Activity is essential, but exhausting,
And its importance is only on the surface.
Withdraw into Tao at the end of the day.
Returning is renewal.
Each day is filled with activity. We rush around from meeting to meeting; we make all sorts of arrangements for the future. Such doings are important, but they are not all that there is in life. Even as we engage in them, we must remember that all human endeavors are temporary and provisional.
We cannot allow our accomplishments to divorce us from what is actually happening in the world. It is imperative that we withdraw to reflect upon the day’s events and collect ourselves for the continuation of our path. There is no need to go to a temple, a sacred spot, or a special room. We do not need elaborate ritual. All we need is a simple and natural turning within.
This is why followers of Tao always use the word ‘returning.’ They recognize the necessity of activity in life, but they also recognize the need to return to Tao. In Tao is the source of all things, and in the source one finds the renewal that one needs to go on with life. This back-and-forth movement between the source and the activity of life is the movement of all things.
To hold until full is not as good as stopping.
An oversharpened sword cannot last long.
A room filled with gold and jewels cannot be protected.
Boasting of wealth and virtue brings your demise.
After finishing the work, withdraw.
This is the Way of Heaven.
— Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9
Effect emptiness to the extreme.
Keep stillness whole.
Myriad things act in concert.
I therefore watch their return.
All things flourish and each returns to its root.
Returning to the root is called quietude.
Quietude is called returning to life.
Return to life is called constant.
Knowing this constant is called illumination.
Acting arbitrarily without knowing the constant is harmful.
Knowing the constant is receptivity, which is impartial.
Impartiality is kingship.
Kingship is Heaven.
Heaven is Tao
Tao is eternal.
Though you lose the body, you do not die.
— Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 9
Return is the motion of the Tao.
Softening is its function.
All things in the cosmos arise from being.
Being arises from non-being.
— Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 40
I do most of my Tao meditations in the morning, not at the end of the day. I like having my mind in a good place before starting my day, then I seem to not get so absorbed in the hustle and hassle of the day to begin with. In the evenings, I look at my meditation for the next day to start thinking about it, then empty my mind and relax completely, letting myself return to the ultimate of quiet places, and see what comes. By the next day, I am ready to put some thoughts together about that day’s meditation.
Well that is the plan, of course it doesn’t always work out that way. Life has its various phases of being busier than you would like it to be, and moods can overtake you to where you don’t really feel like thinking about Tao, even when that is when you need it the most. That’s why the masters encourage us to make a habit of it, I suppose, so that you do it whether you want to or not, like brushing your teeth. Well, I always brush, but I don’t always floss. I always work to try and quiet my mind, I don’t always succeed at doing it.
It amazes me how some people in this culture refuse to let quiet into their lives. They are constantly on their cell phones when they could be enjoying a leisurely lunch, blasting music when they could enjoy a few minutes of quiet in their cars, watching television at home instead of really relaxing in quiet and peace from their day. And then wonder why they are stressed out. I’ve taken to suggesting to people that they drink a cup of green tea in the morning before starting in with the coffee or soda during the day, since the tea has chemicals that counteract the caffeine in the coffee and its effect in increasing the stress hormone cortisol. My husband has been so much calmer since he started doing this. Now he’s giving up the soda completely. I drink tea throughout the morning, and soda sometimes in the afternoon. Much less than before, though.
How do you add peace to your day? How do you return to quiet and calm?