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
…If you look at a list of antonyms for virtue you will see words like dishonesty, evil, and, imperfection. Practicing these traits will end in ruin. All virtue has inherent power. You can see the inherent power in simplicity.
The root of the word simplicity is simple. The term “simple” can be defined as easy, clear, uncluttered, and, natural.
Simplicity is a virtue because of its altruistic nature (selfless action). Those who are aware of the ego’s desire for details and complexity know how it can hide cunning and trickery. If you look up the antonyms for simplicity you will see complexity, difficulty, and complication.
End sagacity; abandon knowledge
The people benefit a hundred times
End benevolence; abandon righteousness
The people return to piety and charity
End cunning; discard profit
Bandits and thieves no longer exist
These three things are superficial and insufficient
Thus this teaching has its place;
Show plainness; [hold to simplicity]
Reduce selfishness; decrease desires.
Chapter 19 of the Tao Te Ching
The complement to simplicity is honesty. Those who are honest with themselves and others feel no need to make things anything other than easy, clear, straightforward or natural. Telling the truth keeps things simple. Lying is complicated because of the difficulty in keeping the details straight. The more the lie is defended, the more complex it becomes. Often it will evolve into something indefensible, and it will become painfully apparent that the truth would have been much simpler.
Another complement of simplicity would be conservation. The vanity of ego can be the source of non-useful expenditures of resources. Complexity leads to difficulty and complication, which ultimately leads to stress and worry. Stress and worry generate a need to cope which drains your energy and resources…” Excerpt from Chapter 21, Simplicity (Section Two – A study of Virtue)
 See chapter 16, True Courage, subsection Inherent Power
About the photo: What better symbol for simplicity than a moment watching the sunrise? Just simply be present with the moment as the natural beauty unfolds. Just observe, witness, and appreciate being alive.
“No matter what it is you do, there is always a way to do it that is effective, effortless, and enjoyable at the deepest level. This is the true meaning of Wu Wei.” Derek Lin
Aerial view of The Gorge in Canyonlands National park, Utah. Nature doesn’t have an agenda, it doesn’t strive, and it doesn’t have an attachment to outcome. What separates us from the Tao? Ego
Cultivation & Practice
Cultivate the ability to accomplish more by doing less (effortless achievement) and without striving. This is accomplished through detachment from the outcome. Be mindful of ego attachments and intentions initiate the reaction.
The softest things of the world
Override the hardest things of the world
That which has no substance
Enters into that which has no openings
From this I know the benefits of unattached actions
The teaching without words
The benefits of actions without attachment
Are rarely matched in the world
Chapter 43, Tao Te Ching
Wu Wei (detached action) takes cultivation and practice. Many times, in hindsight, you will see how you could have succeeded through unattached action. That is how wisdom and skill are developed through trial and error in real life.
Without the ability to be your true self and sovereign over the ego you will be a prisoner to attachments. These attachments cause striving. Attachment to the outcome is something you must be able to choose to let go.
Practice meditation and mindfulness as a discipline so that you can be present and aware of the rip currents occurring in your life. Be willing to see different perspectives, and you will be able to see how to “catch the wave” of effective, effortless, and enjoyable outcomes.
Excerpts from Chapters 11 (Wu Wei) & chapter 31 Cultivate Wu Wei), Sovereignty – The Tao Principle of Self Management.
The Strategy: Work on your ‘self’ first. Cultivate will-power and self-control to be able to achieve your goals with less striving and failure.
“Accumulating virtues means there is nothing one cannot overcome
When there is nothing that one cannot overcome
One’s limits are unknown
The limitations being unknown, one can possess sovereignty…” Excerpt from Chapter 59
Every New Years Day in the United States, millions of people set up personal goals that are sometimes called “resolutions”. The premise seems to be; its a new year so it is a time for a new me. For many reasons, they become motivated for a change in behavior. The change in behavior has a wide range. The behavioral change can be starting something or stopping something. Sometimes, maybe anytime, we fail to achieve those goals and by springtime, we have lost the motivation.
Harmony is the foundation for good karma. The western mind can understand Karma as the law of cause and effect will manifest through your choices. Will-power of the true-self will seek harmony through moderation and right thinking. In this way, you can reach your goals and realize the success of your new year resolutions. With proper motivation, and the execution of true will power you can reach your goals. The wisdom is to work on your ‘self’ first, to achieve sovereignty, and goal success will happen without as much striving or failure.
The realization that we must change our path when it is leading us away from harmony comes from the inner nature of the true-self. We have those moments where we admit to ourselves that we need to change and resolve to do so, hence the new years’ resolutions. In those moments where we are contemplating our destiny as the true-self, we can make some choices to change our ways.
So how do we continue working towards our self-improvement goals even when we no longer feel motivated? It takes will power.
Will-power is cultivated through self-control and self-discipline. Sovereignty and will power are the mental states where we consciously choose to follow the higher path. In previous chapters, we discussed at length how to cultivate self-control and self-discipline.
Without will power, you have a much more likely chance of not succeeding in realizing those self-improvement goals. Will power is that nature that will keep you on the path even and especially when you feel like giving up.
There are those difficult moments where the choice of staying on the path is right before you. Do you maintain or do you cave in? It becomes a battle of will between true-self and ego. Which aspect will become sovereign?
How do you do this? You must transcend the ego and take over the management of your emotional life. This is done through a self-awareness and the discipline of meditation and mindfulness. This is working on the self first. With Will-power, self-control, and self-discipline you can better avoid the poor choices that lead to distraction and failure. This is sovereignty.
Sovereignty takes over management of intention from the willful ego. Ego seeks to fulfill desire. The true self seeks to implement virtue and wisdom. The path of desire has many traps to prevent you from achieving a true success. Hidden intentions or imprinted intentions can operate in the background and control how you navigate down your path. So it is important to practice meditation and mindfulness to stay strong in your calm abiding nature. Insight meditation (self-reflection) can help you uncover hidden or subconscious intentions that can erode your will-power. This is part of “self-discovery” or the sacred path set out in chapter one.
Even the intention of the goal itself should be examined. When you are self-aware, you can examine the what and why of the goal. An important question to ask is if the goal is just a means of seeking happiness and fulfillment through material gain? Is this just more “self-indulgence1 (ego indulgence).
It is my conjecture that you should first seek to find and know your true path. That you should be living your life with your higher purpose. Your goals should be aligned with your higher purpose that is one of virtue and in the service of others. Be aware of ego goals that are vain, petty and non-spiritual. Rather than seeking fame and fortune, seek to share your true gifts with others.
When you find your true path and realize those worthy goals, then begin the hard work of cultivating the true-self.2 Become the sovereign, whose will-power will accomplish worthy achievement through self-discipline and self-control. By working on the self to be in spiritual harmony, the goal you seek, the goals you achieve will be done without striving. This is accomplishing more by doing less. This is a principle of Wu Wei3. This is being Sovereign.
This is a chapter from the upcoming book “Sovereignty”. From section three; Tao Strategies.
The Strategy: Be honest with yourself. Take ownership of your life, where you are, and how you got there. To change your life from one of struggle into one of success requires and honest and accurate self assessment. Pay attention to the voice of ego.
Its Application: Being honest with anyone, whether it is yourself or others is only possible when we transcend the influence of the ego mind. Free from the opinion of others, practicing acceptance of how things really are, admitting fault and mistakes is the true self turning adversity into wisdom. The true self learns from experience. The ego sticks to ignorance.
Tao Te Ching: Chapter 71
To know that you do not know is the highest
To not know but think you now is flawed
Only when one realizes fault as fault
Can one be without fault
The sages are without fault
Because they recognize fault as fault
That is why they are without fault.
Self honesty opens the door to self exploration. If we cannot be honest about our ignorance and mistakes, we cannot become free of them. The ego being vain and insecure must pretend to be the highest and most adept, especially when it is not the case. When are able to free ourselves from the ego and return to the true self, we can admit that we don’t know. In that admission we open the door to wisdom and allow ourselves to see wisdom.
Ignorance is repeating the same behaviors and experiencing the same suffering while at the same time refusing to change or let go. Wisdom is the higher understanding of acceptance of not knowing yet seeking realization and being willing to change. If ignorance is a prison for the spirit, ego is the gatekeeper. When we admit our lack of adherence and understanding, we become humble. Humility is the very powerful virtue that releases us from the clinging to ignorance.
If we view fault as an unsavory or unsatisfactory feature, then through self honesty we can admit our faults. Humility is the power to admit faults so that we can overcome them. Think of some area of your behavior where you have fault and notice any resistance to accepting that in fact it is there. If you can successfully see and admit your fault, you are seeing life as the true self.
Being honest with ourselves also includes not being too hard on ourselves. The important aspect is see things as they really are. We are called to become at one with the underlying reality. If we are with fault we recognize this. If we are not at fault, we can recognize this as well. Self assessment must be grounded in truth.
In each moment, in each now, we have choices to make which shape our destiny. This means in each moment we are choosing either the path of ignorance or the path of harmony. We can create our own suffering or we can create our own fulfillment. It begins with admitting when you do not know and when we have fault. Knowing comes through wisdom, and harmony is realized when we accept when we do not know and when we have fault. This is done through self awareness and alignment with the Tao.
Not being honest is living in an illusion that is generated by the ego. Thus one can begin to understand that the true path cannot be found and maintained if we are blinded by illusion and non-truth. Ignorance and illusion are both perspectives of the ego. The true path can only be seen through eyes of honesty and virtue. It awaits us all and will magically rise before us when we enter into wisdom. This is the true path, the way.
Become Independent From the Good or Bad Opinion Of Others
The Strategy: Free yourself from the influence of what other people think of you. Its Application: Sovereignty of self is true power. This is especially true when we can become free from the opinion of others. The true self follows the moderate path of wisdom and virtue. The ego is either striving for acceptance and the good opinion from others or it is striving to avoid the bad opinion from others. Either way, this striving influences the decisions and choices that create one’s destiny. The Tao cultivator works on being free from this ego trait and through virtue (such as the three treasures) will find and keep harmony and balance in a successful life.
Non Virtuous Trait: Dependence on the good opinion of others
Tao Te Ching: Chapter 13
Favor and Disgrace make one fearful The greatest misfortune is the self What does “favor and disgrace make one fearful” mean ? Favor is high, disgrace is low Having it makes one fearful Losing it makes one fearful This is “favor and disgrace makes one fearful”
What does “the greatest misfortune is the the self” mean? The reason I have great misfortune Is that I have the self If I have the self What misfortune do I have
So one who values the self as the world Can be given the world One who loves the self as the world Can be entrusted with the world</blockquote>
So many of us frivolously use up a lot of energy on the worry of what others are going to think about us. The description “frivolously” is used because this such a self indulgence. This Self of course meaning the ego. When we allow our self esteem to rest on the foundation of what others think we set ourselves up for a lose/lose result. Either way we become dependent on an illusion that cannot be sustained. Those of us whose happiness is placed on what others think will always be disappointed. The ego mind can be become trapped between the seeking the good opinion of others or trying desperately to avoid the bad opinion of others.
The ego is very sensitive to criticism. So that any negative opinion becomes a kind of false truth that can be used to manipulate someone who is living a life dominated by the ego self. For the ego mind, self worth is based on what others think. This will be experienced as “misfortune” and suffering. If we have based our ego self esteem on the good opinion of others, we worry about losing it. If we have not yet gained the good opinion of others, we strive to obtain it. Striving leads to misdirection of destiny and suffering.
Striving is distracted action for ego results. It is a waste of energy thus it is a waste of our most precious resource. Wu Wei is the virtue to follow. Wu Wei is unattached action or action without striving. Dependence upon the good or bad opinion of others sets us up for striving. The Tao cultivator upholds dignity by holding to constancy. Constancy of the true self is the maintaining the balance between spiritual and physical. By following virtue and wisdom, the true self avoids the traps of the ego self and choices are altruistic. The Tao cultivators is upheld in the community because of wisdom and dignity and it happens effortlessly.
Yet we do not have cast out our ego self. It is a part of who we are. As Tao cultivators we seek balance which raises harmony. When we are self aware, that is when we are aware of the ego feelings of seeking that good or bad opinion we can step back, let this striving go and be actualized as the higher self. When we are mindful of ego and observe a state of worry over what the opinion of others might be, we can let go and return to the independence of the true self. In balance we can be aware of those opinion yet not be dominated by them. It can be useful to have a good opinion from others yet, we cannot allow ego place a prerequisite for happiness, fulfillment and self worth on them.
As Tao cultivators we stay connected to others, we are aware of those opinions for what they are worth but not controlled by them. As leaders in our community, we are aware of what other feel and think about us but we would not foreclose what we know to be moral and right. There is a balance to be found in regulating the ego mind and the value we place on what others think. Returning to spirit, we free ourselves of dependency on the good or bad opinion of others.
The Strategy: Pay attention to the mouth and the words that come out it. It can be a source of inspiration or a device for hurting others.
Its Application. Mindful of ego, we must be alert for what it has to say. Managing ego through self awareness we must refrain from hurting others by what we say.
Those who talk do not know
Those who know do not talk
Close the mouth
Shut the doors
Blunt the sharpness
Unravel the knots
Dim the glare
Mix the dust
This is called Mystic Wonder
Ego has the distinctive failing that covers up its lack of understanding by pretending to know. It pretends to know by talking a lot. The self realized person (the true self) has confidence and patience and has no need to prove anything. By paying attention we can discern what the ego is covering up by how it works so hard at denial. In this passage Lao Tzu wisely points out how those ego minds that do not know, will spout off with words to cover up the lack of understanding. When the ego feels inadequate and experiences an embarrassing lack of accomplishment, it will attempt to create the illusion of knowing by by talking. The Tao cultivator knows that actions have merit and words can often be empty. Promises are made and easily broken.
Those of us who have had to work hard at cultivating the true path, know first hand how much trouble our mouths can get us into. The unwise person is lost in ego and is so distracted that words come out the mouth before they realized what they sound like and how much they can hurt others. The path of virtue is to be diligent in our mindfulness practice so that we manage and control the ego’s need to say stupid and hurtful things. We must be alert and pay attention to the rising emotions and feelings before the mouth is engaged.
Lao Tzu calls to us to be mindful of sharp words that hurt or breaks the harmony. We are to say what we men with straight talk and not be deliberately confusing in our interactions. The true self, uses humility to dial back the ego’s need to sound brilliant so that it can be admired and look good. The wise Tao cultivator is grounded in virtue and selflessness, speaking and acting with simplicity. When it comes to words and speaking, more is not better.
As a spiritual being in pursuit of the true path, it is imperative that we pay attention to how we interact with those around us. The path is one of harmony and selflessness. Thus as Tao cultivators, we are mindful of what we say and what we mean. When we realize that ego is about to react and say something that will break the harmony, we step back and choose virtue. When we are called to speak, we may take a moment to pause and be present. Using the three treasures as a guide is a good start. When interacting with others, one can consider compassion, conservation and humility before the words form on the tongue. In this way we stay on the true path and maintain the harmony of mystic oneness.
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: 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: Developing strategies one and two, meditation and mindfulness empower one to pay attention in a non judgmental and balanced way. Now that you are paying attention, realize that your choices are creating your life. Reactions of ego are not true choices, they are just reactions. True choice is realized only by the true self. In this way you are creating your life along the true path. The strategy here is the base your choice of experience, wisdom, and virtue.
Application. Learn meditation, practice mindfulness, and realize the power of choice. Choose each step with wisdom. Choose moderation and find balance. Balance the physical with the spiritual by following wisdom and virtue over ego and desire. Virtues are overlapping and support each other. Patience harmonizes with Wu Wei (unattached action, non striving). Wu Wei harmonize non attachment, Non attachment supports acceptance. Acceptance opens the door for compassion. Compassion opens the door to forgiveness. It goes on and on, each virtue connected in the tapestry of mystic virtue. Mystic virtue is the mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders.
Tao Te Ching
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
In this context, let us define choice as the ability to select from a number of possibilities. The intention in this strategy and its application is to help you realize the power of choice. We do not have to make uninformed reactive choices. Reaction of ego is the illusion of choice that is experienced is guided by desire and non virtuous emotions and thinking.
If you have not yet read the section and chapters regarding ego, it might be useful to do so now. The nature of ego is to be impatient and self serving. More importantly, its nature is to react to what it perceives. Moment by moment we perceived aspect of life as it unfolds. In any given moment, something will arise that that will prompt the ego to define and react. The definition and corresponding reactions fall into a wide spectrum of responses. None of these responses will be developed through patience or any virtue or wisdom. Ego desire will prompt the reaction of need and greed. Ego fear will react will anger, rage, and aggression. Ego pain will prompt the need for coping. In each case the ego reacts to what it perceives. We experience this every time someone or something pushes one of our buttons and we react. This auto response is so automatic, that choice is not available and reaction is automatic. Patience is a virtue of choice, we must transcend the absorption of ego to choose it. This is self control and self discipline. To choose the self must be aware of the act of choosing. This requires a moment of self awareness and being present which is not something ego can do.
Only by following strategy one and two, can you implement strategy 3. Only by becoming self aware (meditation) and paying attention to your mind (mindfulness) can you use wisdom and virtue to guide your choices. These choices create your life circumstances. The physical realm is always changing, and with it the circumstances you are or may be (distraction) perceiving. So life and reality just happen and you cannot control this. However you can control how if and how you react or respond to life circumstances.
The first choice is accepting life as it is. This is just the underlying reality of how things are. If you are self aware and paying attention you can remain detached from reaction before you become lost in it. In that moment, in that now when you perceive some ‘thing’ happening, you can choose what action if any, you might take. Remember, choice is the selecting from a number of possibilities.
Think about playing a game of chance. Maybe it is a card game, maybe it is a board game. One rolls the dice, spins a wheel and chance presents the result. In that moment, one can pay attention to the reactive mind. If the ego perceives that the results are not in accordance with desire and the need to win, the reaction begins to rise. Emotion such as resentment, frustration, anger will begin to bubble up. As the reaction matures is effects decision making and choice. Your next move, will effect the probability of future success. Interestingly, on a deeper level we know we should ignore emotion and frustration and use logic and strategy to choose the next move, the next strategy. Yet, for many of us, we react with reactive emotion. If one is playing cards and secrecy is part of the strategy, that success is lot when we slam the cards down in frustration.
This reaction is always relevant and present in sports. In these physical games, we blend physical form with spirit and logic in a competative attempt to average a higher performance. Yet notice how those who can self regulate and use self control over reactive emotion sometimes pull victory out of a certain loss. When competitors are so closely matched in physical abilities and training, the only difference is often one’s ability to manage emotion and raise the spirit (in case this means self morale). When one overcomes the certainty of defeat to win against the odds, one has “snatched the victory fro the jaws of defeat”. When one is a sure win but “chokes”, it can be said that one “snatches the defeat out of the jaws of victory”. In life strategy, it is no different. Self destruction is a behavior we do to ourselves; unnecessarily. Possibility and probably are many times maluable. They are shaped and guided by consciousness. When consciousness is absorbed by the lower ego mind, reaction becomes the guiding principle.
Possibility and probability are part of self aware universe. We can be unified with source and seek to realize the many perspectives. The many perspectives can inspire many possibilities. In the infinite now, which above the illusion of time, you can choose.
By transcending the ego view of reality we unify with the Tao. As spiritual beings we are called to unify with source. Here is a useful video clip to show a tangible application of how this works:
Watching this video, I am reminded of the first verse in Chapter 10
In holding the soul and embracing oneness
Can one be steadfast, without straying?
In concentrating the energy and reaching relaxation
Can one be like an infant?
Notice how Juno becomes present and unifies with source. This seemingly miraculous ability is available to us all. Rather than remain absorbed in despair and loss, we can “tune in” that is realize our true self and become the miracle that we ALL are.
But wait a minute you say. This is just a movie. Ok, here is a video of the same thing in real life.
Patience is a virtue that gives great power to choice. Often it is the first of many choices in choosing the next step in your true path. Being patient provides the infinite space for consideration of the many perspectives. You can assume a multi-perspective view to gain insight and understanding of the underlying reality of a given situation.
Then you can consider what virtue and what wisdom can you choose from to take the next step. In this context, we are considering the ancient wisdom of the Tao as communicated by Lao Tzu’s “Tao Te Ching”.
Yet you must realize that for the wisdom of the Tao to be available, you must be paying attention to mind-state (mindfulness – strategy 2). So in that moment, before choice is made, you can consider, “of all the choices I have before me, which and what do I choose?” Being self aware, being patient, what is the virtue that applies here? What is the wisdom that applies.? What have I learned from my past experience? What did I learn from past mistakes, that I do not want to repeat?”
Patience is a good start, Wu Wei is another virtue to practice before choosing. See the chapter on Wu Wei. Wu Wei is action without striving. So the consideration is … what action can be taken that is not one of strive, contention and conflict?
Choosing is the unifying with virtue and wisdom as the true self. The true self experiences life along the true path. In each now, experience is happening. If we are self aware, we are aware of the experience. Experiencing is the purpose of the physical life. We are spiritual beings experiencing life in the physical realm. When we become distracted we are disconnected from the true path. When we are disconnected from the spiritual realm then all that we can experience is the physical realm. When we are distracted, ego is in charge and the limited physical realm is all that we know. This is the path that is often experienced through suffering.
Yet suffering has an alternative perspective. If in suffering, we finally feel enough pain that we seek connection to source, the suffering experience becomes wisdom. When we have suffered enough, we seek our true self and the true path. Realizing (unity with underlying reality), and understanding who we really are, a spiritual being in this physical experience, we begin to understand our “self”. The true self along the true path. This is enlightenment. This the Tao.