It Is Good To Be Alive

Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant;
dead, they are brittle and dry.

Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.

The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 76, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Today, once again, Lao Tzu reminds us of what we think we already know. Remember where you came from. When you were born, you were soft and supple. Alive. So it is with all things. Even plants start out this way, tender and pliant. We know these physical attributes. We know how soft a newborn is. We know how tender the shoots of a plant are.

But, if we only know the physical attributes, it is like only paying attention to the flower, without concerning ourselves with the fruit. We need to get past the surface and start plumbing the depths. Lao Tzu isn’t talking about tangible properties. He is talking about the intangible qualities that make us alive. We need to realize what we think we already know. Then, is when it makes a difference in our lives. Then, we can know true contentment.

How sad it is that so many of us are no longer soft and supple, yielding to the flow of the Tao. It is the only way to truly be alive. When we are stiff and hard, inflexible, then we are as good as dead. A tree that is become brittle and dry is fit for the ax.

The Tao is always flowing, alive. Let it. Go with that flow. Bend and yield. Be alive. If you resist, if you are hard and stiff, you will be broken. Only those who remain soft and supple will prevail.

I Couldn’t Just Let This Stand Alone

When taxes are too high,
people go hungry.
When the government is too intrusive,
people lose their spirit.

Act for the people’s benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 75, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Today’s chapter is one where it is tempting to just post Lao Tzu’s words, and let it stand alone. What more needs to be added? We know this, already. Right? But yesterday, we talked about the profound difference between knowing something and realizing it. And the problem is, we may know it; but, few realize it.

In Lao Tzu’s day, everybody also knew it. Taxes were collected by those in power to enrich themselves at the expense of the taxpayers, those not in power. And people went hungry; the tax burden was so high. But that was Lao Tzu’s day. Today, we don’t realize that the more things have changed, the more they have remained the same. Most delude themselves with the notion that taxes are not a burden any more. We don’t tax the poor. We tax the rich, those that can afford to pay their fair share (whatever that is supposed to mean), and the poor benefit from the goodwill of our rulers; because that money, collected from the wealthy, is passed along to the poor. We declared war on poverty, damn it, and no one is going hungry because of how high taxes are, any longer.

That is a delusion. The reality is that the more things have changed, the more they have remained the same. In spite of the rhetoric (lies) of those in power, taxes collected are still being used to enrich those in power at the expense of everybody else. And, because taxes are too high, people are, indeed, going hungry.

I can already sense the cognitive dissonance welling in up in people’s minds. That just can’t be. We have more people than ever on food stamps in my country; people can’t possibly go hungry. There are all sorts of government housing assistance; so, no one could possibly be homeless. And, I can’t seem to go more than a day without hearing some clueless, yet privileged, person who has never known what it is to choose which essential you are going to have to do without this month, because there wasn’t enough money left over from your paycheck after taxes, complain about “the poor” and their “smart phones”.

The reality is that the government with its largesse promising to “help” the poor out of their poverty has managed to ensure there are always going to be more and more in need of their handouts. When taxes are too high, people go hungry. Don’t just know it. Realize it. It is true because that is the way things are. It is the way things always have been. Taxes are not intended to enrich anyone but those collecting the taxes. The rest of us go hungry.

See how I am? I wrote five paragraphs on the opening line, alone. Then there is the second line: A government that is too intrusive causes people to lose their spirit. I was thinking of this while listening to our politicians babbling about what to do with the collection of our phone records. I posted an article by Sheldon Richman earlier about this. Some of our politicians can almost talk a good game. Like they know that the government can’t be too intrusive, or people will lose their spirit. But if you pay attention to them for long enough, you will soon see their true colors. They may “know” it, but they don’t realize it. Not really. And they don’t have any real intention of actually doing anything about it.

We have to get beyond knowing to realizing. If they really wanted to act for the people’s benefit, not just say they are, but actually wanting to do it, they would trust us, and leave us alone. But they don’t trust us. And they won’t leave us alone. So, they’ll keep paying lip service to those who raise civil liberty concerns, all while finding new clever ways to keep doing exactly what they have always done.

And people still go hungry, while getting more and more depressed.

Those Aren’t Your Tools

If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you aren’t afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can’t achieve.

Trying to control the future
is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.
When you handle the master carpenter’s tools.
Chances are that you’ll cut your hand.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 74, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday, I took comfort in trusting that the Tao’s net covers the whole Universe and won’t let a thing slip through. This comfort enables me to live a life of ease, right here and now; instead of postponing it until some future unknown. Today, Lao Tzu continues with instructions on how to live at ease in the present. If we want to be at ease in our own lives, we must realize that all things do change; and, hold onto nothing. We don’t know what the future is going to bring, besides change. Of that we can be certain. But what will change? Perhaps everything. I expect nothing will remain the same. Everything will change. I can’t control the future. Try as I might, I can’t do it.

Trying to hold on to things is trying to prevent change. You can say that you know that all things change, but until that “knowledge” is actually making a difference in how you are living your life right here, right now, your knowledge means nothing. That is why, I think, we must do more than know. We must realize. Realizing makes it real. Knowledge alone, doesn’t improve us. Realizing is the key to actually understanding. Knowledge alone doesn’t prevent us from struggling against change. Even knowing that all things change, we still are nagged by the twin phantoms of hope and fear. They challenge us to think about our future. Then we try to control the future.

But realizing, reveals hope and fear to be the phantoms they are. By realizing, we see that they aren’t what is real. What is real is the here and the now. Change is always upon us. Hoping that things are always going to be just so, or fearing dying – these rob us of a present life of ease. There is nothing we can’t achieve if we aren’t sidetracked by these phantoms.

And it simply isn’t our place to try and control the future. The Tao has us all covered in its net. We want to think we are the ones in control. But there are so many things that are completely out of our control. Think about that, right now. So many things are completely out of your control. Why should that produce fear and anxiety? The Tao’s net has you covered. It has always had you covered. In spite of all the things you can’t control, you have made it thus far. And you will continue to make it; because the Tao has you covered. It has your back. So stop worrying about things beyond your control; and, start living your life like you believe it. Don’t try to handle the master carpenter’s tools. Allow things to change. Allow things to both come and go. Enjoy this present moment.

What I Find Comforting

The Tao is always at ease.
It overcomes without competing,
answers without speaking a word,
arrives without being summoned,
accomplishes without a plan.

Its net covers the whole universe.
And though its meshes are wide,
it doesn’t let a thing slip through.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 73, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Today’s chapter may be the most comforting chapter in all the Tao Te Ching. Lao Tzu has told us again and again, in a variety of ways, how to be at ease in our own lives. Unlike the way that is offered to us by the “powers that be” in our world, which promise us that we can only have a life of ease after many years of hard work and saving for our retirement, Lao Tzu tells us that life of ease can be ours now. It isn’t conditioned on being born in the right family or the right country. It isn’t based on our ethnicity or our gender. And it isn’t based on having earned it. It is unconditional. Lao Tzu tells us that his teachings, simplicity, patience, and compassion, are the key to this life of ease. We only need to put these into practice (it is easy to do so), and the life of ease is ours for the enjoying, right now.

Have I oversimplified things? Does it sound too good to be true? Is it really that easy? Well, it isn’t some get rich quick scheme. Since I have put Lao Tzu’s teachings into practice, I have learned how to be content with a simple and ordinary life. Maybe simple and ordinary doesn’t sound very appealing to you. Maybe that is why we fight so hard to have a complicated, yet hopefully extraordinary life. I just got tired of striving. That is what made it easy for me. When you give up struggling, it isn’t a struggle any longer. I tried, I really did try to play by the rules that the “powers that be” have established. But I came to realize that the system is rigged. And I am not going to come out on top. I could continue striving to work within the system; only to find when I got to the end of my life, it had all been for naught. Or, I could dare to be different.

It surprised me, at first, how being different came so naturally to me. Conforming should have been the easier road. That is what I thought. That is what I had been taught. So, I was pleasantly surprised. The road I have chosen is much easier. Conforming required much too much effort. And I make no apologies for choosing the easier path. Even though I thought it would be harder when I chose it.

Why is it so easy? It is because the Tao is always at ease. When you look inside yourself, and find the Tao, and start following it, going with the flow of it, you just can’t help being at ease. Just like the Tao. The Tao overcomes without competing. We tend to find ourselves always competing, without ever managing to overcome. But the Tao shows us the way. A way where all our actions are effortless. It answers without speaking a word. It arrives without being summoned. It accomplishes everything without any plan.

This is crazy. Crazy! What about setting goals for yourself? Where do you want to be next year, in five years, ten? What are you going to do with your life? All of that is just thinking about some future that may or may not come to pass. And what if it does? So what? Are you going to postpone your happiness until then? And that isn’t even pausing to consider the what ifs for all of life’s unexpected twists and turns. Where am I going to be next year? Five years from now? Ten? I haven’t the foggiest notion. And why does that matter?

I was talking to a friend today about the joys of paying into social security, through my self employment taxes. As if that money is going to be waiting for me in the sweet by and by of retirement. No, I can’t be making plans like that. Instead, I will keep going with the flow of the Tao, until the day I complete my life’s transit.

Am I worried? Just a tad concerned that things are going to somehow go awry? No. I trust the Tao. Its net covers the whole universe. Yes, its meshes are wide. But, it doesn’t let a thing slip through. And that includes me. That, my friends, is comforting.

How’s Your Sense Of Awe?

When they lose their sense of awe,
people turn to religion.
When they no longer trust themselves,
they begin to depend upon authority.

Therefore the Master steps back
so that people won’t be confused.
He teaches without teaching,
so that people will have nothing to learn.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 72, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

We have been talking about not-knowing. Of curing ourselves of all knowing. That is where our sense of awe is tested. When we know that we don’t know, we will experience awe on a pretty consistent basis. It isn’t that we fear the unknown, because fear is nothing but a phantom. It is that we know that we don’t know; and because we don’t know, everything we experience produces awe in us.

When we lose our sense of awe we are going to turn to some poor substitute for it. I am not bashing religion here. I am just saying that when we are no longer satisfied with not-knowing, we are going to be trying to find answers to life’s mysteries. In Lao Tzu’s day, the place to turn was religion. Today, we may be a bit more sophisticated; we turn to science. But I think Lao Tzu would have the same issue. You aren’t looking inside yourself; you are looking outside yourself, to some authority. You need to be trusting yourself, rather than depending on some outside authority.

Even the Master could be taken as someone outside ourselves, an authority we could trust. This is the danger when we no longer trust what we find inside ourselves. That is why the Master takes a step back. He doesn’t want there to be any confusion. This isn’t some new teaching you have to learn. Just look inside yourself and be what you find in yourself to be.

Moving Toward Health

Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health.

The Master is her own physician.
She has healed herself of all knowing.
Thus she is truly whole.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 71, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Not just anyone can be their own physician. You have to have a great deal of humility to admit you are sick in the first place. And then a great deal more to heal yourself. We want to be able to put Lao Tzu’s teachings into practice. But we keep running into difficulty. It was supposed to be easy. Why is it so difficult? We know this. We know this. Why is it so difficult? It is so difficult because we haven’t put first things first. First, we need to realize that we are sick. Then, we can move toward health.

We are sick, I tell you, sick. We think we know. And that is a disease which afflicts the whole human race. Why do we do this? Why is it the almost universal human condition? I think it is fear. We fear the unknown. And because we fear it, we don’t dare encounter it. We don’t dare admit that there is any such thing as the unknown. So, in fear, we presume that we know what we don’t know.

But those who don’t know they are sick, don’t seek out a physician. And they can’t move toward health. If we are ever to truly know, we are going to have to begin with knowing that we don’t know. We need to be healed of all knowing. It is the only way to be truly whole.

So how? Like I said earlier, it takes humility. We have to be humble enough to admit we are sick. But there is more to it than that. There is something more that the Master has realized, beyond knowing that she doesn’t know. It is the origin of our fear. The Master realizes that fear is but a phantom. It isn’t real. It may seem real, but it is nothing but an illusion that arises because we are thinking of ourselves as separate. The Master realizes she is truly whole because she is one with the whole.

Why Something So Easy Is So Difficult

My teachings are easy to understand
and easy to put into practice.
Yet your intellect will never grasp them,
and if you try to practice them, you’ll fail.

My teachings are older than the world.
How can you grasp their meaning?

If you want to know me,
look inside your own heart.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 70, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

How is it that something so very easy can be so very difficult?

It was just a few chapters ago where Lao Tzu told us that if we look inside ourselves we will find that “the nonsense” he is teaching will make perfect sense. He also said that when we put these teachings into practice we will find their roots go deep. Today’s chapter is about putting his teachings into practice and looking inside your own heart. Don’t forget what his teachings are. He said they are our three greatest treasures. Simplicity, patience, and compassion. Those very treasures are the ones we can so easily destroy. We talked about that yesterday.

But today, Lao Tzu helps us to understand how easy it is to put these teachings into practice. Easy, that is, unless we make it difficult. As we often do.

How can something so easy be so difficult?

What makes it difficult are two things: knowing and trying. As long as we are relying on our own intellect to grasp their meaning, as long as we are trying to practice them, we are going to fail. You are neither old enough nor wise enough to be able to grasp this. You can’t do it. It is impossible.

This was my problem for longer than I care to admit. I tried and tried and tried and tried to understand them and put them into practice. The more I tried, the more frustratingly difficult it became. I knew it was supposed to be easy. That is what made my continued failure all the more frustrating.

If we are going to be able to practice being simple in our actions and our thoughts, if we are going to be able to be patient with both friends and enemies, if we are going to be able to be compassionate with ourselves, we are going to have to stop trying to know them and stop trying to practice them.

We have talked about this before. It is philosophical Taoism 101. We need to practice knowing not-knowing and doing not-doing. Our three treasures can only be ours as we intuitively and effortlessly practice them. Look inside your own heart. That is where you will find the Tao. Let it flow in you and out of you. Don’t interfere with it by trying to help it along or anticipate what it is going to do next and get a jump on things. Just go with the flow. It isn’t difficult. It is easy.

No Greater Misfortune; No Greater Shame

The generals have a saying:
‘Rather than make the first move
it is better to wait and see.
Rather than advance an inch
it is better to retreat a yard.”

This is called going forward without advancing,
pushing back without using weapons.

There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.
Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.
Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself.

When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 69, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Yesterday, Lao Tzu talked about the virtue of non-competition. Lao Tzu was talking about competing in the spirit of play, like children. And, he talked about the best general wanting to get into the mind of his enemy. Today, we are going to expand on this idea of how to be the very best in military strategy.

Lao Tzu says that generals have a saying. And, as I read through this saying, I couldn’t help but wish that wars could be left to these generals. Never make the first move. Wait and see. It is better to retreat a yard than advance an inch.

And I can already hear the naysayers. “Lao Tzu was naive. Wars can’t be fought this way.” But I suspect that those who think and say such things are even more ignorant of military strategy than I. Why, if you can go forward without advancing, and push back without having to resort to using weapons, wouldn’t you?

Why do we insist on underestimating our enemy? Why don’t we realize that there is no greater misfortune? But we don’t leave military strategy to generals. We insist they fight our wars in a whole other way. Our enemies are evil. Evil. Generals, and all their sayings, are out of touch with the reality that we must advance global capitalism. We are making the world “safe for democracy”, forgetting that our Founding Fathers considered democracy to be the most vile form of governance.

What we have done is not treasure our three greatest treasures. Instead of being simple in our actions and our thoughts, patient with both our friends and our enemies, and compassionate toward ourselves, we have chosen to see our enemy as something evil. We have destroyed our three greatest treasures and become an enemy ourselves. We have become evil. To quote Howard Zinn, “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” We have become so evil, we know no shame. That is why our commander-in-chief can order drone strikes against innocent civilians and then go on late night talk shows to tell jokes. It is so cool to deny people the basic human right of due process.

So, as we approach yet another federal holiday where flags will be waved to remember the dead, I will also be remembering. Just don’t be surprised I won’t be waving any flag. I will be remembering the countless dead sacrificed, not for our freedom, but in wars of aggression.

And, I will be wondering when or if we will ever learn: When two great forces oppose each other, the victory will go to the one that knows how to yield.

Watch The Children Playing

The best athlete
wants his opponent at his best.
The best general
enters the mind of his enemy.
The best businessman
serves the communal good.
The best leader
follows the will of the people.

All of them embody
the virtue of non-competition.
Not that they don’t love to compete,
but they do it in the spirit of play.
In this they are like children
and in harmony with the Tao.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 68, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

It was a couple chapters back that Lao Tzu said of the Master, “…she competes with no one, and no one can compete with her.” Today, Lao Tzu returns to this virtue of non-competition.

In order to understand what Lao Tzu means by the virtue of non-competition, we need to realize that Lao Tzu likes to use plays on words that are somewhat unfamiliar to our western minds. That is why, I think, that many will scoff at these teachings. They are nonsense! Or, they are lofty, but impractical. When he extols doing not doing, Wu-wei, which can literally be translated “doing nothing” he doesn’t really mean that we do nothing. What he means is that our doing is effortless. We do like we are doing nothing. This is how to flow with the Tao. When he extols knowing not-knowing, he isn’t praising ignorance, he is saying that we should know that we know nothing. We think and act as if we already know it all. That is true ignorance. Until we know that we don’t know, we can’t begin to know anything. Likewise, when he extols the virtue of non-competition, when he says the Master competes with no one and no one can compete with her, he doesn’t mean there isn’t any competition. What he is talking about is not-competing competing. Which is to say that we are to compete in a spirit of play, like children.

Over and over again, Lao Tzu points to children as our example of how to be in harmony with the Tao. Little children remind of us our beginnings, our primal identity. They are still virtuous, innocent, and full of energy and exuberance. They are in harmony with the Tao. Their actions are seemingly effortless. They know that they don’t know. If you doubt this, why is it that they are asking so many questions? And they love to play. We are the ones that push them to want to win. But what do they want? They want to play. By directing our attention to children at play, it is as if he is saying, “Look there, they do naturally what you, as an adult, have long ago forgotten.” That is the heart and soul of what Lao Tzu means by the virtue of non-competition.

Consider, for a moment, the best athlete in the world. They want their opponent to be at their very best. Think about this. What satisfaction is there in besting an opponent who wasn’t at their very best? Are we just in it to win? Or, are we in it to be the very best? If you don’t know the difference, you may have a warped sense of what true satisfaction can be. When children play, they are all in. They give it their all. They hold nothing back. And boy is it fun!

Now, consider the best general. They want to get into the mind of their enemy. To find out exactly what they are thinking. Like a good game of chess, you want to try and figure out, ahead of time, what moves they are going to be making. Then you can plan your own moves. In tomorrow’s chapter, Lao Tzu will be talking more about the military strategy of generals, so I won’t go into more detail, today.

What about the best businessperson? This is near and dear to me. I never was much of an athlete. And, I never had any interest in being a general. But I was raised in a family business. I was raised on the virtue of businesses freely competing with each other to earn their customer’s patronage. All these years later, and I consider myself a market anarchist. I want a market freed of State privilege and regulation. To me, no businessperson could possibly be their best, if they were either hampered by government regulation or subsidized by the State’s monopolizing powers. I am sure Lao Tzu would agree. He has often said that the best way to govern is to leave people alone. To Lao Tzu, the best businessperson will always seek to serve the communal good. When you put the community first, you will find your business will thrive. Every good businessperson knows this. The best embody it.

Finally, Lao Tzu comes back to leaders. He has already talked so much about how to be a great leader. But I don’t think he has used the word “best” yet. But here it is. And it isn’t going to be any surprise to anyone that has been reading along with me in the Tao Te Ching. The best leader follows the will of the people. Leading by following. Placing yourself below. Being content to serve as an example. Never using force, or manipulation, or control.

All of these love to compete! They just do it in the spirit of play, like children. That, my friends, is how to be in harmony with the Tao.

Something I Needed Reminding Of Today

Some say that my teaching is nonsense.
Others call it lofty but impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.
And to those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that go deep.

I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 67, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

I admit it. I wish I was much more eloquent with both my writing and my speaking. Since I started putting into practice Lao Tzu’s teachings, I started writing about it; hence, this blog. And I talk about it with anyone that I think might be willing to listen. But I am not very eloquent. I never think I quite say what I am wanting to say.

The writing is easier. I can just stand at my keyboard and type, uninterrupted, letting the words flow. I devote a couple of hours to it each day. Taking a chapter each day affords me the luxury of something to write about. Each chapter is a springboard for me.

But, when I encounter people, and start talking, I just seem to get tongue-tied. The words don’t come so easily. People want me to explain what philosophical Taoism is, and I know what it is. At least I think I do. Until words start stumbling out of my mouth, and it begins to not make any sense. I finally end up admitting defeat. I can’t tell you. But I can show you. At least I think I can. But that is going to take more time. And few want to take the time to be shown. They want soundbites. If it is over the 140 character limit on Twitter, they are gone.

Lao Tzu didn’t have my problem. But he did have some of the same reactions from people that I get on a pretty regular basis. Your teaching is nonsense! How do I respond to this? Nonsense? Really? Why do you think that? Tell me your thought process that brought you to that conclusion. Maybe it is nonsense to you. But how is it that I can see things so very differently? I want to make this nonsense make perfect sense to you. Really I do. Give me a chance. But seldom do I get that chance. If only I was more eloquent. Of course, Lao Tzu would tell me that I already have everything I need. Just look inside yourself, you’ll see. This nonsense makes perfect sense. Is it really that simple? Are we just not daring to look inside ourselves to see?

And then there are the people who say that this teaching is lofty. That sounds somewhat better than nonsense. But wait for it. It is lofty, yes; but it is impractical. You can’t really expect people to behave like this in our world today. And what I want to say is, “Now hold on there, have you ever tried to put this teaching into practice? Because I have. And I have found this loftiness has roots that go deep.” I always feel like I come across as a pompous know-it-all. And that is so not me. Why can’t I be better at saying what I am trying to say? I think I am trying too hard.

I do understand why people think this way. I mean in the last three days, alone, we have been talking about doing not-doing, knowing not-knowing, and if you want to be a great leader, try being humble, like water. Nonsense? Lofty but impractical? I can take these chapters one at a time. But trying to say all I want to say in a way that makes sense and is practical – that eludes me. I am making this way too hard.

Lao Tzu condenses it down to three things. This is it, folks. I just need to remember these three things. And leave all the rest to another day. Simplicity, patience, and compassion. That is it. Those three greatest treasures. If you understand this, you understand it all. If you have these, you have everything.

Keep it simple! Both in your actions and in your thoughts. I don’t need to be more eloquent. I just need to keep it simple. It is simplicity that brings you back to the source of being. And it isn’t like I am not practicing simplicity in both my actions and my thoughts when I am all by myself. I just need to keep being simple once I have an audience. It is sure hard to be simple when you are trying to be eloquent.

Be patient. With both your friends and your enemies. Once again, this is the soundest of advice for me. It is easy to be patient when you are all by yourself. But it is other people that you are going to encounter with whom you need to be patient. Like when they are saying that what you are saying is nonsense. Or, lofty but impractical. Be patient. Maybe it is me that is in too great a rush. Why am I feeling this pressure to convert others in 140 characters or less? Patience, Chuck, patience. That is the only way to accord with the way things are.

And Lao Tzu saves the most important one for last. Compassionate toward yourself. I expected it would be compassionate toward others. But it isn’t. Because Lao Tzu understands that we are going to mess up sometimes when it comes to how simple in actions and thoughts we are going to be. And that patience thing? With both friends and enemies? We are bound to fail at that sometimes. This third greatest treasure lets us rely on the Tao as a refuge for when we screw up. We need to be compassionate toward ourselves. It is then, that we can reconcile all beings in the world. And wasn’t that what I was working so hard at accomplishing? But it isn’t supposed to be so hard. It isn’t supposed to require great effort. And it can be effortless. It begins with looking inside myself. Then I put these three teachings into practice. And when I fail, I find forgiveness.