Knowing what is sufficient…

Chapter 44, Tao Te Ching

Which is more cherished, the name or the body?
Which is worth more, the body or possessions?
Which is more beneficial, to gain or to lose?
Extreme fondness is necessarily very costly.
The more you cling to, the more you lose.
So knowing what is sufficient averts disgrace.
Knowing when to stop averts danger.
This can lead to a longer life.

My study of the Tao Te Ching is lifelong… there is an infinity of depth in each line, worthy of meditation. Then there are sets of lines, parts of chapters, that really hit home. Then I try to take all I’ve learned through thought, action, and experience and try to apply the chapter in a way that is meaningful.

“So knowing what is sufficient averts disgrace” is a great line. It is especially true in the context of the concept that attachment necessarily brings loss. If I am not attached to something why then would I grieve over it when it is gone?

I know this doesn’t mean there aren’t things worthy of attachment. But isn’t that the goal, here? To determine what is valuable enough to attach to, fully knowing that when it is gone (and eventually everything is gone) it will cause pain.

So knowing what is sufficient, then, averts disgrace. This is a tough one for me, so I read through.

“Knowing when to stop averts danger” – this one I’ve lived, first hand, and can feel to my roots. “This (knowing when to stop) can lead to a longer life.

It may not, but it can. Danger is not always something we can control. But the risk of danger is something we can manage, by knowing when to let go. Pain, danger, and loss, including the loss of life, can all be a product of remaining attached to something when we know we should let go.

I like to note here there is no discussion of why we hold on… perhaps a discussion of what happens if we do is the best way to approach. Does it matter why we hold on? Can it be for reasons other than selfishness?

We can have, and not be attached. We can live, and not live in danger, because we understand when to let go; when to stop. We know when to do what we know is right, regardless of what we want or think.

We know the path: it is set out in front of us. I know for me many times I have veered from my true path because of attachment. Then there is pain because I am in the wilderness alone, and I learn not to veer too far. Or there’s more pain, and eventually I am forced to let go. Or I lose the way on my path. That’s when danger lurks in every turn.

So keeping my arms around what is sufficient turns out to be all I ever really want anyway…


When winter comes… (draft one – thoughts appreciated)

Some summer days I thought would never end,

Days in Hell that should have never been,

Sweaty dog days rotting my brain,

Things I thought I’d never see again..

And then, winter came…

Time moved swiftly across my face,

Once or twice life slipped my embrace,

Foundations of minds and hearts crumbled,

Persistence, ignorance, and belligerence humbled…

And then, winter came…

Who will be here for the Spring?

While to my ideals I cling?

Will I even complete the course?

Can we withstand the force,

Pressing down, until winter comes?

Ok, well that hunt is over

Well, today was the official day to turn in the proposal i was working… when I heard it had been dropped I fell out and slept for 4 hours straight… had this wonderful feeling of accomplishment plus 1000 tons lifted from my shoulders.

I love that feeling. It is the reward for the difficult work, hard knocks, and long nights with all sorts and types of people. It is worth all the trouble. It is the boulder at the top of the hill. And just for a moment, as Sisyphus may, I was able to bask in my achievement.

I took most of the day off, sleeping.

Now I know we prepared the hunt, planned the trip, tracked the bear, took aim, and fired with the most precision you can get these days. We have a strong competitor and a couple of dark horses, but we are in the top 3 for sure for winning the cash.

If we don’t win, it is not because of the proposal or the WIN strategy. We honed that thing to a fine blade… we loaded the most efficiently-made armaments, we sharpened the tips of the spears into pin points. And we calibrated our scopes to maximum effectiveness.

All politics aside, that bear is dead. I’m not sure who killed it, but I do think that we have more than an even shot. We proposed some old-school ways and a few innovative approaches. We showed them we knew what we were doing and had our shit together.

Again, if we don’t win, I’ll still sleep easy knowing we didn’t lose because of our hunting skills. Our team was second to none, in this bid anyway.

So now, i wait. The difference for me is actually 5:1… I will get five times more income if we win. Which does kind of bug me, since the proposal was a winning proposal. But I’m in it with them. If they don’t get the cash, neither do I.

I say I took most of the day off… I have started a formal business development plan (contract / job security) and I have also started the interal proposal for the information system we proposed. I fortunately have some skills from a past life that allow me know-how in putting together a computer lab, setting up training modules, and getting a couple of internal and external sites going to make life easier for the staff and the participants of the program.

So, lots of work ahead. But man, that moment felt good. I can’t ‘meditate on my belly button’ too long, as the zen masters would say, or I’ll get lazy and hooked on the feeling of content. But as I allow the boulder to roll downhill, and get ready to start pushing again, I know another moment is on the horizon.

Life is a good thing.

The Tao of Dealing With Difficult People

My past few days have had me dealing with people that fall into the following categories: difficult clients, complicated family members, complex relationships with people from my past, frustrating encounters with people in my present, and trying to understand the darker side of me that tends to push itself towards the front when I am going through stress.

If I were assigning value to the past few days, I would say that things have been going terrible. But as I cultivate my heart and my mind, I am learning not to assign such values. I encounter difficulties because that’s just life. It is so much easier to walk away, avoid the situation to begin with, or fall in with the robots and in-box, out-box part of the population that accepts mediocrity and sleeps just fine.

I know instead of saying that things have been bad or hard, I can just know that things have been as they are supposed to be. When something does or doesn’t work out like I want it to, I can do my best to unattach myself to what I want or think things should be like and realize they just are.

Every person and situation has to be dealth with differently. If we treat everyone the same we risk disrespecting ourselves, breaching the boundaries of ourselves and others, and just plain getting it wrong. At the moment I know there are several situations that need my attention. If i look at these situations with a clear mind and a cultivated heart, I know deep down what is the right thing to do. I am left with the responsibilty of mustering the courage to do that right thing and move on.

The Way set out in front of me is inevitably crossing paths with others constantly. I know that just because I am working to be the person I am supposed to be in the place where I am supposed to be doesn’t mean everyone is. Even those with the best intentions tend to operate with self-motivation. This doesn’t always cause friction, but if that person is simply being driven by what’s best for them, it is bound to cause trouble for people along their paths.

But thankfully I am not assigned to their life, nor am I given the unfortunate task of fixing them or their problems, or straightening out their motives. All I can do is know that the ebb and flow of life and the universe does what it does. If I can find my way into that pattern, and relax and take it easy there, I can know that I am living in the way for me.

So for me, the Tao or dealing with other people is simply knowing when to act and speak, when not to, based on what I have to do to get the next step on my journey. The Tao of dealing with other people is simply knowing that people are going to do, say, and think what they will, and that’s none of my business. Unless it directly affects me, I am simply to stay in the flow. If it does affect me, then I am approaching one of those decisions, and like always, I just make it knowing what is right, fair, and simple.

Its not easy without practice and cultivating the heart and mind. But over time I’ve learned that I can move through chaos with ease as long as I’m going with the flow of The Way. My path is clearer when I stay out of drama. My path is clearer when I stay out of other people’s troubles. My path is clearer when I keep working on me and let others worry about themselves and their problems.

So the Tao of dealing with other people is just another layer in the Tao of dealing with me. I guess practice makes perfect on this one.

New Page Posted

I’ve (re)posted a blog from my myspace page, creating it as a new page on this blog. I guess I’ll bring those posts over here, over time, or as they relate. This one just related to what i wrote yesterday so I went ahead and brought it over.

You can go to the top right-hand part of this page to get to the post, but the I’m going to link these posts together so as they fade under the fold over time, or if you’re reading this from the future, it won’t be confusing:

WordPress post:

The Tao of Wholeness

Myspace post:

Christian Taoism

This may be the beginning of a category or theme but for now I’ll leave it here. Enjoy one or the other or both or neither.

The Tao of Wholeness

Therefore, the man of substance
Dwells in wholeness rather than veneer,
Dwells in the essence rather than the vain display.
He rejects the latter, and accepts the former.

From The Tao Te Ching, Chapter 38

When the Tao is lost, it leads to benevolence, which is lost to justice, which is lost to propriety. Propriety is the veneer, or mask, of faith and loyalty. Foresight, or thinking too far ahead in this case, is vain and the forefront of foolishness.

That is a paraphrase of the chapter from which the above quote comes. I do not believe that Lao Tsu and the other masters of Tao were trying to say these various qualities are bad on the surface. I believe the point is that we should follow The Way set out in front of us, by God, or the Universe, or whatever you believe. If we follow our true paths, all of these qualities are intrinsic to The Way.

We don’t have to try to be benevolent or just, or make hopes for the future to which we assign value. I know when I make a decision, I’ll follow The Way if I am cultivating it in my heart. When life happens I don’t have to say “that was good” or “that was bad” – it just was. Life just is. It is our perception that gives us pain or pleasure.

So dwelling in wholeness and essence is all about cultivating my heart, minding my perception, and living in the moment. Planning is always a good thing; it is a necessity. But when life happens, and my heart isn’t in the right place, I can find myself off of the path and in pain. Or on the path, but not with the perception that The Way always leads to the right place, which also leads to pain.

I can always keep my mind on the past and constantly wonder what could have been. I can always keep my mind on the future and constantly be in a state of frustration because my way will not prevail. Both are stuctured infinities with a vortex that will take me as far away from the present as I am willing to go.

But the present has an infinity also. I can slow down, and slow time down, and blow a giant bubble into the moment. There I can pause and see its infinity. I am trying to learn to do this when decisions have to be made. Because in that moment, if my mind is clear, and I have cultivated my heart, The Way becomes the most clear path of them all.

I can take a deep breath, release my¬† mental picture of how things are “supposed to be” (also known in this context as foresight), and strive not to assign a value of what is going on around me. Stop saying to myself over and over “this is bad, this is bad, this is bad.” In other words, I can change my perception.

I can also limit my perception to this moment in time. Blow the bubble back up, and see that things are exactly the way they are supposed to be, no matter how much my mind tells me they aren’t. A wise man once told me “the worst thing that could ever happen to you, Allen, is that you get everything you want.”

I have had a small taste of that in the paste, and so that statement rang true to me.

So maybe today I can take another step forward in living in the wholeness and essence of this day, of this moment, and see the good in it. Everything around me is just life, and all the things happening are just life happening.

I know there is one true path for me. As counterintuitive as it is, the more I try to figure it out, or make it, or force it, the more likely I am to move away from it, or get hurt by it. So in the infinity of the moment, with an infinity of events happening in each, I am faced with at most one decision. With a pure heart I can make the right decision. The result is my continuance down my true path. And as long as I manage my perception I can avoid the pain that I cause myself with expectations.

Now, the hard part comes: just being, in the moment. So I “relax, and take it easy… don’t struggle” against what’s bound to be, regardless of what I think about it or try to do about it.

Life is a wonderful painful thing…

Well it just doesn’t matter what I plan sometimes. This time its a change I knew was coming with a twist that hurts. But hey, sometimes shit hurts. It just always seems to come with things are hectic. Here I am in the last week running up to a proposal submission, with a pile on my plate, and WHAM.

I have to learn to let my mind do work while things hurt. This is ugly, confusing, but somehow predictable.

There is so much good coming in my future. I am trying to look to that. And break this freeze on my brain and get some shit done. But for now I’m going to veg and take some time to reflect.

Strange thing is that when I started to write this post an hour ago everything was different. Its amazing how 2 or 3 things can happen in short order and change life in such a big way.

Oh well. Such it it.