I have had many conversations with people about how to cultivate self-discipline. Self-discipline is exercised in a moment of choice. Lack of self-discipline is the ego always following the desire of the moment. Alternatively, sometimes a loss of discipline happens when raw emotion overwhelms us. Fear and anger can drive us to take self-destructive actions. In the critical moment of choice, you will be faced with whether you will give in to it or not.
Excerpt from Chapter 27, Sovereignty – The Tao Principle of Self-Management
“…When you are in a moment and fully experiencing the flow of reality around you, it is anything but ordinary. It is only the ego, and its insatiable desire finds life mundane. To experience life, you must rise above distraction and awaken to life as the spiritual being you truly are…” Excerpt from Chapter 43, Life; A Sacred Journey
Why is this so important? Mindfulness and meditation are necessary to take charge of your destiny. Destiny is the result of choices you make each moment of each day. Sovereignty is the ability to take charge of your destiny and rule over the ego along with its influences over the mind and emotions. Therefore, to transform your life into one of joy and success, you must cultivate the ability to practice mindfulness and be the Sovereign. Excerpt from Chapter 4
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.
Its Application: Understand that the ego has its own agenda. It is a unrealistic view that life is without change and problem should not happen. The true self realizes that understanding of full understanding of life is illusive. Because we cannot know the future and what will happen a lot of the time, we must expect the unexpected. When the unexpected happens, we use the wisdom of the Tao to flow like water around a large boulder. By holding to the one (true path, the way) we endure.
The appearance of great virtue
Follows only the Tao
The Tao, as a thing
Seems indistinct, seems unclear
So unclear, so indistinct
Within it there is image
So indistinct, so unclear
Within it here is substance
So deep, so profound
Within it there is essence
Its essence is supremely real
With it there is faith
From ancient times to the present
Its name never departs
To observe the source of all things
How do I know the nature of the source
In our arrogance, the collective ego of humanity believe that it understands all there is to know about our nature and our cosmos. Yet time and again, we are shown how little we really understand. Weather is one example where we are lulled into a complacency with forecast and when they are incorrect we get angry with the forecaster. Weather is just one way that energy moves about the universe and the wise forecasters tell us to always be prepared for disaster. We are advised to store food, water, and other essential supplies for the time when the unexpected happens. In this way way we can expect the unexpected.
The 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: 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: 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. .
“In holding the soul and embracing the oneness
Can one be steadfast and not straying?”
The chapter on Ego begins with the question “who are you?”
And many people will answer “I am ‘ME’.
The next question is “who is me” ?
This is where many will have to pause and consider. In that chapter on Ego, the discussion centered the me-ism. The thinking me.
This chapter is about guiding you, the reader, towards a deeper more profound identity.
The “me” inside us finds this identity by summarizing the life story, the story of ‘me’ and then goes on to define this ‘me’ with descriptions, roles and labels. The ego ‘me’ is the agent for experiencing the physical realm. Often this is all we know of our self. Yet we can learn to look deeper and realize more.
Me begins to define itself by descriptions such as:
– I am a man or a woman
– I am so many years old
– I belong in this ethnic or racial catagory
– work catagory (I am a doctor, attorney, teacher, plumber sanitation worker etc)
These are all roles, labels and description of the material world. There is a deeper aspect of self and that is the spiritual self. The spiritual self is also known as the authentic self, … the true self.
How do we arrive at this self identifying? We think about it. As we begin to think about this or anything else our identity usually becomes absorbed in the thinking process. The thinking process is a great tool yet too often we dwell in thinking so much that we become distracted. The thinking can and often does become the initiator of suffering. We cannot seem to turn the thinking off and it will drive us crazy. That voice in the head can become a recurring loop which defines reality and perception. When thinking is under complete dominance of the emotional mind, the ego, we begin to experience problems. Problems initiate reaction. Reaction can create more problems.
The alternative is to realize we are not our thoughts. In mindfulness meditation one learns to observe the thinking. Observing is not thinking. It is … well … observing. This begins to help us realize subject (the observer) and object (the observed). By becoming an observer, one can observe thinking. Thus when we become the observer, we are not our thoughts. In this way one can also realize that thinking is a function or mental process.
So who is this observer ? It is not the ego self. It is not that part of “me” that dwells only in the material or physical domain. The ego believes it to be the sole identity because it is the thinking. Philosophers of western thought, such as Descartes, belong in this area of rationalism. What I am describing is Eastern philosophy and spiritual determination that is the source of the material realm. My intent here is not to change your mind if you are dead set in the material realm nor to supercede materialism.
What I would have you understand is that we are in essence, spiritual beings having a physical experience. Just as Quantum Science is a deeper realization than Newtonian Mechanics spirituality or spiritual realization is a transcendence of the physical thinking me. This state of consciousness that is the observer, the knower is the true self. It is consciousness that give order to the undifferentiated chaos to the Tao. (See Chapters on Nature of the Tao).
So rather than to define the self as physical realm and ego identifiers, the true self just is. I is a realization of “I am”. This is just being. Being is consciousness experiencing life in the physical realm
So the question that we might begin to contemplate could be “how do we realize this spiritual beingness”?.
This realization is meditation, that infinite continuum whose doorway stands in the gap between the thoughts. The technique or practice in bringing the attention to this point between thoughts is lesson unto itself and discussed in other chapters. Meditation training is best learned by working with a teacher who can guide you gently, slowly and surely to this state of consciousness.
In this timeless place of stillness we remember or awaken unto the realization that we are spirit and are at one with spirit. This aspect of your-self is the true self. This part of us is that which is unified with The Tao. Through virtue we follow the path of the the Tao. This is The Way.
In holding to our realization as the true self we can embrace the oneness, we can become one with the Tao. Lao Tzu is asking us can we hold to this oneness or will will give over to the ego and thinking? Can we learn to reside in the eternal place between thoughts or will be fall back into desire, materialism and ego self serving. As spiritual entities, the true self is our true nature. Nature is the manifestation of the Tao. The Tao is both emptiness and source. (see nature of the Tao)
We have this temporary experience as a physical being in a realm of material form and we call it life. When we are awake and self aware we experience life. When we are distracted, that is when we are lost to our true self and our spiritual source we live in the world of ego. Yet since we are physical beings, we have our place in the physical realm. Thus we are spiritual beings (conciousness) experiencing (life) in this physical realm. The way (the path of the Tao) is bring balance between the two. Balance brings a very special harmony that is called “mystic virtue”.
Those who understand others are intelligent
Those who understand themselves are enlightened
Those who overcome others have strength
Those who overcome themselves are powerful
Those who know contentment are wealthy
Those who proceed vigorously have willpower
Those who do not lose their base endure
Those who die but do not perish have longevity
Those who understand their identity as the true self are enlightened. This is clarity of being. The ego seeks intelligence and power, the true self seeks wisdom through virtue and unity with source. We are called to let go of the singular view that we are only a physical being and realize there is more than sensation seeking and fulfilling physical desires. We must apply the wisdom at the spiritual level which requires that we let go of serving the ego (self serving). By orienting your perspective internal, we can be released from the external.
Moment by moment, experience by experience the Tao cultivator brings harmony and balance to life. On the path of enlightenment, we make our mistakes and return to self realization over and over, gaining wisdom and willpower and true contentment. In meditation we cultivate our base as the true self, the spiritual being we are. Mindful of ego, we learn to free ourselves from the chains of desire and material form. In each moment, we can seek unity through virtue or surrender to ego and the path of suffering.
The true self seeks balance and harmony, the ego seeks to feed desire.
The true self practices meditation to strengthen unity with the Tao, the ego seeks distraction.
The true self is grounded in the Three Treasures, the ego is grounded in sensation seeking.
The true self realizes the power of choice, the ego is imprisoned to emotional reaction.
The true self chooses wisdom in awareness, the ego is lost in ignorance only to repeat the same coping and creating suffering.
The true self embraces the Tao, the ego embraces distraction and is lost to source.
The Tao cultivator is the true self awakening and strengthening its awareness, learning how to avoid the pitfalls of ignorance. Self discipline is the true self in charge and guiding the spirit to balance, harmony and enlightenment. Self control is the true self staying above the egoic temptations enjoying life in moderation and wisdom.
The true self uses the unity with the unlimited ultimate source as their base, enduring in the living experience with longevity and well being.