Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from your own mind
and thus understand all things?
Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 10, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
I was really quite bold, yesterday, when I previewed today’s chapter by saying of the supreme virtue, “…you might think, maybe this is something hard to do. But, the only reason it is hard to put into practice is because we make it hard to put into practice. Lao Tzu will show us just how ‘easy’ it is.” Then, today arrives, and Lao Tzu leads off with six rhetorical questions, six seemingly impossible tasks for us to accomplish.
How can we be expected to accomplish these things? Keeping to the original oneness, our bodies becoming supple as newborn children again, cleansing our inner vision, loving and leading without imposing our will, letting events take their course, stepping back from our own minds. Well, I said it was us that makes it so hard. That Lao Tzu will insist it is quite easy.
What if I told you that nothing is impossible to you? We limit ourselves to a finite and temporal reality, when there is an infinite and eternal reality available to all of us. Practicing the supreme virtue is really about living a life of ease, one of true contentment. Why are we stuck in a limited and limiting reality? Let’s look at these just a little closer. And, see if we can break free.
We all know how prone our minds are to wandering. And, we often beat ourselves up over that. Why can’t I keep my mind from wandering? Damn it! There it went again. But Lao Tzu isn’t asking us to keep our minds from wandering. Take a breath, relax. Let your mind wander. Now, gently coax it back. Don’t try to do this. Don’t expend effort to make it happen. Just coax it back. You can return to the original oneness, and keep to it.
As if keeping our minds under control wasn’t enough, then he challenges us with letting our bodies become supple as a newborn’s. But is this really the challenge we make it out to be? He didn’t say to make our bodies supple. He asked if we could let it happen. We resist, when we should go with the flow of the Tao. If you want to be supple, be supple. Let yourself be supple.
And, now, we turn to talking about our inner vision. In talking about coaxing our minds and letting our bodies become supple, Lao Tzu was talking of our outer nature. But, of course, we have an inner nature as well. The core of our being, where the Tao is hidden but always present. Our inner vision needs cleansing, because, after years of disuse, there are, now, lots of cobwebs and dust in there. We need to be able to trust our inner vision. This is something Lao Tzu will talk about in a couple of chapters. So, cleansing it is important. As we allow our minds to empty, the core of our being will be filled. Intuition and spontaneity will rise. Will we let it? Will we trust it? Or, will we continue to allow our clever minds to talk ourselves out of what our intuition knows without knowing. Will we be so frightened by spontaneity, that we resist it with our bodies, making our bodies rigid, when they should be supple?
These first three tasks are only seemingly impossible because we make them harder than what they need to be. The last three are even more easily doable, if, we have taken care of the first three.
How strong is your will to power? Can you love people, and lead them, without imposing your will? Remember, the Tao leads by following.
Can you deal with the most vital matters by letting events take their course? This one is my favorite, I think, because in our arrogance, we think we can control things that are really beyond our control. The Universe is forever out of our control. Just think about this for a moment. The most vital of matters are already beyond our control. Yet, we don’t see that. We somehow think our worrying, our fretting, our trying to control, will accomplish anything good. But, if you want to know what is impossible, consider all the things we simply take for granted, that we can’t possibly do a thing about. We need to realize this. It is the only Way to deal with the most vital matters. Let events take their course. Be supple. Go with the flow.
Can you step back from your own mind and thus understand all things? Lao Tzu talked, yesterday, about doing your work and then taking a step back. This step back from your own mind means no longer relying on our own knowledge, our own cleverness. The gateway of all understanding is right there, in the darkness. Will we dare to peer into that darkness, and trust our inner vision? Or, will we choose to remain trapped in our own minds?
We want to be those who have chosen freedom over captivity. Choosing the infinite and eternal over the finite and temporal. And, Lao Tzu points us at the supreme virtue. It is the power of giving birth and nourishing, of having without possessing, of acting without expectations, of leading without trying to control. Nothing is impossible for you! Don’t make it so!
Today, I am going to be content with just this; saying my work is complete, and taking a step back. If you have any questions about any of these, feel free to message me; I will be happy to go into any of them, further.
Be sure to come back, tomorrow, where we will talk about nothing.