As days turn to months, then years, a blurring of all that once appeared axiomatic becomes the ground for a germinating process of the heart, an upward flight to freedom—the flowering of a hungry soul. In part, this gift is an ongoing process of seeing/learning beyond the tentacle-like cultural biasses that seem to haunt so many of us so much of the time. From “getting ahead at any cost” to “sacrificing one’s own authenticity for personal gain,” to hiding from a monarchical god whose judgement is precarious at best.“ We can find great solace in the infinitude of the Tao. Not as another ideology, religion or movement “to get the world right,” but simply what intuitively settles the mental dust, allows the bullfrog to bellow at night and leads to right-mindedness.
-Bei Kuan Tu
Below Alan Watts gives a rather artistic perspective on the inconceivability, yet wonderful buoyancy of the Tao.
...to conceive the Tao as an unconscious energy is as much off the point as to conceive it as a personal ruler or God. But if, as is the case, the Tao is simply inconceivable, what is the use of having the word and of saying anything at all about it? Simply because we know intuitively that there is a dimension of ourselves and of nature which eludes us because it is too close, too general, and too all-embracing to be singled out as a particular object. This dimension is the ground of all the astonishing forms and experiences of which we are aware. Because we are aware, it cannot be unconscious, although we are not conscious of it—as of an external thing. Thus we can give it a name but cannot make any definitive statement about it—as we saw to be the case with whatever it is that is named "electricity." Our only way of apprehending it is by watching the processes and patterns of nature, and by the meditative discipline of allowing our minds to become quiet, so as to have vivid awareness of "what is" without verbal comment.
-Alan Watts (from Tao: The Watercourse Way)
---Graphics by Kervin Brissdeaus
Lao Tzu - a feminist? If you were in a light-hearted mood, you could call the Tao "the oldest extant feminist book." Written during a violent period in Chinese history, is urges rulers to "embrace the feminine way".
The Tao sees the world as male (yang) and female (yin) energies constantly in motion. Since the nature of male energy is so obvious (action, stubbornness, speaking), it extols the virtue of the female way of doing things (patience, flexibility, listening).
As Taoism's popularity grew, so did women's status in Chinese society. It is hard to say how much of this was caused by the Tao and how much by other factors, but there is certainly no sense of female inferiority in any part of the Tao. On the contrary, there are dozens of passages advocating people "get in touch with their feminine side" to use the modern vernacular.
Political Correctness in 300B.C. Many translations of the Tao have sections like: "A wise man follows his belly" or "A good man is a bad man's teacher". These gender specific words were added during the translations process. The original Chinese is always neutral. Usually the original word is person () or sage (), neither of which specifies male or female.
It is a little difficult not to choose "he" or "she" in English, but there are several translations that have managed it. In many cases assuming the sage or person is male is a symptom of the age of the translation. Many of them originate in the 1930's to 1950's. Other translations are based on these earlier, famous ones and have copied their inaccurate style. This is particularly ironic, because the Tao is probably the most pro-woman treatise outside of modern times.
Two gender specific items stand out though.
Yin Positive references to Yin, as typified in Chapter 6:
"Yin" energy is like a Valley Goddess who never dies. She should be called "Mystical Female" The door of this "Mystical Female" is the root of Heaven and Earth. This power is always with us. Using this power is effortless.
It is generally believed that the Tao was written to advise the ruler on good government. At the time, all the rulers were kings, so the word king is frequently used.
--“Balance” by Kimberly Santini
Question: How do we find balance between our individual will and the natural flow of life?
Eckhart Tolle: By living aligned with the present moment, you also align your will with the universal will, which you could call “the will of God”. You don’t have a separate will. The separate will wants to enhance or strengthen one’s sense of self. The separate will is concerned with the “me”, the “I”, the ego. But there is a divine Consciousness, the one Consciousness, there is an evolutionary impulse. What we are doing here at every moment, is to align ourselves with that.
Non-resistance is vital because as long as you are in resistance to the present moment, you will be trapped in the little egoic will. The egoic will needs to subside – that’s surrender to the present moment, and surrender to what is. When you align yourself with what is internally, it looks at first almost like a position of weakness, and it can be misinterpreted as something that prevents you from taking effective action. But the acceptance of what is, is totally compatible with responding to whatever the present moment requires.
Whatever wants to be created, manifested, done, at this moment – to be aligned with that, you need to first accept whatever form this moment takes.
Single out this moment only. For example, when you are ill, you don’t say “I need to accept this illness, the fact that I am ill, that I am suffering from this” because that is a whole conceptual story. All you need to accept is this moment as it is. There is never actually an illness in this moment, there is only a physical condition. There may be pain, there may be weakness, disability, discomfort. Those things may be there, and that’s the only thing you accept. This moment is as it is now.
If you are stuck in the mud somewhere, you don’t say, “Okay, I am in the mud, I have to accept it, and here I am – I’m not taking any action because I have to accept what is”. This moment is already always as it is, and there’s nothing you can do about that. That’s what you accept. Then, action that arises has a different energy to it. The will that flows into what you do is no longer egoic. When you have not accepted this moment, the will goes against the Universe – that is what the ego does. It is negative, it fights something that it says shouldn’t be there.
If you use negativity, you are trapped in ego. The “little will” has to subside for the more powerful will to flow through and deal with the situation. It creates, it is not isolated from the totality. It is one with the totality. When that operates, another word for that universal will is intelligence. It’s only when you look at a situation, completely accept the is-ness of this moment, and then of course action may be required.
Once the opening is there, through acceptance, the next step that you take will be much more powerful. There’s a Buddhist term “right action”, that can only arise out of the right state of Consciousness. You have to get out of the ego first before you can have right action. The Buddha was talking about that which flows from the awakened state of consciousness. To surrender the little will is to say ‘yes’ to the present moment. It’s not a big thing, just say yes to what is – because it already is anyway. Why complain about something that is? It’s insane, but normal.
To give up the egoic will, all you have to do is not complain about what is. Be aligned with the isness – people, situations, whatever – this is already as it is. It’s the inevitability of is. Become friendly with what is, and you become intelligent for the first time.
With the simple act of surrender to the inevitability of the present moment, another energy comes. You could call that universal will, you could call that intelligence, you could call that the creative solution to whatever the so-called “problem” is. You could call that power coming in, that is greater than the limited power of your mind. Or it may use your mind, and suddenly you say the right thing, if that’s what the situation requires. Suddenly the words come – where do the words come from? You don’t know what you’re going to say next. They come from a deeper level because that intelligence uses the mind.
You and the Universe become one, and as such it creates through you as this form. That’s the beauty of it. When the unmanifested flows into this world, it assumes form. Most thoughts that people have in the unawakened state are repetitive old thoughts, conditioned thinking, conditioned by the past. All you can rely on then is what you have accumulated in the past, you deal with things through conditioned thinking. When the simple act of surrender opens your mind, it can then be used as an instrument. Then, a thought may come in that is original and fresh and new. That is the birth of form. The birth of thought creates the birth of form. The Universe uses you as a vehicle or a channel through which to create. You are one. It can use your mind, and become thought, words, physical things. That’s the way in which the mind can actually be a helpful tool – alignment with the greater Intelligence, the One Consciousness.
It all starts with the present moment, and your relationship with the present moment. Friend or enemy? Are you allowing it, or are you fighting it, resisting it? That’s the end of ego – because the ego needs resistance. The ego survives through complaining, it survives through denying, or wanting something else.
The present moment is the teacher. Work with that – that’s all you need, really. That’s the end of the “little will”, which isn’t all that powerful anyway. Whatever it creates, creates more problems.
It seems so simple, and it is simple. And yet, because of the many thousands of years of habit-patterns, often people tell me “It’s so difficult to be in the present moment and allow it to be”. Of course, the opposite is true. Life becomes difficult if you don’t. What you accept is the form of this moment. No more. Then, see what’s needed. You are not truly intelligent until that happens.
Sometimes holding that space of simple Presence activates other factors that then come in, seemingly, from the outside to change the situation. You have activated the intelligence of the totality. It’s not necessarily coming through this form. That is why people speak of synchronistic things happening, suddenly a helpful factor comes in, suddenly the right person appears, the right thing happens. Almost miraculous when you don’t know that it’s natural, it seems like a miracle at first because most humans are not used to that.
When you hold Presence, sometimes the change may not happen through your action. There are many situations where action at this moment is not possible. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do, however you can continue to be present. Then, a greater intelligence is activated. Very often you will find change happening in the situation.
This greater intelligence is not the conceptual intelligence that you can measure with IQ tests. It is non-conceptual intelligence. Conceptual intelligence is the ability to retain information, analyze, compare, and so forth. It’s a tiny fragment of what intelligence is. There is a vastness of non-conceptual intelligence. Our destiny is to be in that way, so that our whole life is to become a work of art. Not just be confined to that state of consciousness when you do your creative work. Any creative thing has a spark, an aliveness, a quality, a newness, a freshness. You connect with non-conceptual intelligence in the alert Stillness within. Everybody has that, as their essence. That is true intelligence. To what extent you are connected with that could not possibly be measured through any IQ test. Ultimately, you cannot measure creativity.
Very often, the form of the present moment seems like a limitation on your life, something that is impinging on your freedom. The body could become ill, you may find it hard to move. When something drastic happens, if you can learn to accept it, a little bit of spaciousness comes into your life. You say, “this is what is”. A little bit of space just opened up, and you’re no longer just a resisting entity. Then, you realize that you are essentially formless space. In other words, you find inner peace. At first it is very gentle in the background, in the midst of any situation. That peace is powerful. It can become so powerful, that is obliterates almost anything. Peace is the formless in you. By accepting the form, the formless within you opens up. This is how something seemingly bad – a limitation – becomes an opening for realization of who you truly are.
© copyright 2008-2011. Eckhart Tolle . All rights reserved. http://www.eckharttolle.com/
Category:Thich Nhat Hanh
---Photo: “Clouds Over the Spokane River” by Arne Loren
Once upon a time there was a beautiful river finding her way among the hills, forests, and meadows. She began by being a joyful stream of water, a spring always dancing and singing as she ran down from the top of the mountain. She was very young at the time, and as she came to the lowland she slowed down. She was thinking about going to the ocean. As she grew up, she learned to look beautiful, winding gracefully among the hills and meadows.
One day she noticed the clouds within herself. Clouds of all sorts of colors and forms. She did nothing during these days but chase after clouds. She wanted to possess a cloud, to have one for herself. But clouds float and travel in the sky, and they are always changing their form. Sometimes they look like an overcoat, sometimes like a horse. Because of the nature of impermanence within the clouds, the river suffered very much. Her pleasure, her joy had become just chasing after clouds, one after another, but despair, anger,and hatred became her life.
Then one day a strong wind came and blew away all the clouds in the sky. The sky became completely empty. Our river thought that life was not worth living, for there were no longer any clouds to chase after. She wanted to die. "If there are no clouds, why should I be alive?" But how can a river take her own life?
That night the river had the opportunity to go back to herself for the first time. She had been running for so long after something outside of herself that she had never seen herself. That night was the first opportunity for her to hear her own crying, the sounds of water crashing against the banks of the river. Because she was able to listen to her own voice, she discovered something quite important.
She realized that what she had been looking for was already in herself. She found out that clouds are nothing but water. Clouds are born from water and will return to water. And she found out she herself was also water.
The next morning when the sun was in the sky, she discovered something beautiful. She saw the blue sky for the first time. She had never noticed it before. She had only been interested in clouds, and she had missed seeing the sky, which is the home of all the clouds. Clouds are impermanent, but the sky is stable. She realized that the immense sky had been within her heart since the very beginning. This great insight brought her peace and happiness. As she saw the vast wonderful blue sky, she knew that her peace and stability would never be lost again.
That afternoon the clouds returned, but this time she did not want to possess any of them. She could see the beauty of each cloud, and she was able to welcome all of them. When a cloud came by, she would greet him or her with loving-kindness. When the cloud wanted to go away, she would wave to him or her happily and with loving kindness. She realized that all clouds are her. She didn't have to choose between the clouds and herself. Peace and harmony existed between her and the clouds.
That evening something wonderful happened. When she opened her heart completely to the evening sky she received the image of the full moon - beautiful, round, like a jewel within herself. She had never imagined that she could receive such a beautiful image. There is a very beautiful poem in Chinese: "The fresh and beautiful moon is traveling in the utmost empty sky. When the mind-rivers of living beings are free, that image of the beautiful moon will reflect in each of us."
This was the mind of the river at that moment. She received the image of that beautiful moon within her heart, and water, clouds, and moon took each other's hands and practiced walking meditation slowly, slowly to the ocean.
There is nothing to chase after. We can go back to ourselves, enjoy our breathing, our smiling, ourselves, and our beautiful environment.