swan! (Chinese proverb)
  • Visionary leaders are often ahead of their time; their ideas are so revolutionary that people laugh at them.
  • Paradox is the true essence of life.
  • To evolve we must step into the darkness of the unknown.
  • Have a dream so big so you cannot achieve it until you can grow into a person who can.
[For Coaching] Hold the client to a higher standard than they might hold themselves.
  • Coaches go deep with the client and look beyond the surface, to see the truth underneath.
  • Be curious and stay curious- the client has his/her own reason, even if it does not seem to be apparent at a first glance.
  • The power of coaching lies in getting our own agenda out of the way so that the client can grow.
  • The cleaner and simpler the questions, the greater the opportunity for the client to express themselves.
~ from Practice the Tao, author Julia Chung, original post date: 4/5/10 ~
This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

The Sayings - If You Know

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Fifty-Two
If you know
you know not
why not take it to
its end?

An honest heart
won’t be fooled
by lies however fair.

What arises from the Void
your heart will know is

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Looking in All the Wrong Places

Many search in vain for the sage who can lead them to understanding never realizing they have no concept of who it is they are looking for. The sage sees them every day, offering words of wisdom to deaf ears.
~ Today's Daily Quote from Advice by Lao Fzu ~
This daily quote certainly falls in line with the last posted saying of Chen Jen and a few of my recent posts. In my humble opinion, far too many of us spend our lives searching for someone -- anyone -- to lead us to a supposed promised land. Society has conditioned us to believe that there are divine or principled guides out there waiting for us to find them and willing to lead us by the nose once we prostrate ourselves before them.

So, we spend our lives searching and searching. We look high and low, far and near. Sometimes we find someone who we believe will teach us about the meaning of life, but the questions refuse to let go and continue to dog us. Many people spend their entire lifetime latching unto one person after another. They feel better about themselves temporarily, yet, in short order, they become disillusioned and start the search anew.

It's sad to say that it seems the majority of people are looking in all the wrong places and constantly barking up the wrong tree. There actually is the kind of person they are looking for; they simply don't recognize the image they see in the mirror everyday!

If you're looking for the one sage to provide the essence and sustenance to your life's dreams, look inside yourself. There, removed from all the manifestations of ego, is your vital core, that part of you that swims in the stream called Tao.

You are the answer to your quest. You are the sage of your own life.

Will you listen?

The Sayings - The Sage Is No One

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Fifty-One
The sage is no one.
You hoped for a blazing star?

The sage behaves as he does.
You expected a paragon of virtue?

The sage cares not for appearances
nor a known sage to be.

What does it mean
that the sage is not
what you would have him be?

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

24 - Silly Nilly

No matter where in the world you go, no matter how many languages are spoken, and no matter how many times cultures and governments clash, the laughter of children is universally uplifting.
~ from 365 Tao: Daily Meditations, Entry 24 ~
In many, many instances, Lao Tzu encourages us to be like children. While this urging seems odd to the sensibilities, I think he was thinking of the laughter that Meng-Dao mentions above.

When we are very young -- before that time when logic, rationality, responsibility and worry place a death grip on our being -- we are able to see the innocent joy that this life can offer. Funny sounds! Interesting shapes and textures! Weird connections! And nothing in particular!

How often do we as adults really laugh without worrying about appearances and proper etiquette? How often do we drop the veil of adulthood to dance silly nilly in the meadows of our lives? How often do we stay up late at night to have ticklefests or pillow fights?

There is a time for the expression of each emotion in our toolbox. While we so quickly grasp devotion, work, commitment, seriousness, misery, anxiety and responsibility, we too often allow the mirthful tools to sit to gather dust.

Alas, if we don't exercise our funny bones often enough, they can cease to operate altogether. When innocent laughter is not allowed to spring forth, life becomes drudgery and a slow march toward death.

Do yourself a favor. Let your silly child out.

Daodejing, Verse 40

Daodejing - Other Voices
Verse 40 - Laughable
When a high man hears about Tao, he tries hard to do it.
When a middle man hears about Tao, he is half in doubt.
When a low man hears about Tao, he laughs out loud.
If he doesn't laugh, it is not worth being Tao.

Therefore, the Chien yen has it.
Evident Tao seems vague.
Advancing Tao seems retreating.
Smooth Tao seems tangled.

The highest attainment seems like a valley.
The vastest attainment seems lacking in something.
The firmest attainment seems lazy.
The plainest attainment seems changing.

Big's white seems black.
Big's square has no corners.
Big's vessel will never be completed.
Big's note has almost no voice.
Big's image has no form.

Tao is hidden and has no name.
It is only Tao who lends anything generously and accomplishes anything very well.

Rapid Decoded
If you are a true seeker of Tao, kind of a samurai of life, you simply try hard to attain it.

If you are an ordinary person, you are half in doubt of Tao.

If you are a base person, you just make fun of Tao.

When you talk to someone about Tao and if he doesn't laugh, what you are telling him might not be true Tao.

Therefore, the old sayings Chien yen say as follows.

In Taoism, something evident seems vague.
In Taoism, something advancing seems retreating.
In Taoism, something smooth seems tangled.

"A valley" means void. If you are void, you have attained Tao. But don't be misled by the word. "Void" is plentiful. To become void (="mu" in Japanese), you have to remember that true You are Tao and accelerate the cycle of reception and emission of its energy.

When you have attained Tao, which means that you have remembered that you are Tao, you feel as if you were lacking in something. You don't have to feel plenty.

If you want to attain Tao firmly, be lazy. Don't be industrious. Don't work hard. Abandon the virtuous idea of diligence. It is counterproductive.

If you think you have attained Tao, it is not there already. Tao needs constant change. Tao itself is change.

"Big" is a nickname of Tao. (See Chapter 25) Tao's white is black. Do not judge.

Tao's square has no corners. Tao is not tangible. The square in front of you is a hologram projected in your mind.

Tao's vessel will never be completed. Completion is the beginning of collapse. Tao doesn't have time. Therefore, it is forever.

Tao's note is the sound without sound. Sound is part of your hologram.

Tao's image has no form. Tao is invisible. All you can see is your hologram. However, everything is a manifestation of Tao, a loving catalyst asking you to love it. Accept its love, or its energy. Be grateful to all. Gratefulness is a way to love them, a form of emitting back the energy. Create the cycle of the energy (=Love, =Tao).

Tao is invisible, but always with you because true You are Tao. It is useless to define what Tao is. It doesn't need a name. Even the name of "Tao" is inappropriate.

Tao the fundamental energy is generous. It gives energy to all without judgement or segregation. With this energy Tao, you create everything. Abandon the idea of an objective world outside you because you project all in your mind.
~ from Tao by Matsumoto, author Naoto Matsumoto, original post date: not listed ~
This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

More Than a Bit of Whimsy

I've been thinking a lot lately about the George Carlin stand-up comedy routine in which he examines the phrase "in your own words." Of course, he points out that few people have their own private language and that, to communicate, we all utilize the same words.

I have given some not-too-serious consideration to starting another blog entitled In My Own Words. The blog's title would be the ONLY place in which I utilized recognizable words in the English language. Everywhere else, I would write pure gobbledygook. For example, the introductory post might go something like this:
!Cramyae fropke yestinkle blazh-

Surnoch eleptryoli yzzr pompeeloutrokornspern- ,Pozzoda > fropke portalonkjr mimiminono :{}

Needless to say, I have two serious concerns re undertaking such an epic endeavor. First, I'd worry that it might attract crackpots -- you know, those kinds of people who might just decide to respond in the comments section with their own gobbledygook. I don't know if I could handle the competition.

My second worry -- owing to the sad shape of the world these days -- is that far too many people might decide that I am an alien from a distant planet sent to save the human race or, even worse, people might start worshiping me as some sort of new age deity. Since a lot of people seem to be attracted to sensationalism and the bizarre, I might create a movement that will build up so much momentum that I would be unable to pull the plug on it.

Muqiterwo demvesteringzy talplot!!

I seem to be in the silliest of moods this morning so -- throwing all caution to the wind -- I decided to take the plunge. My completely farcical new other blog, In My Own Words, can be found here. Who knows how long I'll keep it there?

If there IS some sort of place that our spirits/souls/essences go, I hope George Carlin is looking up, down or sideways and wearing a wry smile.

The Sayings - Death Cures All Ills

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Fifty
Death cures all ills.

Thus even now
death helps to calm
these troubled seas.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Degrees of Sagacity

In an earlier post today, The True Sage, I made the point that I was of the opinion that "the only true sages are dead ones." In response, reader Iktomi "for me, i don't really understand what the big ho-hum is about being a sage anyway. a sage means someone who is wise, yes? well, every human being is wise in some way or another, and no human being is wise in all things!"

I certainly agree with the tenor of her statement. Each of us has moments of sagaciousness; moments when we exhibit keen insight and wisdom. In a manner of speaking, when we show that we're acting, speaking or thinking from sagacity, we are exercising the sage-ness within our being.

However, the main thrust of the earlier post is that -- within our world beset with competing egos -- there are many people who hold themselves out as possessing profound sagacity. They foolishly believe they have won the battle with their ego and declare themselves to be a sage, a guru, a leader, a prophet or, in extreme cases, a messiah.

While there may be no question that such individuals possess keen insights into particular aspects of life, I haven't met (personally or virtually) ANYONE who stands above other humans in that they utilize sagacity in all areas of their being. For example, one person may exhibit wisdom in simplifying their lifestyle, but when it comes to relationships or compassion, they fall far short of the mark.

My underlying message -- one that I believe echoes Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu -- is to be always suspicious whenever you encounter a self-defined sage. As I've pointed out numerous times before, a true sage would not identify themselves as such. So, when you meet someone that does bestow that sort of title on themselves, you can be assured that they have yet to attain the capabilities needed to make it so.

Besides, while another individual's wisdom certainly can aid each of us in our own life's journey, the wisdom we should rely on the most is our own. Just because x, y and z have worked for the self-styled guru DOES NOT mean it will work or be as effective for you or me.

The Sayings - Have You Found It?

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Forty-Nine
Have you found it?
Then lose it.
And find and lose it some more.

Have you arrived?
Then leave
and wander once again.

The Void is boundless.
The path has no end.
The journey and awakening
are one and the same.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

The True Sage

Each week as I surf around the internet looking for blogs and web sites focused on or discussing Taoist themes and principles, I am struck again and again by the number of individuals who view themselves as modern day sages. Their stated purpose for being on the internet is that, having become enlightened, they wish to share their knowledge and wisdom with all who meekly come to their doors.

For some, it's nothing more than a new fangled guise to extract money from the unsuspecting. Many, however, aren't looking to pick money out of your pocket, they are more desirous of recognition and being fawned over.

It raises the question of whether or not a true sage would even bother with the internet at all. In my estimation, a truly enlightened individual would see no need to write, whether it be a blog or a book. Such a person would see no use in YouTube videos or podcasts. They wouldn't run around hosting retreats and seminars.

For one thing, a true sage wouldn't view themselves as a sage at all! Giving oneself that kind of title is a way of assuaging one's ego. It's an attempt to bestow recognition on oneself and a true sage would be content in his or her anonymity. The simple act of announcing to the world that you are a sage necessarily means you are nothing more than a pretender trying to fool yourself and trick others.

The true sage lives and breaths their sagacity in the routine moments of life. There is no need for grandstanding or shining the light of popularity upon themselves. A sage would never stand up in a crowd and yell, "Look at me! Look at me!" These are the acts of a person held prisoner by the tentacles of ego.

But what about Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, you may ask. They wrote books that have been passed down through the ages and we consider both of them to be sages. Yes, but THEY didn't advertise themselves as sages -- this title was bestowed by others in subsequent generations. At the time their works were penned, they were ego-controlled human beings just like the rest of us. They ate breakfast, went to work, made love, picked their noses and wiped their butts just like all their countrymen then and like you and I now.

So, in my estimation, one could say that a sage is never a sage in his or her own time. It is a title we bestow upon others when their thoughts and words resonate through the years.

In other words, the only true sages are dead ones.

Daodejing, Verse 39

Daodejing - Other Voices
working in harmony with Tao, leaving no trace
The ongoing news about the torrent of oil spewing continuously from a man-made hole on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, with its devastating impact on the environment, is sickening. My son’s kindergarten teachers have been discussing with the kids the Quaker testimony of stewardship, the idea that, during our limited lifetimes, we are responsible for the earth and how we treat it. Despite the current fashion among advertisers to promote everything as “green,” there is an impetus in our modern culture for each of us to maximize our profits, push the envelope, make an impact on the world, make our mark. But what kind of mark do we want to make, exactly?

“Give up wanting to be important; let your footsteps leave no trace.”
–Chuang-tzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell in “The Second Book of the Tao,” Penguin Books, 2009, p. 86.

Rather than pushing the envelope at all costs, there is a way to use our scientific and technological advancements with less greed and carelessness, with more wisdom, and more of a sense of stewardship. In other words, there is a way to work in harmony with Tao. For example, our curiosity, our scientific and technological progress can be directed toward energy sources like the wind and the sun, using what is all around us, barely leaving a trace of waste behind. When you work in harmony with Tao, you can accomplish things without leaving an artificial swath of destruction in your wake.

“In harmony with the Tao,
the sky is clear and spacious,
the earth is solid and full,
all creatures flourish together,
content with the way they are,
endlessly repeating themselves,
endlessly renewed.

When man interferes with the Tao,
the sky becomes filthy,
the earth becomes depleted,
the equilibrium crumbles,
creatures become extinct.”
–Tao Te Ching, Chapter 39, Stephen Mitchell translation

In working with Tao, in becoming like the Tao, you can accomplish huge feats, yet can do so with such graceful fluidity, with such lack of forcing, with a such a sense of respect for what is around you, that you seem to leave no trace…you almost seem to have never been there at all, and yet, what you achieved was so much a part of the Tao that it never dies.

“To him who dwells not in himself, the forms of things reveal themselves as they are. He moves like water, reflects like a mirror, responds like an echo. His lightness makes him seem to disappear. Still as a clear lake, he is harmonious in his relations with those around him, and remains so through profit and loss. He does not precede others, but follows them instead.”
Chuang-tzu quoted in the Te of Piglet by Benjamin Hoff, 1992, p. 186

In the Forward to his translation of the Tao Te Ching (1988), Stephen Mitchell notes that, “About Lao-tzu, its author, there is practically nothing to be said….Like an Iroquois woodsman, he left no traces…All he left us is his book…” The Iroquois woodsmen and other Native Americans were able to live in harmony with the natural world, valuing it and using it as a source of sustenance, but not depleting it or destroying it. By setting aside our greed, corruption, and impatience, by cultivating wisdom, we in the modern world can do the same, using our science and technology to preserve the world, rather than destroy it.
~ from Aspiring Taoist, author Aspiring Taoist, original post date: 5/14/10 ~
This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

The Sayings - Grasp Nothing

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Forty-Eight
Grasp nothing.
All is yours.

Lose what you cannot keep.
Find what you cannot lose.

Be nothing.
Be all.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

The Bear Essentials

In their writings, Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu remind us that each being has its own nature. Too often, however, humankind tries in vainly to force the nature of our species upon others. When other beings act in a way that is natural for them, but not the way we desire, we become angry and self-righteous. How dare they!!!

So, it was refreshing to read a news report about a geologist in Alaska who was attacked by a grizzly bear and yet had no hard feelings nor animus towards the bear.
Propped up in his hospital bed Wednesday, Miller gingerly touched what he thought were bite marks just above his buttocks on his left side. His right arm was heavily bandaged from bicep to wrist; another bulky bandage encased his right thigh, which the bear had chewed from the back of his leg to the front.

Miller's face was unscathed except for a few scratches, but the bear nearly ripped off his left ear. Using his finger, he traced where it had been reattached with two rows of stitches.

Still, the geologist, who until five years ago worked as a roofer, said he holds no grudge against the bear.

"The bear was just doing what bears do," Miller said.
No Taoist sage could say or write it any better!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Sayings - I Once Felt Compassion

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Forty-Seven
I once felt compassion
for those without the Tao.

Then compassion
for those who felt compassion
for those without the Tao.

Then compassion for those
who felt compassion
for those who felt compassion
for those without the Tao.

Now I care not at all.
Yet nothing has changed.

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

What's in a Label?

In order for people to distinguish one thing from another, we have created labels. A label, as in a specific product or commodity, details the various aspects of it. The labels that we utilize in everyday conversation represent a kind of shorthand; a way to sum up many attributes in a solitary word or phrase.

The labels on food products inform us of all the various ingredients that the item contains. For example, a can of soup might be made up of carrots, tomatoes, green beans, chicken stock, potatoes, peas, celery, a bunch of spices and some items that few people can pronounce! The label will also list the amount of fat, carbs, protein, fiber, sodium, cholesterol, and the percentage of certain vitamins.

In religious terms, the word Christian denotes a follower of Jesus Christ. Muslim means one who surrenders to Allah. A Buddhist is an individual who follows the teachings of the Buddha. And a Pagan connotes an adherent of a polytheistic belief system.

When a person describes themselves or someone else as a Democrat or Republican -- at least in the US -- they are indicating whether they fall on the left or the right of the mythic center line of politics. In this same vein, an optimist or a pessimist denotes whether someone falls to the left or right of the midpoint of their expectations of the future.

But what exactly is a Taoist? What does that mean?

If we will remember from the writings of Lao Tzu, Tao is a made up word. It is the shorthand version for the mysterious unknown essence of life itself. Tao doesn't represent a he, she, object or an it. Tao means everything and nothing. So, if we're going to be completely honest, the label Taoist doesn't really mean anything in particular.

In fact, depending on whether a person embraces everything in the nothingness or nothing in the everything, the word Taoist could simply mean all people (everyone) or no one at all. It ends up being a label of a non-label.

Since this blog is entitled The Rambling Taoists, all it truly signifies is two gents who wander aimlessly in the mysterious unknown essence within the void of nothingness.

Try saying that three times real fast!

Daodejing, Verse 38

Daodejing - Other Voices
Understanding Wu-Wei or Non-doing
I understand that this concept of non(t)-trying can be confusing. We are so used to trying to do or to control everything. We have strayed far from our True Nature and most have lost their way back. The whole point is simply that we are already in total control before we start trying to "control". This drive to "control" is your Ego fighting against your True Nature. In the calm center of the moment, the Present, when there is no thought or interference from the Ego, we are truly in control. The ancient Taoist principle of "wu wei" is exactly what I am talking about here. Please read this definition from Wikipedia:

"Wu Wei" means natural action - as planets revolve around the sun, they "do" this revolving, but without "doing" it; or as trees grow, they "do", but without "doing". Thus knowing when (and how) to act is not knowledge in the sense that one would think "now" is the right time to do "this", but rather just doing it, doing the natural thing.

"Wu" may be translated as not have or without; "Wei" may be translated as do, act, serve as, govern or effort. The literal meaning of "Wu Wei" is "without action" and is often included in the paradox wei wu wei: "action without action" or "effortless doing". The practice of wu wei and the efficacy of wei wu wei are fundamental tenets in Chinese thought and have been mostly emphasized by the Taoist school. The aim of wu wei is to achieve a state of perfect equilibrium, or alignment with the Tao, and, as a result, obtain an irresistible form of "soft and invisible" power."

All of the true disciplines such as Yoga, Tai Chi, the myriad of meditation practices, and everyday disciplines such as boxing, dance, and archery, teach this concept too. It is only in the Present, where no thought occurs that we are at our best. This is when we are all powerful and fully human. This is the only way to achieve oneness with our True Nature, Self, God, Tao, or whatever you choose to call "that which can not be named". It is our Source and is the Source of everything in the universe. It is who we are even though the Ego "says" we are something separate.

The Ego is nothing more than interference - no different from static on a radio is as it drowns out a station you want to listen to. Tune out this noise and the signal comes in strong. Silence the mind and act without thought. "Doing" is acting with thought so your energy is scattered, not focused, and far less gets done. "Non-doing" is acting without thought so your total being is completely focused on the act and therefore all is done. "Doing" is hard work. "Non-doing" is relaxed and effortless. Simply put, doing and thinking oppose each other and diminish the act. Non-doing, in contrast, is acting without internal opposition so one's total ability is focused on the act. Chapters 48 and 38 of the Tao Te Ching by Lao-tse show the importance of non-doing:

The student learns by daily increment.
The Way is gained by daily loss,
Loss upon loss until
At last comes rest.

By letting go, it all gets done;
The world is won by those who let it go!
But when you try and try,
The world is then beyond the winning.
~ Translated by Raymond B. Blakney

Chapter 38 (partial)
A truly good man is not aware of his goodness,
And is therefore good.
A foolish man tries to be good,
And is therefore not good.
A truly good man does nothing,
Yet leaves nothing undone.
A foolish man is always doing,
Yet much remains to be done.
~ Gia-Fu Feng & Jane English, 1972

The principle of wu-wei contains certain implications. Foremost among these is the need to consciously experience ourselves as part of the unity of life that is the Tao. Lao Tzu writes that we must be quiet and watchful, learning to listen to both our own inner voices and to the voices of our environment in a non-interfering, receptive manner. In this way we also learn to rely on more than just our intellect and logical mind to gather and assess information. We develop and trust our intuition as our direct connection to the Tao. We heed the intelligence of our whole body, not only our brain. And we learn through our own experience. All of this allows us to respond readily to the needs of the environment, which of course includes ourselves. And just as the Tao functions in this manner to promote harmony and balance, our own actions, performed in the spirit of wu-wei, produce the same result.
~ Ted Kardash

These Eastern concepts can be a little confusing at first but after one tries to understand for a period of time, then just relax, clear the mind, and you will understand.
~ from Gathering Wisdom, author Tom Langley, original post date: 11/26/08 ~
This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

The Nature of Nature

Tao as nature includes everything. There is nothing excluded from Tao..."The Tao principle," said Lao Tzu, "is what happens of itself [tzu-jan]."
Following on the heels of Chen Jen, Siroj makes the same point. The question is not what IS nature, but what is NOT?

So often, when most of us say we need to get out in "nature," we're referring to a park, trees, oceans, meadows, desert, etc. We differentiate the untamed wilderness from our everyday lives in human society. But if all things are a manifestation of the one -- life itself -- then why must we go anywhere?

We are in and part of nature wherever we are. Standing in the middle of Times Square surrounded by thousands of people is as much nature as walking down a lonely trail in the Great Smoky Mountains or standing on an isolated beach on the Pacific Ocean.

I'm sure you've heard somebody say or maybe you yourself have said, "I need to get back to nature." Back? You've never left it.

Nature is everywhere you are.

The Sayings - What Is Nature? (I)

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Forty-Six
What is nature?

What is not?

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

The Sayings - Positive Clings to Negative

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Forty-Five
Positive clings to negative
for there it finds its being.

Without this ceaseless judging
what would the ego be?

It is only in division
that self has reality.

The path is clear.
The terms are set.
The price of freedom?
Yet what is there to

This post is part of a series. To view the index, go here.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SNL Reality?

Since its beginnings in 1975, I've been a big fan of Saturday Night Live (SNL), the irreverent comedy program on NBC. One of the features of this program is comedic commercials for a, shall we say, wide assortment of oddball products. Since they are written tongue-in-cheek, a viewer knows that none of these so-called products would ever see the light of day...or would they?

I remember one specific fake ad from the early years of the show. If memory serves me correctly, we see Gildna Radner mopping the floor with the "product". Dan Aykroyd grabs the spray can and squirts what looks to be whip topping on his ice cream. They start arguing about what the product is for. Chevy Chase, the "product" spokesman appears and says something like, "Yes, Fluckers is a floor cleaner AND a dessert topping!"

I mention this comedy sketch because I read a brief article in the Christian Science Monitor today that made me take pause.
Andrew Meyer believes that he's found a "whey" to help Vermont's dairy farms by turning a cheesemaking byproduct into an eco-friendly wood finish.

Like other water-based substitutes for traditional (oil-based) polyurethane, Vermont Natural Coatings' (VNC) PolyWhey dries fast and emits no toxic fumes. It releases very low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), about one-quarter the amount released by some polyurethanes. Unlike other waterborne finishes, its hardness makes it a viable option for professional-grade work, experts say.
The irony here is that every morning I sprinkle sweet whey into my fruit smoothie. So, now the faux TV ad plays in my head: Fluckers is a wood finish AND a nutritional additive.

Yikes!! Fiction has become reality!

The Sayings - A River Finds Its Way (II)

The Sayings of Chen Jen

Number Forty-Four
A river finds its way
without debate or consultancy,
doing what rivers be.

It yields and fills the empty space
yet never is contained.
It flows and fills
like Life itself
and meanders to the sea.

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