Cultivating sovereignty is an inward journey. Identifying those subconscious traits that cause us to mess up is an important part of cultivation. This video gives great insight into how these inner ego traits are formed through repressed dramatic experiences.
Watch this video and meditate (self reflect) on your own repressed unremembered memories that push your buttons. By being mindful, you can recognize the next this personality (trait) arises and then consciously choose the right action which is to say be the sovereign by managing the ego. Know your “self”.
Want to learn about the Tao Principle of Self (ego) management? Click below
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.
Here we are again. It is New Years Eve. You may have already been planning on a resolution for the new year. Perhaps it is a goal of some sort. Maybe it is to make more money, or to lose weight, or exercise more. If you are like the majority of people, your goal will fail by springtime. There are many reasons for failure in our resolution and goals. The one I am focused on in this post, the big one, is a lack of self control and the loss of will power. There is a way to overcome this. Notice in the excerpt below, the words “one’s limits are unknown” and “one can be everlasting”
Accumulating virtues means there is nothing one cannot overcome
When there is nothing that one cannot overcome One’s limits are unknown
The limitations being unknown, one can possess sovereignty
With this mother principle of power, one can be everlasting
This is called deep roots and firm foundation
The Tao of longevity and lasting visionOne of my Tao mentors told me that I should work on my “self” first and the goal will be realized automatically in an almost anti-climatic way. What he was talking about was what the Tao Te Ching calls “The Sovereignty of Self”. This terms means to control your ego and its constant undermining through desire and distraction. If you are following this blog, then you perhaps you have an interest in the wisdom of the Tao and the Tao Te Ching. The Tao Te Ching may seem enigmatic or may seem to be paradoxical, yet the implementation is pretty pragmatic and straightforward in its application. Its wisdom can only be applied, and the results can only be experienced when you wake up become the sovereign over your life and destiny. Being a dependent of materialism as a life purpose creates a downward spiral of self destruction. Take a look at how every new year we make resolutions to fix some imbalance in our life. Somewhere during the Christmas holidays many of us have a moment of truth and admit that we need to address some issue and we promise ourselves to start afresh and do this new thing. Yet, we all know that most people fail at the promise and new resolution. By March you are back in your old ways. You are back spending too much, eating too much, neglecting some issue too much and soon resume the same old behavior hoping that somehow things will end up alright. This is a definition of ignorance. This is ego. Right here, right now, is your moment of truth. Take control of your life and your destiny. Wake up and be. Be the true self. Realize that you are a spiritual being, and that you control your choices and actions. Get serious with your meditation and mindfulness ability. Cultivate your ability to stay awake and become sovereign over ego and its insatiable appetite of desire. Throughout your day be mindful of your choices and reactions. This is what is meant by working on the self. By working on remaining the true self, you are able to manage the ego. This is the cultivating of sovereignty. By remaining sovereign, not giving in to ego, you make the choices that take you closer to your goal. When you are awake and in “self” control you can ask and determine…
“does this choice take me closer to or further from my true destiny, my goal”.
In the beginning, it is easier to understand than it is to do. The difficulty lies in how grounded in ego you are. Accepting and letting go is the action of the true self. Succumbing to ego and seeking distraction and sensation as means of coping is the path of failure. This cultivation takes lots of practice. It MUST become a way of life. The reward is huge. You successfully create the life of fulfillment, happiness, well being and health. My friends, the invitation to return to true living awaits you. If you are living in a prison cell with the door wide open, yet cannot escape, you are a captive of ego. Become the sovereign of your life. Find and practice meditation and mindfulness as if your life depends on it. A life of blessing and prosperity awaits you on the true path. Seek it and find it. Happy New Year
My editor liked this chapter and put a smiley face by the following paragraph. I hope you find it useful.
… 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.
Stillness is a much ignored and underrated power. Stillness may even be perceived as a oxymoron when used in the same sentence as “power”. But those who have practiced meditation understand that stillness is the gateway to the higher consciousness.
To appreciate stillness, one can begin with its opposite. That might be stress, anxiety, or its physical opposite; movement. In human evolution we acquired the gift of the stress response. The ability to instantly raise our physical and mental abilities to a very high level so that we could survive through fight or flight. Most people have heard of this and know it is as the fight or flight response or stress response.
But what many people do not realize is that nature also gifted us with its antidote. The nature of the Tao contains the creative element of change. Circumstances are always changing. It can be observed in weather and climate patterns. On the daily scale the weather will change with the sun and night (yang changing to yin). On the weekly perspective, one can observe the daily patter layered upon a slower change as weather systems and fronts come and go. Each season brings a change from the last each with its variations hourly, daily, weekly and upward. Even climate change across eons can now be observed through the study of layers of ice crystals from the Arctic ice shelf.
In these changing patterns we notice the yang and yin patterns. In our more local universe, we should also become aware of the nature of change and use consciousness to maintain the natural balance.
When we live a life too much in motion, that is too much activity in both the internal and external, the natural rhythm of our mind body is interrupted. Typically in modern society, we spend too much of our life striving for more. We eat too much, we engage in way too much emotional drama, we experience too much anxiety and stress. We over stimulate our minds with too much cognitive function whether it is working too much, to much TV drama, too much video games, too much worry, or any obsession that is too much.
This out of balance state is often easily seen. Imbalance will manifest as weight problems, financial problems, emotional problems, stress problems, or sleep problems. These imbalances will many times overlap and feed each other. This path of imbalance is one of self destruction. We must begin to moderate our path with our moment by moment choices.
How do we do that?
The antidote to too much internal and external motion is stillness. In concept and function it is very simple. Yet in application it is very difficult for most. This is because for many people, the ego has assumed control of the path we walk and it chooses distraction and sensation seeking as the central purpose in life. The only way to control the ego is to transcend it grip. This is done through meditation. Meditation is the transition to a higher state of consciousness where the true self is realized. When we stop and allow stillness to merge with being, we begin to restore balance.
There is even a clincal term for this act of nature. Dr. Herbert Benson refers to it as “The Relaxation Response”. His book clearly defines and shows what happens with the mind body relationship when we become still.
Stillness is restoration. What we restore is balance to both the internal and external. As we sit still and the mind becomes quiet, the body will follow. What happens across our mental landscape is reflected (extended and experienced) across our physical landscape. When we concentrate our attention (awareness) outside of thinking, and allow the mind to become still, the body will follow.
As we sit in stillness, the opposite of the stress response begins to process. In stillness (the relaxation response), the heart slows, the breathing becomes deeper and slower. Blood pressure drops, the immune system activates, more oxygen is available, and most importantly, the body will release a different set of hormones that will bring about a feeling of peace. Other research now shows that regular mediation (stillness) helps to restore chromosome damage by restoration to the tips of the telemeres. (Read what Sage Dr. Deepak Chopra says about this process)
Stillness (meditation/relaxation response) slows down the aging process through efficient cell repair. I know from personal experience how effective it can be for healing sickness.
Through the practice of stillness, we can restore our emotional state, solve problems, reduce debt, become healthy, experience well being and live longer. I submit that this is very powerful indeed.
Think about it for a moment. Nature has even built in the requirement for a return to stillness. With very few exceptions, everyone one of us must sleep at some point. This is nature’s way of making us restore ourselves even when we do not have the sense to do it by choice. We can fight, resist and prolong it, but sleep will eventually overtake us. And this is because we must spend time in restoration (stillness). So, quit fighting with stillness. This is just ego.
If you can practice self discipline (ego management), you can craft your life into its optimum experience. Please… don’t fight with nature, learn to flow with nature. Balance life’s action phases with stillness phases.
Just find time to be still. Find a park bench, a porch swing, a bean bag or lay on a picnic blanket and watch the clouds in their ever changing patterns. Allow the mind/body to become still so that you can restore the ability to experience life.
From stillness we come and to stillness we will return. It is the underlying reality of being-ness. Stress is created when we resist and go against the flow of life in either the spiritual or physical realms. Learn to merge with nature and experience harmony. This is the power of mystic virtue. This is the power of stillness.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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: Wake up and live your life. Stop missing chunks of it by intentionally being distracted. life is meditation (awake and aware).
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.
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.
The Strategy: Pay attention to the mouth and the words that come out it. It can be a source of inspiration or a device for hurting others.
Its Application. Mindful of ego, we must be alert for what it has to say. Managing ego through self awareness we must refrain from hurting others by what we say.
Those who talk do not know
Those who know do not talk
Close the mouth
Shut the doors
Blunt the sharpness
Unravel the knots
Dim the glare
Mix the dust
This is called Mystic Wonder
Ego has the distinctive failing that covers up its lack of understanding by pretending to know. It pretends to know by talking a lot. The self realized person (the true self) has confidence and patience and has no need to prove anything. By paying attention we can discern what the ego is covering up by how it works so hard at denial. In this passage Lao Tzu wisely points out how those ego minds that do not know, will spout off with words to cover up the lack of understanding. When the ego feels inadequate and experiences an embarrassing lack of accomplishment, it will attempt to create the illusion of knowing by by talking. The Tao cultivator knows that actions have merit and words can often be empty. Promises are made and easily broken.
Those of us who have had to work hard at cultivating the true path, know first hand how much trouble our mouths can get us into. The unwise person is lost in ego and is so distracted that words come out the mouth before they realized what they sound like and how much they can hurt others. The path of virtue is to be diligent in our mindfulness practice so that we manage and control the ego’s need to say stupid and hurtful things. We must be alert and pay attention to the rising emotions and feelings before the mouth is engaged.
Lao Tzu calls to us to be mindful of sharp words that hurt or breaks the harmony. We are to say what we men with straight talk and not be deliberately confusing in our interactions. The true self, uses humility to dial back the ego’s need to sound brilliant so that it can be admired and look good. The wise Tao cultivator is grounded in virtue and selflessness, speaking and acting with simplicity. When it comes to words and speaking, more is not better.
As a spiritual being in pursuit of the true path, it is imperative that we pay attention to how we interact with those around us. The path is one of harmony and selflessness. Thus as Tao cultivators, we are mindful of what we say and what we mean. When we realize that ego is about to react and say something that will break the harmony, we step back and choose virtue. When we are called to speak, we may take a moment to pause and be present. Using the three treasures as a guide is a good start. When interacting with others, one can consider compassion, conservation and humility before the words form on the tongue. In this way we stay on the true path and maintain the harmony of mystic oneness.
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.
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.
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.
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. .
My granddaughter visiting the Aquarium for the first time.
Chapter 20, verse 5 “like an infant not yet smile”
There is a modern cliche that goes something like “knowledge is power”. Thus seeking information and knowledge become just another form of striving. We are called to balance our pursuit of knowledge with becoming one with the underlying reality of the Tao. Life and the world at hand holds so much wonder. We can let ourselves become so caught up in striving and seeking that we lose sight of what is going on right in front of our eyes.
Our ego can dominate our view so that sensation seeking or distraction become all that we can see. 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.
An example might be where one stands before the grand canyon, yet is so caught up in their cell phone or tablet that they find nothing inspiring before them. The Tao cultivator realizes the majesty of life and appreciates our world and the universe in which we have our life experience.
The Tao cultivator considers our place in nature. As spiritual beings we can be self aware of this physical experience. In this experience we can and should be appreciative of our form in a universe of form. We are gifted with sense, the self awareness to appreciate this existence of form, yet so often we are so distracted that we have lost our connection and oneness with it. When we are distracted we are no longer aware. Often, we can become so distracted that we lose our ability to experience life. That is to say, we are no longer experiencing life. Take a look at your life. How distracted are you? How much of the living experience are you missing? It may seem crazy yet there are many of us who purposely try to disconnect from life. We seek distraction. When life become too problematic the ego self seeks distraction. Distraction can become a habit, maybe even an addiction. The ancients have told us that the purpose in ife is to experience and grow. Yet in our modern age, we seek to disconnect with life. How do we break our being lost in distraction and wake up?
This is something so basic and simple that it begins with just taking a moment be aware that you are alive. We can just stop and be present. We can just …be. After all we are human “beings”. Yet when we become obsessed with being distracted, we are no longer aware of being … and being alive. A good way to realize how deeply one is buried in ego is to notice how resistant one is to just being. Ask your “self” why just being, doing nothing is so hard and so boring.
As in all things, the Tao cultivator establishes balance. This is especially important in the basics 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 human “beings” we have the ability to be self aware and sentient, yet we allow this state of consciousness to become out of balance. Distraction is when the mind is lost to something where we are no aware of being and being alive. Humans are gifted with enough sentience to be self aware, yet we avoid it with great determination. Sometimes this is necessary to focus on something to the extent that we become distracted. Yet we must not become so distracted that we remain disconnected to the world and our life experience.
The self aware Tao cultivator brings balance to the world of being and doing. In self awareness we can return and become at one with our universe and appreciate it through an innocent sense of wonder. A child’s sense of wonder. Children who have not learn yet to be disconnected from life, whose ego has not yet learned to see everything as mundane… see everything as new and wondrous. Even though we grow older and accumulate experience, we do not have to lose touch with the childlike sense of wonder. Wisdom is learning from experience. We can treat our past experience as important aspects and remember the feeling of wonder we once felt with life. We are encouraged to keep this as part of our wisdom. In this way life does not become mundane and boring. Each moment is not ordinary and we find that in a child’s sense of wonder, there are no ordinary moments.
This chapter contains quite a bit of first person narrative. The reason for this is because I feel that it might best be understood if I talk about this subject from my own learning experience and perspective. So I begin by letting you know that I am one of those people who have suffered a lot from fear and worry. Fear and worry have influenced my choices in so many ways over my life, and I can only wonder where I would be now if I had learned this insight at a younger age.
Fear and worry are deeply influential to our outward behavior and should be recognized as life changers. If you are being honest with yourself and have a moment of truth, you may realize that fear and worry have been pushing your buttons. The ego may resist accepting that there is an element of worry and fear for it does not want to be seen in a negative way. However, for this insight to be truly known, we must use honesty and truth as our guide.
The path to managing fear and worry requires a high level of self awareness. Only in self awareness we can be honest with our recognizing our fears and worries and bring them to the forefront for examination. I also advise that you should not overreach in your discernment of whether you worry too much or not. It can be as simple this; do you feel stress and anxiety from fearing something? Or do you worry about some aspect of life so much that it causing you to suffer? If you are suffering, you will know. If you are not suffering, fear and worry is being managed appropriately.
Being self aware [this is the true self], we can become mindful of fear as it arises and then take steps to not be overcome by it. In the beginning, I believed that the way to overcome fear was to raise the spirit (hope) and find courage. But as one of my mentors pointed out, this is just the surface level of understanding. Often courage does not last and you will probably find yourself right back in that dark place of fear and worry.
The deeper understanding that I have come to realize is that courage is good but it needs something to support it. It needs a strong foundation. I would never have found this wisdom on my own, fortunately, this deeper insight was shared with me by a wise Taoist who has helped me in many ways of understanding.
What he helped me to realize was that there must be a foundation for courage to rest on. That foundation is love. I have found love to be unique in its nature. By that, I mean that love is different in its nature by being able to be present in two places at once. It is the eternal bridge between the spiritual and the physical. As my mentor pointed out, Love is different than other motivating forces in that it [love] is its own counterpart, it is its compliment.
As he explained it to me, the first notion about love and its compliment is that we mistakenly think that the compliment of love to be hatred. But that is not understanding at the deeper level. The deeper insight is found in contemplating the source of love. While we can appreciate that ego is the source of hatred, one then has to wonder “what is the source of love?” The amazing insight and answer to this question is this: “love is the source of Love” and “the pure essence of love is the source of the manifestations of love in our lives”.
I did not readily understand this. I quite literally had to spend some time in contemplative meditation and then holding to this concept while observing it during my own periods of fear/suffering. What I eventually and gradually came to realize was that fear and worry is or can be yet another self serving aspect of ego. While fear can serve as an important notice or red flag warning for us that something is not right or something might go wrong, when it is out of balance, it creates suffering. When we become obsessed with worry and fear, we are stuck in the physical domain of ego. We are in a self serving loop that we must transcend this mental construct and return to spirit, the true self. Too little fear and we might run head on into danger and trouble. Too much fear and worry we suffer and harm our well being. When self serving ego has control over our mental state we allow fear to dominate.The ego feels “I don’t have time to listen to your problems, I’m too busy with my own fears. Please let me obsess in my fear”
Where does love fit into all of this? We must transcend the self serving ego so that our love of others becomes the motivating force to seek balance. Self aware we realize we are suffering from fear, or worrying too much. We then seek the wise and spiritual solution. The Tao cultivator will let go of ego and find the love we have of others and the serve them. When we love others, we put their needs ahead of our own in a balance way. When we love others, serving them can become the foundation for courage. For me, it was the realization that I was just letting ego serve itself.
When I turned my consciousness to those I love most, my family, courage rose and energy came forth to serve them because I love them. This love empowered me to keep on trudging, to not give up hope, and to keep their needs in the forefront. Not only does love give courage but it also and importantly gives purpose to life.
Because love can be the foundation for courage over fear, we can keep returning to it. When we slip and allow ego to get back on top, we may feel discouraged again. Yet, by being mindful of our thoughts and feelings, we can realize fear rising and redirect through spirit to remember to love and serve those we love. Then as the obsession of fear loses energy, we can raise our heads, and fill our hearts again and again.
Here is the 3 step advice that my mentor gave me:
1. Balance fear with love before you do anything else.
2. Balance the look into the future (fear) with a retrospective of the past.
3. Bring it all back to the present moment (right here, right now).
To implement these steps, one must be able to become present and self aware. This is case of any of the Tao teachings. We must learn to become awake and aware, which is best learned through meditation. We must remain mindful and pay attention to our inner mental landscape and spot ego and its aspects as they rise. Then, self aware, as the true self, the spiritual self, we can choose wisdom of the Tao to practice and follow.
There is the old saying “love conquers all”. Importantly, love conquers fear. Fear leads to hatred, so we must balance the fear with love and build a foundation upon it. We can access our wisdom by understanding our experiences of the past. Wisdom is not repeating the same mistakes but learning from those experiences. Fear arises when we worry about a future now. Wisdom of the past experience can balance our expectations of the future. Balance the future with the past and reside in this now. In this present moment, find love and with it let go of self serving to serve and love others. If life is a journey of a thousand miles, the first step is right below your feet. Right here, right now. Let love be your compass. Let love give you the power to take that next step and balance fear with wisdom. Free your self from fear, with love.
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”.