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: 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.
Holding a cup and overfilling it
Cannot be as good as stopping short
Pounding a blade and sharpening it
Cannot be kept for long
Gold and jade fill up the room
No one is able to protect them
Wealth and position bring arrogance
And leave disasters upon itself
When achievement, fame is attained
This the Tao of heaven
Not so long ago, popular culture adopted the mindset that if more is better, extreme is the best. There were television shows that proclaimed all sorts of extreme interest areas. It became a goal, a competition to see who be the most extreme. And then the great recession hit and brought the advent of extreme unhappiness.
Why is it, that enough is not enough? The concept of moderation is simple enough and the result in practicing it is known to be a virtue of wisdom. So why is it that so many of us cannot practice moderation?
The answer to this can be realized when we identify the ego self in charge of our life. Ego is the emotional and desire aspect of the self that seeks to fulfill desire. Ego is self serving and is completely grounded in a perspective more is better when it comes to sensation. Enough is never enough. Ego, initiates the self serving circularity, where ignorant indulgence leads to disastrous consequences that lead to suffering. To ease the suffering, the ego copes with more sensation seeking. The cause and effect of these choices leads to more disastrous results, which leads to more coping. Round and round it goes in a downward spiral. This is all ego knows. Ego is absolute in its belief that happiness lies in fulfilling desire. When the ego experiences unhappiness it seeks to to cope. The coping creates desire. That desire may be a bacon-cheese burger and biggie fries or it might be that tv show that brings a few minutes of distraction. Sometimes the coping device is addictive. Our coping mechanisms are always personal and are rarely practiced with moderation.
Moderation brings balance. Balance brings harmony. Harmony is a state of well being that cannot be acquired. There is no happiness store with boxes of happiness that you can consume. True and lasting happiness is not sourced in any material form. To be free from this downward spiral of ego suffering, one must find their true path. One must wake up and become self aware. In this moment of self awareness where you are paying to what you are doing and why you are doing it, you can choose… moderation. Mindful of of our desires we can choose moderation.
Moderation allows one to keep balance. When we can enjoy some thing and then let it go without clinging, then we do not become bound by it or we do not become attached to it. When we cannot seem to let go, we become entangled, dependent, trapped and addicted.
Sensation Seeking and Desire
The Five Colors make one blind in the eyes
The Five Sounds make one deaf in the ears
The Five Flavors make one tasteless in the mouth
Racing and hunting make one wild in the heart
Goods that are difficult to acquire make one cause danger
Therefore the sage cares for the stomach and not for the eyes
That is why they discard the other and take this
Have you ever heard music and really enjoyed it? Sometimes we hear a particular song that moves us. Maybe its the words, maybe it is the sounds themselves or the chords. And sometimes really beautiful songs combine both in such a way that we pause and experience a profound moment. It may be a song from our past that provokes a wonderful memory, and for a minute we experience a kind of blissfulness. These create a sensation of wonder and joy which feels good on many levels. And then here comes the ego. Instead of enjoying the moment and letting it go without clinging to it, ego becomes attached. It feels and says to itself “I have to have it”, “I have to hear it again”, and “I need to hear it over and over”. The ego mind quickly slides into striving to immerse itself in the blissfulness that was just experienced and the mindset becomes “more is better”. Enjoyment quickly becomes dependence.
But notice what happens. After the ego has listened the song over and over for a period, the blissfulness begins to fade. The meaning becomes mundane. The song no longer brings the sensation it once did. The ears no longer hear the magic. Time for a new song.
In this way, the ego whose eyes once held the beauty of another person becomes blind after obsessing over them for a time. The trap lies in the clinging and becoming entangled.
These days when someone says something is “very vanilla” it is not a compliment. It means very plain or ordinary. Yet to someone who has never eaten vanilla ice cream, it [vanilla] will be felt as exotic, wonderful and extravagant. Vanilla once was an exotic spice that only the rich could enjoy.
The self aware person, who as the true self, can mange ego and appreciate the simple life. They learn to be happy with the basics in life. And when they hear that song, or taste vanilla it is wonderful and magical. In wisdom, they enjoy the moment fully, staying above distraction, and become one with that experience. When the experience ends, they let it go, not seeking to cling to it. They do not become bound by it or become dependent upon it. The wise person realizes and appreciates the virtue of moderation. This middle way of enjoying with becoming trapped is very powerful. It is a power that can only realized by being sovereign over the ego self.
The willpower to practice moderation is only found in the true self.
The true self is realized through self awareness.
Self awareness is realized through meditation.
Self awareness is maintained along the path through mindfulness.
Paying special attention to what the mind is being influenced by and choosing moderation will bring about harmony. Harmony brings well being and well being is an aspect of the true path.
One can see where there is moderation in their life by realizing how well their life is in balance. One can realize how there is a imbalance and see the lack of moderation. Stop and view your life as it truly is.
Are there areas of imbalance?
Look at the obvious. How much debt do you have? How is your savings?
Is your weight in balance? Are you over or under weight?
How is your health? Are you causing any decline because of bad habits?
You must be honest. You must take ownership. Most importantly you must wake up and pay attention to what you are doing and why. You must free yourself from the ego domination and balance your life with wisdom.
This does not mean that you must stop enjoying life. Remember all things in moderation. This even includes how you moderate your life. “All things in moderation, even moderation” is a saying credit to the Buddha.
Moderation is the path of balance. In spirit we must find balance between the true self and the ego. This the balance between the spiritual and physical. This balance is known as mystic virtue. This is the way of the Tao.