She who is centered in the Tao
can go where she wishes, without danger.
She perceives the universal harmony,
even amid great pain,
because she has found peace in her heart.
Music or the smell of good cooking
may make people stop and enjoy.
But words that point to the Tao
seem monotonous and without flavor.
When you look for it, there is nothing to see.
When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear.
When you use it, it is inexhaustible.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 35, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Inexhaustible When You Use It
A few chapters back, Lao Tzu said the Tao is imperceptible. I said that is why expecting our leaders to remain centered in the Tao is expecting the impossible.
Yet, we can be centered in the Tao. It just requires something of us that those with the will to power never can achieve. Humility. We talked, yesterday, about the great Tao’s humility. It isn’t aware of its greatness. Ah, to be unaware of your greatness. That is the key to true greatness.
But, the Tao’s imperceptibility does pose a problem for us. Do we have to be aware of the Tao in us? And, how can we be, if it is hidden in our hearts, and imperceptible to our senses?
Lao Tzu explains it to us in this way: If you are centered in the Tao, you can go wherever you wish, without being in danger. How can this be? What is required is not perceiving the imperceptible Tao, but perceiving the universal harmony, the evidence of the Tao’s existence, even in the midst of the greatest pain. You can’t perceive the Tao. And when you are in the midst of pain, it doesn’t magically become perceptible. No, it isn’t that easy. However, you can perceive the universal harmony, when you find peace in your heart, regardless of your outward circumstances. No matter how great the storms of life. No matter how battered you become. No matter what pain you are experiencing. You have peace in your heart.
The number one question I get asked about philosophical Taoism is, “How do I put this into practice?” I had a friend, just the other day, who I told, “You worry too much.” This wasn’t news to him. He knows he worries too much. But he has been a worrier for a very long time now. It is habitual. And, his question was, “How do I let go of worrying?” I told him I wish I had a magic wand to wave over him. Really, I do. But, I can’t tell you how to do it. I can only tell you to let it go. “Yes, but how do I let it go?” This conversation could go on like this forever. And, I still don’t have that magic wand. Finally, I said, “I wouldn’t bother with trying to let it go. As long as you are trying, you are still worrying. You simply have to let it go.”
Not nearly as helpful as I would have liked to be. But, that is the way it is with words that point to the Tao. Music or the smell of good cooking may make people stop and enjoy. But words like these seem monotonous and without flavor.
When you look for it, there is nothing to see. So stop looking!
When you listen for it, there is nothing to hear. So stop striving to hear!
Is it hopeless, then?
Not at all. Lao Tzu tells us exactly what must be done. So pay close attention. When you use it, it is inexhaustible. There it is. Put it to use. We will expand on this, tomorrow.