Tag Archives: ego

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.

These are excerpts from the book. For this and more Tao wisdom please consider getting a copy here:

Sovereignty, The Tao Principle of Self-Discipline, available on

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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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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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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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Adopt A Child’s Sense Of Wonder (Chapter 32)

Chapter 32 (The Dixie Taoist Handbook – How To Find Your True Path)
Adopt A Child’s Sense of Wonder

(Authors Note: This is one of my favorite chapters. This bit of Tao wisdom is very important. I hope you can receive it with an open heart and let your spirit align with it.

The Virtue: Innocence, non judgment and awe.
Its Application: Remember how to feel joy and excitement by adopting a child’s sense of wonder. Before you became conditioned by so much life experience, as a child everything was new, fresh and possible. Children live in a now universe, they reside in the present. In this now you can choose to allow to let go of pessimism and boredom. You can remember to be in touch with the child within you and return to the Tao.

Tao Te Ching Chapter 20 (excerpt)
“like an infant not yet smile”
Tao Te Ching Chapter 28 (excerpt)
“Know the masculine, hold to the feminine
Be the watercourse of the world
Being the watercourse of the world
The eternal virtue does not depart
Return to the state of the infant”

Can you remember your childhood before life’s many experiences created the “me” that you are now?
Try this exercise. Get a picture of you when you were a child. If possible find a picture where you looked happy and if you can remember that period of your life. See if you can remember what it ws like to be a spontaneously happy child. Notice the “me” of then and compare with the “me” in this now. Life experience has a way of tainting our view of the world in many ways. As ego develops, so does the dark side of coping to life’s problems. For many us, years of dealing life’s problems causes us to forget how joy and happiness can be simple and arise spontaneously. Sometimes you can even suppress a rising sense of joy and wonder with a darker view of pessimism and skepticism. The opportunity for wonder is constant in your world but you can become conditioned with feelings of; skepticism, doubt, distrust, mistrust, suspicion and disbelief. Mindfulness practice can help you become aware of these feelings as they arise. Insight meditation can help you get to the root of these feelings. When you can discern the memory or memories that effect your perspective of this moment, you transcend it and create the space for spontaneous joy to come forth.

There is so much you can learn so much from children. There is treasure buried in your own memory. The treasure is how to play and have fun. So many of adults are so busy seeking the sense of joy and wonder in all the wrong places that you may not be able to see how simple it can be.

Returning to a innocent child like view of creation (reality) is cultivating a sense of awareness that is pure. Children enter the physical domain still connected with spirit and aligned with nature. As they grow older, they learn to be distracted and separate from source. But it does not have to be this way. To attain the Tao, you must return to the connection with spirit.
As you grow older and begin to experience life’s challenges, you also begin to cope with the stress . As your ego assumes control, your connection to spirit erodes away. The more you resist life, the more stress you feel. You settle into adulthood coping with a life filled with problems. The coping is the ego way of trying to escape life and its problems.
Our culture has become a collective of individuals addicted to entertainment. We have become addicted to television programming. The worst aspect is that we how over 60 years of cultivating distraction. Today, millions of children will have their natural joy of play superseded by the practice of distraction. Rather than being outside in the world, doing what children do best, learning and interacting through play, they will be sitting in front of a television screen having all sorts of content downloaded. There some There are psychologists who feel that long term watching of television creates a neural network for a distracted state of consciousness. Now this is just my opinion, but I believe that children who play a lot away from television develop a different ability of awareness than those who spend so many hours watching TV. By the time they are grown, they are programmed to seek distraction and are literally addicted to this mind state. So now our culture has 3 or 4 generations of this type of consciousness construct. I cannot help but wonder how we, as a species is evolving.

I used to travel in Mexico where I visited some poor areas that had little or no Television to speak of . I noticed how the children and the people were so connected to nature and the land. They seemed happier than my home environment, and even though they seemed poor, their lives were rich with community and just being alive.
Back here in the United States, our culture is shaped by elements something called “reality TV”. Our definition of happiness is being defined by sitcoms and commercial ads. If your real life outside of TV land does not measure up to the paradigm you are programmed with on TV, then you begin striving to get there. This is a cultivated ego state that just leads to a life of problems.

Your ego can dominate your view so that sensation seeking or distraction become all that you can know. This striving can become your purpose in life. And in this, the beauty wonder and awe of the natural world can become lost to us. The wisdom of the Tao encourages us to remember and adopt a child like sense of wonder at what is present. Being present is what children do.

As a Tao cultivator you can realizes the majesty of life and appreciates your world and the universe where life can be and should be experienced. As a Tao cultivator you are aware of your place in nature. As a spiritual beings you can be self aware of this physical experience. You as a spiritual being must awaken to experience and be appreciative of your form in a universe of forms. You are gifted with senses to appreciate this existence of form. Yet how often are you so distracted that you have lost your connection and oneness with them in distraction. The reawakening is when you first remember the sense perceived universe, and then enlightenment occurs when you realize that you are an integral part of it. “It” is the Tao. When you realize this, your spontaneous childlike sense of wonder will return.

This is something so basic and simple that it begins with just taking a moment be aware that you are alive. You can just stop and be present. You can just …be. After all you are a human-being. Yet when you become obsessed with being distracted, you are no longer aware of being … and being alive.
You must return to a path of simplicity. Simplicity is a path of that is uncluttered with coping elements. When you can become empty of striving for egoic values, you can access the Tao of infinite possibility.
As in all things, the Tao cultivator establishes balance. This is especially important in the basic of life experience. All creatures are involved with doing. Non sentient creatures stay busy supporting their existence, and who knows how much awareness and sentience they may have. Yet as a human “being” you have the ability to be self aware and sentient. Yet you may be allowing this state of consciousness to be out of balance. Distraction is when the mind is lost to something where you are not aware of being and being alive. Sometimes this is necessary as you focus on something you need to do. Yet you must not become so distracted that you remain disconnected to the world and your life experience. This moment by moment experience is where children excel at being full of wonder and joy.
The self aware Tao cultivator brings balance to the world of being and doing. In self awareness you can return and become at one with the universe and appreciate it through an innocent sense of wonder. A child’s sense of wonder. Children who have not yet learned to be disconnected from life, whose ego has not yet learned to be cynical and pessimistic can see everything as new and wondrous. Even though you grow older and accumulate experience, you do not have to lose touch with the childlike sense of wonder. Wisdom is learning from experience. You can treat your past experience as important for wisdom and remember the feeling of wonder you once felt with life. I encourage you to keep this as part of your wisdom. In this way life does not become mundane and boring. Each moment is not ordinary, it is special. When you adopt a child’s sense of wonder, there are no ordinary moments. Once again joy can be found in the simple view of a universe that is always new, always changing, yet somehow in a mysterious way remains interesting.

Chapter Twelve – Emptiness As The Source (an excerpt)

My editor liked this chapter and put a smiley face by the following paragraph. I hope you find it useful.

TDT

… You can begin to understand and appreciate emptiness when you realize that it is a necessary component for benefiting from the physical aspect of nature. Whereas you use material objects in your world of form, its functionality can only be created in the space for which it operates. In this way you can realize that importance of the space (emptiness) provided in the wheel hub so that the axle can slide into and turn. Thus the vehicle becomes functional with the turning and connection of the wheel with the axle. When you enjoy your next cup of tea or coffee, consider how the container you drink from can only hold the liquid in the space created by the sides of the container. It is the emptiness in the cup that makes room for the tea or coffee. Functionality is one thing, realizing emptiness as a source is at a deeper level. You may as well start with the cosmos which began with the big bang or so it is theorized. Just before the big bang, there was nothing but emptiness, then “BANG” the universe is unfolding. From emptiness came everything that we know… To attain the Tao, you must become empty from the control of the ego and its incessant thinking and pursuit of sensation seeking and distraction. In this way, the emptiness gives function as spirit. In spirit one aligns with source.

From Section Two, Chapter Twelve, Emptiness As The Source.

Black Friday looms near – Hold To The One

Excerpt from Chapter 22

Yield and remain whole
Bend and remain straight
Be low and become filled
Be worn out and become renewed
Have little and receive
Have much and be confused
Therefore the sages hold to the one as an example for the world
Without flaunting themselves – and so are seen clearly
Without presuming themselves – and so are distinguished
Without praising themselves – and so have merit
Without boasting about themselves – and so are lasting

In the Dixie Taoist Handbook, you are informed of the process for realizing the Tao begins with meditation and the practices of mindfulness. This is to realize self awareness and pay attention. In this way, you can become mindful of your life experience, what you are choosing and how these choices create your destiny. I call to you all to hold to the one.

As we approach the holiday season, you will be challenged in holding the one, to stay present and self aware. Thanksgiving day is one where we can embrace gratitude and share our blessing with each other. There will be a lot to observe and there will be lots to distract us.

This year, try to stay present and mindful of those things that can trigger the ego into choices that do not hold us on our true path. Be mindful of rising drama tensions and emotions and people gather and bring their distractions with them. Be mindful of desire as it overwhelms the senses with sensation seeking. Be mindful of desire as you are overwhelmed by TV ads.

Each year, I use an app on my smart phone to chime every 20 minutes to remind me to wake up and become present. The sound penetrates the distraction and helps me to hold to the one. When the sound of the chime rings (Tibetan singing bowl sound), stop, find your breath, and return to now. Realize where your mind has gone, what you are doing and why. Then take charge of your mind again, and take charge of the power of choice

And most importantly, have the experience. Experience, the sounds, the smells, the wonderful tastes, and best of all, experience each other. When things get crazy, stay present and choose virtue over ignorance. Choose patience, understanding, empathy, humility, compassion and conservation. Be mindful of your stress levels and deal with it effectively. Take walks, sit quietly and listen to music. Read to a child. Play with a pet. Listen to someone as they talk.

Even if you choose to stand in line of a big box store, in the dark, in the cold at 4 am in the morning, you can still be mindful. Perhaps you will even contemplate why you are doing such a thing. This could be a really good learning experience for gaining insight. Perhaps when the sun comes up, it will create a beautiful sunrise. As you stand in line, notice what is going on around you and practice the three treasures. Notice others and use softness to overcome hardness. Be like water and flow around obstacles.

Holidays can be heaven or hell. We have the ability to create either. You can do this if you hold to the one.

Happy Holidays
TDT

Strategy #7: True Goal Achievment

The Dixie Taoist Handbook
Chapter 41
Strategy Number Seven:

True Goal Achievement

The Strategy: Work on your Self First; the Goal is secondary. Implement unattached action. Flow like water toward the destiny of your true path.
Its Application: Goals are destinations. To arrive there successfully one must focus on the journey in each step. Applying the wisdom and virtue of Wu Wei, which is unattached action we are congruent with the flow the underlying reality. Without striving we arrive at our goal which is just one of many destination along our path.

Goal setting is the crafting of the strategy for your destiny. This chapter is a big deal, so read carefully. If you want to truly effect your destiny, you must focus your mind and be present. This is the practical ability to connect with the Tao (the source of everything) and to hold unity with the wisdom (the knowledge gained from life experience). When you have connected with the Tao, you are beyond distraction (that chaotic voice in the head that you wish you could shut up). In this state of consciousness you see where you have been, be in this now, and be guided by the spirit of the true self. Inspiration is that aspect of mystic virtue where Tao insight connects with a source that has infinite potential. Inspired is a most powerful spiritual virtue. From despair, inspiration can launch the spirit and instantly one is surrounded the ability to choose from infinite possibilities. And then a clear vision of your path of what can be fills the surface of your mind. Every fiber of your being vibrates with virtuous intention.
Be mindful of intention, so craft a worthy goal. Be patient, in meditation view your goal from the perspective of wisdom.

Tao Te Ching Chapter 37
The Tao is constant in non action
Yet there is nothing it does not do
If the sovereign can hold to this
All things shall transform themselves
Transformed yet wishing to achieve
I shall restrain them with the simplicity of the nameless
The simplicity of the nameless
They shall be without desire
The world shall steady itself

In modern culture we are taught to strive for achievement. In the western society many view striving as a good thing. Strictly defined by a popular online dictionary, one can read that striving is:
“to make great efforts to obtain or achieve something”
“to struggle or fight vigorously”
Let us look below the surface level of striving. Interestingly, one can see that the two definitions above are not necessarily describing the same thing. It can be one thing to make a “great effort” or to “obtain” and it can be argued that struggling and” fighting vigorously” is something else. Either way, the deeper insight is realize that great effort, struggle, and to fight are not the way of the Tao.
There is a better way to achieve the goal. The Tao offers something so extraordinary that it boggles the mind. See if you can wrap your mind around the concept of
NOT“trying” to do anything, yet accomplishing everything. What is being described here is “effortless achievement”. See Tao Te Ching Annotated And Explained by Derek Lin, Chapter 37).
This highly realized way of being is the authentic path of the true self. As the true self, we are sovereign. In this context, to be sovereign means to master the self. This is self control, self discipline and keeping the ego tamed. When one can follow “the way” (the Tao), we bring our reality into alignment with the destination which is our goal. We are working on the self in order to reach our intended destiny (goal). We all know that to reach a goal, requires self discipline and self control. Otherwise, we become distracted and fall off of the path. But that is not all. Going even deeper, we must determine our destiny (goals) as the authentic self. Authentic or true goals are those that are inspired when we are self aware and aligned in that balanced state of spirit and physical. In strategy four we apply the strategy of following mystic virtue as our guide. In this strategy, we use mystic virtue to determine and follow the path of the true self.
Is the determined destiny, the goal, an authentic one or is it just another sensation seeking desire of ego. Does the goal align with the three treasures? Is the goal a naturally evolution of the true path?
Here is the game changer. The struggle, fight, great effort are experienced by the ego. For alignment the Tao is to flow effortlessly with harmony. Do what you are supposed to do and being who you are supposed to be. Wu Wei is unattached action. Unattached is to be free of ego clinging and domination through ignorance. Wu Wei is action through mystic virtue. So we work on being sovereign, that is say, we rule over the ego.
As the true self on the true path, determine the direction and destiny that you know to be true. Then flow effortlessly in that direction by working on the self first. How do you know if your path is true? The answer is that if you are striving and knocking yourself out, burning up energy and feeling stress, that is not it. Are you tired, stressed out, sick, and anxious ?
On the other hand, are things happening in an almost miraculous way that seems to good to be true? Are the right people showing up at just the right time with the perfect elegant solutions? Are coincidences popping up all of the time that seem weird in a good way? Is intuition singing to you in harmony with life?
Self aware, our moment by moment choices will naturally come into alignment with our goals. In a synchronistic manner, and paying attention in that special way of mindfulness, all aspects of life will fall naturally into place. The people we meet, the coincidences, intuition, and all manners of what seems to be “good luck” begin to guide us in an effortless way. We just to pay attention and remain aligned with this reality. We must hold to the one (the true self) and resist the absorbing ego thinking which is the path of striving or pushing.
To be able to “hold to the one” requires that we work on ourselves. That is to say, we work on ourselves first and we will arrive at the goal we have brought into alignment with the Tao. Working ourselves is to work on being sovereign. This means we learn to become aware of our ego self and control its influence on our choices. Choices are the steps we take in each moment. If those choices, those steps are misguided by ego, we fall off the true path.
Mindful of our actions, we can ask ourselves,
“does this take us closer to or further from my goal”.
Am I keeping with the Tao?
Am I practicing mystic virtue and remaining humble, compassionate and frugal (the three treasures)?
Here is where it gets interesting. The ego, which is never patient wants to hurry and get there. The ego which is attached to outcome is our aspect of self that strives. Ego actions pushes and struggles to “get there” at any cost. This is not the effortless achievement of the Tao cultivator. This is not Wu Wei (unattached action).

Tao Te Ching Chapter 48
Pursue knowledge, daily gain
Pursue Tao, daily loss
Loss and more loss
Until one reaches unattached action
With unattached action there is nothing we cannot do.
Take the world by constantly applying noninterference
The one who interferes is not qualified to take the world

When achievement and goals rise in the mind, often one might think that we require to gain more knowledge. Immediately striving begins to form in the pursuit of more knowledge. Striving for more knowledge is ego introducing complexity where it need not be. Complexity only creates potential for distraction and the probability for things to sway us from our goal. Simplicity is the the way of the true path. There is a saying “keep it simple stupid”. A little harsh, yet we can appreciate the wisdom of keeping things simple and allowing. We we pursue the wisdom of the way of simplicity we lose the distracting aspect of ego desire.
The more loss of desire from ego, the less we strive. Striving is unnecessary effort, flow is effortless achievement. We practice cultivating our self control until we reach the point where our action, what we do, is unattached to outcome and aligned with the Tao (the way, the true path). This 4,000 year old wisdom is telling us that when we reach and hold this virtue of unattached action, “there is nothing we cannot do”.
“Take the world”, that is achieve our goals, without allowing the ego to disrupt the connection to spirit and the effortless flow along the true path. The strategy is to cultivate becoming and holding to the true self. To practice the virtues of the way (the Tao), to practice patience rather than striving and pushing. To allow and accept rather than interfere with the flow. Keep the march forward simple and use moderation to keep balance. Because of cause and effect (karma), striving and forceful achievement will cause friction and failure. When we plant the seeds to effortless achievement we reap the fruit of smooth and timely goal achievement. When one plants the seeds of striving and action attached to outcome, the result will more of the same. Striving and not hitting the true goal.

Tao Te Ching Chapter 77
The Tao of Heaven
Is like drawing a bow
Lower that which high
Raise that which is low
Reduce that which as excess
Add to that which has deficiencies…

The last part of goal setting for the Tao cultivator is the use of moderation in moving towards goal destination. Consider the goal itself. Is the goal just a product of the ego. Is it vain? What desire is it fulfilling. How does it measure with the the three treasures? Who benefits from this goal. Will others suffer as a result of achieving this goal.
The goal itself should not be too high, or too low. Adjust the objective as you cultivate your wisdom of the true path. Adjust your steps with moderation, seeking balance and harmony in each now, each moment. As you work on your “self” you cultivate your ability to follow the Tao, the true path.
Remember, true power is only held by sovereignty of self. Everything else is just illusion of ego. Wu Wei is holding to the one and using unattached action to move toward authentic destiny. This is the true path, this the way (the Tao).

Find Freedom In Simplicty

Find Freedom in Simplicity

image

The Strategy: Find freedom in simplicity

Its Application: There is a profound wisdom in simplicity. To become truly free is to realize the desire creates need. Need creates striving. Striving creates suffering. By transcending ego, we can manage desire. When one can become free of neediness, they will find true happiness and fulfillment. In clarity, true self does not need desire fulfillment for true happiness, joy and well being. The true self finds the simple life full of abundance and harmony.

Chapter 15 Tenth verse: “genuine, like plain wood”

This simple phrase holds so much power and grace that it can be easily overlooked by those striving for enlightenment. Many of the mysteries of the Tao are right in front of us but cast away by ego. In this simple phrase Lao Tzu is passing on on what the ancients held to be a very important virtue; simplicity. Note that Lao Tzu, in verse one, refers to the masters of iniquity, implying that this wisdom was ancient in his time. By many estimates, it is believed that Lao tzu lived around 2500 years ago. And the some of the earliest teachings of the Tao were 2000 years before his time. So this wisdom has been practice by Tao cultivators for over 4000 years. For something so subtle to stay relevant for so long points to a great truth.

This truth is that when we move beyond the materialist view of ego, we can realize that it finding and following the true path is pretty simple. Simplicity is the path to enlightenment (clarity and understanding as the true self).

Unrestrained desire and neediness can be expensive. Americans are famous for living beyond our means, carrying loads of debt living paycheck to paycheck. One has to wonder why do we all need so much stuff? Why is bigger always better, and more is never enough? Is your purpose in life to work to pay for all the stuff? Life does not have to be so complicated. The simple life, one where we are not so needy awaits us on our true path.

Here is a moment of truth, I hope you can see it. The true path, the true self does not need stuff to experience true fulfillment, joy, happiness and well being.

Examine your sense of neediness. Now just imagine for just a second what it would be like if suddenly you did not actually need much. Imagine if you can, what it might feel like to be happy without all of the complicated effort for entertainment (distraction from life) and stuff (non essential sensation seeking sources). When one can remove these unessentials because of false need of ego, what remains is very simple.

Some examples of simple joy are:

bonding (being) with your child
observing and smelling a beautiful fragrant flower
beautiful sounds in nature or music
observing a sunset
observing a sunrise
watching birds in flight
feeling a breeze on your skin
tasting natural food
the sensation of a healthy body and its energy
the face of your lover
kind words from a friend
giving to someone you love
giving to someone you do not even know

When you read these, what is your reaction?

If you know you would be bored, this is ego and neediness.
If you have a vision or sensation of recognition of joy, this is your true self (spiritual self). What if everyday felt like Sunday? What if you loved what you did for your job?
Can you imagine loving your job so much that you can not imagine getting paid for doing it?
Can you imagine working where money was not the reason for spending your time there?

Chapter 44

Fame or self which is dearer?
The self or wealth which is greater?
Gain or loss which is more powerful?

The excessive love must lead to great spending
Excessive hoarding must lead to heavy loss

Knowing contentment avoids disgrace
Knowing when to stop avoids danger
Thus one can endure indefinitely

This chapter was written over 2500 years ago, yet even back then people were striving for fame and wealth. This truth is just relevant today.

Excessive love, that neediness of “gotta have it” leads to great spending (credit card debt).
Excessive hoarding (having too much stuff) must lead to fear of loss (attachment, fear of loss, worry)

Knowing contentment (the simple life) avoids the disgrace (judged by other egos as a failure)
Knowing when to stop (enough is enough, moderation) avoids danger (bankruptcy, weight gain, jail)

Thus one can endure forever, which is a long happy life filled with plenty and well being.

Freedom is something we give away every time the ego crosses over the line of moderation to fulfill desire. Freedom means spending time doing what you love and what you are good at, and not stuck in the job you hate or listening to the boss who is a tyrant. Freedom creates possibility and options. Freedom means not having to work two jobs a day to pay for the stuff you thought would bring happiness. Freedom means being able to live a simple life with gratitude.

Freedom is an aspect of the true path. Are you free? Are you on the true path?

The truth is, as a spiritual being, having this physical experience, it is already extraordinary. Its only the ego which always needs more. It is ego that is never satisfied for long. It is always ego seeking validation and self esteem, and approval from others. It is ego… that is so needy. It is ego that seeks distraction, which is nothing more than tuning out of the extraordinary life because of ignorance.

As a Tao cultivator, we bring balance to our path. We still enjoy elements of sensation. We do become distracted with the beauty of nature. The wisdom here is balance. Balance between the physical and the spiritual is mystic virtue. Grounded in the spiritual we enjoy and are grateful, appreciate the simple yet powerful wonders of the physical realm.

As Tao cultivators, we find great freedom in the simple life. We are free from having to work so hard to satisfy these ego needs. Joy, abundance and fulfillment are simple and free. We only have to see them and appreciate them in clarity, free from the ego.

The strategy is to practice meditation to transcend the ego and pay attention to desire and neediness. Awake and aware one can avoid the stress of striving and live life to the fullest. This is the true path. This is the way.

Be Honest With Your “self”

Self Honesty Opens The Door To The True Path

 

The Strategy: Be honest with yourself. Take ownership of your life, where you are, and how you got there. To change your life from one of struggle into one of success requires and honest and accurate self assessment. Pay attention to the voice of ego.

Its Application: Being honest with anyone, whether it is yourself or others is only possible when we transcend the influence of the ego mind. Free from the opinion of others, practicing acceptance of how things really are, admitting fault and mistakes is the true self turning adversity into wisdom. The true self learns from experience. The ego sticks to ignorance.

 

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 71

To know that you do not know is the highest

To not know but think you now is flawed

 

Only when one realizes fault as fault

Can one be without fault

 

The sages are without fault

Because they recognize fault as fault

That is why they are without fault. 

Self honesty opens the door to self exploration. If we cannot be honest about our ignorance and mistakes, we cannot become free of them. The ego being vain and insecure must pretend to be the highest and most adept, especially when it is not the case. When are able to free ourselves from the ego and return to the true self, we can admit that we don’t know. In that admission we open the door to wisdom and allow ourselves to see wisdom.

Ignorance is repeating the same behaviors and experiencing the same suffering while at the same time refusing to change or let go. Wisdom is the higher understanding of acceptance of not knowing yet seeking realization and being willing to change. If ignorance is a prison for the spirit, ego is the gatekeeper. When we admit our lack of adherence and understanding, we become humble. Humility is the very powerful virtue that releases us from the clinging to ignorance. 

If we view fault as an unsavory or unsatisfactory feature, then through self honesty we can admit our faults. Humility is the power to admit faults so that we can overcome them. Think of some area of your behavior where you have fault and notice any resistance to accepting that in fact it is there. If you can successfully see and admit your fault, you are seeing life as the true self.

Being honest with ourselves also includes not being too hard on ourselves. The important aspect is see things as they really are. We are called to become at one with the underlying reality. If we are with fault we recognize this. If we are not at fault, we can recognize this as well.  Self assessment must be grounded in truth.

In each moment, in each now, we have choices to make which shape our destiny. This means in each moment we are choosing either the path of ignorance or the path of harmony. We can create our own suffering or we can create our own fulfillment. It begins with admitting when you do not know and when we have fault. Knowing comes through wisdom, and harmony is realized when we accept when we do not know and when we have fault. This is done through self awareness and alignment with the Tao. 

Not being honest is living in an illusion that is generated by the ego. Thus one can begin to understand that the true path cannot be found and maintained if we are blinded by illusion and non-truth. Ignorance and illusion are both perspectives of the ego. The true path can only be seen through eyes of honesty and virtue. It awaits us all and will magically rise before us when we enter into wisdom. This is the true path, the way.

 

Strategy Number 30: Be Independent From The Good Or Bad Opinion Of Others

Become Independent From the Good or Bad Opinion Of Others

The Strategy: Free yourself from the influence of what other people think of you.
Its Application: Sovereignty of self is true power. This is especially true when we can become free from the opinion of others. The true self follows the moderate path of wisdom and virtue. The ego is either striving for acceptance and the good opinion from others or it is striving to avoid the bad opinion from others. Either way, this striving influences the decisions and choices that create one’s destiny. The Tao cultivator works on being free from this ego trait and through virtue (such as the three treasures) will find and keep harmony and balance in a successful life.

Non Virtuous Trait: Dependence on the good opinion of others

Tao Te Ching: Chapter 13

Favor and Disgrace make one fearful
The greatest misfortune is the self
What does “favor and disgrace make one fearful” mean ?
Favor is high, disgrace is low
Having it makes one fearful
Losing it makes one fearful
This is “favor and disgrace makes one fearful”

What does “the greatest misfortune is the the self” mean?
The reason I have great misfortune
Is that I have the self
If I have the self
What misfortune do I have

So one who values the self as the world
Can be given the world
One who loves the self as the world
Can be entrusted with the world</blockquote>

So many of us frivolously use up a lot of energy on the worry of what others are going to think about us. The description “frivolously” is used because this such a self indulgence. This Self of course meaning the ego. When we allow our self esteem to rest on the foundation of what others think we set ourselves up for a lose/lose result. Either way we become dependent on an illusion that cannot be sustained. Those of us whose happiness is placed on what others think will always be disappointed. The ego mind can be become trapped between the seeking the good opinion of others or trying desperately to avoid the bad opinion of others.

The ego is very sensitive to criticism. So that any negative opinion becomes a kind of false truth that can be used to manipulate someone who is living a life dominated by the ego self. For the ego mind, self worth is based on what others think. This will be experienced as “misfortune” and suffering. If we have based our ego self esteem on the good opinion of others, we worry about losing it. If we have not yet gained the good opinion of others, we strive to obtain it. Striving leads to misdirection of destiny and suffering.

Striving is distracted action for ego results. It is a waste of energy thus it is a waste of our most precious resource. Wu Wei is the virtue to follow. Wu Wei is unattached action or action without striving. Dependence upon the good or bad opinion of others sets us up for striving. The Tao cultivator upholds dignity by holding to constancy. Constancy of the true self is the maintaining the balance between spiritual and physical. By following virtue and wisdom, the true self avoids the traps of the ego self and choices are altruistic. The Tao cultivators is upheld in the community because of wisdom and dignity and it happens effortlessly.

Yet we do not have cast out our ego self. It is a part of who we are. As Tao cultivators we seek balance which raises harmony. When we are self aware, that is when we are aware of the ego feelings of seeking that good or bad opinion we can step back, let this striving go and be actualized as the higher self. When we are mindful of ego and observe a state of worry over what the opinion of others might be, we can let go and return to the independence of the true self. In balance we can be aware of those opinion yet not be dominated by them. It can be useful to have a good opinion from others yet, we cannot allow ego place a prerequisite for happiness, fulfillment and self worth on them.

As Tao cultivators we stay connected to others, we are aware of those opinions for what they are worth but not controlled by them. As leaders in our community, we are aware of what other feel and think about us but we would not foreclose what we know to be moral and right. There is a balance to be found in regulating the ego mind and the value we place on what others think. Returning to spirit, we free ourselves of dependency on the good or bad opinion of others.

Strategy Number 27 – Tune Into Life

Life

The Strategy: Wake up and live your life.  Stop missing chunks of it by intentionally being distracted. life is meditation (awake and aware).

image

Its Application: Learn how to wake up, stay awake, and experience life. Where ever you are, be there. What ever you are doing, know it, have the experience. The past is over and done. The future has not arrived. There is only right here, right now. In this now, be at one with the living experience.

Chapter 10

In holding the soul and embracing the oneness
Can one be steadfast, without straying?
In concentrating the energy and reaching relaxation
Can one be like an infant?

In cleaning away the worldly view
Can one be without imperfections?

In loving people and ruling the nation
Can one be without manipulation?

In the heavenly gates opening and closing
Can one hold to the feminine principle?

In understanding in all directions
Can one be without intellectuality?

Bearing it, rearing it
Bearing without possession
Achieving without arrogance
Raising without domination
This is called the mystic virtue.

We are called to embracing the oneness, to refrain from straying and to holding the soul. How does one accomplish this? Unifying the physical with the spiritual is the state of consciousness we know as meditation. Holding the soul is the moving above the singular view of materialism and sensation seeking (ego) and experiencing life without constant straying (distraction).

When we contemplate the nature of distraction, we can realize that it is a tuning out of life. Distraction is by nature the dropping of attention and our being captivated by the irrelevant. Experiencing life is the singularity of physical experience. We can refine the experience by paying attention to each moment and letting go of those things which block or create resistance.

LIfe, the cosmos, and reality simply is. Notice how ego has its own agenda and expects things to according to its unrealistic plan. There is the unrealistic ego reality and there is the true underlying reality. It just is. In each and every moment, we have the choice to accept or react needlessly. Reactive ego, does not accept what is, and seeks to disengage from life’s problems through distraction. There are a myriad of ways ego tunes out life and allows the attention to become absorbed. Distraction may seem like it is working, but it is only temporary and one will find themselves right back to facing that darn reality.This constant struggle with reality is resisting life. Through meditation and mindfulness, we can learn to accept and and flow around the obstacles.

So when life does not work the way you think it should, what are some forms of distraction or “coping” that you practice?

Example: Eating.
Notice the WHY that you are eating. It is because you are coping and seeking distraction?
What are you doing when you are eating? (talking, reading, watching tv, on the computer)
Are you aware of eating? Or do you reach the end and wonder “how did that happen?”
Most importantly, Are you aware of the eating experience?
Are you enjoying all of the different sensations, taste, texture and smell of the eating experience? Or do you just shovel it down missing everything?

Ask the same questions about driving a car. Do you have the driving experience? Are you aware of the journey? Or are you so distracted that you drive on auto-pilot, arriving without ever being aware of the experience that got you there?

Life is meditation. Life is spirit having a physical experience. That is unless you are distracted. If life is experiencing reality, then its compliment, distraction must be not experiencing reality. Nature has this law, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. So here is your moment of truth. Slow down and be present. Experience life and all of its wonder that is around you. If you pay attention, you will see that there are no ordinary moments.

Being relaxed and concentrating our life energy we become like infants, soft pliable and full of wonder. Allowing our “self” to become distracted and dominated by ego, we create resistance, stress and the sense of wonder is lost to anxiety and problems. When we allow our mental focus to become absorbed by distraction, we have lost our foothold on life as the spiritual or true self.

The Tao cultivator tunes into life, and pays attention to protect the sanctuary of keeping a peaceful heart. The sage or wise person does not lose nor waste energy on unnecessary clenching and striving against the flow of life. The sage reaches balance and harmony by realizing the flow and becoming one with it. The harmonizing of the spiritual and soul with the physical experience of life brings forth mystic virtue. This is the authentic path of heaven and true being. This does not mean there are not difficulties. This means we do not give into ego coping because the experience we are having is difficult. With hope, we bridge the gap between fear and courage. Especially in times of turmoil, we return to spirit for guidance and solace. The sage seeks the path of balance and harmony. The balance between the spiitual self and the physical world is the path of mystic virtue. Without arrogance, without dominance, without the illusion of possession, and without ego, the Tao cultivator embraces mystic virtue. This is life. This is true living.

Expect The Unexpected

expect the unexpected

The Strategy: Expect The Unexpected

Its Application: Understand that the ego has its own agenda. It is a unrealistic view that life is without change and problem should not happen. The true self realizes that understanding of full understanding of life is illusive. Because we cannot know the future and what will happen a lot of the time, we must expect the unexpected. When the unexpected happens, we use the wisdom of the Tao to flow like water around a large boulder. By holding to the one (true path, the way) we endure.

Chapter 21

The appearance of great virtue
Follows only the Tao
The Tao, as a thing
Seems indistinct, seems unclear

So unclear, so indistinct
Within it there is image
So indistinct, so unclear
Within it here is substance
So deep, so profound
Within it there is essence

Its essence is supremely real
With it there is faith
From ancient times to the present
Its name never departs
To observe the source of all things
How do I know the nature of the source
With this

In our arrogance, the collective ego of humanity believe that it understands all there is to know about our nature and our cosmos. Yet time and again, we are shown how little we really understand. Weather is one example where we are lulled into a complacency with forecast and when they are incorrect we get angry with the forecaster. Weather is just one way that energy moves about the universe and the wise forecasters tell us to always be prepared for disaster. We are advised to store food, water, and other essential supplies for the time when the unexpected happens. In this way way we can expect the unexpected.

The Power Of Acceptance – Strategy Number Six

Acceptance
angry sunset

 

The Strategy: To practice accepting life as it happens. Stop resisting reality. Be humble, patient and seek wisdom for deliberate action.

Its Application. In each moment we can become aware of how we are reacting to the things that happen to us in life. Opposite of reaction is acceptance. Accepting things as they are we no longer waste energy on that which just is. We can align with the wisdom of the Tao and overcome obstacles with much less effort.

 

Chapter 22

 

Yield and remain whole
Bend and remain straight
Be low and become filled
Be worn out and become renewed
Have Little and receive
Have much and be confused
Therefore the sages hold to the one as an example for the world
Without flaunting themselves, and so are seen clearly
Without presuming themselves, and so are distinguished
Without praising themselves, and so have merit
Without boasting about themselves, and so are lasting.
Because they do not content, the world cannot contend with them
What the ancients called “the one who yields and remains whole”
Were they speaking empty words?
Sincerely becoming whole, and returning to oneself.

Yielding is surrendering to acceptance. Resistance is opposing the reality of life in a given moment. Yielding is surrendering the egoic stance and allowing courage of the true self to remain firm. Ignorance is resisting the underlying reality and taking a set of details personally.

 

So here you are facing some obstacle in your life. The unrealistic ego expects everything to go its way. In that instant, in that now, when you are faced with the obstacle or problem, you have a choice. You can allow the ego to react which is not really a choice or you as the true self you can choose an action.  You can choose to accept and yield or you can choose to resist and move against the flow of the underlying reality. Action is a product of a the self-aware choice. In another chapter, we will discuss Wu Wei which is the action of not striving. Action does not necessarily have to be a “doing” thing, your action may be to hold off and seek wisdom. Ego is enslaved to ignorance and reaction, and the True Self takes a measured action according to wisdom and virtue. The outcome of this reacting or striving can be very self-destructive.

 

Ignorant reaction is one where ego is making the decisions. The decisions are usually based on an emotional state that can often not be based in reality. Fear about what may happen, worry about some distant point in the future, Ego usually has a distorted view of the facts and therefore choices made within this perspective can be flawed. Since cause and effect (karma) is always present, your choice will become part of the new reality.

 

The alternative is to be present as the true self, be unified with the Tao and to choose from the perspective of wisdom. In that first instant, you can transcend the ego reaction and discern what may be unfolding. In this orthogonal perspective you may realize a whole host of possible choices or alternatives. By choosing to accept and yield where possible, we can remain whole and not lose virtue to ignorance. By not resisting we can bend and remain straight instead of breaking. When we spend a lot of energy resisting the flow of life as it is, we become tired, yet when we yield and remain soft, we conserve energy and renew.

 

Chapter 71 (accept when you do not know, accept when you are at fault)

To know that you do not know is the highest
To not know but think that you know is flawed
Only when one recognized fault as a fault
Can one be without fault
The Sages are without fault
Because they recognize the fault as a fault
That is why they are without fault.

 

This wisdom is practical and should be easy to implement. Yet if you are grounded in ego, accepting that you do not know or that you are at fault is almost impossible. Not accepting these realities is to just continue on with the illusion of self-deception. Only when we accept that we do not know can we begin to seek the understanding that leads to knowing. Only when we realize and admit that we are at fault can we begin to correct the fault. Otherwise we just continue the path of ignorance, which is the reality of not knowing and being at fault. This is a huge waste of time and energy (Qi) and only results in the false destiny. The Tao cultivator stays on the true path by the acceptance of knowing that they do not know and accepting fault as fault. Only then can they resume the true path.

 

Other areas of acceptance that can help us return to the true path are:

 

accepting that we may never know the great mysteries

accepting that we have not hit the mark (failure)

accepting that we have setbacks (a lapse back into ego)

accepting that the details of life are constantly changing, nothing remains the same, that there is impermanence to all things

accepting that we are not right (correct and at fault)

accepting that we are attached to something.

accepting the present moment as it is

By not being overtaken by distraction and ignorance, we can “hold to the one”.  We can hold to that authentic path of the true self. In this way, by not making the mistakes of ignorance, the Tao cultivator is recognized by their wisdom. Without flaunting, their example endures and their virtue is seen clearly. By not getting caught up in self promotion (ego) they are distinguished and are given high merit. By remaining virtuous and in alignment with divinity, they last.

 

Reacting to other people, circumstances and situations with ignorance is a form of resistance known as contention. When we react to someone in a negative way we are contending. Contention is to struggle with, to grapple with, and to oppose. This is resistance which creates friction. Friction uses up a lot of energy resulting in depletion. So when we contend, we may as well expect the to also to meet contention. This is a stagnation in ignorance where there is no winner. In relationships there are always going to be opposing views. Yet, the Tao cultivator can accept that there is an opposing view without agreeing with and still without contention.

 

Yielding for the Tao Cultivator does not mean that we give up what we know to be the path to wisdom. The Tao cultivator remains above the reaction of resistance and contention and flows like water around the obstacle. By remaining in wisdom, the Tao cultivator seeks the myriad of possible solutions by remaining free of taking things personally and holding to the one. If we use the metaphor of life being like a series of cards to be played (a card game), inevitably, we will receive a hand that is not productive. The ego will freak out, the true self is patient and will transcend emotion and consider the best strategy to continue forward.

 

Cause and effect are seeds that get planted in each moment we face a fork in the road of life. This is how our destiny is formed. The Tao cultivator, is ever-present of holding to the one, their destiny, they do not let the ego control the process. Mindfulness is the paying attention to this process and holding to the one. The Tao cultivator follows the wisdom of the Tao as if their life depends on it. Because what is life but our spiritual self experiencing reality in the physical realm and each moment holds the seeds of the future.

 

If yielding and acceptance seem like a weakness, this is the ego view. The moment one can realize, even for an instant, the freedom, the power to let go and accept and yield, virtue has risen. This is the power of the Tao.

 

Choose To NOT Self Destruct; Choose Life

Avoid Self Destruction And Choose Life

The Strategy: Avoid self destruction through burnout and excess and maintain harmony between spiritual and physical energy.
It’s Application: We must ask our “self”, why do we choose self destruction? We are a Life form with the potential for self awareness. We absolutely must not interfere with the life force [Qi] that holds our form together. We must nurture and support our life form, our body, so that we can continue to experience life in the physical realm.

Chapter 55
Those who hold an abundance of virtue
Are similar to newborn infants
Poisonous insects do not sting them
Wild beasts do not claw them
Birds of prey do not attack them
Their bones are weak, tendons are soft
But their grasp is firm
They do not know of sexual union but can manifest arousal
Due to the optimum of essence
They can cry the whole day and yet not be hoarse
Due to the optimum of harmony
Knowing harmony is said to be constancy
Knowing constancy is said to be clarity

Excess vitality is said to be inauspicious
Mind overusing energy is said to be aggressive
Things become strong and then grow old
This is called contrary to the Tao
That which is contrary to the Tao will soon perish

Li Ching Yuen for slide
In many of the various traditions, we have heard stories and legends of ancients who lived very long lives. To do this in a time before moderation medicine they must have had a secret that kept them going for such extraordinary lifetimes. In more recent times there are some stories of individuals who lived far longer than the average person. One such person who live for 250 years was a Chinese man named Li Cheng Yuen, that is somewhat documented to have been born in 1678 and died in 1928. It has been reported that he was an adept in Qigong and an Herbalist. Successful Qigong practitioners were also followers of the The Tao. The secret, which is really no secret is found in the chapter above. One might bring special attention and focus on the section above in italics.

“Due to the optimum of essence” is stating the bodies ability to repair and sustain energy, health and well being through the nurturing of the Qigong practice of regulating the essence. To regulate essence requires that we create and sustain the conditions for our Qi to flow unencumbered. To keep things simple just understand we must moderate our mental and physical activities. Moderation is the best starting point. Moderation of the body begins with the mind and its state of harmony or stress.

Mind overusing energy is said to be aggressive” was apparent in Lao Tzu’s day just as it is in our modern culture. One can realize just how tired they can become from doing nothing other than too much mental activity. Often this mental activity is from negative emotions and thinking such as fear, worry, anger, frustration and anxiety. One does not have to do anything physical to become completely depleted and drained of energy to reach burnout.

Important Insight. One may think that burnout is just something we get over and move on from. Yet the deeper wisdom in this insight is realized when one gains a deeper understanding of the role of Qi, the spiritual energy, or life force energy as it often called in the West.

Think about how all living organisms come into form. Not only is there an organizing and emergent property of nature that constructs form for consciousness to experience life, but this same force, this same energy sustains, repairs and holds all of these life forms together. In Qigong, it is understood that essence is the catalyst through which the energy works to create and sustain the life form. When a being, any being, overuses the energy, the environment to which the life form energy breaks down. The energy is blocked and interfered with. As the flow of Qi is impeded, atrophy begins to go to work. Think of atrophy as nature’s deconstruction process where it takes elements and building blocks of nature and redistributes them to other place where they are needed. We we experience burnout, we have set up the conditions for atrophy and open the door for our body’s deconstruction. The form, the body, our body, struggles to keep the form whole and functioning. Too much interference with this process leads to disease and death through atrophy.

It is really quite simple. We are to create harmony within the mind and body to help nature hold us together. If we interfere with the process, we breakdown, become sick and die. There are plenty of “natural causes” that humans succumb to that just happen and are not preventable. Yet there are many many causes of disease and death that are caused through our interference from stress and anxiety. Thus, we must all create balance and harmony in our life form, our body to support nature’s life force energy to keep us well. If we do this, and we are lucky, we can live to be very old and experience happiness and well being. It is a matter of choice.

Choice is made by the true self which is our spiritual self fully realized and following the path of wisdom. If you have read everything in this chapter up to this point, you are now faced with a moment of truth Will you allow ego to interfere with spirit and nature and the inherent energy? Or will you wake up (meditation) and pay attention (mindfulness) to what you are doing and why you are doing it?. It is really no complicated secret. Sovereignty of self is also known as self control, and self discipline,

If you are beginning to realize this insight and see the wisdom, you may ask “why would anyone destroy themselves”? Hopefully you will understand the ignorance that ego is guided by and begin the process of waking up and following virtue. In each moment we have choices that guide us to either well being and longevity or burnout, disease and death. We must pay attention to this as if our very lives depend upon it. Self Control and self discipline is a matter of controlling the ego desire part of the mind. This can only be done by transcending the ego and being. Being self aware is the true self. After all…. we are “human” beings, and we have the potential to be self aware.

Most of the time we are lost to distraction. Many of us seek distraction. We seek it because we are coping with a life that has run astray and we desire happiness. Only the ego believes that happiness and joy is found in the material world. Only the true self, the spiritual connection to source understand the really meaning of joy and happiness.

The path is always right here and right now. It is always before you in plain sight. We only have to take the blinders of ego off and return to “being”. It (happiness, joy and well being) does not lie in the past, nor does it lie in the future. It is only here, now, in this present moment. We only have to wake up and choose.

This is the way, The Tao.

Strategy Number Two – Mindfulness

Aerial of Maui coast.

Strategy Number Two – Mindfulness,

Strategy: Wake up, Stay awake and pay attention.
Application: Meditation does not end when you open your eyes. We must pay attention to our state of mind and return to the true self (self awareness) and not become lost in ego and distraction.

Tao Te Ching, Chapter 10

“In holding the soul and embracing oneness
Can one be steadfast, without straying?”

In the first strategy, one learns to wake up and become self aware as the true self. In strategy number two we must learn to not stray too far from our true self and oneness with virtue. Self aware, we balance being present with thinking and doing. In this way, life becomes meditation.

Many, if not most people, live their lives in various degrees of distraction. In this sense, distraction means to divert the attention away from being present. Let us define attention as where the mind is concentrated. Self awareness is the attention held as the true self, the highest state of consciousness. But the attention can be absorbed in thinking or some distraction and become disconnected to the true self. This can become so deep that even the identity can be absorbed. In this state, many identify with their thoughts. In this state where thought and subject are the same, our whole reality is influenced and defined by what we think about. When our attention becomes absorbed in the prison of stressful thinking we become trapped and suffer, not knowing how to extract ourselves.

However, the ancients of eastern spirituality have long known that this ego self is the ignorant identity and can be transcended. Here ignorance is defined as a lack of knowing or understanding. When only the emotional mind is apparent, when only desire seeking is known, we are following the path of ignorance which leads to self destruction. Thinking is neither good or bad, it is just a cognitive function of the brain mind. But thinking when controlled by the ego, is a state that is out of control. When ego and thinking cannot be controlled, the voice in the head will drive us crazy. Since thinking is a necessary part of life, we must bring thinking under management of the true self, the higher self. Consciousness observes thinking, and uses it as a tool to insight and higher understanding. Thinking can be directed and controlled. When thinking and ego are in controlled, things are in reverse and we experience chaos and suffering. Perhaps the metphoare of “the tail wagging the do” will give you the insight.

We must to learn to control the ego and take back control of the mind. This is the intention in mediation, where we learn to leave or transcend being absorbed with thinking. By concentration we can transcend thinking and observe the thoughts. When we are observing our thoughts we can then pay attention them and manage this process. When thinking begins to slow down and become still, we can realize our true self. This realization of your ‘self’ outside of thought is the true self. You are not your thoughts. By lots and lots of practice we can learn to become empty of the thoughts. Thinking is fueled by attention. The mindstream can build up a powerful inertia and when we get captivated, that is when we become absorbed by the thinking and cannot stop, we just continue to feed the stream of thought.

When we concentrat our attention out of thinking onto something else, like the breath, we are no longer giving the thinking mind the fuel it needs to keep going. If we sit long enough without feeding the ego and thinking, it will eventually slow way down. Finally the mind will become still and empty of the crazy thoughts.

Now here is the a big insight. Even though thinking becomes still, you still exist. Existentialism is not and should not be grounded in thinking, its foundation is being and stillness. The beingness, this stillness is found in the present moment. The now.

The now is infinite and eternal. In this infinite and eternal now, you connect with source. This is the realm of spirit. And spirits avatar is the true self. This is where we manage the physical realm from to follow the true path. If is only found in mediation. Strategy number two is returning to the now and managing the the physical with the spiritual. This is mystic virtue.

Sometimes after meditation, one may resume their regular life of distraction, where they return to the conditioned mind set. That is, however, unless they become mindful of this distraction and keep from being completely absorbed. This is the practice mindfulness and the heart of strategy number two. This is very powerful and a necessity in changing your life.

When we are completely absorbed, we are bound by ego, desire, sensation seeking and distraction. Lost to the true self, discipline and self control are lost to ego. Ego decides what choices are made. These choices are going to choose from the ego’s menu of desire, sensation satisfaction and distraction from living. If you are trying to transform your life from one of suffering and learn one of well being and wisdom, you must control your attention. This is concentration. This you that I a speaking to, is the true self. The you that has set the intention of making virtuous life changes. This is the identity that must remain present and manage the ego mind. Your spirit, that is your mood, morale or state of mind is influenced by the emotional state of the mind. If you let the ego run the show, you will feel whatever it is feeling. It does not have to be this way. You must be mindful of your thoughts and feelings and return to the true self to seek wisdom and virtue. Choices made while in the ego mind state are the ones that get us all in trouble.

So, how does one develop mindfulness? One must practice the mindfulness of mindfulness or maybe mindfulness of paying attention to attention. Just kidding around here, playing with labels and terms. Seriously, we must find ways to wake up, and stay awake and keep the attention present.

In our modern society there are tons of technical gadgets that can help. Watches and smart phones are great. One can even use strategically placed sticky notes where they can been seen. You leave your “self”, your true self, a clue, to wake up and be present, to return to the now, and the spiritual.

I learned this before the advent of smart phones. I those days, digital watches were trending and I had one that would chime at what ever integral I wanted to select. In the beginning, I set my watch to beep every hour. When I heard the watch beeping, I would stop, find my breath and return to the present. I found my attention completely absorbed in the craziest thought places. I would be in various states of emotion and mood, usually ones of stress. Yet when I woke up and payed attention, I could choose to let the stressful thinking go. Even in traffic, or I should say especially in traffic, I could find my breath and concentrate my mind there, until stillness set in and the stress thinking receded. This had an immediate positive effect on my life. As I begin to extend the stillness in mediation to my active life, my stress levels begin to drop. As the stress dropped, my weight went down, and my energy went up.

In the beginning, my watch was set for every hour. After a while, I begin to realize that just before the hour, I was anticipating the chime. My body and my inner clock were becoming conditioned for regular relaxation and quiet time. So I moved my alarm to chime to every half hour. Later I took it down to every 15 minutes. Eventually I gave up wearing a watch altogether. My mind and body had learned to balance between being and doing.

Once I was paying attention to my choices, and being the true self, my choices changed dynamically. There was kind of critical mass of sustaining awareness and choosing wisdom in everything that I did. People began to notice and very much approved of the new “me”. I eventually wrote a book about my experience and published a self awareness handbook on how people with messed up lives can turn things around.

Both strategy number one and two are critical must do’s. These are not optional for true transformation. People are in different ends of the spectrum for self awareness and their ability to be present and mindful. So this process is easier for some and harder for others. The rule of thumb is, the more deeply your consciousness is embedded in ego, the more your spirit is dominated by ego. The more you are transcendent and identifying as the true self, the more self control you have and employ. You probably know by now where you fall on the spectrum. The more out of balance your life is, the deeper you are absorbed by the ego, the more problematic your life is. To find the true path is to realize who you really are as the true self. Follow strategy number one and two as if life depends on it. Why? Because they do. One is self realization the other is self destruction. Self aware and paying attention, we can choose the way of happiness and well being. This is the way of the Tao.

Strategy Number One – Meditation and Self Awareness

Woman in straw hat.

Tao Cultivator Strategy Number One

Strategy: Build the foundation for self control through meditation and self awareness.

Application: By transcending the ego mind and thinking one can wake up into the higher state of consciousness of the true self. Transcending distraction and ego dominance is realized by concentrating or “tuning” the mind and becoming “present”. As the true self is realized, wisdom becomes the foundation for self control, discipline and implementing wise choices. In each moment, in each step, in each choice along life’s path, we create the new reality.

Any project must have a good foundation. To transform your life you must build the plan upon a good foundation. Strategy number one is building that foundation on Self Awareness and Meditation.

To implement any strategy, you must have set an intention. To follow the path of virtue you must keep a virtuous intention. How does one keep a virtuous intention? Through willpower, self control, and self discipline. These are terms that you have heard all of your life yet may  not have been able to stick to them. The only way to change a bad habit is by adopting a good habit and sticking to it. It has to become the new default. This takes self control. This is something you already know at the surface level. A deeper understanding of self control is to realize which self is in control.

If one is only able to make and keep bad habits and self destructive behaviors, it is the ego self that is in control. Please read the chapter on Ego to understand what drives this aspect of the self. For now, just understand that this is the ignorant self that can not break the need to fulfill desire.

The wisdom self also known as the true self is the higher aspect of self that can control the ego and implement patience and wisdom. This also your spiritual self that has great power because it is the aspect that is unified with source. To wake up and realize the true self, you must align your spirit with source (the Tao). Thinking is a cognative function that can be influenced by either aspect of the mind, yet it is only the true self that can control the ego and manage the thinking mind.

Self discipline and self control are choices. The secret or deeper understanding is to realize who is doing the choosing. There is the true self and the lower ego self. The true self, your authentic self and your spiritual self is not bound by desire and the clinging of the physical domain. That is the essence of the ego. The true self is also called the wisdom mind and this is the part of you that can make the wise choices. Think of the image of the devil on shoulder and the angel on the other.  The angel is a metaphor the spiritual self, the wise you. When your sense of “I” becomes the true self, you are identifying as your spiritual self. When your mind becomes absorbed by the physical desire and sensation nature of the physical realm, many of the dark elements arise.

We must train, learn to find wake up and realize our true identity, which is the true self. This waking process is done through meditation. Meditation is a higher state of consciousness where we transcend from or move above the purely thinking mind. The transition in meditation is the raising of the true self, the waking of the true self, the remembering of the true self and taking charge of the ego and emotional mind. The practice of meditation is to” tune” the mind  or to focus and concentrate the attention from thinking to observing. Thinking is necessary and has its place, but it is not the sole aspect of existence. You are not your thoughts. The imbalance of too much thinking and especially distraction is where suffering begins.

Realizing that you are not your thoughts is a good first realization. This realization happens when we can observe the thoughts and thinking. In the beginning of the mindfulness meditation, one begins to practice observing the breath.

Here is an exercise. Close your eyes and ask yourself “am I breathing?”

Look and see. Look with your mind and observe whether or not you are breathing. In that instant, you switch from thinking to seeking and observing. There is very short moment that you notice the breathing. You may even make your self breath just to make sure. Yet for just a brief instant you were observing.

Who is this that is doing the observer?

Now watch the breath for a few minutes with judging or thinking. Just allow the natural rhythm of breathing to happen without interference. You may even silently count them. You may or may not count very far before thinking begins. When the thinking begins your attention becomes absorbed somewhere else, in the thinking. But as soon as you leave thinking and return to observing, your back. This being “back” is to be “present”. You are present when you are observing. When you are present, you are in a state of “being”. For most beginners, there is a switching back and forth between thinking and observing. It will back and forth, back an forth, with thinking eventually taking back over. Meditation is the cultivating of remaining longer in the being  or higher consciousness state of mind. This state of being is found in that tiny gap between thoughts and thinking episodes. “Being” in the gap is fleeting at first, but with practice one learns to remain longer and longer. This is the waking up from the thinking mind. This is the identity shift from purely physical being to spiritual being. This may too simplified, but try practicing this and you will find that it is extremely effective in balancing mindfulness.

Since we are spiritual beings having a physical experience, we must first wake up and take back the identity of the spiritual self, or the true self. Yet we are having a life experience in the physical realm, so that is part of us too as long as we are alive.

Meditation and mindfulness is the balancing of being, as both the true self and the ego self. If your life is a mess, it is because the ego self has been in charge and only knows one plane of existence., the material world of form. When we realize our spiritual self, the true self take over management. The spiritual self is not bound illusionary world of the physical. So when we are realized as the true self we can effectively manage our physical experience, and this other aspect of consciousness. The true self is not bound by sensual desire or need for distraction. The true self is not a prisoner to physical neediness, but is aware of them and even enjoys them in moderation. Self control and self discipline are manage by the true self. So if a person wants to practice them, they must wake up and become assume the identity of the true self. They must wake up from the physical and return to spirit. Spirit is the confluence of both selves, the true self and the ego self which is like your physical life avatar.

 

This brings us to choice. The dichotomy is wise choice and emotional reaction. When any experience is perceived what happens next depends on which state of mind the person is in. If they are lost in ego, then the mind will react in accordance with the sensation seeking, distraction seeking, narcissistic and “what’s in it for me” point of view. If the person is awake and “self” aware as the true “self”, then it [spirit] is free from ego influence and considers various perspectives and will use wisdom to guide in choice. And this is how we create our reality and our life.

 

Therefore, to implement the wisdom of the Tao sages, we must be awake and aware. We must be mindful of what we are doing and why. We must be present as the true self and be aligned with the Tao create along with it. Ego is “tuned outward” or absorbed and  true self is tuned to source or present in being. Distraction is the state of consciousness where we are not awake and aware. You can quickly notice that when our minds are captivated for long periods of time with obsessive thinking, we are “away” for extended periods. Decision making is on ego autopilot. The consequences can be severe.

 

Here is an example. Think about driving your car to some destination. As soon as you sit in the car, crank up and go, what is the mind doing? Typically, as soon as you pull away, the mind goes away too. You will go off in a prolonged mental state of thinking and be completely unaware of the driving experience. Amazingly, we can drive for many miles, passing through dozens of traffic lights and dangerous intersections, switching lanes and stopping at stop signs without ever being aware of it. We do all of this without having the driving experience. We are only vaguely aware of driving the car. Its no wonder that ther are so many traffic accidents. And in this modern day, there are additional distractions added to being lost in thought. Now many of us are trying to use phones, send text message, surf the internet and more … while we are driving in very dangerous conditions! This is not a lecture about texting and driving. The insanity of this is obvious to the self aware and wise person.

So strategy number one is to learn and practice meditation so that you can wake up and stay awake as you live your life. If you are awake and aware you can develop a strategy, implement the wise strategy and stay with it because you can choose. You can choose from the foundation of self discipline and self control.

Each moment, each step, and each day you can recreate your life by choosing the wise path. This is not just good advice, this is a necessity for well being and longevity. We can look at our own life or the life of others and see how well life is in balance. The imbalances are very obvious and many time, if not most of the time, the result of poor choices. The obvious question is “why”. Why do we cause ourselves to have so many difficulties and cause so much suffering to yourself? Now you know the answer. It is due to being lost in the mind of ego.

How do we wake up from ego? By practicing meditation. How do we pay attention to ego and seek balance? The answer is Mindfulness.

How do we develop a wise and effective life strategy and stick to it? The answer: by our choices. Harmony is created by balance. Balance is achieved by returning to the true self and  choosing wisdom over ignorance.

Most importantly, the true self always brings balance. Balance between the spiritual and physical. Balance in all areas of life. Moderation is the wisdom, harmony is the result.

Mindfulness instruction is in most major cities. You just have to look for them and begin the practice. Here is the link to a guided meditation to give you something to practice with.

https://taichiuniversity.dpdcart.com/cart/add?product_id=89660&method_id=93802

The power of the Tao (source) is only realized by the true self. To return to source, you must first return to being. This is the way, this is the Tao.

To Find Your True Path – Start Here

path through the forest

Your Path Starts Here –

Introduction (from the book: The Dixie Taoist Handbook – How To Find Your True Path, expected Fall 2014)

The Tao Te Ching is much more than a book. It is a path of virtue and wisdom on how to experience life as the true self on the true path. Important Lesson One Lesson number one is that no wisdom, including that of the Tao cannot be followed unless the person is awakened as the true self. The true self is the higher consciousness of self awareness. In each moment we choose which way we step along the path. There is always the choice to follow the true path, the path of virtue or to follow the false path of ego. The intention to follow the true path of the Tao will quickly be lost in distraction if one does not learn to stay awake and pay attention. In each present moment, each now, that choice is available. It is in those moments we create our destiny. We chose the true path or we chose the path of ignorance and suffering. It is very important to realize we should take care and choose our steps as if our life depended on it. We must realize that our life does depend on the choices we make. Our destiny is created in the moment by moment choosing. Each choice is like a seed being planted. Karma, which is known in the west as cause and effect is the result of the seeds being sown. Our choices, our steps along the life path are like the seeds of karma being planted. You will reap what you sew. You can plant seeds of virtue and wisdom or you can plant seeds of ignorance and suffering. The first step is to learn how to wake up and to be mindful (pay close attention) to what we are thinking and how it affects our choices. This is the practice of meditation and mindfulness. Paying attention and choosing wisdom is the most powerful development a human can adopt and learn. This is the true path. The Tao Te Ching contains powerful wisdom, yet it is only effective when implemented. The wisdom is implemented through careful wise choosing in each now. We create our reality, our life path, our circumstances with these often subtle choosings. The Tao cultivator is one that takes great care in constructing their destiny and their life. Lesson number Two is that it is important to learn the ancient wisdoms from a source and teacher who fully understands the teachings. There are many translations available for the Tao Te Ching, and many are incorrect. This is especially important because as mentioned in the previous paragraph, constructing one’s life is often done through subtle choices. Even if a person is self aware and seeking carefully the wisdom, it only takes one mistranslated word to misdirect an understanding. There are no insignificant choices. So it is important to follow a teacher and translated that is accurate as possible. It is important to be able to tie the ancient wisdom to modern day culture and life. I do not explain what the Tao means. I leave that sages like Derek Lin. So I strongly recommend the translated version of the Tao Te Ching that he has written. His book is titled: “Tao Te Ching – Annotated and Explained”. As of this writing Derek offers free classes online each week on in depth understanding of each and every verse. As a Tao cultivator and one who practices humility, you will not hear Derek claim any titles such as master. Yet in my view he is a master of the teachings and I look to him for guidance. I recommend that you also take him on as your Tao guide and teacher. My intention in this book is to help you realize your true self and to assist in application of the wisdom through self awareness along the true path. These words are to help you put together your own book of wisdom. Your own true self handbook for a happy successful life by following the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching. I do not translate nor annotate, that is done by Derek and others. What I intend is to help you cultivate the self awareness necessary to practice the teachings that the Tao Te Ching offers in the present moment. As I mentioned earlier, at first I found the Tao Te Ching, to be enigmatic and hard to comprehend. The Tao Te Ching Annotated and Expanded brought clarity and understanding. Yet as I explored the Tao Te Ching, sometimes it was difficult and tedious to search and find the lesson for the situation at hand. As I explored the book, I began to compile a road map on how to get to the various wisdoms so I could go straight to the lesson I needed when contemplating a problem or situation. This book is written for the beginner to help develop self awareness. Awake and aware one is to use the wisdom found in the Tao to find the true path and experience life as the true self. This book will help the reader get to that wisdom as they encounter the choices of life. As you begin taking charge of your destiny, you will face many opportunities for growth and life cultivation. These opportunities will appear as problems and obstacles to the ego. Yet, when you become present (mindful) the true self will be realized. In that moment seek the wisdom of the Tao. Use this book to find the relevant teaching. Use Derek Lin’s book, “The Tao Te Ching Translated and Annotated” to understand the deep true wisdom of the Tao. In this book Get your ready. Set the intention, make the commitment to practice willpower and self control with wisdom. Wisdom is learning from you past mistakes and not repeating them. Ignorance is repeating the bad habits and mistakes and not learning from them. This increases problems and suffering. Study Section Two and begin to cultivate an understanding of the Tao and the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching. The nature of the Tao is mysterious and can seem enigmatic. Yet with study and practice your experience will open the secret doors. Study the Section on Ego and get to know and realize how this aspect of your mind cause so many problems. Embrace the Section on the True Self. Study and practice how to manage and control the sensation seeking, greedy, self serving ego and discover the power of mystic virtue. Only the true self can make this discovery. Develop your own wise and virtuous strategy by listening and following the guidance of the Tao Te Ching There is only way to find and follow the true self and the true path and that is through meditation and mindfulness. You may want to start a journal of your self discovery. As you learn each new insight, put it in your playbook. Later you may want to refer back to previous experiences to help yourself to not repeat the same mistakes again. Your learning will happen one experience at a time over a life time. Take things slow and steady, turning experience into wisdom. Through meditation in stillness, the knowing will take place and take root. When you are aware of life as it happens, you experience life as it happens. Wisdom is cultivated one experience at a time and destiny is created one path at a time. Find others on this path who understand and support one another in sustaining self awareness and following the Tao. Cultivate your ability of “holding to the one” as it says in the Tao Te Ching. By keeping company on regular basis with others who are cultivating the true path or “The Way” of understanding, you stand a better chance of successfully bringing balance into your daily life. Are you ready to begin the new life? Get a copy of The Tao Te Ching Translated and Annotated by Derek Lin and together with this book begin creating your new destiny. In chapter 64, we are given the wisdom “a journey of a thousand miles begins beneath the feet” Here is your first choice. Here is the first step beneath your feet. The True Path begins here. .

Ego and the Path of Ignorance

Ego

Ask yourself the question, “Who am I?”

Most people will answer “I am ME”

 

Before I introduce you to your “self”, lets begin with a disclaimer. This description or illumination of the inner voice may  or may not be in complete alignment with terms found in psychology. You may or may not find descriptions of the Id, Ego and SuperEgo to correspond to the ancient concepts of self, self awareness and mindfulness. Perhaps one might consider id and ego as what the one aspect of material self as “ego”. Maybe the super ego is a very sterile way of considering the true self or spiritual self.

The important thing is to learn and become proficient in regulating the mind so that self control and management is held by the higher self or spiritual self.  When one transcends the view of only experiencing the physical realm the feeling is like an awakening. It is an awakening into clarity. This higher consciousness is the highly awakened state of meditation. In this period many spiritual teachers have found a usefulness in grouping the physical experience, the emotional “me” self in a broad category and are calling ego. So in my original question of “who are you” the question is more about which identity is in control ? Which you am I talking to ? Is this the ego self or the true self?

 

One beginners metaphor  would be to imagine the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Many of us have spent a lifetime being influenced by the devil’s voice on our shoulder and only occasionally hearing the voice of virtue, wisdom and spirit whose avatar is the angel. Many have only ever experienced the ego self identity and that may be all that they know.

 

Here is a test. Sit down in a chair, and try doing nothing for 30 minutes. As this you sits there and begins to feel restless, bored, antsy, irritated try to be mindful of this from a detached perspective. Is it possible to step back from the feeling of “i” am feeling restless or bored and just observe this feeling. It is possible to ask “oh look, what part is this that is feeling restless?” Is is possible to recognize the shift from being the feeling and observing the feeling. If so, perhaps this “me” can ask who is this observing and detached or removed from the feeling of restlessness. The question may arise what is the other part that is experiencing the feeling of restlessness. This return to observing or “being” is self awareness. One is aware of the feeling yet separate from it by choice. If you can first conceptualize this and then learn to practice and cultivate self awareness, you can transform your life. This higher state of consciousness, this waking up into self awareness is unifying with spirit. This is realizing your spiritual identity. Paradoxically, the true self is often lost to most people. Perhaps it is a kind of amnesia where we have forgotten who and what we truly are. We are a spiritual being having a physical experience called life. Metaphorically speaking, many of us have only listened to self desructive devil on our shoulder never having realized or remembered our spiritual self. Our spiritual self is connected to the Tao, the source of all we can perceive and yet never fully understand. Ego is the distracted state of mind, the aspect of self that only seeks the tangible physical experience. The physical is experienced through the senses. Sensual desire is characterized by a distraction called “sensation seeking”. Ego is heedless of cause and effect and seeks sensual desire fulfillment at any cost. More importantly ego is realm of self esteem. Self Esteem is defined by the ego. When ego dominates consciousness, the reactive nature of the ego mind is constantly defining the life experience by qualitative measure. Ego has its own unrealistic agenda to which it expects life to comply with. When ego agenda does not align with reality, the ego experiences a “problem”. For the ego, problems lead to suffering. Suffering leads to coping. Coping leads to sensation seeking and distraction.The ego is a distracted state of mind and consciousness becomes absorbed by ego thinking.

 

Ego has an unsustainable appitite. It is the antithesis of patience. So when the beginner sits down to practice meditaiton and waking up, the ego resists. Ego feeds off of stimulation. When one sits in meditation, the ego feels starved and experiences a feeling of boredom and agitation. There is this neediness to “do some thing”. It is often so powerful, that the failure rate for first time meditation students is near 100%. Ego need for stimulation is so powerful that it may choose electric shock desperate for some type of stimulation. So now you can begin to understand why people do some of the desperate things that they do. You may also use this same insight to understand others do what they do. Perhaps in this moment, the insight is reaching and you are beginning to glimpse reality for just a moment as the true self. If you are able to see your own behavior from the non “me” state and see the behavior for what it is, you are having a moment as the true self. Welcome to self awareness. Before you are once again lost to distraction and ego, perhaps you can take this opportunity to set an intention to wake up again. Leave your higher self a note, or set your watch alarm to go off at some interval and when you hear it, wake up and observe what is happening to the inner landscape. How do you wake up? Ask your “self” if you are breathing. When you look for the breath, you’re bringing your mind, tuning your mind back to awareness; self awareness (awakening). Practice this over and over until you, the higher true self you, realizes constancy, that is to say, staying awake.

The ego mind is the antithesis of spiritual cultivation and the virtuous path of the Tao.

The Tao Cultivator recognizes and accepts that ego is an aspect of the self identity and seeks to control its manic behavior by strengthening the identity of the wiser true self. Balance is the target, harmony is experienced.

 

Meditation is the practice of transcending the ego mind and realizing the true self. Paying attention to manage ego is the practice of mindfulness. The Tao cultivator pays attention to the choices one makes and chooses the wisdom of the Tao. In each choice, we manage our destiny. Paying attention, we can ask, “is this choice in alignment with wisdom? Or is it in alignment with ignorance which is the way of ego”.

 

The Tao Te Ching advises in numerous chapters on controlling ego in various situations.

Chapters 3.9.12, 13.16.17 are just a few to hear Lao Tzu warn us of how to manage the ego mind.

 

The Tao cultivator learns to manage ego and cultivate the spiritual self. Realization as the spiritual or true self allows self awareness to rise and control the crazy voice in the head, that devil on the shoulder. By paying attention in that non judging concentrated way we cultivate through meditation, we be mindful of mind, of ego influence and practice follow wisdom and virtue.

 

If you can pay attention long enough to realize what you are doing in any given moment, you will begin to see the ego mind/self at work. Awakening from the ego self is the awakening from distraction.

 

There was an article on the web that reported that a study showed that most participants chose electric shock when asked to sit quietly with no entertainment for a period between 6 and 20 minutes. Most people elected a shock over stillness. Why is this?

 

What part of us would be so impatient to choose electric shock over stillness? The needy, greedy, and oh so impatient ego. Once we highlight ego it becomes pretty easy to understand why it is so hard to just “be”. Meditation is the practice of overcoming the power of ego through unifying with the higher self (true self). We do this when we find breath and leave the ego to its insanity. How do you find breath? Just close your eyes and ask your “self”. am I breathing? Then… look inward and find the answer. Turning your mind away from the impatient mind is also TUNING your mind out of distraction and into the awakened state of self awareness. In the beginning Ego wins the battle most of the time. Yet, with practice and will power, one can learn to remain present. Once present, one can remain present by concentration. In presence we are free to choose all that life has to offer and free ourselves from the voice of ego. As shocking as that is (pun intended) if the article above is true, the ego mind would literally seek an electric shock as a means of distraction because it just cannot abide stillness (presence). Even as you read these words, ego may be raising its voice trying to keep your from waking up and moving into the light of awareness. Tired of the ego “me” calling the shots? Find the nearest mindfulness group and learn how to free your “self”.

 

Cleverness

Cleverness

Chapter 65

Those of ancient times who were adept at the Tao
Used it not make people brighter
But to keep them simple
The difficulty in governing people
Is due to their deceptiveness

Therefore using cleverness to govern the state
Is being a thief of the state
Not using cleverness to govern the state
Is being a blessing of the state?

Know that these two are both standards
Always knowing these standards
Is called Mystic Virtue
Mystic Virtue is so profound, so far reaching
It goes opposite of material things
Then it teaches great congruence

There is an old saying that goes something like “the devil is in the details”.
When the ego mind is at work it strives. In striving, ego always sets up as many incoming vectors of self serving as possible. In a given situation, it believes that the more complex something is the more elegant. It strives to create confusion so that those it would manipulate are not aware of its true intention. Ego loves tricky, clever misdirection so that it can act in deceitful ways to manipulate and take advantage of the those around them.

An example can be found in this when engaged with sales people who go to great lengths to create confusion and employ cleverness to get the sale. They can be found in every industry where hard work and honesty are dropped in favor of clever wording and psychological parlor trick manipulate people into giving up their money.

We even do this to ourselves. When ego is allowed to run freely as the creator of our path, it can be so very clever in justifying the self gratifying poor choices that get us into so much trouble. Sometimes our striving can become so complex that we believe our own tricks and deceive ourselves. While living within ego our cleverness can get us into serious trouble.

Ego living for the pursuit of desire fulfillment creates problems from poor choices. Ego thinking that it can buy happiness through the purchase of material items, will soon run out of money because there is just not enough stuff to ever find that feeling of fulfillment. When the money runs out, it seeks more, often in the form of credit cards. Soon the ego is feeling clever at how well it can ‘rob Peter to pay Paul”. It will set up what it thinks are clever schemes to shuffle money around, even feeling proud of how tricky and complex their system is. Yet, it cannot last and one day the house of cards collapses. The mess they create they can create can be so complex that it is impossible to sort out and come up with a viable solution. Thus ego creates situations that are too complex and impossible to solve.

The Tao cultivator learns to keep things simple and to follow those who seek simplicity and straightforward demeanor over cleverness. Importantly they also recognise the tricks of cleverness in others and learn to not fall into the traps that clever egos set up. In this balanced way the the Tao cultivator can experience the grace of mystic virtue. Staying away from trouble keeps them on the path. When trouble is at hand, they use simple straightforward steps to go beyond the problems areas of life because they are not overburdened with complexity and detail.

The self aware person is mindful and present. They pay attention to the choices at hand and carefully choose the way of simplicity. By managing their own ego, they are able to discern the cleverness of other egos and steer away from trouble. In this way they do not take upon themselves the distractions that lead to suffering and misery.