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,
kind-hearted 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)
Today’s chapter is a meditation. It has been my constant meditation for many moons now. I appreciate the value that so many people place on setting aside time every day to formally meditate. That just never worked for me. My meditation has been something that has been pretty much a constant thing. More than a daily practice, it is a constant practice. I just learned to appreciate the value of emptiness. So, my constant practice is emptying. Emptying my mind, my self, of all thoughts.
How do I do this? Well, what worked for me was to stop trying to empty my mind, and just let my mind be empty. I let thoughts come and then I let them go. I don’t let them accumulate. I just let them go. I don’t worry about the thoughts that come. I just acknowledge that they have; and then I let them go. It is simpler than it sounds. Really.
And, I let my heart be at peace. Is my heart ever troubled? Sure it is. And I acknowledge when it is. Then, I let that trouble go. I don’t hold on to it. There is so much turmoil. I see it everywhere I look. Everywhere I turn, the turmoil of beings greets me. I experience turmoil too. I am not claiming some unnatural thing here. It is perfectly natural to experience turmoil in your life. I do. We all do. Just don’t hold on to it. Let it come. Don’t resist it. But don’t hold on to it, either. Let it go.
What Lao Tzu has taught me, especially in today’s chapter, is how to accomplish this emptying. How to be at peace. So, how do we do this? I thought you’d never ask. Remember a couple chapters ago? It was the chapter with the riddle. This is where Lao Tzu told us we can’t know it, but we can be it. It is in realizing where we come from. That is how we get to be at ease in our own lives.
Today, Lao Tzu says to watch the turmoil. See, it is perfectly alright to observe it. But just because we are watching or observing, that isn’t what we should be contemplating. That isn’t what we should be thinking about. That is how to let go of that turmoil. In our minds and in our hearts. Instead of contemplating the turmoil of beings, we need to be contemplating their return to the common Source. It is in that returning to the common Source that we experience serenity.
Remember yesterday, when we were talking about waiting until our mud settles? This is all about returning. We need to wait on the Tao, our common Source. Return to that Source. What causes us to stumble around in confusion and sorrow is our failure to realize the Source. And remember, realizing isn’t knowing. It is knowing that we don’t know. It is being empty. Having nothing. And finding you have everything.
Realizing where I come from is knowing not-knowing. It is doing not-doing. I naturally have become tolerant. It isn’t some forced thing. It isn’t against nature. It is simply going with the flow of the Tao, the way things are. I let things come without resistance. I let things go without trying to hold onto them. That is natural tolerance.
And, I have become disinterested. This is a perfectly natural thing, as well. It isn’t that I don’t care. Being disinterested means, now I can truly care; because I have no vested interest in any outcome. That is natural disinterest.
Everything amuses me. My most natural reaction to just about anyone or anything is to quietly smile. While, inside, I am laughing. Because, it is all so amusing. Am I saying I find tragedy amusing? Not at all. The tragedy is all part of the turmoil. I observe that all around me, even my own. Then, I let it go. It is what is left, that is amusing. Because it is nothing. Nothing at all.
Actually, I am as kind-hearted as a grandmother, as dignified as a king. I am so immersed in the wonder of the Tao, that I can deal with whatever life brings me. I am even ready for death. Though I am not doing anything to hasten its arrival. I am not doing anything at all. Yet, all things are being done. This is a life at ease.