Colors blind the eye.
Sounds deafen the ear.
Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts weaken the mind.
Desires wither the heart.
The Master observes the world
but trusts his inner vision.
He allows things to come and go.
His heart is open as the sky.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 12, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday’s chapter was a whole lot of nothing. Today, Lao Tzu counters that with the dangers of excess. If we want to avoid the dangers of excess, we need to learn how to trust our inner vision. It always keeps things in balance.
He begins by talking about the finite and temporal reality we perceive with our senses. Colors dazzle our eyes. But, you can have too much of a good thing. Those same colors can blind us to the infinite and eternal reality. Sounds, too, in excess will deafen our ears. You can even over-do flavors, and numb your sense of taste.
We talked, a couple of chapters ago, about the importance of reining our minds, so prone to wandering, in. Lao Tzu asked, “Can you coax your mind from its wandering and keep to the original oneness?” Too many thoughts, weaken the mind. We need to realize when it is time to coax it back from its wandering.
Desires, the problem we have been talking about all along, wither our hearts. “I want, I want, I want.” We postpone contentment, when it could be ours today.
This is what it is like being a captive in a finite and temporal reality. It is a limited and limiting reality. Only what we can perceive with our senses, and nothing more. Try to take these to some extreme, and you only prove just how finite and temporal this reality is.
How do we escape this prison? How do we tap into the infinite and eternal reality, which Lao Tzu insists is right there, always present, inside each of us? Wise and virtuous persons observe the finite and temporal world around themselves. But they don’t limit themselves to that reality. They trust their inner vision.
Lao Tzu talked about our inner vision a couple of chapters ago, as well. He asked, “Can you cleanse your inner vision until you see nothing but the light?” Now, I am going to be so bold as to suggest that Lao Tzu wasn’t setting us up for failure. He didn’t ask if I could coax my mind back from its wandering, or cleanse my inner vision until I see nothing but the light, knowing I most certainly cannot. We have the infinite and eternal reality always present inside of us. It is hidden in the core of our being. And, we can access it, and use it, in anyway we want.
So, how do we do that? How do we tap into it? Because this sounds really hard. But Lao Tzu will still insist it is easy. Only we, make it hard.
So, here is the key. Are you ready?
Let it happen. Don’t try to make it happen. Let it happen. Allow things to come and go. Don’t resist them when they come. Don’t reach for them before they arrive. And, don’t try to cling to them when they leave. Open your heart. What does that mean? Desires have been withering it. But like the petals of a flower, we need to let it open up again. How? By letting go of desires. Open up your heart, until it is as open as the sky.
How open is the sky? I got a message from one of my followers, after my commentary on yesterday’s chapter. He apparently does a lot of flying in airplanes, and talked to me about the emptiness he sees when he looks out a plane’s window. The sky is so empty that it can be filled with thousands of planes, in-flight, every day. That is a whole lot of emptiness which can be filled. Open your heart like that. You will be amazed how much your heart can be filled, with still room to spare.
By not resisting, and welcoming all things, you access the infinite and eternal inside of you. You can trust your inner vision. It will show you the Way, intuitively and spontaneously.
Tomorrow, we will see that our ideas of what constitutes success and failure are equally dangerous. And, we will discover that hope and fear are equally hollow. We will be challenged to look at self in a whole new way. And when we do, we will experience the infinite and eternal reality within ourselves.