All posts by The Dixie Taoist

I'm just a fellow traveler on the path.

We are all on the path

Whether we realize it or not

Keeping to simplicity, you can consider the Tao in two fundamental ways:

  • As the source and creative energy of the universe
  • As a spiritual path that follows the natural order of the universe”

Excerpt from Chapter 3, Sovereignty – The Tao Principle of Self-Management

As stated above there are two simple but important ways to define the Tao. One is to recognize it as the void or emptiness that is full of potential and the source of all things. The second is The Tao translated as“the way” or the path. This is a spiritual path. The word “path” is a metaphor for the long experience you have as a sentient being. It becomes a spiritual path when a person becomes self-aware and witnessing of the life experience as it happens.

Distraction and Disconnectedness

Being consciously aware of life as it is happening is the point, the reason, and purpose of life. To witness and have the experience.  The prime directive for all living beings is to experience, to learn, to evolve. Most of the lower animals do this naturally. Their central purpose is to just remain alive in a dangerous world. Humans have evolved to the point where it has become too easy to be in a state of distraction and detached from being aware and present with life. One the one hand the distraction might be some kind of desire fulfillment. On the other hand, it might be a way of coping with the obstacles in life. In this state, those who are constantly distracted are disconnected are unaware of the life they are creating through unwise choices. So even though they are on life’s path, they are unaware of their destiny because they become detached from it. 

In every moment of every day, we each make choices that form our destiny. Choices and actions create the future that will be experienced later on life’s path. This future is our destiny.

“The great Tao is broad and plain

But people like the side path…”


Excerpt Chapter 53, Tao Te Ching

This path, the true path is not hard to stay on if you just pay attention. As stated above, it “is broad and plain”. You are on this path whether you choose it not. So the best wisdom is to wake up and manage your life. We all must disengage from distraction and reconnect with life by being present and paying attention to what we do and why we are doing it. By being mindful of what we focus on we can moderate life with balance and create harmony. As you make your mindful choices, avoid extremes and be moderated in your way forward (choices).

It is the lower level of spirit, the ego, which “likes the side path”.  Ego always following desire and self-serving interest becomes a lost in the weeds at the side of the road. Often we are searching for happiness in all the wrong places.  By becoming self-aware and mindful, your choices keep you on the true path. This is sovereignty.

So, no matter who and where you are, you are on the path. Wake up from the side paths and take charge and pay attention. Develope sovereignty to manage the ego and stay on your true path.

For more life path strategies, please read  Sovereignty; The Tao Principle ofSelf Management

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Work on the “Self” first, goals are secondary – Chap 26

Woman stretching at gym.

Work on the “Self” first, goals are secondary.

New Years is just around the corner. It is a time when people pledge new resolutions. Lofty goals of self-improvement are set and like so many of us, they have been forgotten by March. I found a way that helped me to stay on the goal path until the achievement has been made. Your first resolution should be to work on your “self”.

Before you can work on your goals and strategies, you must lay the foundation for success through self-discipline. The first discipline that you must commit to is to cultivate your “self” first. Chapter 26, Sovereignty.

This uncommon insight was given to me early on by my Tao mentor, and I have found it to be one of the most important first strategies to cultivate. Goals without willpower and self-discipline are just good intentions. The chances of not finishing are much higher without them. You know the old proverb about the road to hell as being paved with good intentions.

What does “work on the self first” mean? It means to learn to control the wild ego part of the spirit that is the epitome of self-satisfaction and desire. The discipline in maintaining full management and control over emotions, desire, and distraction so that you can avoid the pitfalls and temptations that lead to failure.

Ego-goals are well intended but almost always fail. Every January, many people state a new resolution to accomplish a personal goal. Weight loss is a very common one, and we all know that the failure rate is very high. We lose our momentum towards the weight loss goal when we:

Cheat

Lose the will to continue

become distracted (forget or don’t pay attention to what we are doing)

Lie to ourselves

set the goal for the wrong reasons

and most importantly, when we lose our battle with desire

Only if you are mindful of your emotions, feelings, choices, and actions can you wisely navigate life to accomplish long-term goals. Goal achievement lies somewhere in the future. The steps you take to reach that point in your destiny are made right here and right now. That moment of choice is the point whether you remain true to your higher self or fail at self-discipline. You must have virtuous clarity in picking your strategies and goals otherwise you will serving the ego’s path of desire. How to work on the self begins with meditation and mindfulness. A good teacher can help you begin to be aware of the ego’s effect on your choices and actions through mindfulness. Being aware of your intentions and choices are mandatory to have the willpower and discipline to not make those working choices.

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Be The One

In the book (Sovereignty, The Tao Principle of Self-Management), section three is devoted to the concept of “working on the self-first”. This is the concept and practice of cultivating ‘self’ discipline as a mandatory first step in setting goals and taking action. Sovereignty is the spiritual discipline whose foundation is laid upon self-awareness and mindfulness. With self-discipline, you can keep the ego from sabotaging your efforts in achieving goals. Being aware of ego distractions and its various traps can go a long way in helping you stay on course to reach your goal. Every new year, people make resolutions to improve their plight in life. Yet by spring, those goals have been forgotten. The discipline to stay on the right path is “working on the self, first”.  By being self-aware and mindful of ego distractions and it’s various coping mechanisms, we can avoid the traps of failure. (See chapter 4 of the book.) Making fewer unnecessary mistakes will bring more success and boost your quality of life. However, while cultivating discipline can boost your success in life (like careers, relationships and job performance etc.), it is very difficult to do this in everyday life. Working on the self means that you are working on controlling the effects of the ego on the choices that affect your destiny (your goals). (Chapter 26).

We all want to get the most out of life yet only about 1 in 10 people consciously cultivate it. Chapter 50 is comprised of two sections. Those who do not (9 out of 10 people), and those who do (1 in 10). Chapter 50 of the Tao Te Ching holds a powerful lesson on developing sovereignty and getting the most out of life.

Chapter 50, Tao Te Ching

Section One

Coming into life, entering into death

The followers of life, three in ten

The followers of death, three in ten

Those whose lives are moved toward death

Also, three in ten

Why? Because they live lives of excess.

———————————————————-

Section Two

I’ve heard of those who are good at cultivating life

Traveling on the road, they do not encounter rhinos or tigers

Entering into an army, they are not harmed by weapons

Rhinos have nowhere to thrust their horns

Tigers have nowhere to clasp their claws

Soldiers have nowhere to lodge their blades

Why? Because they have no place for death

The lesson of not being extreme in its many perspectives is found throughout the Tao Te Ching. This Chapter is the focus of three extreme behaviors that lead to failure in life.

Section One describes three main groups where most people go wrong and the one group where people successfully cultivate life. The three failure groups make up the majority which is 9 out of 10 who experience some type of serious failure. This leaves just 1 out of every 10 people who have highly actualized successful lives.

Section two focuses on the one in ten. It indicates the how and why they thrive and endure longer successful lives of happiness and well-being. These are the 1 in 10 who achieve sovereignty.

Section One

As you read and process these insights, remember that moderation is the key to understanding and applying wisdom. People differ in the degree of suffering. Some more extreme than others. This group of people is not living their life in accordance with the Tao. The more extreme a person is the more out of balance they are. Balance leads to harmony, and harmony opens the way for joy and well-being. The more self-aware and moderate in your approach to life determines how happy and successful you are.  As you evaluate yourself, try to be honest. You will probably have a different percentage of each of the four groups. Start with a true assessment.

Verse 1 Coming into life, entering into death

Verse one “Coming into life and entering into death” is speaking of how people live in their lifetime.

The Followers of Life -Verse 2

2 The followers of life, three in ten

The Keyword: living in fear and worry

“The Followers of Life” describes the first group that makes up 3 out of ten people. Here followers of life are those who live with the extreme of fear and worry. Moderation is arguably the best way to cultivate life. When a person becomes extreme in their views, they are no longer following the Tao. It is said that “Followers of life” are people whose choices are directed by seeking security and avoiding risk as a way of life. Extreme fears are personal but not necessarily unique. Fears limit us because it deteriorates the willingness to try. “Followers of life” always play it safe. The life of always playing it safe is one that can lack innovation. It is difficult to find inspiration when you are always running away from the things that you fear. This kind of life can become dull and stagnant. The followers of life are weakened by dullness and lack of challenge. Always playing it safe to the extreme is not the way of a full and successful life.

The Followers of Death – Verse 3

3 The followers of death, three in ten

The Keyword: reckless behavior

“Followers of death” describe the second group. “Followers of Death” are the direct opposite of the followers of life. They live lives with recklessness abandon. They can be excitement junkies, always seeking that emotional rush and electrifying excitement. Without moderation, this sensation-seeking behavior creates a reckless and careless relationship with life. The probability for disaster and mayhem become very high. Individuals who take reckless and unnecessary changes have been known to end in failure and destruction.

Those Who Are Moved by Death – Verse 4

Those whose lives are moved toward death

Three out of ten people are in this category.

The Keyword: Over Indulgence

This is the life that is enslaved with desire. They overindulge in the way they live their life. “Those who are moved by death” don’t know when to stop. Enough is never enough. “Those who are moved by death” are similar in one way to “those who are followers of death” in that by living a life over-indulgence is living recklessly.  Some easy to observe examples could be over-eating, over-spending, over-drinking, and over-doing anything without moderation.  The ego is always hungry and rarely satisfied. For “those who are moved by death” more is always better.

 

Section Two

Those Who Are Good At Cultivating Life – Verse 7

7 I’ve heard of those who are good at cultivating life

Most self-destructive behavior is rooted in ego. Sovereignty is the ability and discipline of managing the ego. Being self-aware and mindful of intention, the Sovereign can avoid the self-destructive problems of these three groups and be very successful in life. This brings us to the final group. Out of 10 people, 9 make up the way of failure. That leaves just one out of ten people who cultivate sovereignty.

On some level, we all know that we should not live in the three groups that bring failure and suffering. It is the lack of discipline that leads us to the poor choices that cause us to fail. It is not rocket science, it is just spiritual discipline. It is a spiritual discipline because to be sovereign, is to be self-aware and present as spirit. Only spirit can control ego. Through meditation, spirit (your higher consciousness), awakens and pays attention to the self-destructive ego.  In each moment of choice, you can choose to turn away from fear, worry, desire and ignorance. You can and must choose the right action. The right action is the way of virtue and altruism.

Lao Tzu (author of the Tao Te Ching), uses metaphors to describe how the Tao takes care of those who follow wisdom and virtue.

Traveling the road (living life), They do not encounter rhinos or tigers,

Rhinos (those who gouge with sharply pointed words) have nowhere to thrust their horns. Tigers like Rhinos can hurt those on their level.

Sharp words do not affect the sovereign because the ego is not allowed to become offended. The sovereign does not engage in drama and ego driven gossip. They’re not often the target of ‘Rhino’ people. When sharp words come their way, sovereigns do not take comments personally nor over-react. That only happens with the ego. When the ego cannot get a response, it gives up. Aggression and bullying cannot stand up to true courage which is only demonstrated by spirit. Because sovereigns live a life of virtue and compassion, people like them a lot. They have many friends who care for them. Harsh people (Rhinos and Tigers) leave them alone.

Soldiers represent aggressive personalities and behaviors encountered in your social interaction. They are very competitive and must always win or be right. Victory is everything. They like to fight and are attracted to competition as a means of overpowering others. The Sovereign is impervious to the soldier’s blade because of their high level of integrity. They do not engage in judgmental gossip, blaming, antagonizing, and argumentative behavior. Their non-competitive posture gives the soldier no reason to use their blade. When you do not argue and contend with people, they have no need to cut you with their weapons. To understand this concept, try to think of someone in your life who lives with such a high integrity and virtue that it is hard to think negatively of them. If you can’t think of one, keep trying. They are always surrounded by people who love, and care for them.

The Sovereign person is the one in ten. The only one who consciously cultivates the life of virtue. It is never too late to take up the path and cultivate being the one in ten. Sovereignty is the mother principle of power (Chapter 59, Tao Te Ching) which requires practice and discipline. Can you become the one? You can learn how to cultivate sovereignty and become the one in ten by studying the lessons in the book.

Sovereignty; The Tao Principle of Self Management

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The Matter of Perspective

Clarity is the foundation for sovereignty. Seeking truth is something we do many times a day. Our beliefs are something we choose and can change. Truth is often a subjective matter of perspective. Perspective is elastic and constantly changing. Often, the illusion of truth tricks us. Two people will often view the same circumstance with different perspectives because of their different experiences in life. From these different experiences and perspectives arise different truths. Since truth is subjective and not absolute you can realize that your truth may not be the same as someone else’s. Seeing the perspective from someone else’s point of view is the beginning of empathy. Empathy leads to compassion.

profile or vase

What do you see in the drawing above? Do you see two people talking or a vase?

Hopefully, you can see both. Notice how the mind can switch perspective and meaning, back and forth. This simple optical illusion shows how perception is subjective. If you were seeking the truth, how would you know which is more truthful?

Sometimes life experiences are complex, and sometimes they are straightforward. The ego, which is a part of the physical mind-perspective is often dominant. So, emotion and desire influence perspective. The spiritual mind, the true self, can realize many perspectives and arrive at a more informed decision.

Mindfulness has been defined as paying attention to the mind in a non-judgmental way with intention and purpose. As you can see there are two parts involved.  These are paying attention part and how you avoid impulsive reactions[ avoid value judgment] to what you observe. This opens the possibility for clarity or seeing things as they are without being subjugated by the influence of the emotional ego. When you are free of the reactive ego it becomes possible to discern more than one perspective. Through the lens of altruism and virtue, you can gain the insights of the various perspectives. With clarity, you will make the better choice through right thinking and right action.

Mindfulness and detached observation can open the way to consider reality from the perspectives of empathy, compassion, humility, courage,  patience, and simplicity just to name a few. The gift of these insights will serve you well when making your choice of what the right action might be. As we all know, karma will create destiny from what is created in that moment of choice. Simplified, it is just cause and effect.  For a deeper study of perspective, please see chapter 7, A Matter of Perspective, from the book.

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The Critical Moment of Choice

Young woman portrait.

I have had many conversations with people about how to cultivate self-discipline. Self-discipline is exercised in a moment of choice. Lack of self-discipline is the ego always following the desire of the moment. Alternatively, sometimes a loss of discipline happens when raw emotion overwhelms us. Fear and anger can drive us to take self-destructive actions. In the critical moment of choice, you will be faced with whether you will give in to it or not.

Excerpt from Chapter 27, Sovereignty – The Tao Principle of Self-Management

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Simplicity

…If you look at a list of antonyms for virtue you will see words like dishonesty, evil, and, imperfection. Practicing these traits will end in ruin. All virtue has inherent power. You can see the inherent power in simplicity.[1]

The root of the word simplicity is simple. The term “simple” can be defined as easy, clear, uncluttered, and, natural.

Simplicity is a virtue because of its altruistic nature (selfless action). Those who are aware of the ego’s desire for details and complexity know how it can hide cunning and trickery. If you look up the antonyms for simplicity you will see complexity, difficulty, and complication.

End sagacity; abandon knowledge

The people benefit a hundred times

End benevolence; abandon righteousness

The people return to piety and charity

End cunning; discard profit

Bandits and thieves no longer exist

These three things are superficial and insufficient

Thus this teaching has its place;

Show plainness; [hold to simplicity]

Reduce selfishness; decrease desires.

Chapter 19 of the Tao Te Ching

The complement to simplicity is honesty. Those who are honest with themselves and others feel no need to make things anything other than easy, clear, straightforward or natural. Telling the truth keeps things simple. Lying is complicated because of the difficulty in keeping the details straight. The more the lie is defended, the more complex it becomes. Often it will evolve into something indefensible, and it will become painfully apparent that the truth would have been much simpler.

Another complement of simplicity would be conservation. The vanity of ego can be the source of non-useful expenditures of resources. Complexity leads to difficulty and complication, which ultimately leads to stress and worry. Stress and worry generate a need to cope which drains your energy and resources…” Excerpt from Chapter 21, Simplicity (Section Two – A study of Virtue)

[1] See chapter 16, True Courage, subsection Inherent Power

About the photo: What better symbol for simplicity than a moment watching the sunrise? Just simply be present with the moment as the natural beauty unfolds. Just observe, witness, and appreciate being alive.

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Cultivating Wisdom

owl wisdom

The ultimate purpose of the Tao Te Ching is to provide us with wisdom and insights that we can apply to life. If we cannot do that then it doesn’t matter how well we understand the passage. The true Tao must be lived.” Derek Lin1

I believe that there are two parts to cultivating wisdom. They are experience and knowledge. Of the two, experience is the key ingredient and knowledge is a by-product. Society tends to promote the opposite of this path which is striving for knowledge with little regard for wisdom. The pursuit of knowledge is something the ego is fond of when the motivation is vanity, greed, or to manipulate.

The distinction is that learning and training to build knowledge is sound when it is intended as a foundation to build experience. Later, when you have practiced what you learned from real life experiences, your wisdom will be true. The wisdom of the Tao follows the same process. You are to study the Tao lessons and gain experience through use in everyday life. Over time, you become conditioned to be guided by what you have learned through the teachings and your experiences.

Wisdom is found in both failure and success. One teaches you what leads to failure and one teaches you what leads to success. Over time, your experiences become the true wisdom.

The other point to know is that the gained experience must be applied. Wisdom has no value if you do not listen to it and use it. This may sound mundane, but it happens every time your ego overrides your wisdom. It is the reason that smart people make stupid mistakes.

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Jalaluddin Rumi [2]

Learning the sovereign ability to rule over the ego is the purpose of this book. In that important moment of choice, you can be aware of the many options available. The voice of the ego will often be the loudest. Sovereignty is accessing your wisdom-mind whose intelligence is learned from both knowledge and experience. At that moment, you can override the emotional ego and make a wise choice.

Again, meditation and mindfulness practice will provide the presence of mind and awareness to make a wise choice. Without this skill, your mind will be captivated by the ego influence and the emotions that go with it. Emotions, mood, and desire can be the cause of the obvious mistake.

Tao cultivators can remain calmly detached from these negative factors so that the wisdom-mind can prevail.

 

Wisdom is one of the power virtues of Sovereignty. And remember what Lao Tzu stated in chapter 59; verses 5-9:

Accumulating virtues means that there is nothing one cannot overcome

When there is nothing that one cannot overcome

One’s limits are unknown

The limitations being unknown, one can possess sovereignty

With this mother principle of power, one can be everlasting”

1Excerpt from Tao Te Ching – Annotated and Explained. Written by Derek Line, published by Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT Published 2009.

[2] Paraphrased from various translation. These may not be completely accurate.

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To Experience Life, You Must Rise Above Distraction

morning after sunrise

 

“…When you are in a moment and fully experiencing the flow of reality around you, it is anything but ordinary. It is only the ego, and its insatiable desire finds life mundane. To experience life, you must rise above distraction and awaken to life as the spiritual being you truly are…” Excerpt from Chapter 43, Life; A Sacred Journey

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Yielding & Flexibility

Wisdom requires that you must be able to change perspectives when circumstances change. You must be flexible and willing to yield. There is a belief among Sovereign cultivators that it is important to be moderate and avoid absoluteness and rigidity of perspective.

One of the pitfalls of absolutism is that it is inflexible. When something is inflexible, it becomes too rigid and cannot change with its environment. For example, if a tree is flexible and it can bend with the force of each wind gust it tends to survive longer. Trees that are too rigid or too brittle will break when moved by the changing direction of the wind.

Being open-minded allows the assimilation of new data. An absolute perspective is inflexible and stunts growth and innovation. In your personal life, an absolute view will become your prison. So, for the sake of pragmatism, open your mind to the possibilities that are waiting for your discovery.

Wisdom is found in the understanding that most things you perceive in life are changing and impermanent…

From Chapter 8, Yielding and Flexibility.

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Karma the great executioner

karma the great executioner

 

People do not fear death

How can they be threatened with death?

If people are made to constantly fear death

Then those who act unlawfully

I can capture and kill them

Who would dare?

There exists a master executioner that kills

If we substitute for the master executioner to kill

It is like substituting for the great carpenter to cut

Those who substitute for the great carpenter to cut

It is rare that they do not hurt their own hands

Chapter 74, Tao Te Ching

The philosophy of Karma has the same principle found in physics. Results are always preceded by an action that produced it. In Taoism, both play a significant role in understanding how the Tao is reflected in the spiritual and physical realm. An even simpler way to put it is, “what comes around goes around.” Alternatively, you may have heard “what you put out into the world comes back to you stronger or bigger.”

Choice and Destiny

“If you want to know your past,

look at your present conditions.

If you want to know your future,

look at your actions today.”

Chinese Proverb- Unknown

Choosing is an action, and the result or effect is destiny. In any given moment you plant the seeds of your future. Inner intentions drive the choices you make, so it is important to be aware of these moments. By reflecting on your past, you can gain insight into the circumstances you realize in the present. These conditions, whether right or bad, are the result of earlier choices. Or they may be the result of someone else’s choice. So, you can see how important the action of choosing is. Not only is it guaranteed to affect your future, but it may, and often does, influence the future of others.

It is essential that you understand the following points:

  • Karma does not play favorites.
  • No one can escape Karmas influence or the destiny they create.
  • Seeds are planted to grow a garden. What you plant now is what you will reap later (the garden is a metaphor for your life).
  • Choices create destiny. What you choose now creates the circumstances of your future (or the future of someone else). The results may come sooner or later.

… No one escapes the effect of karma. When and where the convergence happens is unknown and unpredictable. It may return very soon, or it may not catch up to you until another lifetime. You can run, but you cannot hide.

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Hopefully, you have been enjoying the short insights that I share on this blog. You may be interested to know that the Ebook is available for free at Kindle Unlimited (KU). KU is Amazon’s lending library. Members can check out up to 10 books at a time. Membership is $9.99 per month. Sovereignty is available as a “read for free” for those members. So if you are Kindle Unlimited ed member, I recommend downloading my book and gain some powerful insights.

kindle unlimited with book cover

With the digital version of this book on your phone or tablet, you can read it where ever you happen to be. So while you are waiting, you can learn some of the ancient secrets for a happier longer life. You can and should work on your self where ever you are. Real life is where truth is discovered and wisdom realized.

The ebook is designed to easy to navigate back and forth at random. The inherent links and bookmarks along with the Kindle e-reader features make it easy to highlight sections and make notes. This book is a handbook for cultivating the Tao Discipline of Sovereignty and user friendly.

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These Taoist strategies and discipline will improve your success at life. Get the book, read a lesson that interests you. If it works, keep the book. If you don’t want to keep it, just trade it back in for something that works better. I hope you will give this book a try. Get the book here

How To Cultivate Wu Wei

 “No matter what it is you do, there is always a way to do it that is effective, effortless, and enjoyable at the deepest level. This is the true meaning of Wu Wei.”  Derek Lin 

Canyonlands, Utah.

Aerial view of  The Gorge in Canyonlands National park, Utah. Nature doesn’t have an agenda, it doesn’t strive, and it doesn’t have an attachment to outcome.  What separates us from the Tao? Ego

 

Cultivation & Practice

Cultivate the ability to accomplish more by doing less (effortless achievement) and without striving. This is accomplished through detachment from the outcome.  Be mindful of ego attachments and intentions initiate the reaction.

The softest things of the world

Override the hardest things of the world

That which has no substance

Enters into that which has no openings

From this I know the benefits of unattached actions

The teaching without words

The benefits of actions without attachment

Are rarely matched in the world

Chapter 43, Tao Te Ching

Wu Wei (detached action) takes cultivation and practice. Many times, in hindsight, you will see how you could have succeeded through unattached action. That is how wisdom and skill are developed through trial and error in real life.

Without the ability to be your true self and sovereign over the ego you will be a prisoner to attachments. These attachments cause striving. Attachment to the outcome is something you must be able to choose to let go.

Practice meditation and mindfulness as a discipline so that you can be present and aware of the rip currents occurring in your life. Be willing to see different perspectives, and you will be able to see how to “catch the wave” of effective, effortless, and enjoyable outcomes.

Excerpts from Chapters 11 (Wu Wei) & chapter 31 Cultivate Wu Wei), Sovereignty – The Tao Principle of Self Management.

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How to Take Charge of Your Destiny

Why is this so important? Mindfulness and meditation are necessary to take charge of your destiny. Destiny is the result of choices you make each moment of each day. Sovereignty is the ability to take charge of your destiny and rule over the ego along with its influences over the mind and emotions. Therefore, to transform your life into one of joy and success, you must cultivate the ability to practice mindfulness and be the Sovereign. Excerpt from Chapter 4

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Work on the Self , First

Two people practicing yoga.

Before you can work on your strategies and goals you must lay the foundation for self-discipline. The first discipline that you must commit to is to cultivate your ‘self’ first. Cultivating the ‘self’ means to awaken as the true self and then control the ego-self. Self-awareness is the heart and soul of self-discipline. Only the true self can control the ego-self.

Cultivating self-discipline is done in a state of self-awareness. Cultivating the true self is cultivating virtue and wisdom. So, before you start adopting strategies and goals you must have the wisdom to know which are in unity with the Tao. Without self-control, the ego will lead you astray by subjugating your strategies and goals. You will not be able to stay on the path without being mindful of what you are doing and why you are doing it. Once you commit to the cultivation of the true self, you can begin to have the clarity necessary for developing strategy and goals.

This uncommon insight was given to me early on by my Tao mentor, and I have found it be the most important first strategy to cultivate. Goals without willpower and self-control are just good intentions. The chances of not finishing are much higher without them.

Ego-goals are well intended but almost always fail.

Excerpt from Chapter 26, Sovereignty – The Tao Principle of Self Managment

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The Silent Witness

The Silent Witness

If you practice enough, there will come a time when your skill matures into a relaxed transition into the stillness. You will know when this happens because you will be free from the pull of ego and mind-wandering. You become the silent witness. This is becoming consciously aware without actively thinking about it. This is the center of being. The more you can experience this state, the more you become a part of this nature. Excerpt from chapter 27.

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The foundation for longevity is laid with the Tao Principle of Self Management. Without Sovereignty, it is too easy to give into the desires and emotions of ego.

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Imagine what it would be like to rule over your life from a place of stillness, calm, and tranquility? Imagine what it would be like to wake up and remember what it feels like to find the world beautiful and interesting again. This power is yours when you learn to follow the way of virtue. This is the power of Sovereignty. This book will explain and guide you into becoming the sovereign over your life and destiny. This is true power.

The Power of Softness

grand canyon black and white

The softest things of the world

Override the hardest things of the world

That which has no substance

Enters into that which has no openings

From this I know the benefits of unattached actions

The teaching without words

Are rarely matched in the world

Chapter 43, Tao Te Ching

Softness is both a Tao principle and virtue. In this book, I am putting under the category of a Tao virtue because of its inherent power. The first two verses bring emphasis to the inherent power of using softness to overcome hardness. The most commonly used metaphor and easiest to understand is water. Water is soft to touch and has little substance when you try to pick it up. Stone is the commonly used metaphor for hardness and a material which has no openings. To appreciate the inherent power of softness penetrating something harness, take a look at the Grand Canyon in the American Southwest. Water has slowly worn away the hard and rocky plateau to create one of the great wonders of the world. It is also quite evident when you take a look at a sandy beach or sand bar. Water has reduced solid rock into tiny particles. The process begins with water slowly penetrating the hard surface of the stone. Slowly and patiently water seeps into the rock in a process that to disintegrate its structure. Wind and Sun, also without substance, assist the process until the solid stone is no longer there.

The power of softness is especially useful in dealing with many aspects of life. It is so applicable in everyday life. As a life strategy, it gives you a methodology for resolving hard problems.  Use softness to penetrate the obstacle, get informed on what is going on. Be detached from the intended outcome and allow time chip away at the hardness. Let the Tao guide on your course. And one day, that mountain will be a big pile of sand.

One example is when dealing with some of the personality traits of the ego. Some of those hard characteristics might be stubbornness, anger, and aggression. The soft approach to these might be patience, non-reaction, or empathy.

Here is a story that I will share to reflect how softness can overcome hardness in interpersonal relationships.

In the city where I was living, there was a consignment shop that I affiliated with as a vendor. It was during the great recession. Times were hard, and people experienced a lot of stress trying to make ends meet. The owner and manager of this consignment shop had a challenging time trying to keep her business going. Her stress created a lot of tension among the people who worked there. Because of her anxiety, she was not a good manager, and retention was a problem. One of the more successful vendors, a lady who had a lot of experiencing in the antique market decide to leave and start her own business. She was a friendly and optimistic person who finally had enough of the stressful environment and opened up a similar business across the street. She was an immediate success. Most of the customers left the business of the cranky lady and started giving business to the new business across the street. Then many of the vendors, having had enough of the constant drama, left and came over to the new business too. It didn’t take long before the first business was in serious trouble with a lack of loyal customers and workers. One day which has been particularly bad for her, she got angry and marched across the street to have it out with the woman who had left and started the successful business. She threw open the door, walked up to the new store owner and begin to bless her out. Momentarily, she paused in her onslaught to take a breath. During her verbal attack, the other woman, the friendly optimistic and prosperous new store owner, smiled and said,

Oh honey, I am so sorry you are having such a hard time. I know how difficult it is. Let me hug you”. She embraced the angry woman, who suddenly wilted and began to sob. She returned to her store, and before long it was closed and out of business. Later, she came to work at the new store for the friendly lady. The last time I saw them, they were both at peace and happy again.

In this true story, the friendly optimistic lady used a soft, non-reactive, empathetic and compassionate response to the hard attack. It is a classic case of wisdom vs. ego. Witnessing that event raised my spirit, and to this day, I keep that example in my mind as a strategy for dealing with hard personality types. I have told this story many times, and people have shared their own stories where they found it to be successful.

In this chapter of the Tao Te Ching, Wu Wei activates the inherent power of softness.

“From this, I know the benefits of unattached actions” verse 5 from above is talking about Wu Wei or “unattached actions.” Footnote

To see the inherent power consider this sample sentence:

Because she reacted softly with empathy and compassion, the woman stopped attacking her.

Verse 6, “The teaching without words

Are rarely matched in the world”

That woman taught me and everyone there how to use softness to overcome hardness for a beneficial outcome. We learned from her example. Later I asked her about it, and she said that she was living through her Christian conviction of “love thou neighbor.”

It takes self-discipline of ego control to choose softness. Self-control and ego management is the greater principle of sovereignty. In the moment of action, you have a choice. If you are mindful of ego, you can be detached from reacting. In that detached state, you can choose the wisdom of the Tao. In this case, the wisdom is the virtue of using softness to overcome hardness.