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.
The Strategy: Be mindful and take great care in creating your future.
Its Application: Karma is the great executioner. The Tao does not play favorites. We create through cause and effect. What you concentrate on, your actions are planting the seeds of the future. Your actions now will have consequences in a future now.
Tao Te Ching: Chapter 74
There exists a master executioner that kills
If we substitute for the master executioner to kill
Its like substituting for the great carpenter to cut
Those who substitute for the great carpenter to cut
It is rare that they do not hurt their own hands
The great executioner is called the law of cause and effect. It is also is called karma. Because the Tao does not play favorites, the law of cause and effect applies to everyone. Therefore the wisdom of the Tao is that it is not always or necessarily our place to act as judge and jury and to dispense out punishment. People will receive their punishment or reward regardless of what humanity does. In the case of capital punishment is can be seen now as it was 2500 years ago that criminals are not mindful of it as a deterrent. The understanding here is that regardless of laws and rules set up by humanity, nature and the law of cause and effect will be the creative agent for each person’s destiny. When any of us plant the seeds of self destruction, that is what we will reap in some future now. What we put into the world we will receive back. What goes around will come around.
In every moment of every day along the path, we make choices and choose this or that. Our choices are the seeds that will grow into maturity later on. If we manipulate others for self gain, we will experience being manipulated by others and become the victim later on. If we initiate the suffer of someone by intent, we will experience the greater reward to suffer even more in some distant moment.
The Tao cultivator leaves anger and revenge to the master executioner. Because they know that by holding that sort of negativity in the mind is to create the same negativity along their path. Judgment is a blade that is double edged and cuts two ways. Like an unskilled carpenter who would “try to cut wood” (judge and interfere with another’s life) is more likely to cut themselves in the process.
There may come a time when we are called to judge and punish others, but those times are uncommon and rare. When those times come, we must use virtue to guide us with great care of stepping along this slippery slope. As leaders, managers or parents we can be empathetic and compassion to help us step carefully. By understanding our own ego and how it works, we can begin to understand other egos and why they do what they do. In this way, understanding that when they are lost and blind in ego they do not know what they are doing and why.
We must use meditation to strengthen our self awareness and remain in clarity and awareness. We must pay attention to ego when judgement begins to arise. Then and only then, when we are awake and present as the true self, can we make wise choices. We can be aware in each moment that these choices are creating our destiny by planting the seeds of the future.
Using the knowledge of karma as guidance will help us make those virtuous choices so that the great executioner become the great benefactor. Living as a spiritual being our steps are guided by inspiration. Planting seeds of virtue will allow us to reap the sweet fruit of harmony and well being. In this way we cultivate the extraordinary 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.
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
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.
The Strategy: Use the virtues of compassion, conservation and humility to guide you along the true path. Mindful of your choices, allow the three treasures to guide you to wisdom.
Its Application: As a Tao cultivator, you are mindful of thoughts, feelings, emotions and desires as they rise in each moment. The application of practicing the virtues of the three treasures is a good place to begin. Compassion, Conservation and Humility to become the gateway to other virtues. With conviction and practice this three virtues become become the paradigm of mystic virtue.
If one were to only read and practice a single chapter in the Tao Te Ching, this one could transform your life. If all people would practice the three treasures our society would be transformed into something new and wonderful. The three virtues in this chapter would be enough to change your life and change the world. These three could bring about heaven on earth. The three treasures are compassion, conservation and humility.
I have three treasures
I hold to them and protect them
The first is called compassion
The second is call conservation
The third is called not daring to be ahead in the world (humility)
Compassionate, thus able to have courage
Conserving thus able to reach widely
Not daring to be ahead in the world
Thus able to assume leadership
Now if one has courage but discards compassion
Reaches widely but discards conservation
Goes ahead but discards being behind
If one fights with compassion, then victory
With defense, then security
Heaven shall save them
And with compassion guard them
conservation in both tangible and intangible 59 moderation 55 -7
Treasure number one: Compassion.
Who ever you are, wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, at some moment in your life you will need true courage. Lao Tzu tells us to be “compassionate thus able to have courage”. Yet we are even warned that courage without compassion will end badly. The strategy of this virtue means that must draw courage from love. Love is beyond virtue and is at the highest level. Love is the foundation for serving others. Love is selflessness at its finest and putting aside fear so that we can move forward in leadership. Moving forward to satisfy fear for the sake of fear, is still satisfying the ego. Love empowers us to do what we must so that those we lead can benefit. Love is serving the needs of others first.
This is the path of the true self. This is the true path of virtue where compassion for fellow beings gives us direction and helps us to choose wisely. The strategy is to consider a choice that has the most compassion for all involved putting others above our own ego.
Treasure number two: Conservation
In governing people and serving heaving
There is nothing conservation
Only with conservation is it called submitting early
Submitting early is called emphasis on accumulating virtues
Accumulating virtues means there is nothing one cannot overcome
When there is nothing one cannot overcome
One’s limits are unknown
The limitation being unknown, one can possess sovereignty
With this mother principle of power, one can be everlasting
Thus is called deep roots and firm foundations
The Tao of longevity and lasting visions
Conservation for the Tao cultivator is giving priority to time management, managing energy and regulating the mind and spirit. “ Submitting early” is surrendering, sooner rather than later, to the flow of life and accepting the underlying reality. Wasting time, energy, and creating stress because we over react to reality of life is to become resistant to the flow. This pushing or striving unnecessarily is a function of ego and takes us closer to suffering and self destruction. There is great wisdom in learning to not react to life and to become like water and flow around obstacles. We can free ourselves from ego and unify with spirit to find virtuous solutions to our problems.
As we cultivate our ability to stay above reaction, we cultivate our connection to spirit and unity with source. This is practicing mystic virtue. Assisted with mystic virtue, there is nothing we cannot endure or overcome. By conserving spirit and energy, we build the foundation for longevity. This longevity applies to both the tangible and the intangible. It can create a long healthy life with joy and well being, just as it can create and sustain financial abundance. This sovereignty over ego so that one can implement the virtue of conservation, is the foundation for a long path. Build your strategy for life around the foundation of conservation and you will go far.
Treasure number three: Humility.
The large is like the lowest river
The converging point of the world
The receptive female of the world
The female always overcomes the male with serenity
Using serenity as the lower position
Thus if the large country is lower than the small country
Then it can take the small country
If the small country is lower than the large country
Then it can be taken the large country
Thus one uses the lower position to take
The other uses the lower position to be taken
The country only wishes to gather and protect people
The small country only wishes to join and serve people
So that both obtain what they wish
The larger one should assume the lower position.
Humility is the hardest virtue to practice for most people. That is because most people are still under the power of the ego. When you read the term above, “lower position”, perhaps you may notice a bit of ego reaction. Vanity and self esteem are so controlled by ego that “taking the lower position” or humility, may seem impossible. Perhaps as you read this you may feel that there is just no way that you can practice being humble. If you are honest and able to realize this, warning sirens and red flashing lights are going off. Warning warning, ego is in the house !
As a strategy, humility is the great ego destroyer. When one honestly takes the lower position one is becoming at one with the true self, the spiritual self. Humility is so very powerful, that as a strategy, as a living virtue, it will level the playing field. Humility is the freeing of one’s self from all of those artificial things that limit our true power. This is sovereignty over self. Ego vanity, self esteem, self judging, arrogance, boasting, greediness, and a foundation of neediness limit us and chain us to that which has no spiritual merit. We cannot move forward on the true path when we cling to these limiting illusions. One cannot rise above fear and have courage when we are attached to the material. One cannot stop taking words so personally and experiencing hurt when we are entangled with ego reaction. We cannot practice other virtuous strategies when we are bound by the ego. When we are no longer attached to stuff, we are free from the fear of losing “it”. “It” may be pride, self esteem, false sense of security and many other illusions of ego.
When we are humble we are free of ego judging and are able to implement the power of acceptance. When we can accept life as it happens to be without ego reaction, we are free to choose wisdom over ignorance. Practice humility as you interact with others along the path and watch how they respond to you when they realize they are not being judged. That they can be themselves. Notice also those whom you like or love most, and at the core you will find that it may be because they do not judge you and accept you as you are. You make powerful long lasting friendship and be loved deeply because of the virtue of humility. Being humble frees us to do what has to be done with worrying over what people think, what they will approve of what they might do. If you can see the true power in this, you will realize the the power in its simplicity. We we are caught up in ego, we are extremely vulnerable to manipulation. Ego is blind to wisdom, and being grounded in ignorance is easly lead around. Humility frees the Tao cultivator from this mental emotional trap. Accepting and assuming the lower position, we root ourselves in wisdom of experience. If our cup is full ignorance, we cannot recieve the blessings of wisdom. We must empty our “self” and be open to underlying reality of any given situation.
In Chapter 43, Lao Tzu tells us that we must use softness to overcome the hard. In this way the softness strength of humility will overcome the hard aggression of ego. Just like the softness of water will wear down the mountain of rock over time, so will humility overcome short lived egoic stance. Ego burns its energy quickly and cannot sustain itself. Humility is soft and conserves energy. Humility benefits us with longevity. Humility creates the opportunity for harmony. Humility is the practice of mystic virtue.
Think of the those spiritual sages who have come and gone in history, and you will realize that centuries later, they are still loved because of their foundation of humility. If you can learn and practice just this one virtue, you will change your life and the lives those around you.
Together, the virtues of the three treasure are so powerful that if each person were to just practice them for one hour a day, we would soon be living on a new earth. It would be heaven on earth. We are encouraged to find our true sovereignty and cultivate three treasures. This is the strategy for true power. This is the sovereignty of the true path.
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: 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.
In the Chapter on Mystic Unity of Virtue we find the Tao Te Ching pointing to balance between the spiritual and physical realms as the “mystic unity”. Other Chapters go on to guide us further on cultivating balance, harmony, and moderation.
“Holding a cup and over filling it
Cannot be as good as stopping short
Pounding a blade and sharpening it cannot be kept for long”
Moderation is the path of Balance and Harmony. To the person whose life is grounded purely in the physical aspect, one of always seeking to fulfilling some desire, enough is never enough. Always striving, always needing more, balance is just a platitude and seen as a weakness.
Yet, balance creates harmony. Harmony is the gift we realize when our path is smooth and our life becomes one of calm abiding. To the person who is burned out, sick and tired, peace, harmony and wellness is a pretty big deal. The 9 out of 10 people who are striving for egoic achievement are never satisfied and will never understand this until they hit bottom. When they do hit bottom, the moment of truth is at hand, and the choosing to become at peace through balance and harmony is apparent.
Moderation is the key to unlocking the doorway to source through balance. Overfilling, striving, and pushing against the natural flow of the Tao is the way of ignorance. Being caught up in the egoic path, always striving, always in deep need for some “thing” as a source of fulfillment is distraction. Distraction is the disconnect from our spiritual self and the the Tao.
Balance for the Tao cultivator is being mindful of our steps along our life path and using the wisdom of moderation to enjoy life but not become obsessed with or controlled by desire. Desire fulfillment can be and often is the slippery slope of egoic decline. Yet desire is a part of the living experience. The Tao cultivator learns to balance desire fulfillment through the practice of moderation. We learn when enough is enough. Over Pouring the tea cup is wasteful, messy and non useful affair. Pouring too little is not fulfilling and may generate a sense of being deprived. The feeling of deprivation is fuel for the ego to gain traction to create a sense of longing. Unfulfilled longing can lead to despair. When are self aware we can choose wisdom step by step along the path. We can fulfill desire yet not become attached. We can realize desire, fulfill desire yet not become entangled by desire. As the true self, we must realize that enough is enough. We remain present and have the experience. Rather than cling to the experience we can release it and remain free of the ego trap.
The trap of ego is when we allow our self to become entangled. Entanglement happens when we mistakenly believe that the the fulfillment of a given desire is the source of happiness. When we believe this illusion, it becomes a way of coping. As we experience stress, we may turn to the fulfilling of desire as the source of contentment and happiness. This is the trap. To disentangle one’s self from the trap, one must let go of the attachment to the sensation. You must transcend the idea or notion that true happiness is a material satisfaction. Nothing material last, therefore happiness based on form (material) will not last. Happiness grounded in the spiritual (love) is lasting.
“… the six relations are not harmonious
there is filial piety and kind affection
The country is in confused chaos
There are loyal ministers.”
Balance and Harmony is a must for good and useful interpersonal relationships. The positive effect of mystic virtue can be realized when balance, harmony, and moderation is an integral aspect of how we relate to others. It is effective on all levels. We all have opportunities for leadership by example. As leaders in government, as company managers, as parents, as siblings as friends and neighbors, we are called to create harmony through balance in our relationships.
These harmonious relationships between people are created by unity with source as the true self. The altruistic path of wisdom that is the creative path of mystic virtue. In team building exercises this has been called “synergy”. The sum is greater than total number of parts. This is accomplished through balance, harmony and moderation. By following the three treasures one can created harmonious relationships.
As mentioned before, this realization and putting into practice requires an ongoing presence of self awareness. Moment by moment along our path, we are mindful of what we are thinking, feeling and doing. Are we self serving the ego or are we serving others with love and compassion. In all aspects of our culture we can observe the results of individuals and organizations that either practice balance and harmony or the self serving of individual and collective ego.
You might stop and consider your part in society. How would you honestly describe your interpersonal relationships. How might others describe you? Are you one of the 9 of 10 who are self serving and ignorant? Or you the 1 in 10 who people love and cherish and known for your wisdom and compassion? The answer may not be easily revealed, so it takes practice. This is the cultivation that we work on in every moment that we can be self aware.
There are opportunities all around us. We can sense the level of balance by the harmony of flow around us. Are you and those around you feeling tension and anxiety? Or is there a sense of harmony and flow and freedom. Are you an enabler, one who empowers others towards self realization and fulfillment? Or you one who steps on others on your way to “success”. Do you seek or create drama ? Or do you use softness to overcome the hard?
Recently, we all observed an example of how an organization can cease to flow with harmony when we consider the gridlock by our congress in the year 2013. The legislative body of our government, the decision makers who are to be attending our well being as country cease to function in a harmonious way. When enough people become attached to their own egoic view to the point of obstruction, the country begins to experience chaos and disharmony on many levels. As individuals as well as groups, we can become so self absorbed with the material and the emotional, that the self serving becomes a danger to the whole.
Yet when, we can free ourselves from the prison of the purely material and balance our view with a basis of harmony and non self-serving, the prison doors are opened and benevolence is at hand. Balance is a choice. How do we choose? We must be self aware at the moment of choice and let wisdom guide us. Wisdom is the path of the true self. Imbalance through ignorance is the path of ego.
Interpersonal relationship are especially important in families. For it is within families we grow and bond as children. As we grow up, our mental landscape is shaped and conditions by experience. Those who grow in a loving and compassionate family setting thrive and find love and fulfillment as the way of moving through life. Those who grow up in abusive dysfunctional environments may spend all of their adult lives searching for and never finding contentment, fulfillment, peace and harmony. This is not a all or nothing, black and white, reality, there are shades of grey. It is quite possible to change our path, when we become self aware, that is realizing the true self and following the path. The amount of ignorance and suffering in a person’s life can vary by many degrees. Yet we are all offered the chance to be the one in ten, to find true happiness and contentment of the way, … The Tao.
Once again dear reader, your moment of truth is at hand. Can you be self honest and see where you are and which direction you must turn? Are you willing to unclench the gripping fist of ego and allow the open hand of balance and moderation to bring harmony to your life? Can you let go of those attachments of the physical domain and appreciate the spiritual in a balanced way? Can you reach out and open the door to truly fulfilled life?