No Expectations, No Disappointments

He who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
Its bones are soft, its muscles are weak,
but its grip is powerful.
It doesn’t know about the union
of male and female,
yet its penis can stand erect,
so intense is its vital power.
It can scream its head off all day,
yet it never becomes hoarse,
so complete is its harmony.

The Master’s power is like this.
He lets all things come and go
effortlessly, without desire.
He never expects results;
thus he is never disappointed.
He is never disappointed;
thus his spirit never grows old.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 55, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

No Expectations, No Disappointments

In today’s chapter, Lao Tzu tells us to look at a newborn child to see what being in harmony with the Tao is like. A newborn child is seemingly weak, helpless. Its bones are soft, and its muscles are weak. But, look closer. Observe just how that little one wraps its tiny fingers around your finger. Its grip, in reality, is quite powerful. In fact, its vital power is so intense that without any knowledge of the union of male and female, its penis can stand erect. Stop snickering. We aren’t in middle school. And, Lao Tzu isn’t talking about a sexual act. He is speaking, metaphorically, of the complementary relationship of yin and yang. Something so elementary, so primal, even a newborn has mastered it. But, something so mysterious, it confounds those of us who think we know. To further emphasize the mystery, he points out how the newborn child is able to scream its head off all day, without ever becoming hoarse. But, get this, this is a display of its complete harmony with the Tao.

Friends, don’t try this at home. Screaming your head off all day will not just make you hoarse, it will upset your neighbors. They’ll probably call the cops, who will come, break down your doors, confiscate any plants you have, and shoot your dog.

Instead, consider this: There are other ways to tap into the power of a newborn. No, put down that bottle of Viagra. It, also, won’t be required.

Okay, enough poking fun, let’s get serious.

What, do you think, would begin to happen in your life if you simply let things come and go effortlessly, without striving, without resisting, without desire? What if you were to live your life, each day, never expecting any particular results?

Lao Tzu tells us.

No expectations means no disappointments. And, never being disappointed means your spirit never grows old.

This is always good life advice, but I think it is particularly good advice for those considering what a Trump presidency might hold for the future. It is how we keep those phantoms of fear and hope at bay.

Let It Be

Whoever is planted in the Tao
will not be rooted up.
Whoever embraces the Tao
will not slip away.
Her name will be held in honor
from generation to generation.

Let the Tao be present in your life
and you will become genuine.
Let it be present in your family
and your family will flourish.
Let it be present in your country
and your country will be an example
to all countries in the world.
Let it be present in the Universe
and the Universe will sing.

How do I know this is true?
By looking inside myself.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 54, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Let It Be

In yesterday’s chapter, we talked about just how out of balance things are in our world. The symptoms are impossible to miss. The powerful haven’t been centered in the Tao. Far from it. Instead, they are responsible for the robbery and chaos which plague our world. In thinking of US foreign policy, in particular, I pondered whether this was a time for fear, for hope, for both, or for neither. And, I argued for not being swayed by the phantoms of hope and fear. Being aware that things are out of balance, there is something better we can do: Center ourselves, and stay centered, in the Tao.

Today, Lao Tzu has some very good news for those of us who will be so bold as to do just that. Those who are planted in the Tao, can never be rooted up. If we embrace the Tao, we will not slip away. As is always the case, this takes both yin and yang, a passive and an active side to being centered in the Tao. The yin, or passive side, is letting ourselves be planted. The yang, or active side, is embracing, maybe holding on for dear life, to the Tao. You aren’t going anywhere. You will be held in place, a place of honor, from generation to generation.

Always lead with yin. Let yourself be planted. There will be plenty of time for embracing, actively; but, right now, focus on yin, on passively accepting. Don’t resist. Let the Tao be present in your life.

I am going to let you in on a little secret. I discovered this as I looked inside myself, as I experienced it for myself. As I let myself be planted in the Tao, and I started growing roots, and taking nourishment from the soil, changes started to happen within me. What transpired was actually transformative. I look quite the same on the outside. But, on the inside, which is where I am looking, the real me, my genuine self, has emerged.

That is when I really started embracing, actively accepting, being centered in the Tao. It just seemed natural, and it happened quite naturally. I didn’t have to force it.

Yang followed yin, and yin follows yang. I began to let the Tao be present in my family. It is very important for you to understand that this, too, is yin. I didn’t force any individual members of my family to embrace the Tao. I simply stay centered in the Tao, and allow my genuine self to grow. That just can’t help but spread outward. You may regard that as your sphere of influence. We aren’t forcing things. We aren’t dominating, or trying to control. We just let it be. And, then, my family started to flourish, and they, in turn started to embrace it.

That sphere of influence expands. Immediate family spreads to extended family, and friends, coworkers, neighborhoods, communities… Can this keep spreading until it is present in the whole country? Why not? I still have no intention of trying to force it. But, I genuinely believe it can and will happen. I will let it be, until my country is an example to all countries.

But, why must it stop there? The whole universe could be singing. Let it be!

A Time for Fear? For Hope? For Both? For Neither?

The great way is easy,
yet people prefer the side paths.
Be aware when things are out of balance.
Stay centered within the Tao.

When rich speculators prosper
while farmers lose their land;
when government officials spend money
on weapons instead of cures;
when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible
while the poor have nowhere to turn –
all this is robbery and chaos.
It is not in keeping with the Tao.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 53, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

A Time for Fear? For Hope? For Both? For Neither?

Rich speculators prospering, while farmers lose their land. Government officials spending money on weapons, instead of cures. The upper class extravagant and irresponsible, while the poor have nowhere to turn. I can think of no better description for just how out of balance the whole world currently is. Some have argued, and I think quite rightly, this is the cause of the backlash resulting in Great Britain, with the Brexit vote, and in the United States, with the election of Donald Trump. The ruling elite have, so far, ignored Lao Tzu’s warnings to be aware when things are out of balance. How very different things would be in our world if the powerful would center themselves, and stay centered, within the Tao.

Lao Tzu has described it for us before. The whole world would be transformed, all by itself, into a paradise. This would be the natural result. But, while the great way is easy (yes, it really is), people (especially, it seems, the ruling elite) prefer the side paths.

What we can all see, so plainly, all around us is what Lao Tzu aptly refers to as robbery and chaos. It didn’t have to be this way. It shouldn’t be this way. It isn’t in keeping with the Tao.

How do we turn things around? Is the election of Donald Trump a turning point?

Here, I want to dish out a dose of philosophical Taoism that is for myself, as much for any of my readers. Both hope and fear are phantoms. They aren’t real. I needed to say that. I needed to hear myself say that. I needed some reminding.

I posted an interview, on my tumblr blog, early on Thursday morning, by Dennis Bernstein of Consortium News with John Pilger. I like John Pilger. He is a real journalist in an age where real journalists seem practically non-existent. And in the interview, he expressed wonder that US foreign policy hadn’t already resulted in his and all of our demise. He is particularly fearful of the threat of world-wide nuclear war, since we seem to be doing our darnedest to antagonize both Russia and China, and provoke one or the other, or both, into firing the first shot; unless we get tired of waiting, and beat them to the punch.

We seem to have good reason to fear. But, what about hope?

Later in the morning, I posted an article by Justin Raimondo at antiwar.com. He is very hopeful about Trump’s revolution and lays out what he perceives as the road to freedom. He downplayed any external threats (like from Russia or China), and said the real danger is right here at home. Can’t argue with him on who our real enemy is. But, he is hopeful.

As for me, I have to take fear and hope as the phantoms they are. I will have to wait and see what transpires. Make sure I stay centered in the Tao. Shape events as they come. And, advise all of you, my friends, to do likewise.

Back at the Beginning

In the beginning was the Tao.
All things issue from it;
all things return to it.

To find the origin,
trace back the manifestations.
When you recognize the children
and find the mother,
you will be free of sorrow.

If you close your mind in judgments
and traffic with desires,
your heart will be troubled.
If you keep your mind from judging
and aren’t led by the senses,
your heart will find peace.

Seeing into darkness is clarity.
Knowing how to yield is strength.
Use your own light
and return to the source of light.
This is called practicing eternity.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 52, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Back at the Beginning

I am not going to try bluffing my way through today’s chapter. Practicing eternity is delving right into the mystery of the Tao. Are we ready, yet? Are we free from desire? We have been talking for so long about the manifestations of the Tao, and how they can lead us back to the Source, darkness within darkness, the gateway to all understanding. But, now that we get to that darkness, are we ready to “see” into it.

Yesterday, we talked about the Tao as our mother, and all of us, beings, as her children. Today, Lao Tzu takes that a step further, and declares to us that “knowing” we have a common mother, and each one of us is her child, is the key to being free from sorrow.

What keeps us from this knowledge? Two things: Closing our minds in judgments, and trafficking in desires. Let’s take these two, one at a time.

Closing our minds in judgments, in other words, having a made-up mind, is what we talked about a few chapters back. The Master’s mind isn’t closed. It is as open as space. Therefore, the master can be good to both those who are good, and those who aren’t. The master can trust people who are worthy of trust, and those who are not. The Master, then, treats all those around her as her own children, just like the Tao does. If our hearts are troubled, if we aren’t free from sorrow, we must practice opening our minds, and keeping them from judging.

But, there is another obstacle to the knowledge of our relationship as children of the Tao. It is what Lao Tzu refers to as “trafficking in desires.” In reality, it is exactly what it sounds like it is: Being led by the senses. “I want, I want, I want…” When we are being led by our senses, there will always be something more we want. We will never know when enough is enough. There never is enough. Our heart will know no peace. It will always be troubled. This is what it is to be a slave to sorrow.

Do you want to experience freedom, true freedom, from sorrow? Would you like to find peace? Of course, you would. And the answer, my friends, is to “see” into the darkness until you find clarity, understanding. This isn’t something that happens in an instant. Sorry to burst that bubble. It takes time. And, practice.

Lao Tzu calls this practicing eternity for a reason. It isn’t going to happen in an instant. You are going to have to be willing to wait for it. If you know how to yield to it, that will make you strong. Understand, though you are surrounded by darkness, you have within you all the light you will ever need. You got that light in the beginning from the source of light, the Tao. Practicing eternity is returning to the Source using your own light.

All That Remains

Every being in the universe
is an expression of the Tao.
It springs into existence,
unconscious, perfect, free,
takes on a physical body,
lets circumstances complete it.
That is why every being
spontaneously honors the Tao.

The Tao gives birth to all beings,
nourishes them, maintains them,
cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
takes them back to itself,
creating without possessing,
acting without expecting,
guiding without interfering.
That is why love of the Tao
is in the very nature of things.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 51, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

All That Remains

We have been talking about being in harmony with the Tao in negative terms. Letting yourself die, and being ready for death, certainly doesn’t sound very positive. However, there is a whole lot of positive to be had, too. And, today’s chapter is what that is all about.

Today, Lao Tzu explains, in some detail, the relationship of every being in the universe with the Tao.

Every being in the universe is an expression of the Tao. Every being spontaneously honors the Tao. And, the love of the Tao is in the very nature of things.

The Tao is called the great mother. And, why not? It nourishes all things. It maintains us. It comforts us. It protects us. And, it always takes us back to itself. Just like a mother does with her own children.

For our part, as children of the Tao, we are all expressions of the Tao. From the very moment we spring into existence, though we are unconscious of it, we are already perfect, and forever free. From the time we take on a physical body, and all the time we let circumstances complete us, we spontaneously are honoring our mother, the Tao.

It is that word “let” which is so very important in our development. You could say, “It is all that remains.” That is why we find that word, let, over and over again throughout the Tao Te Ching. We are free to resist. But, that is resisting what is in our very nature – to be loved, and to love, in return.

Can we, like the Tao, create without possessing, act without expecting, and guide without interfering? Because, when we do, when we “let”, being led by our intuition, and acting spontaneously, the love of the Tao, which is in the very nature of things, is expressed for all the world to experience. It isn’t just loving the Tao. It is loving all her children.

Neither Mind, Nor Body

The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 50, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Neither Mind, Nor Body

Today’s chapter is merely a continuation of what Lao Tzu was saying in the previous one. However, in today’s chapter, Lao Tzu makes it a matter of life and death. So, I am going to spend a bit more time on today’s chapter than I did yesterday’s.

Remember, in yesterday’s chapter, Lao Tzu said that a master at the art of living in harmony with the Tao has arrived at a state of no mind. They have let go of all illusions their minds may want to entertain, having emptied their minds of them. What are these illusions? There are a variety of them. They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes. The one he talked about in yesterday’s chapter is the illusion of having a made-up mind. Freed from this illusion, you can work with whatever other people may be thinking.

But, there are plenty of other illusions we need to empty from our minds. One such illusion concerns the finality of death. This, he addresses, today.

Lao Tzu tells us, masters know they are going to die. This knowledge doesn’t result in fear of death. That is an illusion. We only fear death because we “think” death is final. But, notice how the Master views death, how such a one is ready for death: Like someone ready for sleep after a good day’s work.

In portraying death as sleep, Lao Tzu is doing something more than providing a comforting euphemism to allay our fear. He is portraying death as a simple, and natural, part of the cycle of life. Sleep is vital for us, if we are going to go on living. And, death is just as vital.

In fact, Lao Tzu has talked of this before, back in chapter 22: “If you want to be reborn, let yourself die.” What Lao Tzu is talking about is the life cycle. Death isn’t final. It is followed by rebirth. And, we can see it repeated in nature. Life followed by death, followed by new life. The sun sets, but it also rises. The moon sets, but it also rises. Seasons change. Fall is followed by winter is followed by spring. Death happens all around us. All of the time. And, then, rebirth. Some rebirths take a long time. But death only lasts for a season.

So, stop fearing it. Give yourself up to whatever the moment might bring. Let go of all illusions in your mind, until there is nothing left to hold on to.

But, that is only the mind part of the chapter. There is also the resistance our bodies offer, with which we must deal.

The good news is that the body’s resistance is very much tied to the illusions in our mind. Having let go of the one, we can easily let go of the other.

I am pretty sure that you can remember a time when your body jerked, as it caught itself when it “thought” you were falling. That is an example of your body resisting.

But, we need to be free of these body resistances, as well. Giving your self up to whatever the moment may bring; having nothing left to hold on to, you don’t have to think about your actions. They simply flow from the core of your being.

Neither mind, nor body offering up any resistance to living life to its fullest. You hold nothing back from life. It is a life of spontaneity, doing without doing; and, it is one led by the intuition, knowing without knowing. Then, you truly are ready for death. And, you will find it is as natural as sleeping after a good day’s work.

How Little We Understand

The Master has no mind of her own.
She works with the mind of the people.

She is good to people who are good.
She is also good to people who aren’t good.
This is true goodness.

She trusts people who are trustworthy.
She also trusts people who aren’t trustworthy.
This is true trust.

The Master’s mind is like space.
People don’t understand her.
They look to her and wait.
She treats them like her own children.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 49, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

How Little We Understand

How little we understand! And, why is that? Because our minds are already made up. There is so much we can learn from those who have mastered the art of living in harmony with the Tao. Let’s look to them, and wait. Don’t be impatient. Wait for understanding.

They have no mind of their own. Their minds aren’t already made up. Thus, they are able to work with all things, whatever their circumstances. They can work with all people, however their minds may be.

They are able to show us what true goodness is, by being good to both those who are good, and those who are not good. They are able to show us what true trust is, by trusting both those who are trustworthy, and those who are not trustworthy.

Can we, too, empty our own minds, until they are like space. To be like children, filled with wonder, with awe. How little we understand, now. But, wait for it.

More, or Less?

In the pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.

True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.
It can’t be gained by interfering.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 48, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

More, or Less?

We have talked about this before. It takes practice.

While in the pursuit of knowledge, every day something has to be added, in the practice of the Tao, every day something has to be dropped. Instead of always wanting more, more, more, can we be content with less and less?

Less forcing. Less intervening. Less interfering. Less trying to dominate. Less trying to control. Every day let go of just a little something more of that need to do something. It doesn’t need to be fixed. It needs to be left alone. It needs to be freed from our clutches.

Starve the beast! Don’t let the will to power enslave you, no matter how much it whines at you to do something. Let things go their own way. Don’t interfere with them.

Yes, we are still defying conventional wisdom (see yesterday’s post). But, true mastery of ourselves, not others, is the greatest of rewards.

Just take it one day at a time. Less and less of the need to force things. Make it a daily practice. Until we finally arrive at non-action. Nothing is done, and nothing is left undone.

Standing Conventional Wisdom on Its Head

Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the essence of the Tao.

The more you know,
the less you understand.

The Master arrives without leaving,
sees the light without looking,
achieves without doing a thing.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 47, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

Standing Conventional Wisdom on Its Head

Lao Tzu stands conventional wisdom on its head today, like he so often does. Conventional wisdom tells us, if we want to understand something, we must gain more knowledge about it. But, when it comes to understanding the way things really are, in our world, in our universe, the more we know, the less we understand.

That may be, because the more we know, the more questions arise in our minds. Certainly, that may be true in many cases. But, I think Lao Tzu is talking about things on a more primal level. What is real versus what we perceive with our senses. Knowledge, however much we may accumulate, can only inform us of the way things seem to be, the way things appear, the way they sound, the way they feel, or smell, or taste.

Here, we aren’t talking about the things we can read about in books, or on the internet, or learn in schools, colleges, and universities. That isn’t the knowledge Lao Tzu is warning against. What Lao Tzu is warning against is relying on our senses, when we should trust our intuition. Lao Tzu is specifically referring to how to be in harmony with the Tao.

Lao Tzu often points to nature for the perfect metaphors to describe what being in harmony is all about. And, that is only right, since being natural is what being in harmony with the Tao is all about. But, he also tells us to look into the depths, rather than at the surface. Concern yourself with the fruit, rather than the flower. What he means by that is to not trust what your senses can perceive, to reveal the whole truth. You are going to have to look, listen, smell, taste, and feel on an entirely deeper level than the physical realm. You already know all you need to know, inside you, in the core of your being. That knowledge is innate. It may be hidden from you now, after years of conditioning. But, it is still there, in the core of your being, ready for you to tap into it.

You don’t need to step outside your door to understand the ways of the world. You don’t even need to so much as look outside your window to understand the essence of the Tao.

That is why the truly wise don’t go out, yet they know. Without seeing, they understand. And, without having to strive for it, they succeed in everything they do.

To All My Friends Who Are Fearful

When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.

There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
no greater misfortune than having an enemy.

Whoever can see through all fear
will always be safe.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 46, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

To All My Friends Who Are Fearful

Today’s chapter seems made for today. There is still a lot of fear rampant. And, I know something of fear. I was fearful (in spite of Lao Tzu’s teaching that fear is only a phantom arising from thinking of the self) going up to the election. I was fearful warheads would be stockpiled outside the cities, as we prepared for the escalation of wars all over the world. At least Trump says he wants to get our factories making trucks and tractors, again. I am not holding out a whole lot of hope (that one is another phantom) that Trump will actually make good on his promises. And, I certainly have no illusions that he will lead by being in harmony with the Tao. But, it is fear, itself, with which today’s chapter is concerned. And, as far as illusions go, there is none greater than fear.

There is also no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself. And, no greater misfortune than having an enemy. Especially the ones we manufacture out of thin air. Illusions, each and every one.

But, to all my friends who are fearful right now, my wish for you is that you will be able to see through all fear. It is nothing, but an illusion. You are being manipulated. If you can only see through it, to what is real, you will always be safe.