Archives for posts with tag: daoism

Palm Beach, by Ren Adams

The oil spill calls to mind this passage from the Tao Teh Ching:


Do you want to improve the world?
I don’t think it can be done.

The world is sacred.
It can’t be improved.
If you tamper with it, you’ll ruin it.
If you treat it like an object, you’ll lose it.

There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.

The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle.

–Lao Tzu, translated by Stephen Mitchell


The Deepwater Horizon Oilspill has the potential to affect every living thing on the planet.

Ignoring the situation to focus on American Idol or soccer does not help. Turning the situation into petty politics diverts attention from solving the real problem. Saying you don’t care about it because it only “affects America” is also deflective and irresponsible (and incorrect–it affects the ocean ecosphere, which touches all of us).

If you try to follow the story in the news, the information is incomplete. It’s like an old whodunit. Notice how easily info is swept under the proverbial rug, sidelined by celebrities or deflected into heated politics.

6 million gallons (at least) are flowing into the ocean DAILY. The oil spill has been pumping columns of oil for ALMOST TWO MONTHS (today is day 78 of the spill). “Has it been that long?”

This is very real.

This is not about America vs. England as some make it out to be. That kind of thinking is narrow-minded and focused on the self. It’s not about Obama vs. whoever. Disasters don’t know illusionary borders or political parties.

Politics may be deeply involved in the reasons oil was being drilled in the first place, or behind the shoddy safety and containment system, or behind the fact that BP is still in charge of the cleanup–but the disaster has moved beyond the political forum. It’s now in an area that should concern everyone. We might ask: why is it still spilling and how many decades of post-spill damage are we in store for?

What can we, as individuals do to help–and to mindfully prevent tampering with the world in the future?

Over a month ago, when the oil spill was still in its early weeks I remember saying this was going to end up as the worst ecological disaster of modern civilization. I could feel it. Unlike the call to action for Haiti, there was little response from the community at large–though the number of compassionate and concerned souls has been steadily growing,  many sharing the same sense of helplessness. The oil spill has already been declared the worst in American history and it keeps growing.

The waves of damage are not about globs of oil ruining a tourist beach. They’re about the prolonged, protracted impact of the damage–on everything.

Everything we do has a radiating impact on everything around us. Every one, and every thing.

The initial problems from the spill are only the beginning. Waves of damage, which will continue to unfold for years after the event, will impact the fishing industry and economy, sea life, underwater biospheres and ecological culture already held in a fragile balance, wildlife, nature preserves (Louisiana indigineous swamplands, coastal ecosystems), ocean species of many varities, birds, coastal economies–and with the potential to radiante outward and affect shipping lanes, rainfall, the oil industry, the price of gasoline, the climate–you name it.

All things are connected.

And even with all of this, there are people who say they don’t care about the oil spill–that it’s funny ’cause it’s hitting America. I’ve seen a number of tweets on Twitter related to this, and it saddens me. (!!) Soccer is more important. I am always amazed by this kind of thinking and lack of awareness. This is not about America, again. It’s about a body of water that laps the shores of countless countries and continents. If they think a few retirement condos in Florida are the only things affected, they’re wrong.

What can we do to help? Awareness is important. Understanding is key. Allowing yourself to admit where you’ve been wrong and work toward a positive resolution… also important.

We’ve set something in motion–and now it will play out. If we let things go their own natural way, they unfold organically. When we try to control things–drilling, digging, blasting, we lose touch with the natural order. We’ve got to remind ourselves to find balance in everything we do.

If we need oil for the modern world, we need to learn delicacy and balance when retrieving it. If we know oil is the wrong path, we need to work harder toward a less impactful one.

We can’t dismiss disasters because they’re not in our own backyard, or because people don’t seem directly affected.

If we each do a little every day toward remembering that we are part of the flow, not the King of it, it will help lessen tampering. If you live close enough to volunteer for clean-up, give it a shot. If not, do what else you can. I’ve donated artwork for a charity that’s organizing artists for OxFam America and the National Audobon Society. Anything we can do, helps.

And to prevent future spills? Well, a lot needs to be changed. Those who know me know that I’m not an eco-nazi. I’m not even usually involved in politics or “calls to action.”

I feel strongly about this, though–that we’re tampering with the world in ways that we need to curb. Being aware of this and not hiding within the “bread and circuses” mentality, we can help in small ways (or maybe great ways, if enough of us are doing a small part).

A starting point for various articles and data:

Help the Gulf Coast – arts and crafts sold to raise funds for clean-up charity.


Smoke Tree, Year 1, Spring 2006

The cycle of seasons is an everlasting circle.

Our ancestors observed the passages of each–relying on a natural calendar to plant, grow, harvest, and repose. Each season brings its own flora, fauna, weather, and personality. Some even compare the seasons to stages of life and growth–with spring usually seen as the young child, emerging from the death of winter.

I can usually “feel” spring well before the calendar clicks over. It sneaks in. Days are cool, but warm at the edges. There’s a subtle shift in smell–the crispness reveals an almost watery scent, like a fishing pond. The plants in my yard begin to put out leaves and buds.

Smoke Tree, Year 2, Spring 2007

In my fervor to move away from New Mexico–I pause now, wondering what might become of the trees and bushes I’ve planted and cared for while living here. Will the next family who moves in simply cut them down? I’ve seen that so many times before. Or will they also enjoy the tiny green leaf buds of my robust Smoke Tree, now over 8 feet tall (who started out the size of a pencil), or the fresh sappy perfume of the Arizona Cypress’ new growth? Maybe children will play near the Red Leaf Sand Cherry, admiring the white blossoms without having memory of the year the tree nearly died from strong, hot winds… I carefully brought it back from the brink and now it grows near the Smoke Tree, brave in the sandy soil. Every time I see the Sand Cherry, I’m reminded that the worse situations can always be put in perspective.

Two years ago, a tamarisk took root in the worst, sandiest part of our yard. Tamarisk, or Salt Cedar, are considered invasive if they get down into native areas–like along the Rio Grande or in tree preserves. However, trimmed and cared for as single specimens, they are beautiful and unafraid. The little tamarisk teased me its first year. I knew it wasn’t a weed. It had a rough, rooty stalk. It grew straight upright quickly–fearlessly. I trimmed branches to keep it from overgrowing nearby plants and watched it soar. Now, it’s well over 11 feet tall. It will outlive me, if my house’s future family doesn’t cut its life short.

Smoke Tree, Year 3, 2008

Spring brings about a fresh beginning–but it’s also like a family vacation back to the familiar personalities of nature.

What will happen to the family of trees in my yard when I’m gone? Nothing lasts forever.

My smoke tree, chronicled here with three years of photos (I will add more photos, I just need to pull out the files), grew from a tiny pencil purchased from the Arbor Day Foundation, into a tree taller than me, with a thick trunk and fluffy flowers. I had such high hopes for New Mexico. I had high hopes for my yard. I planted 10 trees and only two survived the nasty desert weather. Like my time here in New Mexico, I feel as though the trees were kicked around, struggled… and only the strongest survived.

Again, I wonder–what will happen to the smoke tree when I’m gone? What will happen to the juniper and the chaste tree? I’ll do what I can to help them grow and flourish as long as I’m here, but after that, it flows as it goes.

It’s like letting go of children, I think. At some point, I’ll have to trust them to the rest of the world. And when I let them go, it will be like another spring, starting brand new.

(I will take photos of the smoke tree tomorrow–for a 2010 update.)

Edited to add the newest photo of the Smoke Tree (6/12/2010):

Smoke Tree, May 2010

Wine Jugs, Shikishi Board by Ren Adams, 2009

Daily Musings 3/29/2010 – Don’t Let Things Own You

This is a classic, traditional Taoist tale:

Centuries ago, a decorated and famous warrior-general in the Emperor’s army retired after a long career. He had been hailed for selflessly leading his men into battle and for keeping his soldiers happy, healthy, and well-taken care of through years of hard battles. He was renknowned for being honorable, kind, and devoted and had never been afraid to die, no matter how much other solider may have feared the odds.

He retired with a nice pension and was given a home, land, and money to start “golden years” with.

Settling into his new life, he began to collect ceramics. Vases were his favorite. When he’d served his country as a warrior, he couldn’t really take a collection of large items around the countryside with him, so this new hobby became an obsession. He began buying antiques and display pieces everywhere, and whenever he could.

He collected fragile, beautiful antique vases and his collection began to grow. He paid high prices for them and set them proudly on display in his home. He often took them down to admire his purchases and he showed them to any guest who came over.

One day, while admiring an expensive new acquisition, he sat turning the vase over and over in his hands. How beautiful and rare it was! How expensive it had been! He was so proud to own it and to have it in his prized collection!

As he turned the vase and admired its valuable surface, his fingers suddenly slipped. In an instant, his prized, expensive possession began to spin away from him–through the air. He panicked. He lunged for the vase and his blood pressure went sky high. He barely caught it before it hit the ground and he sat there, holding it, seized in mortal terror. He felt fear and desperation throughout his entire body. His vase had almost shattered!

He sat back down, stunned. For decades he had fought fearlessly, never once thinking of himself. Always living life to the fullest and striving to be an honest person–without worry or greed. Without fear. Without trepidation.

Yet suddenly, here as a retired soldier–perfectly safe in his own private home, he felt sheer terror. He had never felt it on the battlefield but he was now alone and mortally afraid. He had felt so sick, frightened and terrified that his prized vase might break, that he felt he had almost died from the intense panic and despair.

After a moment of silence, he slowly sat back and smiled. He looked at the vase again. Had he become so attached to owning these prized possessions that they filled him with fear and mortal terror?

As he gazed at the priceless antique, he opened his hands. The vase fell to the floor and shattered.

Ever known someone who wouldn’t let you sit on the furniture, but made you plant your butt on a plastic slip cover instead? The couch would last a hundred years, delicately protected–but no one would have enjoyed it. Ever known someone who hoarded their collection of widgets and would have a panic attack if one was moved slightly out of place? They’d die if the widgets were stolen, crushed, or lost. You know who I’m talking about.

Some of you may even be attached to things with a level of ferocity. Cars, electronics, wardrobes. I understand. I’ve been there.

And I think the story speaks for itself.

I used to be neurotic about my books. I would keep them in closed book cases, super clean. I would dust them and keep them smelling fresh and nice, make sure there was no damage to the covers, no creases on the spines. I know, kinda OCD. A lot of people get this way with books and I’ve met a few who do the “turn the page, wash your hands,” thing.

I suppose it’s partly about treasuring the value of their contents–while losing sight of the fact that a torn cover or stale pages doesn’t mark the end of life as we know it, or the end of usefulness for the book.

I wouldn’t lend them to anyone, for fear of how they might be mistreated or damaged. To make a long story short, I realized one day that it was all just silly. It just clicked with me–I think after reading about an apartment fire nearby. If there were a fire or flood–something truly momentous or serious, the books would be destroyed. And, in that instant of evacuating something truly dangerous and serious (not the perceived seriousness of french fry grease or grubby kids), what would I grab? The cats. Living things. Not my prized, hermetically sealed collection of replaceable books.

Replaceable. Not as important as the living things around me. Replaceable. That was key. And even for rare books, signed books–maybe not so easily replaceable, but still not important for daily life and existence.

We are not what we own.

A weight was lifted off me. It was an instant cure for a semi-OCD thing that had been going on through college. I lent books out, lost some when they weren’t returned. I eagerly bought used books, damaged books, beat-up books. Collecting and enjoying, but staying respectfully detached.

I merrily read while eating, heaped them in piles on the floor, tossed and traded them. Still treasuring the inside, but remembering that they are vehicles of knowledge and should be respected–not psychotically hoarded.

After the first break-in at our house last year, I was glad to find that my priorities lay in making sure my fellow living things were alive and well–I didn’t even realize things had been stolen for several hours (or care). The things that were stolen? Inconvenient. Mysterious. Slightly maddening in afterthought, but nothing compared to the joy of knowing living things were safe.

It’s OK to collect things and to enjoy the little things that make life fun. Just don’t get so attached to them that they fill your life with terror. Don’t ever let it get that far. If you become so attached to a car that the thought of it getting into an accident fills you with horror–step back a bit. Nothing is permanent and all things will come and go at some point. Even your grandma’s perfect couch.

My Tao and Zen students know how I often draw parallels from the Tao to Fight Club. You’ll enjoy this one. 🙂

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything. –Tyler Durden, Fight Club

If you want to be given everything, you must first give everything up. –Lao Tzu, Tao Teh Ching

Joshua Tree in the Mojave Desert

Daily Musings – A Discovery – 7/30/09

I grew up in an old house, built in the late 1800s with add-ons from the 1950s.

It was located on the wild edge of a medium-sized city, in the Mojave Desert, just north of Los Angeles. The property was largely overgrown by trees and desert foliage.

My parents were never able to tame the foliage back (nor did they try very hard). It even had an old garage, built in the teens, that was designed for Model As (with a sunken floor upon which a mechanic could slide to get under the car). It was useless for modern vehicles.

It’s previous incarnation was a vineyard with a wagon stop for people passing across the Southern California desert. The only thing that remained from the vineyard days was a single, twisted, archaic green grape bush that stuck up out of the desert in a weird way. It produced bundles of grapes every year, without watering.

The yard was over an acre and my parents never did any landscaping, except for cactus and iris gardens near the entrance. The best thing about it was, as a kid, anything was possible amongst the wild plants and myriad of paths that wove through the tall brush. It took me years to explore every corner–finding everything from old iron soldiers and a stone and metal incinerator (filled with turn of the last century newspapers), to wild plants of every shape imaginable–clinging to some sort of underground water source, in contrast to the rest of the yellow, dry desert.

One summer I poked deeply into a stand of Chinese Elms at the far end of the property, where it met open desert. I had this strange feeling to push deeper through high yellow weeds to explore under the trees I’d never really gotten close to.

Underneath the biggest tree was a headless statue. It was seated calmly, back resting against the old trunk of the tree. It was whitish with a gray cast–a ceramic man in loose robes, with his chest exposed. His legs were crossed and his arms rested gently on his knees.

I remember jumping back for a second–startled to see a human form tucked under trees no one had been close to in years, especially since it had a gaping hollow neck where the head should be. Then curiosity and calm won out. I realized the head must be somewhere. Even as old and weathered as the ceramic statue looked, I just knew the head was nearby. It had to be. After all, why wouldn’t it be somewhere?

So, I scoured the desert. Outside of our property line, I crunched through dried bushes and stepped over the occasional rusted tin can. I walked in a straight line from the statue. Suddenly, I saw a soft, smooth face looking up at me from between two large bushes. It was the statue’s head, resting calmly on the ground with an amused smile.

I picked it up. It felt slightly chalky and was heavy for me (even though it was hollow). I gripped it like a heavy handball and brought it back to the statue.

The head had tight curls of hair like cake decorations all over it and it was slender and smiling. He had a dot in the middle of his forehead and the detail was smooth and simple. I crawled back through the bushes and placed the head back on the statue. It had broken off cleanly enough that it fit firmly.

The statue was complete.

I later showed it to my mom. I was excited about having put him back together and curious as to why he was tucked away so secretly. She had never seen the statue before and didn’t know how he had gotten there, but she was pretty sure he was a Buddha.

It most certainly was a Buddha. He was a Tibetan meditating Buddha (a Shakyamuni Buddha; not the chubby ones, but the slender, smiling Buddhas with a tightly rounded headpiece). How he ended up under that gnarled tree, overgrown by years of foliage, at the edge of open desert–I’ll never know.

Who put him there? He was almost life-sized and similar statues made with new materials are high priced. Why did someone choose that tree? That spot? In that place? Under that old elm, on the old vineyard, at the old wagon stop…

Perhaps he was just there to be found.


When I graduated from UC Berkeley, there was a fellow student, then 89 years old, who was finishing her 6th Bachelor’s degree. She had studied a wide range of subjects–history, English, anthropology, art… and also had more than one Master’s. She was awarded a special certificate for honorable academic achievements. I like to think of it as an eternal student award. When she gave her speech, she was asked what she was going to do next.

Her answer? “Get another degree!”

She was a student of life. She formally received awards for her studies–but you don’t have to sign up for every degree program under the sun to keep your mind open. Your thoughts ready to receive. To keep that fire of learning inside.

I know you’ve met people who think they know everything. Either about one subject, as a book-thumping expert with rigid citations, or as someone who thinks they’ve learned everything about EVERY subject. They loudly assert themselves. Announce everything they think they now. Belittle others for seeming to know less. They might be co-workers, family members. We might even be like that ourselves sometimes. But you know the type of person I’m talking about.

In America, many high school students think they’ve “finished” once they graduate. That they are now equipped with everything they ever need to know (and everything YOU need to know), simply because they have a high school diploma.

In reality, they have only just begun.

Lao Tzu says that “one who talks doesn’t know. One who knows doesn’t talk.” This is not a 2,500 year old request for people to clam up and sit down. In reality, it’s a reminder that the loud, chest-thumping guy who tells you that you don’t know how to swing a golf club, or that you’re clearly stupid for never having done this or seen that, is the kind of guy who talks loudly, but doesn’t know. He talks right from the ego. Right from the idea that he knows all, sees all, and is better than all.

He is most definitely *not* an eternal student.

The eternal student finds that there’s something to learn in every situation. Everywhere. At the movies. At a friend’s house. Stuck on a bus downtown. Watching bugs on a branch. The eternal student can find delight in opening a college catalog, wanting to take every class in the entire thing. Only wishing there were enough time. The eternal student learns from their mistakes, too. From when they lose a game of chess. Burn an egg. Hit their finger with a hammer.

They are like an empty cup–ready to be filled with anything. There’s room for plenty more. New ideas. New hobbies. New concepts. They tackle each day as an expedition. They explore the world around them and are never afraid to admit when they don’t know something.

By admitting they don’t know everything, they instantly understand a whole lot more.

The Tao Teh Ching reads:


Without opening your door,
you can open your heart to the world.
Without looking out your window,
you can see the essence of the Tao.

The more you know,
the less you understand.

The Master arrives without leaving,
sees the light without looking,
achieves without doing a thing.

If learning can be so fulfilling–why is Lao Tzu saying that the more you learn, the less you understand? Isn’t that bad? Like an uphill climb you can’t win?

Don’t think of it as better or worse, win or lose.

Lao Tzu says this because it’s true. The more you read and learn, the more you realize there’s so much more to learn and experience. You think you’ve mastered Photoshop–then you grab a new book and find new techniques you’ve never heard of. More to learn. A few new paths to explore. The more you think you’ve mastered about cooking, the more you find there are spices you’ve never tried. Dishes you’ve never heard of.

And this is not a bad thing.

The eternal student would most definitely find that the more they study, the more doors open which contain things they haven’t even begun to learn.

Finding that the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know keeps you energized as an eternal student. When you realize that “not knowing” is NOT bad, a million doors open.

And when you remember to keep ego in check and remind yourself that in the end, learning doesn’t make you better or worse than anyone else, you won’t become the guy who brags about his golf skills to bored people in line at Wal-Mart.

As the eternal student, you also realize that books don’t take the place of learning through experience. You can read all about riding a horse, but you won’t know how to do it until you physically try it. You have all the answers inside you, yet the questions that are out there are equally fascinating.

I try to be an eternal student in everything I do. There’s always something I can learn. I will never tire of taking classes and listening and watching. I also won’t forget that there are some things which can be learned by looking inward, but with the same open mind I apply to studying things on the outside.

Daily Musings

Daily Musings

This month, several living beings that have been part of my life have moved on–and one more, I feel, is about to.

This Daily Musing is not about death as “loss.” Instead, it’s about that window of time, just before and just after–and the gentle ripple of effect that rolls out and touches those who allow themselves to be aware (and how it seems to bounce off those who are unaware). The window all living beings will one day experience–and its connection to illusion.

A family friend, best friend of my stepfather, died last week. Lung cancer. Within a few days, my mother and stepfather’s dog, a best friend for over 20 years, also died. It was just the kind of thing that has to happen. When it’s time to move along your journey, it’s just a matter of finishing the final chapter in one book and starting the next. As Chuang-Tzu reminds us, it’s like a butterfly emerging from a coccoon. There was a time before you existed, and there will be a time after you exist (the way you do now). Holding onto transient things only drains you.

As some out there in the world are closing the cover and picking up the next volume of existence, there are others who are just beginning new chapters. Opening the cover for the first time. Friends whom I’ve known for years are brimming with life. Children. New things to work on. Projects. Pets. Picnics. Life. The cycle is always at a different place for each person, for each set of people, for each living creature–turning for everyone, always rolling along without judgment or expectation. It’s fascinating, thrilling, engaging to see this.

As my former boss (a gigantic private investigator who used to play football for the Oakland Raiders) used to say – “It is what it is.” It’s what his coach always said. It’s been deemed a meaningless statement by the media, yet it’s really very Tao in depth. Why does it happen? Because it happens.

A lady I have known for 4 years is finishing her book very soon. She is 98 years old. I have this feeling she’s close to complete, that her Jing is nearly gone. It’s not bad or good. It just is.

The same day I found out about her situation–the silliness of the unimportant world pops in.

A friend’s 18-year old son verbally scolds her for being 45 minutes late to pick him up from class, when her lunch and doctor visit take longer than expected. The same boy is ungrateful for a brand new car his parents bought just for him–because he thinks it’s a “chick car.” While he broods over whether vehicles are “girly,” another friend is now facing huge damages to their only car, because someone was careless and drove recklessly, without insurance, without anything–and rammed into the side of them. Their only form of transportation, now crippled, is held onto with respect and care, while some who are given cars and access and money are simply annoyed at the brand they’ve been “stuck” with. Still another friend is concerned about not being able to purchase an (unnecessary for daily survival) $8,000 item as fast as she wants, while other friends can barely pay their electric bills.

I am struck by the strangeness of what Taoism calls the “illusionary world.” The world of things which don’t really matter–like Starbucks and desks, 9 to 5 days, brand names, identitiy labels. We live with them all the time, yet many people cling to them like they matter more than anything else. While some living things are going through transformations, others are mired in the illusion, almost without (or perhaps ignoring) compassion for others.

And yet–illusion and reality are both part of the same big ball. Neither is better or worse. They are just tied together. Balancing yourself between both worlds (being able to exist in both, while letting neither side control everything) is key.

Be happy with what you have. Consider how your actions impact those around us. Dammit, enjoy Starbucks and a good video game when you can–but don’t be fooled into thinking that owning all the latest games and guzzling 5 gallons a day is the way to true happiness and balance.

Excerpts from the Tao Teh Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell:


Can you coax your mind from its wandering
and keep to the original oneness?
Can you let your body become
supple as a newborn child’s?
Can you cleanse your inner vision
until you see nothing but the light?
Can you love people and lead them
without imposing your will?
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course?
Can you step back from you own mind
and thus understand all things?

Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.


Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.

Each separate being in the universe
returns to the common source.
Returning to the source is serenity.

If you don’t realize the source,
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kindhearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes, you are ready.

Can you step back from you own mind and thus understand all things?

Letting go isn’t easy.

Whether it’s hanging on to a loved one, a deeply ingrained ideal, or even a favorite sweater–human beings have a hard time just letting things come and go as they will. It’s hard to step back, change our course, and let ourselves go the way we’re meant to go, especially when we have emotion, time, or money deeply invested in a particular event, plan, idea, or concept.

The more we’ve put into something, the harder it is to let the currents flow naturally.

Letting things take their natural course and flow is one of the cornerstones of Taoist thought. The more we try to force things to go as we believe they should, the more chaotic the situation becomes. The more chaotic, the more unbalanced. Since balance and internal harmony are key, it stands to reason that the more you try to control, the more out of whack and unable to find inner peace you become.

The more we go against that gut instinct that tells us something isn’t right, the more the whole thing blows up in your face. The more we lay rules down on top of the natural course of events, the more things spin out of control.

One of my Tao and Zen students, a teacher of great insight, called this ability to let go at the right time and hold on at the right time, “The Joy of Letting Go.”

“The master lets things come and go
as they will,
thus she is completely present
and can welcome all things,”

–Tao Teh Ching, Lao Tzu

Have a fantastic day.

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don’t compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.

–Lao Tzu, Tao teh Ching

So often, people are caught up in the drama of the illusionary layer of life–forgetting what really matters, and most importantly, losing sight of their center.

The more you try to grasp, the more falls through your fingers. The more you rush ahead, the easier it is to trip. The more you try to reach and take, on tippy toes, the more unstable you are.

Can you forget the self while being yourself? It can easily be done. Respect yourself. Be who you are. Don’t be phony. Don’t try to be what other people think you should be. Don’t rank yourself according to social rules, or social status.

Just be.

It sounds simple, silly, crazy.

As Lao Tzu said, true progress seems like stagnation. True wisdom seems silly.

Be yourself. Hold onto the center.

Recommended Text: A Taoist Miscellany, compiled by Yuang Guang.

This fantastic, unassuming softcover volume is printed in China, and hard to find in the US (although I’ve found it for sale at East Earth Trade Winds). It contains a delightful, engaging assortment of traditional Taoist tales, stories, and anecdotes, culled from a variety of classical sources, including many texts that haven’t been fully translated into English. It also includes many of the more esoteric tales, which are harder to find in other collections.

Great reading!