Monthly Archives: September 2004

Recovery

Quan. To be cured, recovery from illness. When illness is overcome, recovery is complete.

Can we see illness as an opportunity?

Is it the medicine and the treatment that cure us, or do we cure ourselves? It’s like the old joke about the cure for a cold. If you take medicine, you’ll recover in a week, but if you simply rest, you’ll recover in seven days.

Whenever we’re sick, our bodies have to find the means to destroy the illness and recover health. There is a learning process and a creative process. No one has evr invented a medicine that duplicates the body’s talents. A vaccine alone doesn’t make you immune to a disease. It gives your body the impetus to create its own antibodies.

Therefore, minor illnesses are not occasions of malaise, but the necessary time to create our own care. It is not a moribund sign, but a wonderful sign of health.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

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Care

Quan. To care for, to love, family. Below in the symbol for quan is the character for “eye”. Above is a phonetic, a contraction of a word that means “nourish”.

To care for others is to look after them.

It is natural to care for others. If you are the one doing the caring, then do it happily. A mother tiger, for example, will take care of her cubs, An older brother will look after the younger. Even in the temples, one monk looks after another. And the sages often looked after one another. Let us not be so concerned with our own practice that we do not look after others.

All is Tao anyway. Who is to say that the only way to be enlightened is to be sealed in a cave? Tao is movement. Tao is diverse. Our purpose is not to look for the Tao of books. Our purpose is to look for the Tao of our lives. If you have family, or children, or a spouse, or students, or classmates, or friends, then look after them. Not because it is the right thing to do. Not because you will get something in return. But because it is part of who you are.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

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Caring for people is hard sometimes. But if it is a part of who you are, you can’t help but do it. Sometimes people resent being cared about, and push you away. Some people even walk out of your lives, claining you care too much about them or insisting you must want something in return for your care. But there are other people who come into your lives and need your care as well. Most people accept care happily, some greedily, demanding more and more.

But I think caring is a part of who I am, and I have had to accept that. Just as for my mother, caring was an important part of life, it is for me as well. I don’t think I am like her in that I would care for others before taking good care of myself, though. I recognize that i need to keep myself strong in order to care for others. Sometimes, people get a bit tired of waiting for me to care for them again, but when they need me, I’ll be there. It’s just that they may be confusing what they want with things they really need.

Sometimes, I’ve even been accused of being selfish for caring for others. People confuse caring for others with neglecting loyalty to someone else. You can be loyal to one person and still care about someone else. But, obviously to those who only see selfish reasons for doing things, you must have selfish reasons to care for others. They can’t see that it’s just a part of who you are. They can’t separate your motives from what would have been their motives.

It bothers me a lot when people complain about others not living by the words of their books, like the Bible, but can’t see that these are people who obviously love and care for others. What good is preaching to someone else about their faults when it just shows that you lack caring and compassion in yourself? If you went beyond a book written thousands of years ago, by men whose motives you can’t know, and looked at what is really happening now, in the lives of people who you can know, maybe you can learn more about compassion than just what you read in a book.

Care because it is a part of who you are. Forget what anyone else says, or what a book tells you, or what you might get out of it, or if it’s right. Just care for those in your life, and don’t worry about the rest of it. Just because it is who you are.

Kindness

Hui. Kindness, benevolence, favor, charity. The deepest kindness comes not from simply thinking of others, but in feeling what they feel.

We were all taught to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. That is fine, but there is still room for mistakes. True kindness comes not from those who just think of how it might feel to be hurt, but from those who actually do feel it. Can you feel hunger? Can you feel poverty? Can you feel homelessness? Can you feel disease? Can you feel injustice? Can you feel desperation?

If you felt any of these in your own life, you would surely do whatever was in your power to alleviate it. Similarly, if you meet others who are suffering and you have it within your power to help them, you will — if you can truly feel what they feel.

The masters lecture us over and over to be compassionate, so much so that even the least pious student would have to try. But just to try to be compassionate still makes it seem like an exercise or moral obligation. Those who are truly kind are not so because of theory or ethics, but because they feel the suffering of others as directly as they would their own.

That ability to feel human need can develop your sensitivity to feel Tao.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

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Is it possible that the real reason Clinton won his first election as president wasn’t “It’s the economy, stupid” but “I feel your pain?” When Clinton spoke those words, people believed he really understood how they felt. Who thinks Dubya really understands how anyone else feels? Kerry may, but doesn’t really show it that much, He needs to project more of his understanding about how people feel into his presentations.

Many of the problems I’ve had in life have been interactions with people who do not understand other people’s pain, because they choose to limit pain in their own lives. They shut themselves off from their own feelings and deny the feelings of others. They become cynical about life, thinking others are all just out for their own gain. They have no children, because that would add another person’s burden to their life. They cut off people they don’t want to have to deal with, thinking this is helpful, instead of working out problems and finding answers to getting along.

I tihnk this lack of kindness is the real problem in America right now. So many people have stopped simply being kind to each other. They take care of themselves and perhaps their family, and forget everyone else. They are rude to checkout clerks and waiters and carwash attendants, who they treat as their servants. They cut people off in traffic, and drive SUVs that use too much gas, even though they never take them off road. They take big tax cuts while leaving the huge debt of the country to other’s children and grandchildren. Then they dare to call themselves compassionate and Christian. These are not the actions of compassionate people.

But there is no real reward for kindness, other than it simply being the right thing to do. It is only in being kind to others that we begin to experience real kindness in ourselves. For me, to see the glow in someone else’s eyes when they have been treated fairly and appreciated, when they have been cared for or loved or touched in some way, is worth everything.

Compassion

Ci. Compassion. At the root of the symbol for compassion is the symbol for “heart.” The upper part is a phonetic.

If you have a heart, you have compassion.

When it comes to suffering injustice, there are two types of people. The first says, “I can’t wait to turn around and do this to someone else.” The second says, “This was done to me, and I do not want to do it to someone else.”

When it comes to spiritual accomplishments, there are two types of people. The first says, “I will press on for myself because my knowledge was won so dearly.” The second says, “I will help others, because I know how difficult it is to walk a spiritual path.”

When it comes to facing death, there are two types of people. The first says, “My life is at an end, and I am bitter.” The second says, “In sharing, I became more than myself and cannot die.”

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

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I think that is an interesting definition of compassion – becoming more than yourself. By showing your caring and concern for others, and helping them, you become more than yourself. I think that is what my mother tried hard to do in her life. I cannot remember a time when she was not involved in helping someone else. Sometimes I regretted that, thinking she was neglecting her family, but I think it made me stronger and more self-reliant, and also gave me a good example to follow of helping others. I am certainly not as good at it as she was, though.

My dad was active in helping others as well. He was a scoutmaster for over 35 years. I know he helped shape a lot of young men’s lives, and several showed up at his funeral and even spoke to thank him for being there for them. My dad was the one who was always there to help me, too. When my brother went to college, I became my dad’s helper, changing oil in cars, doing household projects, painting, yardwork, etc. I still love to paint and to garden, because of my dad.

Our kids have seen some good examples of helping others as well. When my sister in law left her husband, she lived with us for several months. She returned the favor by watching the kids while I went to school. They played with neighbor children who I was watching while their parents worked. My husband teaches classes as his way of passing along his knowledge to others.

I find myself very disturbed by the self-righteous lack of compassion in this country right now. Tax breaks for the wealthy, who do not need them, while the middle and lower classes struggle. The lack of understanding that we need to provide health care in this country. The lack of compassion for those less fortunate, thinking they are just lazy people. We cannot afford this as a nation. We cannot continue to pursue only our own goals at the expense of other people, of other nations. The anger that has built up towards us is becoming universal, and the costs of that anger will be enormous. To not see this is to be blind and ignorant.

We must become more than ourselves, or we will simply die in bitterness.

Combine

Lien. To combine, to connect. On the left of the character is the symbol for “ear.” On the right is a phonetic, a picture of silk on a loom that symbolizes union.

The correct approach to life is to pay attention — and harmonize — both sides of every issue.

If you are weight lifting, it is good to do pulling movements as well as pushing movements.

If you are a musician, it is good to sing the notes as well as play them on your instrument.

If you are an artist, sketching is as valuable as painting.

If you are a boxer, dodging has as much tactical usefulness as striking.

If you are a doctor, diagnosis is as critical as treatment.

If you are introspective, it is still beneficial to spend time with others.

If you are extroverted, it is still helpful to spend time alone.

Those who follow Tao understand that combining methods, rather than isolating them, yields the greatest results. It is not that we will never specialize. But whatever discipline we enter, we must make sure to survey the whole of it. Each technique we learn will then fit into the next one, until we amass a contiguous set of methods. By combining, we compuound learning to extrordinary dimensions.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

I think our greatest challenge in the next few years will be to combine the best ideas of both sides of our poitical spectrum and come up with good solutions to our problems. There is so much separation in our viewpoints, and yet our children must become the ones who can take the best of these viewpoints and combine them to generate something that really works.

In my own practice, I’ve learned a lot about combining techniques. I practice both pilates and yoga, and the strength I build in Pilates makes my yoga practice better, while the flexibility from yoga makes the Pilates better. Both of these disciplines emphasize both stretching and strength. I work on strength training using weights, and do cardio, and find myself both stronger and with greater endurance. To be doing these exercises at my age makes me feel a lot better both physically and mentally.

But I have a lot to learn about combining techniques and methods. I’m a pretty introverted person, although I enjoy the company of others as well. But I still tend to get tired of others quickly and need my own space. I need to be more open to others and less stuck in my own head.

Ability

Neng. Ability, talent, skill, energetic.The symbol is the picture of a large bear. The bear possesses great vitality. To possess ability is to be self-reliant.

Tao is a person walking along a path. No one is carrying that person. There is no vehicle pictured. Following Tao is something each of us must do by ourselves.

But the path is difficult. It will test you. Walking in the mountains is hard enough. Rain and snow will fall on you. Storms wash away the mountainside. Earthquakes shake the ground. Steepness wears at your legs. In life, the spiritual path is even more difficult. Although everything you want out of life is on that path, there are people who will hinder you and situations that will oppress you.

What do you do when life is difficult? You could call for help, but that is not always reliable. Sooner or later, life will catch you with no one around.

You might be without food and shelter during a time of natural disaster. You might be alone at a time when help cannot come quickly enough. You may even suffer the tragedy of having all your friends abandon you. That is why those who follow Tao emphasize the importance of having many abilities. If you have the self-reliance that comes with having many skills, you will not lose your equanimity. This cannot be emphasized enough. You cannot truly walk the whole path of Tao until you can cope with any unknown.

People say that those who follow Tao are serene, but that serenity is not because of some meditative trancelike state. It comes from the confidence of one who has ability.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

People sometimes remark on how calm I am. I guess a lot of that comes from having to deal with really difficult situations, so that things that bother most people on a day to day basis just really don’t bother me all that much. Perhaps that is some of the serenity of Tao.

I’ve been abandoned by friends. I think what it taught me most of all was to rely on myself, and not depend too much on the help of others. I’ve always been fairly self-reliant, but I think I cared a lot about what those I admired most thought of me. When those people who I loved abandoned me, it pretty much destroyed me. They never really appreciated what happened to me, thinking it was just me being overly dramatic. But it tore at my soul to lose these people from my life.

Losing my parents hurt a lot, but it is a loss that you have to expect with life. Losing friends, especially over things that could have been overcome with a little understanding and time, was not something I expected. It made me realize that there is truly nothing in life that is permanent, that you can count on without fail. I guess that is why the concepts of Tao and change are so appealing to me.

Most people think things in this country will never change, that we will continue to enjoy all the great benefits we have here. But I think we are on the edge of a dark time, and we will all need to learn self-reliance again, and who we can depend on. Perhaps those who abandoned me will even need help themselves sometime. I hope they are either self-reliant enough to survive, or have someone to depend on. I know they could depend on me, if they ever asked. But I doubt they will. As for me, I try to be self reliant, but always willing to share and be someone others can count on. And not too much of a bear.

Wu zhong liu xing zhi ch

Wu Xing

Wu Xing
the Five States of Change

Whereas Western thought developed the idea of elements as subtsances, and Indian thought as emenations, Chinese philosophy conceived of the five elements, or Wu Xing, as dynamic states of change.

The concept of Wu Xing is central to all elements of Chinese thought, including science, philosophy, medicine, astrology, andFengshui.

Although the term is generally translated as “five elements”, this is incorrect. The word Wu does indeed mean “five”. But there is no simple translation for Xing. Translations such as “five elements”, “five agents”, “five qualities”, “five properties” “five states of change”, “five courses”, “five phases” and “five elementals”, are all used. As Master Joseph Yu explains

“Wu Xing” is actually the short form of “Wu zhong liu xing zhi chi” or “the five types of chi dominating at different times”. Water dominates in winter, wood in spring, fire in summer, metal in autumn. At the intersection between two seasons, the transitional period is dominated by earth. It is customary in Chinese writing to summarize a longer phrase into a couple of characters. Sometimes the meaning is completely lost in the abbreviated form if the original phrase is not referred to. Wu Xing is one such example.

and

The names “water”, “wood”, “fire”, “metal” and “earth” are only substances whose properties resemble the respective chi in the closest possible way. They do help us understand the properties of the five types of chi but they also mislead us if we take everything in the literal sense.

Poetry

Shi. Poem, song, rythym. On the left of the symbol for poetry is the symbol for “words”. On the right is a phonetic, the symbol for “temple”. Poetry is worship with words.

Even in temples
Where residents vow never to talk,
And silence is worshipped,
There is sound.
There are songs.
There is poetry.

Memories incarnated,
Lifetimes pulled through a thousand minds,
Cadences beating time,
Rhymes connecting life,
Stanzas stacked like the generations.

Those who follow Tao write poetry,
Read poetry,
Live poetry,
And enter Tao through its lines.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

Mmm poetry… I loves me some good poetry! Some of my past poems can be found on my old website here. I haven’t written many new poems lately — something I need to start doing again. My favorite poem lately is I am becoming — it just so well describes where I am at in life.

Poetry has always affected me deeply. I write poems when I am in love, when I am distressed, when I am trying to reach out to people and they will not listen, when I want to tell someone something special and words simply won’t do. I love the rythym of poems, the various rhyming schemes and the simplicity of the haiku. Sometimes I like structured poems, sometimes simple prose.

So I think I will write a bit of a poem for today.

The Guardian

The guardian looks out to the west
Watching across the ocean
As the waves roll into the shore,
The gentle cove of this beach protected
By the bulk of his mountain base
And his watchful gaze.

The waves roll in gently here
To the crystal sands of this lovely place,
Gentle trade winds blow above
And the summer skies are clear and blue.
The sun sets off the far horizon
As I release the remains to the waves.

Here is your final resting place,
Where I have chosen to let you go,
In these islands you loved so well.
Where my father died, he rests forever,
My mother joins him now on this,
Their final journey together. Aloha.

Literature

Wen. Writing, script, literature, civil (as opposed to military), cultured, cultivated. This is a picture of a person standing very solemnly — originally this word meant a delightful and serious person. It was gradually borrowed to mean all things cultural.

Those who can read the patterns of life are the truly cultured.

Every person who has followed Tao has been a person of culture and refinement. Not only does Tao require study and intelligence, but it also demands the subtle mind of a sensitive person. You will not find that type of mind in the unthinking brute or the insensitive lout.

The wen person is someone who can read not just human language, but the languages of nature as well. There are patterns and secrets throughout the world — the rings of trees, and tracks of animals, and the traces of water down the sides of a valley are as clear as any scripture. The person who follows Tao does not blindly go through life, but is able to read it on every level. Those who follow Tao are those who know the many languages of life.

A person who can read literature in this extended sense cannot help but develop great character. After all, to follow Tao requires patience in adversity, great compassion, and understanding of the balance between action and stillness. We all need to experience more and more, strive to know life on deeper and deeper levels, and give consideration to all that happens to us. Such understanding must be ongoing, and those who revel in wen never tire of exploring what is around them. They always read the patterns of life.

Deng Ming Dao, Everyday Tao

________

I’ve always been a learner and a seeker of knowledge. When confronted with something new, my first goal is always to learn to understand it. Even if I don’t study something in depth, I want to know what it is and be able to understand how it works.

My favorite story about this is from my son when he was five years old. We were in a grocery store, and he wanted to know how the change machine worked, so he asked the cashier to explain it to him. The cashier tried to tell him there were elves inside that gave change, thinking this would interest a small mind. My son glared at him and said loudly, “No, that’s a machine, and I want to know how it works!” I think my son is even more of a wen person than I am.

I learned to garden and take care of my plants, and I think this taught me much about Tao. I’ve seen the cycles of life, and watched what makes some plants thrive and others die, and learned to plant natives that are well adapted to where I live, or plants from similar climates that can thrive and grow well. I gave up on the ones from other places that didn’t thrive here, no matter how pretty they were, and those that were difficult to care for. People think my garden must be hard to maintain, but in fact it is easier than most peoples, because it works with the environment around it.

I’ve learned to work with what I have, rather than be frustrated that I don’t have all that I may “want”. I’ve learned those things I seem to want that I don’t have are not really very important things after all– including some people I thought were friends, but turned out to be less than fully accepting of me. If people cannot accept you for who you are, they simply don’t belong in your life.

Right now my goal is to bring more natural things into my life — natural foods, products, skin care, crafts, and just simpler, easier things. I still enjoy the advantages of technology, of course. I’m an engineer at heart and love the workings of machines as much as the workings of nature. But I think we’ve brought too much artifical complexity into our lives, and need to use the technology to bring us the best of nature and the best communications, information sources and searching, and bring simplicity into our lives so more people have time to become wen people.

Who are the wen people in your life?