Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings.
But contemplate their return.
Each separate being in the Universe
returns to the common Source.
Returning to the Source is serenity.
If you don’t realize the Source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you.
And when death comes, you are ready.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 16, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday, Lao Tzu finished the chapter by telling us that the Master is present and can welcome all things. Today, Lao Tzu offers us a meditation on being present, and welcoming all things. I can almost hear in the background a solitary bell, chiming every couple of seconds. My breathing in and out, slows to keep pace with the chime of the bell.
In the past, I have tried to practice meditation and it never really worked for me. Why? Because I was trying. Meditation is about effortless action. It isn’t something that is forced. Trying to empty my mind of all thoughts, that isn’t going to work. We empty our minds of all thoughts by simply letting thoughts come and go. And not holding onto any of them. As we begin, our minds are quite full. There is a whole lot of emptying which needs to happen. But we aren’t going to force our minds to not think. That would be impossible. Don’t dwell on why your mind is so full of thoughts. Just let them go.
Let your heart be at peace. Lao Tzu seems to have the radical notion that the reason our hearts are in such turmoil is because we won’t let them be at peace. I think Lao Tzu is onto something here. A few chapters ago, I asked whether we were the masters of our minds and our hearts, or their slaves. We can be the Master. It is all in the practice of effortless action. Instead of doing, we need to simply be.
The Tao, which is the eternal reality, is at work in you. You can either choose to go with its flow, or swim against the current. It is the illusion which causes attachment to things. That is not the Way of the Tao. We need to let go.
I like to sit out in my backyard and watch the cars go by. People are in such a hurry. Going hither and thither. Always having someplace to go. There is so much turmoil. As you watch the turmoil of beings, contemplate their return. Each separate being in the Universe returns to the common Source. That is what today’s meditation is all about. Returning to the Source. That is serenity. Lao Tzu has talked before about the only path to serenity. It is in knowing where you come from. That is where you, and every being in the Universe, are returning.
But how can we return when we are stumbling about in confusion and sorrow, unaware of where we have come from and to where we are going? That is why I am listening to the sound of the bell chiming in my mind right now. That is why I empty my mind of all thoughts and let my heart be at peace. As I become aware of the Source, and realize where it is that I came from, I naturally become… Did you catch that? It is a natural process. You naturally become tolerant, disinterested, and amused. This is the kind of transformation that has been effected in my own life. I can talk about this without even the hint of boasting. Because, I know I had absolutely nothing to do with it. I just let the natural process occur. And you can too.
These are the hallmarks of someone who is immersed in the wonder of the Tao. Naturally tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother, dignified as a king. I know where I have come from and I know where I am going. And that realization makes living in the present moment ever so easy for me. This is contentment. This is being able to deal with whatever life brings you. Yesterday, Lao Tzu called that “welcoming all things.”
We can even welcome death, when it comes. Because that is when your return to the Source is finally complete. And you are ready.