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The Tao Te Ching for Everyday Living
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The Tao Te Ching for Everyday Living

Author: Dan Casas-Murray

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Email the podcast: Welcome to the Tao Te Ching for Everyday Living. I’m your host, Dan Casas-Murray. This podcast is for the Tao Curious, those looking for a random bit of wisdom once in awhile, or for those who want to dive into this wonderful teaching.I’ve been studying the Tao Te Ching for just short of a year now, and have reconnected with a natural feeling of inner peace and contentment. I don’t hold a doctorate, nor am I qualified to teach anything about the Tao Te Ching - I’m just an ordinary person who has experienced the wonderful side effects of following the Tao. Since everyone’s experience with this wisdom is different, the only thing that I can hope for is that mine helps you to connect with the Tao in your own, unique, personal way. Feel free to listen to each episode a day at a time or any time you need a quick “Tao-shot.” You can listen while on your way to work or after that, when you’re winding down. It’s always a good time to observe the Tao.In each episode, we’ll do four things:1. We’ll read a verse of the Tao Te Ching2. Break it down into everyday language3. I’ll share my own thoughts and experience4. Apply the Verse with a couple of the many ways you can put the Tao into practice for yourself.That’s pretty much how I’ve been practicing the Tao every day - by listening to Lao Tzu, reflecting on his words of wisdom, listening to other comments, and trying to practice them in everyday life.
81 Episodes
Tao Te Ching Verse 81translated by Isabella MearsFaithful words may not be beautiful,Beautiful words may not be faithful.Those who love do not quarrel,Those who quarrel do not love.Those who know are not learned,Those who are learned do not know.The riches of the self-controlled person are in the Inner Life.When one spends for others, one has more for oneself.When one gives to others, one has much more for oneself.Heavenly Tao blesses all and hurts no one.The way of the self-controlled person is to act and not to fight.Photo by Nastya Dulhiier on UnsplashStaying ConnectedIn this final verse of the TTC, I feel like there are three things with which Lao Tzu leaves us:The first is that when we are connected with Tao (which is always, btw), we canSee without lookingListen without hearingFeel without touchingInternalize without smelling or tastingThe second is the property of reflection - both internal and external to ourselves, which to me means that when I look inside, the Tao is reflected back.  Ripples in a pond, while they emanate outward, always return to the source.And the third is that emulating the Tao is the way to align ourselves with it, just like a magnet points toward the closest pole.How do we practice all of this?  That is our individual choice!  Throughout the podcast, we have discussed different ways to put the principles into practice, and have acknowledged that those aren’t the only ways.  In fact, I suspect that like the Tao, the number of ways I can use to practice those principles are infinite.  In my short journey so far with the Tao, I have learned four centering mindsets that lead to different practices for different times, and I’ll leave them with you for your consideration: I must approach the Tao with as much sincerity as I can.  It doesn’t matter how deeply sincere I am - just the best I can do in the moment is enough.I ask Tao for the willingness to see things a different way.  I ask for awareness.I ask Tao to show me what I can do to practice.I ask Tao to help me be willing to practice once I know the way.This is pretty much the cycle for me.  It is simple, AND easy to do, at least most of the time.  This mindset has helped me to become open to new ways of seeing things, new meditations, new contemplations, and what I feel is the coolest thing yet: being able to work with Tao to transmute my hangups, fears, and the negativity that has been with me since childhood into a loving, very real connection with myself, others, and the environment around me.I am experiencing being human.  It can be great.  It can be horrifying.  It can be incredibly beautiful.  I can choose to do it alone.  I can choose to do it with Tao.  The choice is mine alone, and the action is mine to take.Tao is impartial to my choice - so even Tao doesn’t influence my choice or action.  How profoundly poignant is that?  This is my journey.  It is your journey.  It is our journey.  We all share this human experience, and yet we experience it individually.  I am grateful that I have been willing enough to experience Tao in all its myriad forms.  I am grateful for this human experience.  I am grateful I can know compassion, contentment, and humility.  I am grateful I have had this experience because of and
Tao Te Ching Verse 80translated by Hua-Ching NiLet there be small communities with few inhabitants.The supply of vessels may be more than enough,yet no one would use them.The inhabitants would love living there so dearly that they would never wish to move toanother place.They may have every kind of vehicle,but they would not bother to ride them.They may have powerful weapons,but they would not resort to using them.They would return to a simple system of cords and knots to record their simple events,as was done in ancient times.They would be content with plain food,pleased with simple clothing,satisfied with rustic but cozy homes,and would cling to their natural way of life.The neighboring country would be so close at hand that one could hear its roosters crowingand its dogs barking along the boundaries.But, to the end of their days, people would rarely trespass the territory of another's life.Photo by Johnny Cohen on UnsplashUtopia On the SurfaceMy experience with this verse has been unexpectedly beautiful. In this verse, he outlines utopia:Abundance Harmony in the CommunityAbility to Travel and Defend but no need for either of those thingsSimplicity in Knowledge ManagementComfortable lifestylePeace with the NeighborsSo as I’m reading it and reflecting, knowing everything that I’ve learned and practiced so far, I can see that the utopia is actually possible!  There have been two times when I’ve witnessed this, and I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I knew things were different.  I’ll tell you about one of them.In one of my trainings in the Army, I was in what we’d call a squad - about 8 of us in a small group.  We were to train, eat, and sleep together for about 35 days.  Some of my comrades would have forgotten an item or two, and just me - I would offer what I had blindly.  Now someone might say that was a little dumb of me - you know, like I should have given of my overflow, not my cup, right?  But naive as I was, I did it.  I did that for a week or two, and I noticed that the others started doing the same.  Soon, we were a functioning little family unit, and we looked out for each other and our needs.  It became normal.  Some time later, maybe about 3 weeks, one of our cadre remarked that there wasn’t any infighting in our group like the other squads.  They wondered what it was.  At that moment, I knew.  And it wasn’t like I could have said anything about it - there was no way I could have said that I was the cause in the beginning.  It was one of those subtle things that folks weren’t even paying attention to, to include myself!  But I knew it. As I’m considering that experience with that group and reading this verse today, I’m thinking about at least observing how my journey with the Tao has affected my relationships since I started.  At home, I have enjoyed a deeper connection with my spouse as I grow with her and we share spiritual insights.  At work, I have opened up to more ways to be of service, and interesting opportunities have presented themselves.  With friends, I have practiced humility and have met some people that have had profound impacts on my life - and statistically, it seems pretty much impossible that that would have occurred had I gone out searching for them in a deliberate manner.
Tao Te Ching Verse 79translated by Keith H. SeddonWhen a bad grudge is settled,Some enmity is bound to remain.How can this be considered acceptable?Therefore the Sage keeps to her side of the contractBut does not hold the other party to their promise.One who has Virtue will honour the contract,Whilst one who is without Virtue expects others to meet their obligations.It is the Way of Heaven to be impartial;It stays always with the good personPhoto by Gus Moretta on UnsplashGiving to ReceiveI have experienced time and again that most of the time, if I smile at someone, they’ll smile back.  I’ve also experienced that when I’m angry or sour-faced, people kind of leave me alone, and if I try to make them feel the way I’m feeling, I’ll get that back, too.In our physical world, it seems that when I push on object A it moves to location B and pretty much stays there.  But in our spiritual world, it seems that when I do action A, it goes out to B and comes back to me in a reflective manner.The emotions observation was just one thing.  Let’s think about a couple more aspects.  When I treat others with compassion and they feel safe around me, people open up and share themselves with me.  Just doing nothing, just being there and holding space for them, kind of like being the empty vessel, does the trick.  When I am doing the opposite - being selfish and closed off, I am left alone and can’t connect with others.  When I am feeling desire for stuff or relationships I don’t have, people somehow pick up on this and again, I am left alone mostly.  Except in cases where others who are in the same position connect with me and we feed off of each other in unhealthy ways.  But when I am in love with my life and am quietly appreciate of myself and everything around me, I attract other people to share in this feeling with me.  When I am feeling equal to people, real relationship moments occur.  But when I am feeling superior or inferior to others, self-doubt usually surfaces and that feeling eventually causes me to act in passive aggressive or mildly hostile ways toward others.  Subtle ways, but hostile nonetheless. When I give my three treasures away, they return.  Similarly, when I give my ‘ick’ away, it returns.  So I can pretty much observe that I get back what I put out.  It is tempting to enter into esoterica here, and equally so to enter into grander visions of a honed manifestation ability.  And while I feel like that’s all got a true feel to it, I do like the way Lao Tzu helps us remember this axiom in a simple way. He talks about the Sage staying with the left side of the tablet - the debtor’s rather than the creditors.  He says that when we emulate the Tao by always giving, always being open and available to connect and serve, we become the forces that help others move into Harmony along with us.  And when we do that, we can’t help but reap the rewards - we don’t have to do anything - they just arrive.
Tao Te Ching Verse 78translated by The Tao of RivenrockThere is nothing more flexible and yielding than water.And yet there is nothing better for attacking the hard and rigid, there is nothing that can dowhat it can do.So it is that the rigid can be overcome by the flexible, and the haughty by the humble.Yet even knowing this; still no one will put this into adequate practice.For this reason it is said that the ones who accept the humiliation of the country are fit to beits rulers.Those who take the sins of the people onto themselves are able to act as King.This is the paradox of truth!Photo by Alex Smith on UnsplashOur Venerable TeachersRecently, I found myself reacting strongly to a large group of people, like not in a positive way, then transferring those frustrations to a smaller group.  My typical pattern of reactions to large groups I can’t influence directly is this: the group adopts a position with which I disagree and I judge it as wrong.  Then the people in the group act, and since they’re wrong anyway, anything they do thereafter is of course amoral and despicable.  The judgement cycle continues.  Then when I see members of that group in day to day interactions, I reserve myself and withdraw my willingness to think anything about them that resembles compassion, contentment, or humility.  There are also the nasty thoughts I entertain at each step of the way, which only solidify my resolve to stay away from our three treasures when thinking about the group.Lao Tzu says that the one who can take on the troubles of the world and who can tend to calamities for the sake of all beings is qualified to rule it.  I don't want to rule anything - but I do want to contribute to our collective growth and well-being.  So I think that moving toward this ideal will have a similar result.This time, I decided to break the pattern.  I decided to acknowledge my feelings and thoughts as it pertained to this and the smaller group.  I sat with my feelings.  I was as mindful as I could be at the time - in the midst of feeling them, I would catch myself indulging in them.  I knew I was indulging when I noticed judgements or fantasies about particular outcomes.  I just tried my best to allow the feelings to be there and I welcomed them.  And then, something wonderful happened.  I dropped my resistance to the feelings, and a flood of realizations gradually washed through me.  I began to understand why I was uncomfortable with the group.  Why I reacted the way I did.  And that led to other realizations that were tangential to the original issue!  Once realized, I had the opportunity to explore those ‘whys’ and look for false belief programs I had been running in the background.  I took the chance to undo them as best as I could, and after this work was complete, I knew a new freedom.Without this larger group, I would not have released myself from some of my old ego-thought-feeling patterns.  Now, I still don’t have to agree with the group or its members, and can work toward changing it for the better.  But I can be grateful for it and ask for the willingness to extend my own compassion, contentment, and humility toward its members when I have the occasion to do so.  Different from enabling, sometimes compassion means denial.  Sometimes contentment means resistance.  Sometimes humility means setting and enforcing boundaries.  In any case, exercising the three treasures comes from a place of harmony, of love, not vindictive denial.
Tao Te Ching Verse 77translated by AnonymousThe natural order is like stretching a bowThe low bow gets pushed up highAnd the high tendon pulled downwardsWhere there is too much, it takes awayWhere there is not enough, it fillsNature strives for harmony all the timeDecreases where there is too muchAnd increases where there is too littleBut how opposite are the people in their behaviourThe poor get poorer while the rich tend to get richerBut one who is wise realizes that possession is burglary to communityTherefore he disposes himself of that which belongs to the communitySo only one who is wise is detachedHe does what others ask him to, but nothing for himselfWithout taking credit for itPhoto by Marcos Paulo Prado on UnsplashEquilibriumI can picture in my head this back and forth motion of a spring, because that’s what a bow kind of is - a spring that stores and releases both potential and kinetic energy, depending on its state.  If not at rest, it is always wanting to return to its opposite.  Until of course it finds the equilibrium point again.Now I get it - and how it’s like the Tao.  The Tao is always in motion, always providing.  Not so with humans, says Lao Tzu.  No, we seem to like to keep the bow in a static state, usually one that is excessive.  What other creature likes to store way more than they need?  I googled around about this and found that there are some animals that hoard food supplies - but that’s pretty much only for when times are scarce.  There aren’t like big squirrel parties where a bunch of squirrels show up with each other and pass around nuts on trays and have piles of nuts laying around that anyone can eat just because they’re there.  No, they don’t do that!  But we do.  And I guess my question for now is why?  Why do I feel the need to gather large quantities of things like food, toys, electronics, clothes, relationships, friends, status, certificates, all the things?I suppose the short answer is that as a human, I’ve spent about 40 years with the illusion that I was alone and not provided for.  I mean when I think about it, I wonder how I could not think that way.  Like I come out into the world cold, naked and scared, and as I develop it seems like I’m an individual, because only I can experience my physical sensations.  It’s not until I begin to be open to sensing other energies that I can see the invisible Tao at work in my life.  So I guess it’s natural at first to think I’m alone and that I’d better provide for me because who else will?So why do I feel the need to keep that bow stretched by gaining as much of whatever I can?  My thoughts for now are because I have this thing called consciousness that at first, I misinterpret as being all alone.  But when I start becoming aware of the Tao and allowing it to do its thing, which is provide, then I realize that hoarding things is silly, mostly because there is no need.  Sweet, so I’m good, then?  I don’t have to save money for the future or make sure I’m not isolated?  I can just sit there and let the Tao do its thing?  Nope, because as it turns out, we do need to energize the Tao for ourselves - we do need to be of service, we do need to take some sort of action, mostly in helping other people and in self-cultivation.  That’s how it seems we get what we need from the Tao.  That’s how we allow it to provide.
Tao Te Ching Verse 76translated by Xiaolin YangWhen people are alive, they are soft; when dead, they are hard.When every living thing is alive, it is soft; when dead, it is hard.So, the strong and hard have no vitality; the soft and weak have vitality.Therefore, when an army is too strong and rigid, it will be extinguished;when a tree is too stiff, it will break.The strong and hard are inferior; the weak and soft are superior.Photo by Faye Cornish on UnsplashPracticing Refining that EnergyAt home, I can see how my rigid attitudes do damage to my personal relationships.  We talked about this earlier in the episode.  There are so many little habits and emotional patterns and cycles that make up a relationship, will all people involved, not just me, so when I think about this I wonder where to start or what the point is.  I suppose the best thing I can do is to just take it a step at a time when it comes.  And by ‘it,’ I mean any time there is not harmony.  But instead of seeing annoyances or angry conversations as things to deal with, perhaps I can see them as opportunities to refine my energy!So let’s think about our home lives and pick out a thing that someone does or an attitude they have or some things they’ve said that have pushed us out of our Tao-Bubble.  You know, that bubble where everything’s just fine and we’re content.Let’s ask - what about this occurrence disturbed me?  How did it make me feel?  Did it make me feel embarrassed in any way?  Did it make me feel like things weren’t fair?  In a nutshell, did it make me feel like I needed to prove my self worth, or did it make me look weak to myself?In this moment, we’re just looking at that Yin side of ourselves - we’re doing our best to identify the self-driven reasons why what occurred made us feel uncomfortable.Now, let’s look at that Yang side of ourselves.  Let’s ask the question: how can I use this as an opportunity to create a new type of attitude?  Remembering that we’re wanting to stay soft and flexible: How can I identify where I’m inflexible and then consider a new point of view?  How can I consider taking contrary action within my self?  Can I compromise on an attitude while still honoring my inner self? This, no doubt, requires some practice and diligence.  And I’m not gonna lie, the only reason I do this is because Harmony with the Tao feels so much better than disharmony.  In other words, just being honest here, I don’t like it outside my Tao-Bubble, and I’ll do pretty much anything to get back inside.  I’ve found that this helps a lot.Let’s have a quick look at work.  For me, the resonant theme is usually how what happens in my professional life affects my sense of accomplishment, my sense of usefulness and purpose, and my sense of financial well-being.  There are more but those are the main ones for now.So when I feel agitated or worried, I can usually look to those things and ask which one it is.  Often, it’s a mix of them.Once I identify what’s going on, I can either let it go because it’s just my ego doing its thing, or, I can delve deeper into it and locate a belief system that no longer works and just creates conflict.  Then, I can start a new focus. 
Tao Te Ching Verse 75translated by Shi Fu HwangThe people suffer from hunger because their superior agencies have imposed a heavy tax, thus they are hungry.The people are difficult to govern because their superior agencies are too fond of meddling, thus they are difficult to govern.The people make lightly of dying because of the excessive costs in seeking the means of living, thus they think lightly of dying.Therefore the benevolent should be those who do not interfere with people's living; instead of those who value people's living.Photo by Christian ter Maat on UnsplashUnpluggingIn what do I overindulge?  I mean there are the easy ones - my behaviors.  Eating, relaxing, working - if it’s a habit or behavior, I can do it too much at the expense of other things in my life.  But what about emotions?  Don’t I like anger just a little?  That fiery burn is kind of intense, and whoa, especially when I’m right about something!  Or especially when I’ve been wronged, then it’s pure justification.  So indignantly, of course, I can ask myself, well how am I overindulging in anger here?    Anger.  It feels good at first, but eventually, it grows out of control and just saps our strength.  For me, anger is a tricky thing sometimes, because when I feel it and don’t want to be feeling it, it seems to stick around longer than I want.  When I don’t mind feeling it, I just have to pay attention to it and it grows.So why?  I mean the question of the day is how to control it, right?  I feel like a big part of what I can do with anger is to sit with it.  And, I thought a little more about it, too.  When I sit with anger - or any emotion, really - I am allowing it to be.  I am accepting it, so I am neither indulging in it by justifying things, nor am I trying to resist it, which causes more frustration when I can’t let go.So I guess the question I can ask myself is, would I be willing to sit with this feeling for a bit?  Would I be willing to allow it to be here?  And if that answer is yes, then I can settle in and with it.  And I can watch myself start thinking about it and begin justifying my point of view, my behavior, and trying out scenarios in my head to see if in another situation I would still be right, and when that was the case, I would be feeling a fresh dose of anger.  Or, if that answer is yes, I could notice that I am replaying the situation and remember not to eat too much tax-grain - I can remember what I’m doing - just sitting with it and allowing it to be - without justifying anything.  Without fantasizing about how I’m right.  Forget overindulging, just without indulging in it.Now, 100% - this is waaaay easier to talk about than do.  Luckily, I have time to practice it.  I have compassion for myself too, so that when I don’t get it right, I can keep trying.And then I might extend this practice to other areas of my life.  When I’m not relaxed, I can ask why.  Then I can ask what I’m indulging in.  Am I fantasizing about how this project I’m working on is going to help me professionally?  Am I fantasizing about that afternoon cup of coffee?  Am I attaching to an outcome that I desire for myself?
Tao Te Ching Verse 74translated by Frederic Henry BalfourIf people do not fear death why attempt to frighten them by capital punishment?Supposing the people are made constantly afraid of death, so that when they commit unlawful acts I arrest them and have them killed, who will dare [afterwards to misbehave]? For then there will always be yiu-sze, or civil magistrates, to execute them. Now the execution of men on behalf of the inflictor of the death-punishment [by those not legally qualified to do so] may be compared to hewing on behalf of a master carpenter; and people who [attempt to] hew instead of a master carpenter mostly cut their hands.Photo by Wonderlane on UnsplashThe Master Carpenter’s HatchetDid you ever try to unload your worry onto someone, calling it venting?  But deep down, you just needed someone else to worry about it other than you because you were tired of it?  Uncomfortable though it is to admit, I catch myself doing this once in a while with my spouse.  Or sometimes when I feel insecure about something, I need to see that others feel the same way so I don’t feel as bad?  I mean, one part of that is me looking for solidarity, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.  But the other, sneakier, darker part of me is wanting someone else to shoulder the responsibility of being concerned about something that’s bothering me.For me, there is such a fine line there that is so easily blurred.  How do I know when I’m crossing it?  Two ways: I either realize what I’m doing when I see the other person start to own my feelings for me - or the whole thing just doesn’t stick.  You know, when you sit down with that person, have a heart to heart, and tell them they need to worry about so and so or such and such.  And they shrug and say, ‘not my problem.’  And idk about you, when this happens, I feel like I’ve slammed into a crick wall, nose first.  I really hate the way that feels.  For a long time, I allowed that to create resentment between me and others.  How dare they, I would say.  I’m just trying to show you something that will make things better for you.  I’m just trying to get you to see things so you don’t have to learn them the hard way.  But aren’t I really just being lazy by trying to escape vulnerability?  If I am successful in projecting my insecurity on to someone, I feel somehow like I’ve dealt with it.  Only I haven’t - I’ve just given it to someone else to deal with.  And you know what’s even more heinous?  That person may deal with it in a healthy manner - perhaps - but perhaps that person won’t, and perhaps they’ll try to give it back.  Like in a lot of different ways - as humans, we are cunning creatures that have this ability to use language, circumstances, and imagination to convince ourselves and others that reality looks a certain way.  So even if the other person tries to give it back directly and I reject that attempt, it will come out in other ways, ways of which I’m not even aware.
Tao Te Ching Verse 73translated by Isabella MearsA person with courage and daring is slain,A person with courage and self-restraint lives.Of these two, the one has benefit, the other has injury.Who can tell why one of them should incur Heaven's Wrath?Because of this the self-controlled person has doubt and difficulty.Heavenly Tao strives not, but conquers by love;It speaks not, but responds in Love;It calls not to people, but of themselves they come;It slowly is made manifest, yet its plans are laid in Love.The net of Heaven is widely meshed; the meshes are far apart, yet nothing escapes from it.Photo by Erol Ahmed on UnsplashMaybe Yes, Maybe NoWait, what?  You mean that sometimes I can’t help but act selfishly and sometimes that’s OK?  Not only that, but I thought that acting non-selfishly was the way to place myself into Harmony with the Tao.  Interesting indeed.I’d like to tell a short story - maybe you’ve heard it before.  It’s the story of the Chinese Farmer, as told by Alan Watts:Once upon a time there was a Chinese farmer whose horse ran away. That evening, all of his neighbors came around to commiserate. They said, “We are so sorry to hear your horse has run away. This is most unfortunate.” The farmer said, “Maybe.” The next day the horse came back bringing seven wild horses with it, and in the evening everybody came back and said, “Oh, isn’t that lucky. What a great turn of events. You now have eight horses!” The farmer again said, “Maybe.”The following day his son tried to break one of the horses, and while riding it, he was thrown and broke his leg. The neighbors then said, “Oh dear, that’s too bad,” and the farmer responded, “Maybe.” The next day the conscription officers came around to conscript people into the army, and they rejected his son because he had a broken leg. Again all the neighbors came around and said, “Isn’t that great!” Again, he said, “Maybe.”Commenting on this story, Alan Watts says, ‘The whole process of nature is an integrated process of immense complexity, and it’s really impossible to tell whether anything that happens in it is good or bad — because you never know what will be the consequence of the misfortune; or, you never know what will be the consequences of good fortune.’I’ve heard this story used to illustrate the benefits of non-judgment before, but it hadn’t occurred to me that it can also serve to show us how the Tao moves, dare I say, in mysterious ways.  Honestly, the whole paradigm is too complicated for me to analyze, personally.  Like when should I do this or be that, or how do I know when to teach, when to learn, all that.  I mean, maybe a quantum ai algorithm can figure it out at some point, but for now, it’s simply too much for my mind to bear.Perhaps that’s why just trying to stick to one thing and being ok with making mistakes is the best thing for me to do, according to Lao Tzu.  Kind of like a, ‘I’ll do my part, the Tao does its part’ thing.  I’m OK with that for now.  
Tao Te Ching Verse 72translated by Charles JohnstonWhen the people fear not what should be feared, then what is most to be feared descends upon them.Beware of thinking your dwelling too narrow; beware of resentment over your lot.I resent not my lot, therefore I find no cause for resentment in it.Hence the Saint knows herself and does not make herself conspicuous; she exercisesrestraint and does not glorify herself.This is why she shuns the one and follows the other.Photo by Alex Iby on UnsplashBeing Happy with What We've GotAdvancement, physical, emotional, or spiritual, does come from a desire to want to be better.  But the desire must be short lived - for me, it’s the act of thinking hmm, maybe I’ll grow a plant so I can have tomatoes.  I must then stop wanting to plant it and actually take the necessary actions to grow it.  So I think being happy with what I’ve got means that it’s OK to push forward and grow - that just seems to be loving myself as Lao Tzu puts it; but the moment I resent where I’m at by feeling envy over others’ stuff - well, that’s where I’m exalting myself, which is what he warns against.I think I can apply this to my own spiritual growth.  Sometimes I’m all, man, it would be so cool if I could use the force.  I wouldn’t have to get up off the couch - I could levitate the cup, get the water, and have it float on over.  Or in other matters, I sometimes think, ‘bro I want to be so enlightened bro, like I could trip out anytime I wanted, I could like float around and not have to worry about normal stuff, you know?’  When I say I want to sit there for hours without thinking about anything, or be able to create situations just by thinking about them, or any other number of neat-o byproducts of spiritual growth which in some circles are call achievements, I am actually blocking my own progress.  And how?  I take my mind off of chopping wood and carrying water and think about how warm that fire’s going to be and how awesome that tea will taste.  When I start thinking about these things, I slow in my chopping and carrying; I distract myself from the task at hand and diminish my productivity, so that I might not have enough wood to make that sick fire that gets hot enough to make that tasty tea.  Metaphors aside, when I start concentrating on so-called spiritual accomplishments, I stop doing the things that will get me there in the first place - practicing desireless concentration on dissolving the bondage of self.  At least that’s my take on it, for now.But I think the main point is this:  keeping in mind that what I think, say, and do reflects right back at me, whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ I would do well to practice contentment with my life, life situation, and goals.  I can certainly have goals, yes - but I must be careful to still enjoy and be grateful for what I do have.  Otherwise, that magical universal mirror will prevent me from getting what I want in the first place.  I can always be open, willing, and available to receive things that will allow me to grow economically, socially, and spiritually. I can also always be appreciative of what’s right in front of me right now.
Tao Te Ching Verse 71translated by Hua-Ching NiOne who regards one’s intellectual knowledge as ignorance has deep insight.One who overrates one’s intellectual achievement as definite truth is deeply sick.Only when one is sick of this sickness can one cease to be sick.One who returns one’s mind to the simplicity of the subtle truth is not sick.One knows to break through conceptual knowledge in order to directly reach the subtletruth of the universe.This is the foundation of one’s health!Photo by Harry Cunningham on UnsplashBreak On Through to the Other SideJim Morrison’s song lyrics aren’t all that far off from this second part of the verse.  He starts out talking about the day destroying the night and night dividing the day.  Hmm, sounds kind of Yin and Yang to me.  Then there are the last couple verses in the song that talk about there being a side of life that is there and different from our immediate perceptions.In this Tao Te Ching Verse, Lao Tzu says that because we recognize that our minds can’t think us into blissful enlightenment, just that recognition alone is what allows us to look in a different direction that unlocks the door to connection with the Tao.  To me, this is clear only after I have taken some time to reflect how the Tao isn’t a concept; rather, it’s a thing we call that universal truth that we are always experiencing.  Some folks call it God, some call it the universe, some call it Allah, some call it the Buddha, nirvana, Shiva, Kali - while there are subtle differences in each of those personifications, the list of ways we refer to that universal truth are pretty much the same.  It is the spiritual energy that moves around and through us, of which we very much are a part.  You can’t start a gasoline-engine car by getting in and willing it to turn on.  We can’t access the Tao just by enhancing our knowledge of it.  The car needs a key, a human to turn the key, and a bunch of other parts to work together.  We must open ourselves to the Tao, be willing to be vulnerable with it, allow it to show us things and do things for us.  We must feel the Tao to access it.So not gonna lie, this seemed impossible for me in the beginning.  Mostly because I had no idea what I was supposed to do.  But, with a little patience and by practicing some of the other verses in this book, I was able to catch a clue, and as long as I continue to practice, I find that truth after truth is revealed as I progress. 
Tao Te Ching Verse 70translated by Bruce R. LinnellMy words are very easy to understand,Very easy to practice.But there is no one in the world who can understand them,There is no one who can practice them. My words possess a lineage,My duties possess a ruler. Now : only because I am without-knowledge,Thus I am not understood.Those who understand me are rare,Consequently I am one who is valued! Thus the sage wears coarse cloth, but carries jade in her Heart.Photo by 五玄土 ORIENTO on UnsplashThe Return to HarmonyHow would you describe the color red to a person who might be born without sight?  Here you are, around colors your whole life, watching them mix to create new colors, playing around with them, and you are trying to describe what sensation you get when you see the color red to someone who simply doesn’t know.Lao Tzu says that his teachings are easy to understand and easy to practice - like our ability to experience things.  In Harmony with the Tao, Lao Tzu practices the Way - which when you’re in it, in flow, you get it.  Maybe like a dream?  When you're in the dream, things just seem to make sense, whether they’re logical or not.  That male person who is embodying my mother and who is popping wheelies in a car over there?  That all makes sense - at the time.  But then I open my eyes and try to make sense of it, or even more challenging, try to explain it to someone else, and well, yeah.  Not happening.So yes, easy to understand and easy to practice - if you get it.  Which is why I feel he says that even though they’re easy, no one can understand and no one can practice.  The Tao is something that you just have to ‘get,’ isn’t it?Well that’s not fair, I might say.  How is it that the Tao is available to everyone and yet I can’t get it if I don’t get it?  Well.  on the surface, it would appear that all doors are locked, wouldn’t it?  Like if I’m not plugged into the Tao, I’m basically talking about something that might as well be a dream, or an imperceptible color.I guess it’s a good thing that the Tao is always giving.  All I need to experience just a tiny bit is a little bit of the opposite of what I’ve got between my two ears in the beginning.  For me, and most of the time, I had habits of shutting out the Tao - they just developed as my sense of self did.  You know, fear, anger, embarrassment, guilt, shame.  Those things.  But when I started looking in the opposite direction of those things, the Tao suddenly unlocked its doors and I was able to enter.  Actually, I think it was me who unlocked those doors from the inside - the Tao did nothing except remain available.  By practicing compassion, contentment, and humility - the three treasures - I am able to access the Tao.  What seemed inaccessible before now becomes something I’ve always been able to get.  Like Dorothy’s red slippers, I have with me the ability to travel home any time I want by concentrating on practicing the three treasures.So, easy to practice and easy to understand?  You bet!  When I am of the world and concentrating on my worldly stuff and giving attention to all the ego-feeding desires I have?  It’s pretty much impossible for me to access the Tao when I am 100% invested in that stuff.  Thankfully, I’ve got tools like natural compassion, contentment and humility that I can tap into at any time to offset those things and return to Harmony.
Tao Te Ching Verse 69translated by Bram den HondThose who use weapons have a saying which goes:"I do not presume to act like the hostbut instead play the part of the guest;I do not advance an inchbut would rather retreat a foot".This is called moving forwardwithout appearing to move -Rolling up one's sleeveswithout showing one's arms -Grasping firmly, without holding a weapon -And enticing to fight when there is no opponent.Of disasters, there is no greater catastropheThan thinking you have no rival.To think you have no rival,Is to come close to losing my treasures.Therefore when weapons are raised,and opponents are fairly well matched,Then is the one who feels grief that will win.Photo by KT on UnsplashPracticingFor me, I have found humility to be an ongoing practice, one that requires constant attention and balance.  I have experienced two sides of humility:The first is when I feel I am superior to others or have superior morals or have said superior things or have acted in superior ways.  I sometimes allow these feelings of superiority into my mind as a shortcut to connecting with the Tao.  I say, look, there is evidence that we are OK and we are worthy of Harmony.  I feel like this is a shortcut because it still takes an effort from me to move into Harmony - I must get still, become aware, and focus.  Having not done this for much of my life, it is difficult for now.  I suspect in a few years it will get easier.  To practice humility in this case, I must remember that I am always OK and there is no need to feel superior to anyone or anything.  The other side of humility is when I feel unworthy.  During life, there are things that occur or things that I interpret that I allow to make me feel insecure.  Emotionally, financially, intimately, or socially insecure.  Those are the main categories for me.  This feeling of insecurity - it’s this feeling of ‘ick’ that makes me wonder if I’m even allowed to be there in life.  Like there are others that are way more worthy than I am.  These insecurities are also shortcuts.  They are the result of me looking at what I think is evidence and being OK with the outcome - that I don’t deserve my own love because I am defective, somehow.  I say this is a shortcut because it takes work and introspection to remember that despite what I may experience through my corporeal senses, I am still a perfect expression of the Tao.  In the moment, it’s easier to give in and move on.  And again, it is difficult for now to stop, dig through that programming, and reassess any false beliefs I have around my insecurities.  When, in the midst of a busy life, I find that once in awhile, I can feel like I‘m directly in the middle of infinity because I have practiced humility, I know that all is right with the world.  I wish this and more for you.And that will wrap it up.  Thank you for considering the principle of Practicing Humility humbly with me today.
Tao Te Ching Verse 68translated by Lin YutangThe brave soldier is not violent;The good fighter does not lose his temper;The great conqueror does not fight (on small issues);The good users of people place themselves below others.- This is the virtue of not-contending,   Is called the capacity to use people,   Is reaching to the height of being Mated to Heaven, to what was of old.Photo by Mario Klassen on UnsplashPracticing Non-Contention What do I secretly wish was better about life?  In my worldly life, I secretly wish I had an awesome car.Next, just sitting with this, I can ask, what does this have anything to do with my social status?  Do I think that if this thing was better, it would mean that I would be satisfied?And now the next question: why?  This one is where I need to be super honest with me and consider how much of this thing I wish was better has to do with my social status or who I think I’ll be as an individual.  If I had a dope ride, for example, I could roll around looking awesome and I’d have this feeling of ‘got my stuff together’ ness. Sure, a nice machine is a nice machine, and great speakers, that awesome new car smell, the sleekness with which I slide in and out of the cockpit - those are all things that are pleasurable and are a joy to experience.  Apart from that, though - are they the things that are worth the money or effort that I would spend getting that experience?  Or is there more to it than that?  With that money, don’t I also get bragging rights, a quiet sense of satisfaction that I can afford such a cool thing?So the next question I can ask is, if I had this thing that I secretly wished was better, how would I use it to compete with others for emotional security or social status?  If I had a great car, I could allow myself to feel a little superior to the other cars on the road.  If I had a spouse that listened every time I said something, I would have important things to say.  If I had a boss that told everyone how much she depends on me, I would be the best worker.  If I was the cool kid in my group of friends, I could walk around and be myself without having to doubt.  And if I was spiritually achieved, I could just plug into the Tao at will and make cool stuff happen.I guess the good news is that there isn’t a shortage of ways we can practice non-contention.  For me, I can start with the big things and ask why I secretly wish something was different.  I can identify what I’m trying to get out of that secret wish, and I usually find that it’s because I want to feel more secure about - anything - in relation to other people.  There must be people there to acknowledge I have a sick ride.  There must be people there to listen to me.  There must be people there to say I’m the best worker or the coolest friend.  And there must be an unrealistic standard against which I am measuring myself in spiritual matters or personal achievements.When I identify this aspect of competition within myself, I can consider how allowing the Tao to control that aspect would look.  If I took my competitive attitude and set it aside for a moment, I can observe how according to Tao it could be irrelevant or how I could focus on another, more positive aspect.  I could practice non-contention, and see how, when choosing this way forward, things turn out better than I could have imagined or planned.
Tao Te Ching Verse 67translated by Ellen Marie ChenAll under heaven say that my Tao is great,That it seems useless (pu hsiao).Because it is great,Therefore it seems useless.If it were useful,It would have long been small.I have three treasures (pao),To hold and to keep:The first is motherly love (tz'u),The second is frugality (chien),The third is daring not to be at the world's front.With motherly love one can be courageous,With frugality one can be wide reaching,Daring not be at the world's front,One can grow to a full vessel (ch'i).Now to discard motherly love, yet to be courageous,To discard frugality, yet to be wide reaching,To discard staying behind, yet to be at the front,One dies!One with motherly love is victorious in battle,Invulnerable in defense.When Heaven wills to save a people,It guards them with motherly love.Photo by N. on UnsplashThe CycleNot gonna lie, I’ve done this whole verse backwards for most of my life.  Which I guess is OK, given that the nature of the Universe is cyclical!  Here’s what I mean: Lao Tzu says that there is a divine order to things.  It starts with compassion, then leads to contentment, then continues with humility.  If one lives life in placing these virtues second, one courts disaster.  When things are confusing, he says, remember to just start with compassion.Right now, in where I’m at, If I were to sum up the Tao Te Ching, I’d use this verse as the cover page.  Of course, I love how it is ensconced  about 80% of the way through, mostly because of the reason Lao Tzu cites in the very first part - that it’s great and all but doesn't seem to have anything to do with real life.  So in my pain, I became receptive to the first 80% of this teaching and practiced it as best I could along the way.  This has made me even more receptive to what is for me in this moment the crux of the Tao Te Ching. I mean we’ve talked about the different ways and aspects of compassion.  We’ve talked about not judging, we’ve talked about fighting and then mourning the fight, we’ve talked a bout that do-nothing thing.We’ve talked about contentment.  Becoming aware of desires and abandoning them, attending to no-affairs, and non-competition.We’ve talked about humility, too.  Abandoning identity, service others and giving, and being vulnerable.I feel like Lao Tzu sums up all these things for us in this verse.  And not only does he say that these are the main things we’ve been discussing, he also presents the cycle, so if people like me have done it backwards, I can use the light to guide me back home.  It starts with compassion, he says.  Practicing that will lead me to contentment and practicing contentment will lead me to humility.  When I am close and connected with these three things, I then discover that life seems to be worth living.  I find limitless opportunities to take advantage of being in human form.  Once I am connected - and I can reconnect any time by practicing - I move back into Harmony and can really begin consciously participating in the Divine Infinite.
Tao Te Ching Verse 66translated by Dwight GoddardThe reason rivers and seas are called the kings of the valley is because they keep below them.Therefore the wise ones desiring to be above their people must in their demeanors keep below them; wishing to benefit their people, they must ever keep themselves out of sight.The wise dwell above, yet the people do not feel the burden; they are the leaders and the people suffer no harm. Therefore the world rejoices to exalt them and never wearies of them.Because they will not quarrel with anyone, no one can quarrel with them.Photo by Janusz Maniak on UnsplashServing and Leading OurselvesIn meditation, I have tried to force myself to be present.  This works poorly for me, especially when I’m agitated.  Sometimes, I’m all focus focus focus, and I end up trying too hard and then I’m focusing on focusing, and then a thought creeps in, and then I’m all noooo that’s not how you do it, then I try to focus harder.  At the end of the session, I just give up and tell myself I’ll try again.Sometimes, I’ll tell myself that no, I’m not going to eat this.  Or entertain thoughts of grandiosity.  Or argue with others.  I say no Dan, we’re better than that.  Stop it.  And while I may be able to control my physical behavior, I end up agitating myself and holding things in because even though I haven’t done the thing I didn’t want to do, I’m still wanting to do it.  Probably more so, since I told myself no.  So what’s the deal here?  I thought that following Tao I would be able to control this stuff.At this point, I can ask myself - which ruler am I being right now?  Am I the despot, the dictator who is ruling with fear and punishment?  Or am I being the Sage that leads from behind?  Well, let’s have a look: I tell myself no, and I mean it, we’re not going to do this, think this, feel this.  And then I say for good measure, if we do, think, or feel this, you won’t be worthy, you’ll be weak and a failure.  And then if I avoid doing it, I feel all proud, like yeah, I made that happen.  Or if I don’t avoid doing it, I punish me with the same feelings with which I threatened myself.  Does this sound familiar?  I think this is a natural thing for us to go through...until we can become aware of and begin practicing the way of the Sage.As the Sage, I am the gentle, weak force of gravity that gives myself a choice - and I side-step that exhausting battle completely.  I lead from behind, gently guiding me, giving me the choice.  Most of the time, I end up not doing the thing, being ok with the feelings, or suffering no consequence of idle thoughts I’ve given no power.  When I’m aware, of course.There are also times when I just can’t be willing.  But if it’s really really important for me to not do stuff, I have yet another tool I can use!  Yes, I can ask the Tao to help me be willing.  It’s OK to be vulnerable, remember?  It’s ok to ask the universe for help.  Actually, I’ve found this to be a great thing to practice.  If I’m open and patient, I gradually do become willing.  All I need is a little trust, a little patience, and then a little gratitude.  And of course compassion with me in case I don’t get it right the first, second, or 50th time.  The Tao provides.  Like every time.  All I need to do is to keep walking on the Path.
Tao Te Ching Verse 65translated by Hua-Ching NiIn ancient times, those who were well-versed in the practice of the subtle Way of the universe did not lead people to disintegrate their minds through intellectual developmentfor the sake of partial achievement.Instead, they dissolved all contradictory concepts and images in order to maintain thenatural state of simplicity.Why are people so hard to manage?Because they have become complicated.He who leads others with a conditioned and complicated mind is the source of calamity.He who leads others with simplicity is the source of blessing.To know these two principles is to possess a rule and measure, the symbol of the ancientwise one.To keep the rule and measure constantly in your mind,is to spontaneously manifest integral virtue.Deep and far-reaching is the subtle truth of integrity.It leads all things to return from worldly divergence to one great and universal life.Photo by Markus Spiske on UnsplashSimply LeadingIf we recall verse 19, we get a similar message, at least on the surface:  Lao Tzu seems to be encouraging anti-intellectualism!  And as with everything Lao Tzu, there is usually more to it than what’s on the surface.In this verse, he opens up by saying that rulers should aim to keep the people ignorant instead of enlightening them.  Taken at face value, one would be reasonably justified in saying, ‘preposterous!  Blasphemy!’ Mentally, I sat there open mouthed and in shock, wondering how my 2500 year old teacher could be saying such nonsense.  And then, worse, I wondered, ‘if this is crazy, what about the rest of it all?’I doubled my efforts to understand, mostly because I didn’t want to have wasted the time I’ve already put into the Tao Te Ching by silently denouncing Lao Tzu and his crazy ideas, solely based on my interpretation of a part of this verse.So what does this ‘keep them ignorant and not enlightened’ thing mean?  Well, similar to verse 19, I think we can start to think about this by saying that we ought not overemphasize the importance of knowledge - you know, knowledge for knowledge’s sake.  So with that in mind, I can interpret a little differently - the aim of the ruler is not to encourage people to develop only their intellectual achievements.  In Hua-Ching Ni’s translation, he talks about intellectual development for the sake of partial achievement.  And this makes sense, doesn’t it?  We’ve seen over and over again that there is a difference between reading the Tao and doing the Tao.  Reading about the Tao and understanding concepts is the first part - putting them into practice and integrating the principles into our lives is the other.  So I feel like what Lao Tzu is getting at here is that the primary aim of the ruler is to lead with simplicity.  The ruler is not trying to bring about any particular outcome; the people can do what they do.  The ruler is the servant, the one who takes care of the human organization of society.  The ruler is most effective when not trying to put together plans and designs that create this awesome society -- that’s the people’s job, not the ruler’s.
Tao Te Ching Verse 64translated by Sanderson BeckWhat stays still is easy to hold.Without omens it is easy to plan.The brittle is easy to shatter.The minute is easy to scatter.Handle things before they appear.Organize things before there is confusion.A tree as big as a person's embrace grows from a tiny shoot.A tower nine stories high begins with a mound of earth.A journey of a thousand miles begins under one's feet.To act is to fail.To grab is to lose.Therefore the wise do not act and do not fail.They do not grab and do not lose.In handling things people usually failwhen they are about to succeed.Be as careful at the end as at the beginning,and there will be no failure.Therefore the wise desire to have no desires.They do not value rare treasures.They learn what is unknown,returning to what many have missedso that all things may be natural without interference.Photo by Frank Eiffert on UnsplashThe QuestionsThe first thing I want to do is realize how the problem I have is being caused by me.  I ask myself: Who is the person or situation that is causing me this insecurity?What are they doing?  If it’s a fear, I ask myself, ‘what’s going to happen if this fear comes true?’What type of security am I needing here or trying to get?  Emotional? Financial? Social? Intimacy?What did I do to start a chain of events that led to me having this insecurity?  A quick note - this is the most difficult part for me, as it causes me to exercise my humility here.  The important thing to remember for me is that I am not concerned with the other person’s actions; they may have contributed, but I am the one looking at my own reactions.I’ll know I’ve completed this section if I can clearly see how I am the progenitor of my anger or fear.  Now the next series of questions is designed to allow me to see how I have a false belief that is contributing to my propensity to create anger or fear.  I want to look at that 4th question and ask, “is there a reason I am doing this?  Specifically, what belief system is at work?  For me, I believe that if I do what’s in question 4, I’ll get what I’m trying to get in question 3.”Sometimes I’ll need to explore this a bit in conversation with others or by writing.  Once I know which belief is at work, I’ll write it down.  I’ve come up with things like, “I am alone, I will feel content if I have money, I can feel safe if this person wouldn’t behave in this way.”  Things like that.OK, so here are the next set of questions:What is the belief?Is it true?  Or did it come from a series of reactions and interpretations of reality as I was growing up?What is the payoff for me believing this?Now: what would my life and my thoughts look like if I didn’t have this belief?Would I be willing to consider letting go of this belief?If yes, when would I be willing to let go of this belief?Moving forward, what can I practice in order to reinforce this new outlook I have?I find that when I move through those questions, I undo and unlearn some of those destructive thought patterns that I unknowingly created as I grew into adulthood. Finally, I say: Thank you for showing me this.  Please now show me how I may practice living with this new outlook.  Please help me be willing to put into practice what has been discovered.
Tao Te Ching Verse 63translated by James Legge(It is the way of the Tao) to act without (thinking of) acting;to conduct affairs without (feeling the) trouble of them; to tastewithout discerning any flavour; to consider what is small as great,and a few as many; and to recompense injury with kindness.(The master of it) anticipates things that are difficult while theyare easy, and does things that would become great while they aresmall. All difficult things in the world are sure to arise from aprevious state in which they were easy, and all great things from onein which they were small. Therefore the sage, while never doingwhat is great, is able on that account to accomplish the greatestThings.One who lightly promises is sure to keep but little faith; one who iscontinually thinking things easy is sure to find them difficult.Therefore the sage sees difficulty even in what seems easy, and sonever has any difficulties.Photo by TOMOKO UJI on UnsplashAttending to the SubtleAccomplish do-nothing, attend to no-affairs, and taste that which has no taste.  I like how parts of the Tao Te Ching start off with statements like this that make me think.  Like they don’t make sense at first, but once I sit with them for a while and contemplate, I begin to understand them.After having practiced Harmony with the Tao for a short while, I have an idea of what these statements mean, and I’ll bet you do, too.  In fact, they’re probably not all that cryptic if we’re in a quiet state of reception.  I’ve noticed that during the day, when I’m immersed in my work and relationships and life, these verses don’t resonate with me as much as when I’m sitting quietly.  Knowing this, I’ll pick out a quick one or two phrases I can repeat that day for quick remembrance while I’m doing life.  It helps me to practice.So - the subtle things.  That’s what I’ve been trying to remember in little moments.  The subtle things that belong to Harmony with the Tao.  Doing nothing, attending to no-affairs, and tasting the no-taste.  Doing nothing - that’s an easy one, since we’re always talking about abstaining from inserting our selfish egos into things.  How about no-affairs?  I feel like this is our self-cultivation, which we’ve been talking about, too.  Practicing, when they come to mind in certain situations, what we’ve learned so far on our journeys.  And tasting the tasteless?  For me, that means paying attention to the whole experience and savoring it as best I can.As I think about this, I realize that there is a lot to do when doing nothing!  And a lot to attend to when I’m attending to no-affairs.  And yo, there’s almost too much to taste when I’m aware of everything.  Crazy.  But it’s in the subtle things, isn’t it?  The tiny, seeming not even there aspects of life that quietly run in the background.  Like that wall clock that ticks ticks ticks 24/7, it can’t be heard except at 4 o'clock in the morning when everything else is still.  Our Tao is the same.  So I feel like the main call to action in the first part is to pay attention to the little things, because if we do, we can begin and create great things with very little effort.
Tao Te Ching Verse 62translated by Han Hiong TanDao is the safe haven for all beings.The good people value it.The bad people receive protection from it.Words consistent with Dao will place you in a coveted position.Deeds consistent with Dao will make you stand out from the crowd.Even if people are bad, Dao will not reject them.There are important events such as coronation and swearing in of ministers.In these pompous ceremonies, officials carrying precious jade lead the procession followedby four thoroughbreds.This grandiosity becomes insignificant when compared to simply presenting Dao as a gift.Why has Dao always been valued since antiquity?It is as the saying goes:"If you seek it, you will get it; if you make an error, you will be forgiven."Hence, Dao is valued by all.Kindness Contagion. Image created by Adam Niklewicz. Submitted for United Nations Global Call Out To Creatives - help stop the spread of COVID-19.Giving the Tao to OthersThe Tao is our treasure and our refuge.  When it’s my treasure I can be grateful.  When it’s my refuge, I can work to connect with it.So.  At home: what do I appreciate?  Who do I appreciate?  Run your mind’s eye over the people in your home life.  Go as close as you like.  My wife has this little freckle on the back of her ear.  It’s cute - just doing its thing, and it’s one of those things that make her her.  And what about you?  Now let’s consider if there are any aspects about our home life that seem like they could use a little more harmony with the Tao.  I would like to spend more time playing with my cats, giving them attention and love.  What about you?Now let’s think about how we might set aside our selfish desires at home and those places where we can move more into Harmony.  Let’s ask the Tao to help us be open to ways in which we can serve its gifts to others.  There’s no need to identify specific actions - let’s allow the moments to reveal themselves and be willing to serve if called upon.Let’s look at work, now.  Who do I appreciate at work?  With whom do I like working?  Who do I respect?  And: where do my relationships at work need a little more harmony?  With bosses?  Customers?  Colleagues or coworkers?And let’s again think about our selfish desires at work.  Can we ask the Tao to help us be open to abandoning these desires?  Can we ask the Tao to show us ways we can exercise compassion, humility, and joy?And now with friends.  Let’s appreciate the feeling we get when we’re with friends.  There are the funny ones, the interesting ones.  The listening ones.  The ones with whom we may have a strong bond.  Let’s remember how much they enrich our lives.And what about those people in our group that we don’t usually talk to?  Are they weird?  Not so easy to talk with?  Are they funny in a uh-oh way instead of a ha-ha way?  Let’s ask the Tao to help us include those people in our lives in a way that honors them and is safe for us.  Let’s also ask the Tao to help us be open to serving the group with genuine humility, setting aside the desires that may crop up to be popular or liked from time to time.OK, now let’s ask the Tao to help us practice these things as we go about our week.  Let’s ask for the willingness to be open to considering them.
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