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.
“The ultimate purpose of the Tao Te Ching is to provide us with wisdom and insights that we can apply to life. If we cannot do that then it doesn’t matter how well we understand the passage. The true Tao must be lived.”Derek Lin1
I believe that there are two parts to cultivating wisdom. They are experience and knowledge. Of the two, experience is the key ingredient and knowledge is a by-product. Society tends to promote the opposite of this path which is striving for knowledge with little regard for wisdom. The pursuit of knowledge is something the ego is fond of when the motivation is vanity, greed, or to manipulate.
The distinction is that learning and training to build knowledge is sound when it is intended as a foundation to build experience. Later, when you have practiced what you learned from real life experiences, your wisdom will be true. The wisdom of the Tao follows the same process. You are to study the Tao lessons and gain experience through use in everyday life. Over time, you become conditioned to be guided by what you have learned through the teachings and your experiences.
Wisdom is found in both failure and success. One teaches you what leads to failure and one teaches you what leads to success. Over time, your experiences become the true wisdom.
The other point to know is that the gained experience must be applied. Wisdom has no value if you do not listen to it and use it. This may sound mundane, but it happens every time your ego overrides your wisdom. It is the reason that smart people make stupid mistakes.
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” Jalaluddin Rumi
Learning the sovereign ability to rule over the ego is the purpose of this book. In that important moment of choice, you can be aware of the many options available. The voice of the ego will often be the loudest. Sovereignty is accessing your wisdom-mind whose intelligence is learned from both knowledge and experience. At that moment, you can override the emotional ego and make a wise choice.
Again, meditation and mindfulness practice will provide the presence of mind and awareness to make a wise choice. Without this skill, your mind will be captivated by the ego influence and the emotions that go with it. Emotions, mood, and desire can be the cause of the obvious mistake.
Tao cultivators can remain calmly detached from these negative factors so that the wisdom-mind can prevail.
Wisdom is one of the power virtues of Sovereignty. And remember what Lao Tzu stated in chapter 59; verses 5-9:
“Accumulating virtues means that there is nothing one cannot overcome
When there is nothing that one cannot overcome
One’s limits are unknown
The limitations being unknown, one can possess sovereignty
With this mother principle of power, one can be everlasting”
1Excerpt from Tao Te Ching – Annotated and Explained. Written by Derek Line, published by Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT Published 2009.
 Paraphrased from various translation. These may not be completely accurate.
If you practice enough, there will come a time when your skill matures into a relaxed transition into the stillness. You will know when this happens because you will be free from the pull of ego and mind-wandering. You become the silent witness. This is becoming consciously aware without actively thinking about it. This is the center of being. The more you can experience this state, the more you become a part of this nature. Excerpt from chapter 27.
I opened a fortune cookie the other day. The fortune inside said “you can hear a lot just by listening”
A long time ago I heard a story about listening. The story goes that during his presidency, Franklin Roosevelt noted that few people were paying attention to what he said. To see how true it was, he decided to test his theory out during a white house gathering. As he greeted each person, he would say”I murdered my grandmother this morning.” Not hearing what he said most people just smiled, nodded and gave a courteous response such as “how nice” and “good for you”. Finally, he got a response when the Bolivian Ambassador responded with “Well she must have deserved it”.
To Listen; is to be present and give one’s attention to perception1
Communication Lets begin with the obvious.When we talk, we are not listening. Even when someone else is talking, we may not be listening.Even if you are hearing you may not be listening. On a deeper level, the listening is done with the mind, and hopefully, consciousness paying attention. You are looking at someone while they are telling something they feel is hugely compelling, only your mind is buried deep within your mind stream2. When something wakes you up and you pay attention outward, you realized that you haven’t heard a word of what was said because your attention was somewhere “upstream”.
Listening goes deeper than that. This chapter is about cultivating the skill to pay attention to what you hear. Or deeper yet, it is to pay attention to what you perceive3. It’s not just sound wave in the form of another person’s voice. It is “hearing” what the consciousness behind the words is conveying to you.
Intuition. Listening is a complement of Intuition. Deep listening leads to intuition. When you listen, you perceive. What you perceive, you can observe. The product of what you is what you hear. That is unless your attention is deeply in mindstreaming.
The anecdote to this is to be present and mindful. Being able to stay focused on hearing, listening and experiencing what you perceive is transforming.
Being able to stay focused and to listen requires not thinking at the same time. Recall what was discussed in the chapter on emptiness about it having functionality. Emptiness gives function to listening. Being empty in order to receive.The mind is still so it can observe. You cannot listen while you are thinking.
Contrary to how this may sound, this is the highest form of waking consciousness. Note the following words that are listed at the beginning of this chapter.
The function of the ear ends with hearing,
that of the mind, with symbols or ideas.
But the spirit is an emptiness ready to receive all things.
Excerpt from the Chuang Tzu Chapter 4
As I have mentioned many times in this and other books, the ability to wake up from mindstream and pay attention, hold focus is a spiritual ability cultivated through meditation. It is applied over and over in your waking life through continuously becoming mindful.
You are listening. Your mind drifts. Your consciousness realizes that your focus drifted and you refocus back to observing/listening (perceive/to pay attention). Listening with focused attention is a skill. When you practice it the same person enough, they will tell you that you are a good listener. The people in your life will regard you more favorably. They will also notice if you miss a lot because your mind is busy while they are talking to you. When you present some deep nuance that only you understand, then they will tell you that you ”think too much”.
So this focused attention is to be applied often but in a balanced way. The is a certain harmony that you must achieve where you observe/listen to each moment along with the need to think about what you are doing. It is best if you approach this with moderation. Just practice gently, giving yourself the rest of your life to cultivate it.
While you are reading this, notice how the “voice” will comment. Or notice how your mind will drift off when you perceive some interesting concept. Your eyes and mind will still be processing the material, yet the attention off in mindstream. Then you wake up and have to go back and reread the previous sentence. Sometimes the content can be so complex that it can provoke thinking, and you have to reread over a of bunch times. So stop right here. Raise your head up and think about this.
Spirit to spirit. If you did it, and now you are back. You went from listening to distraction, and now you are back listening. Interestingly, the information in my mind right now is taking a quantum leap and traveling through time and space. It is being perceived by your consciousness in some future date and in some other location. From my spirit essence to yours in the now continuum. Each spirit and mind still yet connected. Perhaps listening is a quantum event. This is the power of being present in the “now”. Such is the power of listening.
The final point is this; when you are present and still (out of mindstream), you are in the Tao. This is the Tao connection. When you listening and at one with the Tao, you are in the highest state of being. Your potential (what you are capable of) becomes unlimited when unified with the Tao. It is easier said than done. Yet you can transform your life with even the smallest connection. You connect every time you become still and listen. Listen with constancy4
The sovereign cultivates the ability of returning to the Tao and listening. With a bit of work, you can gain the ability listen to your own thoughts with a sense of detachment. Within your true nature is wisdom. Being able to remove your attention from ego mindstreaming and know your wisdom is a very effective skill. Work at it. Become a good listener.
1This definition was a composite from several sources.
2Mind stream, or mindstreaming is an ancient spiritual concept defined as the “moment to moment continuum. The focus of your consciousness is often deeply concentrated in thought. A type of ongoing distraction creating a loss of presence.
3to perceive is the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. Or a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression
4See the Chapter on “constancy”. – returning to one’s true nature
Here we are again. It is New Years Eve. You may have already been planning on a resolution for the new year. Perhaps it is a goal of some sort. Maybe it is to make more money, or to lose weight, or exercise more. If you are like the majority of people, your goal will fail by springtime. There are many reasons for failure in our resolution and goals. The one I am focused on in this post, the big one, is a lack of self control and the loss of will power. There is a way to overcome this. Notice in the excerpt below, the words “one’s limits are unknown” and “one can be everlasting”
Accumulating virtues means there is nothing one cannot overcome
When there is nothing that one cannot overcome One’s limits are unknown
The limitations being unknown, one can possess sovereignty
With this mother principle of power, one can be everlasting
This is called deep roots and firm foundation
The Tao of longevity and lasting visionOne of my Tao mentors told me that I should work on my “self” first and the goal will be realized automatically in an almost anti-climatic way. What he was talking about was what the Tao Te Ching calls “The Sovereignty of Self”. This terms means to control your ego and its constant undermining through desire and distraction. If you are following this blog, then you perhaps you have an interest in the wisdom of the Tao and the Tao Te Ching. The Tao Te Ching may seem enigmatic or may seem to be paradoxical, yet the implementation is pretty pragmatic and straightforward in its application. Its wisdom can only be applied, and the results can only be experienced when you wake up become the sovereign over your life and destiny. Being a dependent of materialism as a life purpose creates a downward spiral of self destruction. Take a look at how every new year we make resolutions to fix some imbalance in our life. Somewhere during the Christmas holidays many of us have a moment of truth and admit that we need to address some issue and we promise ourselves to start afresh and do this new thing. Yet, we all know that most people fail at the promise and new resolution. By March you are back in your old ways. You are back spending too much, eating too much, neglecting some issue too much and soon resume the same old behavior hoping that somehow things will end up alright. This is a definition of ignorance. This is ego. Right here, right now, is your moment of truth. Take control of your life and your destiny. Wake up and be. Be the true self. Realize that you are a spiritual being, and that you control your choices and actions. Get serious with your meditation and mindfulness ability. Cultivate your ability to stay awake and become sovereign over ego and its insatiable appetite of desire. Throughout your day be mindful of your choices and reactions. This is what is meant by working on the self. By working on remaining the true self, you are able to manage the ego. This is the cultivating of sovereignty. By remaining sovereign, not giving in to ego, you make the choices that take you closer to your goal. When you are awake and in “self” control you can ask and determine…
“does this choice take me closer to or further from my true destiny, my goal”.
In the beginning, it is easier to understand than it is to do. The difficulty lies in how grounded in ego you are. Accepting and letting go is the action of the true self. Succumbing to ego and seeking distraction and sensation as means of coping is the path of failure. This cultivation takes lots of practice. It MUST become a way of life. The reward is huge. You successfully create the life of fulfillment, happiness, well being and health. My friends, the invitation to return to true living awaits you. If you are living in a prison cell with the door wide open, yet cannot escape, you are a captive of ego. Become the sovereign of your life. Find and practice meditation and mindfulness as if your life depends on it. A life of blessing and prosperity awaits you on the true path. Seek it and find it. Happy New Year
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
In the Dixie Taoist Handbook, you are informed of the process for realizing the Tao begins with meditation and the practices of mindfulness. This is to realize self awareness and pay attention. In this way, you can become mindful of your life experience, what you are choosing and how these choices create your destiny. I call to you all to hold to the one.
As we approach the holiday season, you will be challenged in holding the one, to stay present and self aware. Thanksgiving day is one where we can embrace gratitude and share our blessing with each other. There will be a lot to observe and there will be lots to distract us.
This year, try to stay present and mindful of those things that can trigger the ego into choices that do not hold us on our true path. Be mindful of rising drama tensions and emotions and people gather and bring their distractions with them. Be mindful of desire as it overwhelms the senses with sensation seeking. Be mindful of desire as you are overwhelmed by TV ads.
Each year, I use an app on my smart phone to chime every 20 minutes to remind me to wake up and become present. The sound penetrates the distraction and helps me to hold to the one. When the sound of the chime rings (Tibetan singing bowl sound), stop, find your breath, and return to now. Realize where your mind has gone, what you are doing and why. Then take charge of your mind again, and take charge of the power of choice
And most importantly, have the experience. Experience, the sounds, the smells, the wonderful tastes, and best of all, experience each other. When things get crazy, stay present and choose virtue over ignorance. Choose patience, understanding, empathy, humility, compassion and conservation. Be mindful of your stress levels and deal with it effectively. Take walks, sit quietly and listen to music. Read to a child. Play with a pet. Listen to someone as they talk.
Even if you choose to stand in line of a big box store, in the dark, in the cold at 4 am in the morning, you can still be mindful. Perhaps you will even contemplate why you are doing such a thing. This could be a really good learning experience for gaining insight. Perhaps when the sun comes up, it will create a beautiful sunrise. As you stand in line, notice what is going on around you and practice the three treasures. Notice others and use softness to overcome hardness. Be like water and flow around obstacles.
Holidays can be heaven or hell. We have the ability to create either. You can do this if you hold to the one.
The Dixie Taoist Handbook
Strategy Number Seven:
True Goal Achievement
The Strategy: Work on your Self First; the Goal is secondary. Implement unattached action. Flow like water toward the destiny of your true path. Its Application: Goals are destinations. To arrive there successfully one must focus on the journey in each step. Applying the wisdom and virtue of Wu Wei, which is unattached action we are congruent with the flow the underlying reality. Without striving we arrive at our goal which is just one of many destination along our path.
Goal setting is the crafting of the strategy for your destiny. This chapter is a big deal, so read carefully. If you want to truly effect your destiny, you must focus your mind and be present. This is the practical ability to connect with the Tao (the source of everything) and to hold unity with the wisdom (the knowledge gained from life experience). When you have connected with the Tao, you are beyond distraction (that chaotic voice in the head that you wish you could shut up). In this state of consciousness you see where you have been, be in this now, and be guided by the spirit of the true self. Inspiration is that aspect of mystic virtue where Tao insight connects with a source that has infinite potential. Inspired is a most powerful spiritual virtue. From despair, inspiration can launch the spirit and instantly one is surrounded the ability to choose from infinite possibilities. And then a clear vision of your path of what can be fills the surface of your mind. Every fiber of your being vibrates with virtuous intention.
Be mindful of intention, so craft a worthy goal. Be patient, in meditation view your goal from the perspective of wisdom.
Tao Te Ching Chapter 37
The Tao is constant in non action
Yet there is nothing it does not do
If the sovereign can hold to this
All things shall transform themselves
Transformed yet wishing to achieve
I shall restrain them with the simplicity of the nameless
The simplicity of the nameless
They shall be without desire
The world shall steady itself
In modern culture we are taught to strive for achievement. In the western society many view striving as a good thing. Strictly defined by a popular online dictionary, one can read that striving is:
“to make great efforts to obtain or achieve something”
“to struggle or fight vigorously”
Let us look below the surface level of striving. Interestingly, one can see that the two definitions above are not necessarily describing the same thing. It can be one thing to make a “great effort” or to “obtain” and it can be argued that struggling and” fighting vigorously” is something else. Either way, the deeper insight is realize that great effort, struggle, and to fight are not the way of the Tao.
There is a better way to achieve the goal. The Tao offers something so extraordinary that it boggles the mind. See if you can wrap your mind around the concept of
NOT“trying” to do anything, yet accomplishing everything. What is being described here is “effortless achievement”. See Tao Te Ching Annotated And Explained by Derek Lin, Chapter 37).
This highly realized way of being is the authentic path of the true self. As the true self, we are sovereign. In this context, to be sovereign means to master the self. This is self control, self discipline and keeping the ego tamed. When one can follow “the way” (the Tao), we bring our reality into alignment with the destination which is our goal. We are working on the self in order to reach our intended destiny (goal). We all know that to reach a goal, requires self discipline and self control. Otherwise, we become distracted and fall off of the path. But that is not all. Going even deeper, we must determine our destiny (goals) as the authentic self. Authentic or true goals are those that are inspired when we are self aware and aligned in that balanced state of spirit and physical. In strategy four we apply the strategy of following mystic virtue as our guide. In this strategy, we use mystic virtue to determine and follow the path of the true self.
Is the determined destiny, the goal, an authentic one or is it just another sensation seeking desire of ego. Does the goal align with the three treasures? Is the goal a naturally evolution of the true path?
Here is the game changer. The struggle, fight, great effort are experienced by the ego. For alignment the Tao is to flow effortlessly with harmony. Do what you are supposed to do and being who you are supposed to be. Wu Wei is unattached action. Unattached is to be free of ego clinging and domination through ignorance. Wu Wei is action through mystic virtue. So we work on being sovereign, that is say, we rule over the ego.
As the true self on the true path, determine the direction and destiny that you know to be true. Then flow effortlessly in that direction by working on the self first. How do you know if your path is true? The answer is that if you are striving and knocking yourself out, burning up energy and feeling stress, that is not it. Are you tired, stressed out, sick, and anxious ?
On the other hand, are things happening in an almost miraculous way that seems to good to be true? Are the right people showing up at just the right time with the perfect elegant solutions? Are coincidences popping up all of the time that seem weird in a good way? Is intuition singing to you in harmony with life?
Self aware, our moment by moment choices will naturally come into alignment with our goals. In a synchronistic manner, and paying attention in that special way of mindfulness, all aspects of life will fall naturally into place. The people we meet, the coincidences, intuition, and all manners of what seems to be “good luck” begin to guide us in an effortless way. We just to pay attention and remain aligned with this reality. We must hold to the one (the true self) and resist the absorbing ego thinking which is the path of striving or pushing.
To be able to “hold to the one” requires that we work on ourselves. That is to say, we work on ourselves first and we will arrive at the goal we have brought into alignment with the Tao. Working ourselves is to work on being sovereign. This means we learn to become aware of our ego self and control its influence on our choices. Choices are the steps we take in each moment. If those choices, those steps are misguided by ego, we fall off the true path.
Mindful of our actions, we can ask ourselves,
“does this take us closer to or further from my goal”.
Am I keeping with the Tao?
Am I practicing mystic virtue and remaining humble, compassionate and frugal (the three treasures)?
Here is where it gets interesting. The ego, which is never patient wants to hurry and get there. The ego which is attached to outcome is our aspect of self that strives. Ego actions pushes and struggles to “get there” at any cost. This is not the effortless achievement of the Tao cultivator. This is not Wu Wei (unattached action).
Tao Te Ching Chapter 48
Pursue knowledge, daily gain
Pursue Tao, daily loss
Loss and more loss
Until one reaches unattached action
With unattached action there is nothing we cannot do.
Take the world by constantly applying noninterference
The one who interferes is not qualified to take the world
When achievement and goals rise in the mind, often one might think that we require to gain more knowledge. Immediately striving begins to form in the pursuit of more knowledge. Striving for more knowledge is ego introducing complexity where it need not be. Complexity only creates potential for distraction and the probability for things to sway us from our goal. Simplicity is the the way of the true path. There is a saying “keep it simple stupid”. A little harsh, yet we can appreciate the wisdom of keeping things simple and allowing. We we pursue the wisdom of the way of simplicity we lose the distracting aspect of ego desire.
The more loss of desire from ego, the less we strive. Striving is unnecessary effort, flow is effortless achievement. We practice cultivating our self control until we reach the point where our action, what we do, is unattached to outcome and aligned with the Tao (the way, the true path). This 4,000 year old wisdom is telling us that when we reach and hold this virtue of unattached action, “there is nothing we cannot do”.
“Take the world”, that is achieve our goals, without allowing the ego to disrupt the connection to spirit and the effortless flow along the true path. The strategy is to cultivate becoming and holding to the true self. To practice the virtues of the way (the Tao), to practice patience rather than striving and pushing. To allow and accept rather than interfere with the flow. Keep the march forward simple and use moderation to keep balance. Because of cause and effect (karma), striving and forceful achievement will cause friction and failure. When we plant the seeds to effortless achievement we reap the fruit of smooth and timely goal achievement. When one plants the seeds of striving and action attached to outcome, the result will more of the same. Striving and not hitting the true goal.
Tao Te Ching Chapter 77
The Tao of Heaven
Is like drawing a bow
Lower that which high
Raise that which is low
Reduce that which as excess
Add to that which has deficiencies…
The last part of goal setting for the Tao cultivator is the use of moderation in moving towards goal destination. Consider the goal itself. Is the goal just a product of the ego. Is it vain? What desire is it fulfilling. How does it measure with the the three treasures? Who benefits from this goal. Will others suffer as a result of achieving this goal.
The goal itself should not be too high, or too low. Adjust the objective as you cultivate your wisdom of the true path. Adjust your steps with moderation, seeking balance and harmony in each now, each moment. As you work on your “self” you cultivate your ability to follow the Tao, the true path.
Remember, true power is only held by sovereignty of self. Everything else is just illusion of ego. Wu Wei is holding to the one and using unattached action to move toward authentic destiny. This is the true path, this the way (the Tao).
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: Wake up and live your life. Stop missing chunks of it by intentionally being distracted. life is meditation (awake and aware).
Its Application: Learn how to wake up, stay awake, and experience life. Where ever you are, be there. What ever you are doing, know it, have the experience. The past is over and done. The future has not arrived. There is only right here, right now. In this now, be at one with the living experience.
In holding the soul and embracing the oneness Can one be steadfast, without straying? In concentrating the energy and reaching relaxation Can one be like an infant?
In cleaning away the worldly view Can one be without imperfections?
In loving people and ruling the nation Can one be without manipulation?
In the heavenly gates opening and closing Can one hold to the feminine principle?
In understanding in all directions Can one be without intellectuality?
Bearing it, rearing it Bearing without possession Achieving without arrogance Raising without domination This is called the mystic virtue.
We are called to embracing the oneness, to refrain from straying and to holding the soul. How does one accomplish this? Unifying the physical with the spiritual is the state of consciousness we know as meditation. Holding the soul is the moving above the singular view of materialism and sensation seeking (ego) and experiencing life without constant straying (distraction).
When we contemplate the nature of distraction, we can realize that it is a tuning out of life. Distraction is by nature the dropping of attention and our being captivated by the irrelevant. Experiencing life is the singularity of physical experience. We can refine the experience by paying attention to each moment and letting go of those things which block or create resistance.
LIfe, the cosmos, and reality simply is. Notice how ego has its own agenda and expects things to according to its unrealistic plan. There is the unrealistic ego reality and there is the true underlying reality. It just is. In each and every moment, we have the choice to accept or react needlessly. Reactive ego, does not accept what is, and seeks to disengage from life’s problems through distraction. There are a myriad of ways ego tunes out life and allows the attention to become absorbed. Distraction may seem like it is working, but it is only temporary and one will find themselves right back to facing that darn reality.This constant struggle with reality is resisting life. Through meditation and mindfulness, we can learn to accept and and flow around the obstacles.
So when life does not work the way you think it should, what are some forms of distraction or “coping” that you practice?
Example: Eating. Notice the WHY that you are eating. It is because you are coping and seeking distraction? What are you doing when you are eating? (talking, reading, watching tv, on the computer) Are you aware of eating? Or do you reach the end and wonder “how did that happen?” Most importantly, Are you aware of the eating experience? Are you enjoying all of the different sensations, taste, texture and smell of the eating experience? Or do you just shovel it down missing everything?
Ask the same questions about driving a car. Do you have the driving experience? Are you aware of the journey? Or are you so distracted that you drive on auto-pilot, arriving without ever being aware of the experience that got you there?
Life is meditation. Life is spirit having a physical experience. That is unless you are distracted. If life is experiencing reality, then its compliment, distraction must be not experiencing reality. Nature has this law, “if you don’t use it, you lose it”. So here is your moment of truth. Slow down and be present. Experience life and all of its wonder that is around you. If you pay attention, you will see that there are no ordinary moments.
Being relaxed and concentrating our life energy we become like infants, soft pliable and full of wonder. Allowing our “self” to become distracted and dominated by ego, we create resistance, stress and the sense of wonder is lost to anxiety and problems. When we allow our mental focus to become absorbed by distraction, we have lost our foothold on life as the spiritual or true self.
The Tao cultivator tunes into life, and pays attention to protect the sanctuary of keeping a peaceful heart. The sage or wise person does not lose nor waste energy on unnecessary clenching and striving against the flow of life. The sage reaches balance and harmony by realizing the flow and becoming one with it. The harmonizing of the spiritual and soul with the physical experience of life brings forth mystic virtue. This is the authentic path of heaven and true being. This does not mean there are not difficulties. This means we do not give into ego coping because the experience we are having is difficult. With hope, we bridge the gap between fear and courage. Especially in times of turmoil, we return to spirit for guidance and solace. The sage seeks the path of balance and harmony. The balance between the spiitual self and the physical world is the path of mystic virtue. Without arrogance, without dominance, without the illusion of possession, and without ego, the Tao cultivator embraces mystic virtue. This is life. This is true living.
The Strategy: Pay attention to the mouth and the words that come out it. It can be a source of inspiration or a device for hurting others.
Its Application. Mindful of ego, we must be alert for what it has to say. Managing ego through self awareness we must refrain from hurting others by what we say.
Those who talk do not know
Those who know do not talk
Close the mouth
Shut the doors
Blunt the sharpness
Unravel the knots
Dim the glare
Mix the dust
This is called Mystic Wonder
Ego has the distinctive failing that covers up its lack of understanding by pretending to know. It pretends to know by talking a lot. The self realized person (the true self) has confidence and patience and has no need to prove anything. By paying attention we can discern what the ego is covering up by how it works so hard at denial. In this passage Lao Tzu wisely points out how those ego minds that do not know, will spout off with words to cover up the lack of understanding. When the ego feels inadequate and experiences an embarrassing lack of accomplishment, it will attempt to create the illusion of knowing by by talking. The Tao cultivator knows that actions have merit and words can often be empty. Promises are made and easily broken.
Those of us who have had to work hard at cultivating the true path, know first hand how much trouble our mouths can get us into. The unwise person is lost in ego and is so distracted that words come out the mouth before they realized what they sound like and how much they can hurt others. The path of virtue is to be diligent in our mindfulness practice so that we manage and control the ego’s need to say stupid and hurtful things. We must be alert and pay attention to the rising emotions and feelings before the mouth is engaged.
Lao Tzu calls to us to be mindful of sharp words that hurt or breaks the harmony. We are to say what we men with straight talk and not be deliberately confusing in our interactions. The true self, uses humility to dial back the ego’s need to sound brilliant so that it can be admired and look good. The wise Tao cultivator is grounded in virtue and selflessness, speaking and acting with simplicity. When it comes to words and speaking, more is not better.
As a spiritual being in pursuit of the true path, it is imperative that we pay attention to how we interact with those around us. The path is one of harmony and selflessness. Thus as Tao cultivators, we are mindful of what we say and what we mean. When we realize that ego is about to react and say something that will break the harmony, we step back and choose virtue. When we are called to speak, we may take a moment to pause and be present. Using the three treasures as a guide is a good start. When interacting with others, one can consider compassion, conservation and humility before the words form on the tongue. In this way we stay on the true path and maintain the harmony of mystic oneness.
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.
The Strategy: Follow the true path of Mystic Virtue. Mystic virtue opens the door to the true path. The mysterious virtue of source will flow freely to and through you and all whom you encounter will experience goodness.
Its Application. Transcend the ego, choose wisdom and virtue in each moment. Cultivate your ability to become and remain oriented as the true self. As the true self follow your true path with mystic virtue as your guide.
Chapter 10, Tao Te Ching
In holding the soul and embracing the oneness
Can one be steadfast, without straying?
In concentrating the energy and reaching relaxation
Can one be like an infant?
In cleaning away the worldly view
Can one be without imperfections?
In loving the people and ruling the nation
Can one be without manipulation
In the heavenly gate’s opening and closing
Can one hold to the feminine principle?
In understanding clearly all directions
Can one be without intellectuality?
Bearing it, rearing it
Bearing without possession
Achieving without arrogance
Raising without domination
This is called the Mystic Virtue
In Strategy number one, we find that we must become self aware through the practice of meditation. In strategy number two, we learn that we must continue the self awareness by paying attention in each and every moment. In strategy number three, we realize that we have the power of choice as we create our life moment by moment. In strategy number four, we can choose the wisdom of practicing mystic virtue.
Virtue can be defined as moral excellence and goodness. Spirit may be defined as consciousness and self awareness. Thus when we are self aware as a spiritual being and choosing virtue to create our reality, moment by moment, we are practicing mystic virtue.
This is a game changer of huge potential. At once you are undergoing an self check and can quickly discern which self is in this moment. As you read these words recommending that you follow virtue, notice how you react and feel about that. The part of you that realizes the truth and accepts this is your true self. The part of you that resists following virtue and rejects the seeking of moral excellence is the ego. So in this now, is a moment of truth. Which path do you take? One opens the door to the true path, the other continues toward self destruction. Virtue is the path of spirit and ego is the path of materialism and form.
The path of virtue is not an absolute. It is the balance tween to two realms we are connected to . As a spiritual being having a physical experience we are connected to both the spiritual and the physical. Balance is the key to mystic virtue. The strategy is to learn to use moderation and find balance between form and spirit. This is a path where the true self, controls the ego.
This path does not mean that we do not enjoy pleasures of the earthly realm. Sensation is a wonderful gift. As the true self, one is awake of the sensation in a given moment as experiences the wonder fully aware. When we concentrate on the experience we it becomes so much more richer. Distracted we move the through the sensation yet not fully having the experience. The true self fully enjoys the experience but does not become attached to the sensation. The true self can enjoy and let go. The ego becomes attached, dependent and is already looking forward to doing again as soon as possible.
Most importantly, the true self realizes that the sensation experience may be joyful but realizes it is not the source of happiness. The ego thinks the sensational experience is happiness and this creates desire. The true self feels gratitude and lets go. The Ego becomes attached and develops a false need.
So in any given moment, we have choices. As the true self we can choose virtue, or if we are distracted in ego, we choose sensation seeking and more distraction. The true self will choose to serve others, the ego will seek to serve “me”.
Mindful of feelings, the true self will manage ego and seek wisdom. In this way the Tao cultivator follows the true path. Imprisoned by feelings and emotions, the ego does not give a rip about virtue, it only wants to address its unfulfilled desire. The true self can moderate and hold to balance of lifes pleasures. The ego is a bottomless pit of unlimited desire. For the ego, enough is never enough and more is better.
The power in strategy number four provides the map for navigating the minefield of ego traps that will cause life to blow up on us. Look deep inside your “self” and see if you can notice the truth that we should be good and follow a moral path. One can begin to see where ego desire and distraction blinds us and leads us into trouble.
If you can be honest with your “self” for just an instant, you must admit that being virtuous is what we have always been called to do. Practicing mystic virtue does not guarantee you a problem free life. But it will help you from making problems worse by making bad choices. You have heard the saying, “out of the frying pan and into the fire”. Life will throw some crazy stuff at us sometimes, that is guaranteed. It is how we react to those crazy circumstances that cause you to jump from frying pan to the fire.
Wisdom is very close at hand. You have a long history of life experience where you should have learned what to do and not do. By being free of ego, you can choose the virtue of patience and then the wisdom. The Tao Te Ching is the benefit of over 4,000 years of wisdom that has been handed down to us.
Tao produces them
Virtue raises them
Things shape them
Forces perfect them
Therefore all things respect the Tao and value virtue
The respect for Tao, the value of virtue
Not due to command but to constant nature
Thus Tao produces them
Virtue raises them
Grows them, educates them
Perfects them, matures them
Nurtures them, protects them
Produces but does not possess
Acts but does not flaunt
Nurtures but does not dominate
This is called Mystic Virtue
Look around in history and in life and consider some of the great spiritual sages that have their place in our memories. Notice the virtues that they shared with us. Also notice they never sought greatness, they became highly regarded anyway.
Life challenges every single one of in some unique way. When we emulate mystic virtue we are opening the door and discovering our true path. This spiritual virtue is in most ways beyond our understanding, yet we can appreciate life and its many mysteries without becoming lost to distraction. We can actually choose our path and most importantly we can choose our true path. Mystic virtue is the door to the true path. “mystery of mysteries, the door to all wonders” (Chapter 1 Tao Te Ching).
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.
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.