Center (repost from 2005)

From a bud, only a promise.
Then a gentle opening:
Rich blooming, bursting of fragrance,
The fulfillment of the center.

True beauty comes from within. Take a flower as an example. In the beginning it is only a bud. It does not yet show its loveliness to the world, it does not attract bees or butterflies, and it cannot yet become fruit. Only when it opens is beauty revealed in its center. There is the focus of its exquisiteness, there is the source of its aroma, there is its sweet nectar. In the same way, our own unique beauty comes from within.

Our glory has nothing to do with our appearance or our occupation. Our special qualities come from an inner source. We must take care to open and bloom naturally and leisurely and keep to the center. It is from there that all mystery and power come, and it is good to let it unfold in its own time.

Just as a flower goes through stages — bud, open, bloom, pollinate, wither, fruit, fall — each of us will go through the obvious stages of birth and death. We aren’t of a single character throughout our lives. We change and grow. Our identities unfold and bloom. Unless we attain the center and keep to our progressions, we cannot ever reach true independence in our lives.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

Sometimes it is difficult to be patient with ourselves and especially with others, allowing them the time to grow and develop in their own way. We push ourselves, we push our kids, trying to make people be more mature than they are ready to be, or make ourselves do tasks we aren’t really ready to take on right now.

As a gardener, I know I can’t push the flowers to develop any sooner than they are ready to, or make fruit develop any faster. As a process management specialist, I know it takes time to understand the requirements of a project, to really fully develop the idea and the design of the programs, and to thoroughly test their functionality. One of my favorite project management aphorisms is, “No matter how many women you put on the project, it still takes nine months to make a baby.” People try to rush through their work, and then wonder why they have so many problems. They try to have a relationship right now, pushing for sex and/or marriage, when maybe it would be better to let the relationship develop over time and unfold naturally.

We are impatient people. We want it all, today, right now. We fuss and fume if we have to wait in line for a few minutes. We have drive-through food, drive-through banking, drive-through pharmacies, drive-through liquor stores, and would probably have drive-through sex if we could. Well, lots of people do have sex in their cars, I suppose.

How many people do you know who are off-center, off-balance in their lives? Probably most of them, working too many hours, not getting enough sleep, always complaining they don’t have enough time. Neglecting themselves, neglecting their families, and then being surprised when the divorce comes or the kids are surly teenagers who won’t talk to them and are off doing drugs or drinking.

We need to seek our center, find our peace, know ourselves and those around us as well as we can. We need to take time for ourselves, for each other. We need to open gently, to unfold, to bloom. We need to see the beauty not just in that bloom, but in those buds, in the faded petals, in the withered center, and then in the fruit of our efforts. Then we will fully understand our lives, and appreciate them, and those of others as well. Look at the beautiful blooms and admire them, yes, but admire also the form and grace of all the phases of life. Then, your life will be rich and full.

__________________________

My life has changed a bit since I wrote those words five years ago. Then, I was learning the Tao, taking it in, especially through the wise words of Deng Ming Dao. Now, I seek out others who know the Tao and get most of my inspiration from them, and try to inspire others as well. I’ve found my center, and am not easily thrown off balance, and when I am, I can recover pretty quickly.

But I still try to rush things at times, still find it difficult to patiently wait for things to develop as they should. I know how I think I want things to be, and am impatient when they aren’t yet that way. After all these years, I am still trying to learn patience. Perhaps I’ll have to turn to Buddhism to learn to truly live within the moment, though Tao has always pointed the way.  Or perhaps I’ll visit my garden today, look at the beautiful flowers blooming, hear the birds singing and remember… until I forget again.

At least I’ve learned to be patient with myself, and to love myself even when I am impatient.