Monthly Archives: August 2004

Gain

Li. Gain, profit, prosperity. The left side of the symbol for gain shows grain. The right side shows a knife. When the grain is harvested, wealth comes.

Some people might say it is hard to pursue Tao without the gain to support one’s endeavors. But it’s important to distinguish the exact types of gain that will actually bring us profit.

In the beginning, the ancients taught very simple and direct ways to live with Tao. But as time went on, people embellished the teachings until they became a very complicated body of knowledge. Tao became the pursuit of the rich and cultured. Only they could afford the herbs, the lessons, the expensive materials, the beautiful living locations, the servants, the travel, and the myriad other luxuries that afforded the freedom to pursue Tao. For many centuries, the simple and rustic ideals of the ancients were obscured by wealth, alchemy, artistic pursuits, and eccentricity.

We who want Tao may imagine that we will never succeed if the wealth and cultured living of the past are required. But that is not so. Do not be misled by the trappings of those who lived in the past. Look instead to what actually exists in your own life. As long as you live and breathe, as long as your heart beats and your mind dwells on the way, Tao can be found.

If we look at the image of grain, there is a lesson for us. Gain is simply the result of harvest. We don’t need a fancy lifestyle. We need know only where to look for grain and when to harvest it. Those who harvest the ordinary are thosee who ultimately gain.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

Harvesting the ordinary. I just love that phrase. Where I live, I’m surrounded by the McMansions, the big SUVs, the people who think these are the symbols of success. I have friends who moved into the McMansions; some of them change so much they are no longer friends with me. Some seem to survive the wealth and become even more wonderful people anyway, but they tend to do a lot for the community and for other people.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting to be wealthy, or with inheriting wealth. I think it’s more the attitudes some people have that they are entitled to it and others are not, or that others are poor because they are lazy or stupid. Most poor people I know are disabled in some way, uneducated, haven’t gotten very good breaks on life, or are just choosing to live a bit below their means. I drive cars that are several years old, yes, I drive a minivan because of the utility of it, but believe me, it gets well used. Yes, I’ve been a “soccer mom” and carted around a whole team and equipment. Now it hauls building supplies and things for making upgrades to our 1300 square foot home. No, we are not poor. We are blessed beyond belief. I could afford a bigger house and fancier car, but I don’t need them.
There was certainly a time when my kids were young and I stayed home with them that that wasn’t true.

I call my kids the “anti-consumers” because other than computer upgrades and video games, they don’t want anything else. My 18 year old just got his driver’s license and now has a car (2000 Corolla) so he can drive to college. He’s going to community college, mostly because of his high school grades but also to save money. He’s getting just as good an education without all the expense of a prestigious university (and he won’t be a C student, either). My younger son asked for Dance Dance Revolution for his birthday – that was the only thing he wanted. So now at least his games are keeping him fit, anyway.

I have the luxury of time, because my husband is now doing well enough we don’t really need two full incomes. So I do consulting work and pretty much work when I want to. Since my mom’s death I’ve taken a pretty extensive amount of time off, to be able to deal with various issues as they come up.

So am I wealthy? By the world’s standards, oh yes. By the standards of the people around here? Not really. But to myself, I know I have great wealth. And am very fortunate to have it. So now, it’s time to give back. To the community that has supported my family, to the people I now must care for, since my mom is gone, and to my kids, to get them them started in their lives and careers. And to anyone I meet or find out about that I can help.

And, I expect now, I will be wealthier than ever. With the real wealth of life – harvesting the ordinary.

Diligence

Qin. Diligence, labor. On the bottom of the symbol is the character for “strength” (showing a muscle in its sheath).

One cannot go far in this life without diligence.

It is useless to argue: this life is one of suffering.

Nothing can be done except through our efforts.

Disasters hit all of us without meaning or explanation. Wars are constant around the globe. Family members abuse and exploit one another. Hard work is often rewarded with betrayal. The government is a haven for those who would oppress others. Despite the great wealth of information, ignorance is ever present. Money is used for selfish gains and not to help others. Spiritual leaders are often shown to be hypocrites. Homelessness is rampant. Most people do not have enough to eat. Those who have enough eat more than their share. We spend our lives looking for love, only to find bitterness. We pin our hopes to distant dreams that never materialize. We listen to teachers who tell us to work hard, only to find that the world has changed by the time we leave school. We hurt ourselves with self-doubt, low self-esteem, and slavery to desires.

Prophets disappoint us, priests befuddle us, teachers deceive us, bosses exploit us, parents reject us, spouses desert us, children are taken from us, and at the end, it is just us, staring at the grave.

This life is one of suffering. Those who don’t know how to suffer are the worst off. Those who follow Tao know that there are times when things will be very difficult. That is the time to be diligent. There are times when the only correct thing we can do is to bear our troubles until a better day.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

Well, that was depressing. I haven’t read the news yet today; I hope this isn’t a sign of troubles there.

I’ve been through my share of troubles lately. Personal depression, the death of my mother, dealing with her estate and my disabled sister and nephew, my niece’s death last week, my cat has a tumor and probably won’t last much longer. There are many troubles in life we all have to deal with. Having the strength to get through them is important.

Having someone to rely on has helped me get through troubled times. I guess that’s why a lot of people are religious, to rely on their god, which is really their own inner strength in disguise. For me, there were times I doubted my inner stregth and couldn’t find it. I was lucky to have someone beside mew to hold me up when I wasn’t strong enough by myself. I hope now I can be like that for others. Sometimes just that simple “We’re going to get through this” is all you can do, but it’s enough.

I guess that’s how I feel about things in this country right now. We’ll get through it, and I think people will find the strength to last through the coming darkness of the next few years. Yes, as bad as we think things may be, they are about to get much worse. Sorry, folks. The good news is that in surviving and rebuilding things again, they will get much, much better. We’re going to find new hope and strength in this country again. But it will be a difficult battle for the soul of this country, probably the worst since the Civil War. Read The Fourth Turning if you want to understand better what’s going on. An awesome book, and a great help to getting through the next few years, I think.

Me, I’m turning to Tao. I plan to find my strength in the natural world, living smaller and smarter, and helping others to stay healthy and strong. I hope to reconnect people to the life cycle, to looking beyond their own lives and caring for those around them, restrengthening community bonds and personal bonds. We will find our strength in each other to pull us all through. And I hope to be one of those big, strong, anchors to help people avoid being tossed by the strong tides that are coming. That is my hope, anyway.

What will you do? Please share your thoughts…

Others

Ta. He, she, them, others, it.

We should not define ourselves by how others define us.

You call me by a name. You write to me at a certain address. When you check with the government, you find a history. You say I was born in a certain nation and therefore I must have a certain cultural understanding. You say that I have done business, that I am a citizen, that I am of a certain race, that I am of a certain gender, that I have a family. Therefore, you think these features are me.

You call youself by a name. You give out a certain address. When someone checks with the government, they find a history. You say you were born in a certain nation and therefore you have a certain cultural understanding. You say that you have done business, that you are a citizen, that you are of a certain race, that you are of a certain gender, that you have a family. Therefore, you think these features are yourself.

If you are with Tao, you will not make these mistakes.

Those who follow Tao may put out the appearance of a personality, for the convenience of other people and to be left alone, while inside they are constantly erasing all these things. They have glimpsed the source that is Tao, and they are aware of emptiness., and so they have no use for personal identities. To merge with Tao, that is their only objective.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

I am so often astounded by people who must define themselves by where they live, what they wear, who is in their life or not in their life. I used to make the mistake of thinking that what others thought of me mattered so much that I allowed it to affect who I was, and ended up driving some people away by being too concerned about what they thought of me, or worse, by trying to hard to get them to be who I thought they were. Now, I know that what others think of me is not really all that important. Sure, I’ve made mistakes in my life, huge ones, but if there are people who cannot see past those mistakes and know and love me for who I am, that is their problem. If there are those who want to judge me based on what they think they know about me, that is their problem. Now I know it is best just to let others be themselves, even if the appearances they put out are not those of the person I expected or wanted them to be.

Within myself, I see less and less of such things. These days I notice how much like the flowers I am, or like my dog or my cat, or like the wind or the ocean, far more than I consider myself as being like other people. I’ve seeked to strive to “become” something or other before; now I feel I am becoming myself, and becoming more at one with the world than anything else. I give things away easily, I spend money where I need to or give it to others rather than worrying about “having” money, and, amazingly, there is enough for the things I and my family need, if not always for what we think we want or must have.

Actually, I rather like the person I am becoming.

So what are your goals? Are you trying to become some certain thing or type of person, or just being yourself and allowing yourself to be more a part of life, rather than a show for someone else?

Yourself

Qi. Self, personal. The symbol for qi means “itself” and “inherent.”

Tao is inherent in itself.

No matter what happens in your life, believe in yourself. Don’t give that up for a god. Don’t give that up for a master. Don’t give that up for a parent. Don’t give that up for a spouse. Don’t give that up for a child. No matter what, believe in yourself.

Not one of these people can live life in your place. Not one of these people knows you like you know yourself.

No god knows you. No master knows you. No fortune-teller knows you. No one can know you if you don’t want to be known. Why? Because the future is not yet made. How can they know what you will do next?

Too many people let others dominate them. For what? For the good of the other only. If you let society dominate you, who wins? Society. If you let your parents dominate you, who benefits? Your parents. If you let a master dominate you, who is empowered? The master. If you let gods dominate you, who is enriched? The gods.

And where does that leave you?

The master says, “Study with me, or be relegated to ignorant sorrow.” The gods say, “Worship me, or I will punish you in this life and the lives to come.” Tell me, what good are associations built on dirty threats?

Tao does not threaten. Worship it and it will not be augmented. Ignore it and it will not be diminished. Follow it and you will be preserved. Oppose it and you will be destroyed. But if you choose to follow it, you will become independent.

That is liberation.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

Its so rare to see people actually express their true individuality. Not in that “I want to be different, just like all my friends!” way, but in a way that actually expresses their unique personality and ideas. I find it confuses a lot of people when you do that. But, sometimes, that’s the whole point. If being yourself is somewhat confusing to others, its because they’ve probably never really given a lot of thought to who they really are. They’re just doing what everyone else tells them to do.

I’ve raised my kids to be themselves. Guess what. They are totally immune to peer pressure. They don’t always do what I would like them to either, but that’s the price I pay for letting them express their individuality. And everyone else ends up tellling me how mature and responsible they are. Well, they are because they know they are responsible for their own choices and mistakes; I’m not rescuing them. They get an occasional “saving throw” when they really screw things up, but I make sure those are expensive to them.

We pay a price for being individuals and expressing ourselves. Sometimes it’s been an expensive price for me, but on the whole, it’s worth it. But, everyone has to make their own choice. Most people end up choosing conformity over freedom, and complaining about it. I say, if you make that choice, don’t complain. At least it was your choice to make.

At the very least, take up art or a hobby of some sort and express yourself that way. Find an outlet that lets you be creative and explore who you are. And enjoy it. Don’t let people criticize your art; it’s just for you. The Artist’s Way is a great resource for this. Give it a try.

Sweep

Sao. To sweep. On the left of the symbol is the sign for “hand.” On the right is a phonetic, a picture of a hand holding a broom.

Sweeping is an act of humility, an act of service, and an act of meditation.

Sweep.
Do you want to know what to do with your life?
Sweep.
Do you want to know how to begin a new venture?
Sweep.
Do you want to clear away any misconceptions?
Sweep.
Do you want to know how to be thorough?
Sweep.
Do you want to create order?
Sweep.
Do you want an antidote to your excesses?
Sweep.
Do you lack for something to do?
Sweep.
Do you worry about the future?
Sweep.
Do you strive to be grounded?
Sweep.
Do you find it difficult to meditate?
Sweep.
Do you find it hard to finish what you start?
Sweep.
Do you need a skill in life?
Sweep.
Do you worry too much?
Sweep.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

I started cleaning when I was angry about something. It helps give you something to do with the energy, and gives you an activity instead of venting at someone. It gives you time to think things through and lose the anger. Even when I don’t feel like cleaning anything else, I often sweep the floor. Just that little bit makes things feel so much cleaner to me, getting the bits of dirt out from under my feet and making things look that little bit better.

So go now! Sweep! Whatever space in your house you can sweep by hand! And see how you feel when you are done.

There. Just swept my kitchen floor. Of course, while I was doing that, I had to empty the trash and pick things up, and then the dishes might as well be done, and the counters cleaned, so now the kitchen is clean, I feel better and the house looks nicer. Ah.

So, how do you feel? Better, isn’t it? Now, I have to go change and clean me up for the day. That should feel good, too!

Friend

You. friend. The symbol for friend shows two hands acting in the same direction.

We cannot be friends without trust.

Unless there is trust between friends, there can be no closeness. Once that trust is established, friends can unite to do things in common. Thus, the word for “friend” shows two people acting towards a single goal.

It is said that there are three levels of friendship. The first is the level of casual acquaintance. The second is where there is sharing. The third, considered most deep, is the level where we trust friends to criticize us. Ulterior motives at any one of these levels ruin a relationship quickly, and we cannot call such relationships true friendship. When we are with a true friend, we will know, because we can be open and trusting. Such openess is friendship.

Cynics hold that we should look out for ourselves first. This may be superficially good, but ultimately it will impoverish us. Unless we have friends with whom we can share good times and bad, we will never know selflessness. And not to know the selfless trust of friendship is to miss an opportunity to understand our own best qualities.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

Wow. Friendship is such a deep topic for me. It’s really difficult to put all my thoughts about it into words, and would take a long time. Friendships are so important to me, and yet, I have only a very few close, really trusted friends. I have lost three good friends, mostly my own fault because I had an untreated illness I needed to take care of. But those scarring experiences have made me probably too cautious in who I will actually trust now.

One of those friends, who I thought was a deep trusted friend, has many casual acquaintances. I now believe that she mistakes these for deep friendships, but when she really needed a true friend, it was me she trusted, and I never violated that trust. But when I had a deep personal issue, she did violate my trust of her, and that ended our friendship. It also destroyed me. Over the next year, I very slowly went completely crazy, thinking there was no one I could trust anymore. Luckily, I have a very loving husband who is also my very best friend, and he stuck with me and got me through it. I am a lot stronger person now, far happier, and much better able to handle all aspects of my life.

But friendship, well, it is still hard for me. I now have lots of level one and two friends, but those level three deep trusting friendships are still pretty rare.

The other two friendships were male friends I got too close to – not a good situation when one is married. I mistook what I felt for them for something deeper, in my illness. I think this particular illness really affects the feeling areas of the brain and deepens all feelings. The friends I know who share this illness experience life on a completely different level from most people. They laugh louder, cry more often and more deeply, care too much about other people, and in general are just an emotional mess if untreated. But the depth of those emotional experiences leads many to not consider or even discontinue their treatment. It’s a difficult situation.

And when a friend is in the crosshairs of those intense emotions, all bets are off. You just don’t know what will happen. So I fully understand why people didn’t want to be around me like that. It just really, really hurt, considering how intense those feelings were. And, of course, the hurt was also incredibly intense.

Now, being medicated properly and maintaining a very even keel in my life, I look back and am actually somewhat sad for those people, that they had so little faith and trust in me as a person not to stick by me. But, I can’t expect everyone to be there for me. Now, I just try my best to be there for other people, and that seems to work better. I let people be in my life when they want, and don’t care too much when their lives veer off from mine. I have always been pretty happy alone, except of course for when I actually was most alone, and use my time to think, meditate, write, or work on some of my many projects. And, of course, play on the computer.

The funny thing is, I still love those people dearly, even though they never speak to me. And I guess, being who I am, I always will. It’s just now, it’s their loss, and not mine, that they choose to be apart. They have lost the friendship – but I still have it, in my heart. So now, I understand that I have truly never lost a friend, though some have lost me. And perhaps, knowing that I am a person who will never walk away from a friend makes me a better one.

What are your experiences of friendship? Are there people in your life who you can truly trust with anything? That you will let criticize you, and who are not afraid of your criticism? Hang on to those people – they are golden.

Young

Shao. Young, few. The young need guidance to attain wholeness.

Life is a daily process of compromise, murky meanings, and ambiguity. What is correct one day can be wrong the next. What seems good can all too easily become bad. For the old, many years of disappointment often produce a bitterness hard to dispel. It is not right to pass this feeling on to the young.

The ancients themselves had attained Tao and no longer acted according to fixed rules. With their decades of experience, they could act with subtlety and grace in the midst of life’s contradictions. But they knew that the young could not act in this way. The ancients therefore gave the young clear rules of conduct that would last until a young person could understand the contradictions of life.

The young are pure, innocent, tender. The young need guidance. Simple and clear answers are necessary. Later, when the young have walked their Tao long in the world, they will transcend all rules.

Sometimes I feel like it’s impossible to truly understand life if you haven’t raised kids. To see the innocence of young children, and yet the mischief they can get into, is just amazing. Even knowing the rules they will test them to their limits. I had to become stricter at times than I could ever have imagined, in my case always about matters of personal safety. The kids could misbehave sometimes in other ways, but never if it compromised their safety.

We give kids rules to keep them safe. Society’s rules for adults are really basically the same, to ensure your safety and that of others. That’s why it makes so little sense to break most rules. But sometimes, you have to make exceptions, even to what seem the strongest of rules.

Some people will simply nevr understand and accept this. They think if you’ve bent the rules, you can’t be trusted, without understanding what the circumstances were. That’s why we have trials, so every case can be judged individually. You can’t know another’s viewpoint and reasons until you’ve looked closely at what happened.

The best way I’ve found to treat people is as if they are children. Explain your rules simply, and if they are violated, ask why. There may be a good reason for someone to violate your space or rules. So don’t judge your transgressors too harshly. You might lose a valuable friend or ally. And if you have to bend a rule yourself, don’t judge yourself too harshly, either. Look at your reasons, and if they were good ones, ease up on yourself. If not, learn the lesson you need to and move on.

And like with kids, big hugs all around when the tears and apologies are over. And maybe ice cream.