The TAO (the Dao)

“Tao in the world is like a river flowing home to the sea.”
~Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching~thetaoqquote5.jpg

“Tao or Dao: 道 is a Chinese word meaning ‘way’, ‘path’, ‘route’… ‘Tao signifies the primordial essence or fundamental nature of the Universe. Tao is not a ‘name’ for a ‘thing’ but the underlying natural order of the Universe. It is thus ‘eternally nameless’ and to be distinguished from the countless ‘named’ things which are considered to be its manifestations.”    (posted on Ecological Consciousness)

I love Lao Tzu and Tao Te Ching quotes—they just feel good to me—like TRUTH feels when it resonates inside me.

Can’t say I am very learned in The Tao or Taoism, but I can say that what little I know, moontao5.jpgagain, feels more like a natural expression of myself in some way.

The Yin-Yang symbol (called the Taiji) is often used to represent the concept of the Tao—the in and out, the give and take, etc., often even representing the seeming polarity of the masculine or feminine principles.  But rather than as opposing forces, the pairings are meant to represent the complementary forces required to signify the wholeness or unity even in apparent duality—just as salt and pepper are simply condiments meant to enhance flavor, while still being distinct in their own attributes and coloring.taoquote67

I knew I could do an entire post with nothing but Lao Tzu or Tao Te Ching quotes because these abound everywhere and they still seem applicable to our present life.

The Tao Te Ching is a Chinese classic text traditionally credited to the 6th-century BC sage Laozi, or presently known as Lao Tzu. That’s a long time for catchy phrases to be hanging around and still be considered as ancient wisdom.

Even simple ones still have tremendous depth of meaning:

quotTao_Te_Ching_Ch_11.jpg

 

Wow…that one hit me in numerous ways—the positive and negative space references—the substance and emptiness aspects. The “It’s all in how you fill the emptiness” aspect that can be so significant to the vessel’s importance—just ask any psychologist the truth of that statement.

There is so much potential in that one simple quote.

Then there is one quote more applicable to what I normally write about on self-transformation:taoquote63

 

So while I may not know much about Taoism other than I really like the quotes of Lao Tzu, in some ways I feel that I really do know the TAO—which is the essence of the universe that expresses itself through us in unique and powerful ways, because that’s the part of my life that I like the best.

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“If Not Now, Then When?”

(Thanks to Tao & Zen on  May 25  for this posting from Lama Surya Das in 1994)

(I personally align to no particular religion, but am open to quality spiritual thought. I like Buddhism for its psychological depth and self-examination aspects. I like Hinduism for its ancient Vedic Seers (as well as more modern saints) who were capable of parting the veil obscuring our perceptions on this life. I like agnostics who claim that we can’t possibly know God based solely on our limited comprehensions. And I especially like the wisdom of our own Higher Self aspects that define our life experiences within the context that this human vehicle is capable of understanding.  To me, this article expresses all of those ‘likes’ by simply discussing Dharma—the way of awakening to one’s fullest potential.)

“Buddhist meditation is the heart of the path of awakening. It is called Dharma… the way of awakening to one’s fullest potential, in Western terms.buddhamedpic5.jpg

‘Awakening from what?’ you might ask. Awakening from the sleep of semiconsciousness, the dream of delusion. Awakening to enlightenment, illumination, freedom, nirvanic peace, inner peace as well as outer peace.

This is a path that we travel. It is not a dogma or belief system that we need to accept. In fact, as a very wonderful wise friend of mine, an American lama, once said, “It doesn’t really matter what we believe. It only matters what we do and are.”

I found that interesting. In Buddhism we usually say it doesn’t matter what we do, it matters how aware we are. It shows that the outer and inner are totally inseparable. It is what we are that counts, but that is what we do, actually. Our inner state shows up in our behavior…

If we practice this path, we experience the fruits, the results. Each of us innately has that Buddha potential or Buddha-nature, enlightened perfect nature.

Not just in us, like a needle in a haystack, so hard to find; rather, it is us, just waiting to be realized fully, or actualized. So this path of meditative practice, of self-inquiry, of cultivation of awareness is a practice path that we travel ourselves. Not a dogma we need to believe.

This meditative practice is like a mirror to help us see ourselves, to better know ourselves, thoroughly — our true selves, not just our superficial personalities and conditioned social selves, our persona, but our true nature, our true selves. To unfold and realize that is possible. That’s what we call awakening the Buddha within.

An ancient rabbi, Hillel I think, said, “If not you, then who? And if not now, when?” If you are not the Bodhisattva, a selfless spiritual activist or hero serving the welfare of beings, who will be?

And if not now, when? This is a call to action–not just worldly, compulsive busy-body-like activity, but a call to Buddha-activity, enlightened activity, enlightened living… ifnotnowwhen7.jpg

Not just living wisdom from the eyebrows up, totally cerebral and intellectual. Rather, embodying truth and living it.”

~ Lama Surya Das ~ Excerpts from “Dharma Talk,” October 24, 1994; Cambridge, MA.

 

Dueling Beliefs

dueling beliefs.jpgMany thoughts were swirling this Christmas season, as I recollected memories of friends and family who have passed from this earth-based existence.

Even the day of the BIG day, I shared a Facebook post on the essence of the season being that of peace and love, then immediately thought of a departed friend who would have countered my post with her own dueling-belief version stating that the reason for Christmas is Jesus, period.

Well, in a sense, yes, the day represents his birthday, whether factual or not (but since truthbelief.pngwhen does FACT ever matter to those who strongly believe the opposite) however, there is a symbolic representation of what the man Jesus represented to those around him at that time in the history of the world, as well as to the present world society that has interpreted his messages in unique and divergent ways.

Her particular beliefs were cemented in a few specifics of interpretation and appropriate “Christian” attitudes for her to maintain. When I first met her, she made that point clear to me from the start.

There was no diverging or differing in her religious belief system. As one might also expect, her political beliefs were very similar in effect.

She proudly was who she was—take it or leave it—staunchly content and vociferously defendant of her self-proclaimed “Christian Republican” label.  And when we talked, we avoided subjects that might lead to our confrontation of opinion.nograyarea

To her, there was no variance—no leanings to consider— life was right or wrong, black or white with no tolerance for gray shades—she was that certain in her opinions because she also believed that they defined her as a person.

But many years ago (2011) when she became stricken with some form of digestive cancer and I (with REIKI and hypnosis) did whatever I could to help her maintain her health and life activities for as long as was possible, her certainty and solidity began to waver.

She actually mellowed a bit. She considered the word “maybe” in her conversations on what had once defined her life.

So this morning when I shared that one little post that might have inspired an opposing opinion had she still been around, I reminded myself that her countering voice was now forever silent here, but I seriously wondered what her opinions might be now that she had transcended this plane of physicality. How do you see it from that vantage my friend? transcendence.jpgIs it all the same as you clung to here or is it a bit more loosely considered there? I’d love to know.

I can understand a sense of desperation in some beliefs—the emotional commitment to basing your very existence on holding some key tenants to be beyond reproach, but I also understand that when death calls you home, earthly beliefs mean little if they can’t stop death’s beckoning hand. At times such as those, inner peace may mean the difference in letting go of life with love or fighting to the last breath with fear of what lies beyond breath itself.

I hope she chose love.chooselove.jpg

That love would have sustained her and aided her transition to the next level. If she truly believed the energetic essence rather than the strict doctrine of what she once stated, she let love guide her home.

So this morning I sent blessings to her wherever she resides in the ethers, for that once strongly-countering voice I can hear echoing in my head.

At Christmas time I still think of you, Carolyn, …with a smile.

How to Reset the Mind

As I mentioned previously, new info sources are really flowingdeepak2.jpg before me now. Saw an article this morning by Deepak Chopra, MD, who most everyone on the planet who is and has been into spirituality for the last 20 years, knows in some way.

I’ll post a few way-too-long excerpts before I make my own comments:

 “Does the Human Mind Need a Fresh Start?” By Deepak Chopra, MD

In SF Gate – On November 20, 2017

https://www.deepakchopra.com/blog/article/5915?sso_code=eyJpdiI6IlNPZHBsUDljdUZZcHpwUFpRZlFcLytBPT0iLCJ2YWx1ZSI6IkZFY245OUFGNGQwWHlLcXQ3Vm8zXC9UMjBYTlR6YlJLTXJHb0tXWGM4N1dOWTc1Z1lIbmR4ZnkrXC91cWU3Y1hSaW9kcERCdmNsUE5EdENnbzNXRUhtbWcwVk5EZUF0Z3Yza25YV1BlSlYzWDQ9IiwibWFjIjoiN2NmMWI0OGZhYTUyZTFjMDk4ZDlhNjMxMjE4YjZhNzlkZDY5OGM3NWY1ZDE4MWE5MDc1MDUyZGMzNWJkZTU3ZSJ9

“Most people would agree, even without a degree in psychology, that many if not most problems are created by the mind. …

resetmind“Medicine aims to relieve people of mental distress, with the goal of addressing a mood disorder like depression, for example, and returning the mind to a normal state. But this only highlights our confusion over what “normal” means, because there are plenty of ills created by people who would pass the test for normality. …

“It isn’t the brain that has created such misery and confusion, such lack of self-awareness; therefore, neuroscience and psychotropic drugs aren’t going to save us. It’s the mind’s status in everyday life that lies at the heart of the dilemma.  Here are the basic areas of confusion and conflict that remain unsolved.

  • Is human nature changeable? If so, why is history a litany of the same oppression, war, and strife repeated century after century?
  • Are we inherently good or evil? Where do good and evil come from?
  • Is the unconscious a dark, fearful realm or the source of inspiration, insight, and love?
  • Why is it so difficult to curb the tendency toward anger, fear, envy, and insecurity that lies just beneath the surface when people are put under stress?
  • Why are whole populations addicted to us-versus-them thinking? What makes common humanity so feeble in comparison?
  • Finally, why is it so difficult to find happiness? Is happiness ultimately a fleeting state, a blip in an existence ruled by every kind of unhappiness?

“One reason that these questions remain unanswered is that modern society has devised no kind of answer that seems to fit. These aren’t medical questions, nor are they within the domain of scientific problems.  Psychology as currently practiced is about relieving the mental distress of people who need it, not diagnosing and treating “normal” people. Philosophy and religion are on the wane so drastically that they have little influence, and it’s not clear whether religion in particular is part of the problem or part of the solution. Secularism based on reason has its advantages in dispelling myth and superstition, but rational, dispassionate science gave us atomic weapons and ever-more-lethal means of mechanized death. ….lifechange.jpg

“These vexing problems aren’t being laid out to sound gloomy, but to place a proposition on the table, the proposition that the human mind needs a fresh start. This is the only path to redefining what it means to be human. Despite the evolutionary argument that would make us prisoners of the past (violent because of the lower brain, predacious because of the need to compete for food and mating rights, afraid because of the need for continual defense in the harshness of natural surroundings, etc.), there is an equal argument for free will, higher consciousness, our so-called better angels, loving kindness, and everything else one associates with enlightened humanity. …

“No one doubts that such qualities exist, and they too are mind-created. So at bottom we aren’t talking about the human mind, or human nature, as inherently evil, ignorant, and self-destructive. Instead, the human mind and human nature are divided, and the division exists in everyone. Realizing this fact, most of the solutions to human ills come down to the same thing: coaxing people to identify with the positive side of human nature and denying or releasing themselves from the negative side. …

“In this case it refers to the mind but not to the totality of awareness—that’s the clue to a workable solution to the divisions created by the mind. Awareness is the foundation of thought but it isn’t a thought. It is the foundation of good and bad behavior, positive and negative impulses, but awareness doesn’t behave or feel impulsive. By analogy, awareness is like color. Horrible and beautiful images use color, but color itself isn’t horrible or beautiful by nature. …

“This single fact allows us to know ourselves in a new way, to give the mind a fresh start. Everything we call innate about the mind is conditioned, learned, constructed, inherited, reinforced, and struggled against. …

universalconsciousness3.jpg“It is inevitable that consciousness wants to know itself, unlike the mind, which spends endless time and energy not knowing itself. The inevitability of consciousness is the second greatest insight of the world’s wisdom traditions—let’s see how it expresses itself in our time.”

***

Ok, ….so aside from the fact that I wish Deepak would condense his article a bit more into a few specific thoughts to explore rather than defining the entire human condition in one blog post, the key point I got from it was all of humanity’s problems stem from our conditioned responses to every aspect of the world that we inhabit, and that we need to reset our minds to change the inevitable conclusion that we default to, which is our being preprogrammed for violence and self-preservation.  (“You want to be good—then stop being bad” sort of thinking.)

The main questions that he raises here on humanity’s potential for changing itself are important ones to consider further:

  • “Is human nature changeable?
  • Are we inherently good or evil?
  • Is the unconscious a dark, fearful realm or the source of inspiration, insight, and love?
  • Why is it so difficult to curb the tendency toward anger, fear, envy, and insecurity that lies just beneath the surface when people are put under stress?
  • Why are whole populations addicted to us-versus-them thinking?
  • Why is it so difficult to find happiness?”

Here are MY bullet points pertaining to that:

  • I’m sure that every therapist in existence today makes a living dealing with those same key issues.
  • Self-help gurus make their fortunes providing palatable answers and working solutions to those same questions for the crowds who follow them.
  • Philosophers and theologians have staked their life’s work on providing theses and institutional hypotheticals pertaining to the countering of man’s innate badness tendencies with man’s potential qualities for goodness.
  • There are real-world ego/financial-based reasons shown above that may stymie genuine progress in evolving mankind’s earth-based consciousness.

everyconsciousne.jpgAnd if I understood what Deepak was trying to explain, he is saying that “consciousness” (here meaning the Great Awareness—Universal Existence—GOD) is the infinitely larger reservoir of ALL THERE IS TO KNOW, while the human mind is more finite and self-focused on its own perpetuating state of existence within the human vessel.

So when we can expand our awareness beyond the limited self and tap into the larger UNIVERSAL AWARENESS consciousness, we have the potential for changing the human condition and humanity itself for the future.

At least I hope that’s what he was saying.meditationsit.jpg

He’s been pushing meditation and spiritual transcendence for decades, so focusing on connecting into the Higher Aspect Consciousness is his suggestion to resetting the human mind to recognize its potential for goodness and maximum co-creativity for our world.

But retraining ourselves also involves lengthy undoing of previous training (from our infancy onward by parents, teachers, religions, peers, media, etc.). That’s why there are so many practicing psychotherapists, and I bet they do way more untraining than retraining.

reset button

Too bad we aren’t like our computers in that respect. You hit the reset button with your fingers crossed and your mouth held just right, and hope for the best.

Archetype as Manifestation

om symb.jpgReading a blog post on Hinduism, I ran across a sentence that stated that Hinduism is often thought to be polytheistic (many deities) but actually it is monotheistic (one Supreme Being which is TRUTH); and the various other Hindu Gods and Goddesses depicted in statues and iconic art are merely manifestations of the Supreme Being. They are the recognizable ways that TRUTH manifests Itself in the world that we know.

True, this may be one person’s opinion/perception in general on the subject. But it spurred a thought in me that each of the iconic manifestations (Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma, Ganesha, Tara, Kali, …etc.) which handle specialized functions and forces of the arch black.jpgrecognized Hindu Universe, were similar to archetypes—specific behavioral patterns depicted in a generalized, recognizable form for the collective mind to grasp.

In no way can I, nor would I, try to adequately explain one of the most complex, ancient belief systems of humanity, but I can recognize that religions in general were often created to help people conceptualize/rationalize the interacting forces of their lives from birth to death—to help make a type of sense to how fragile their lives often seemed.

  • What’s the purpose, the reason, or the point of LIFE in general?
  • Why come into this existence for so short a time and then leave with little evidence of our having even been here?life purpose.jpg

Well, religions have tried to supply those illusive answers. Some folks might be satisfied with those answers, and some may not.

But what most religions do is to provide their followers with a purpose of life narrative that many find comforting in some way. To be believable, that narrative needs a cast of characters to provide the story’s action. Those action characters often provide the religion’s examples of the human-like behaviors to admire or detest—the should’s and should not’s examples—the goodness aspects to emulate and the badness aspects to avoid.

With deities, however, it is not so much the human attributes and failings that are primarily important about them, because their importance lies in the affecting forces of the Universe that they represent—forces for destruction or creation—forces for condemnation or adulation—forces for cruelty or compassion—forces for personal defense or protection—forces to block adversity and to clear obstructions.

These forces are often depicted as recognizable human-like figures—meaning that they are ARCHETYPES—a collectively recognized symbol representing a pattern of thought or behavior.

Example: When Shiva or Kali manifest in the world—watch out! shiva.jpgThey both represent destruction.

So if we wish to change our social and cultural concepts of how the world around us should function and flow, perhaps we should examine the archetypes/symbols we often associate with peaceful co-existence.

If we truly want to manifest a loving and compassionate world, we need an archetypal model to emulate. That may be the draw of Christianity, where you have an entire religion based on a recognized symbol of love and compassion for all in Jesus.

In Hinduism or Buddhism it might be represented by Tara, or Buddism’s Avalokiteśvara (male Bodhisattva) or Guanyin (female Bodhisattva) who also represent mercy and compassion.  But the point being: There are recognized archetypes already existing that represent the desired state of being. We don’t even have to create them. We simply need to utilize them as archetypal examples of loving forces for the betterment of humanity.

I am NOT a fan of organized religions. But I do recognize that their function is to promote models of positive human behavior and right-attitudes for humanity’s peaceful co-existence.wild angel.jpg

So perhaps if we focused less on the doctrine espoused by these religions and more on the general intention by all for positive, peaceful human co-existence, then there would be less necessity for warrior archetype to remain the primary action hero of today’s life narrative. Let’s switch to SAGE archetype for awhile. We need a little less automatic reaction and a bit more consideration before action in the world we occupy.

It’s a stretch, I know. But it’s definitely worth the effort.

Remember that an archetype is representative of a pattern of behavior, so what behavior is most productive for all of our futures? Hatred and destruction only create more of the same.

Love and peaceful co-existence assure that there might actually be a tomorrow to enjoy.

I vote for that.love hate.jpg

The Value of Skepticism

skepticSkeptics walk a rough road in this world. If you are one, you know what I’m referring to, and if you are a ready believer in much of what you see and hear around you, then you simply can’t understand the skeptic’s perspective.

To a skeptic, the fact that you, a believer, are so willing to “believe” everything you encounter, is an anathema to the skeptic’s view of life.believr cap.jpg

So which am I, skeptic or believer?

Not sure but I think I’m a bit of both because I can see genuine value in skepticism and yet I know that being distrustful of everything or forcing everyone to prove as verifiable truth what they are vehemently claiming to be such, is ludicrous in itself.

Take the concept of GOD for example. Prove to me GOD exists or prove to me S/He doesn’t. Prove to me GOD is even a She or a He, or both/neither.

There is evidence that something far greater than ourselves does exist—this I do believe—I am actually very spiritual and feel directly connected into that indescribable guy w glasses.jpgSOMETHING; and yet the likelihood that this SOMETHING is anthropomorphically or even anatomically similar to people in general is a bit of a stretch to me. So I have problems believing much of organized religion’s verbatim descriptions of a chief deity with human characteristics or failings.  That’s just a bridge too far.

However I am more likely to believe that people, historically ancient and even present day people, try to relate to the great mysteries of their lives in ways that make those doors of beliefmysteries more palatable or bite-sized for human comprehension because it is a natural way to better psychologically deal with emotional and physical hardships in general—a way to maintain a sense of hope for something better in the future if the present situation is pretty awful to endure.

I think that many people are natural “believers” because during the course of our lives we sometimes tell ourselves what we most want to hear just to make it through a painful situation. Sometimes we even believe what we most want to believe because not doing so is tightrope walking across the Grand Canyon of infinity without a safety net; …and who, other than a Wallenda, wants to do that?

So I do recognize that the older the civilization, the more ingrained the belief, especially skeptic truth.jpgif people feel that believing such has helped them to survive to their present state of being. I can easily understand that aspect of religious teaching acceptance by many.

Perhaps the church’s authority in people’s lives during their early childhood development in the last century instilled that sense of bowing to the head of a religious organization who told you how you could and could not live your lives.

But a few decades ago as horrifying as public exposure became of the wide-spread Catholic Priesthood child sex-abuse crimes, it did do one important thing: It shook a lot of natural believers away from giving people of authority total control over their lives, and also helped them to more skeptically view ANY high-ranking official of ANY organization, religious or secular, as all too humanly fractured to be the perfect vessel for any higher spiritual function.politican lies

Then again, you don’t need to be affiliated with religions to be a “believer” in something or someone, especially a someone who tells you exactly what you want to hear about the subject or about yourself, as it relates to the subject—like a politician.

I think political skepticism is very healthy and truly necessary in today’s world. Perhaps it always was necessary, but we just weren’t as aware of such widespread lying and intentional deception in earlier times because we were more naturally trusting of authority figures.

boy w woman.jpgSo there is value in skepticism—in not blindly trusting what we are being shown or told.

Skepticism helps us view our lives with more objectivity so we can see more than what we want to see, and to hear something closer to the truth than what we would actually prefer to hear.escape to reality

A skeptic’s view of life may not be the fantasy that we want to believe in, but it helps to keep things more REAL—and that is the world in which we actually have to live.

God’s TRUTH

“The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. kalidescope stained glass
It fell, and broke into pieces.
Everybody took a piece of it,
and they looked at it and thought they had the truth.”
~ Rumi

 

Love this poem by Rumi, but then I usually love most of his poems. However this one really struck me after my recent experience with trying to help some friends save a dying church congregation.

Clearly I love my friends and valued our united effort to create a better spiritual environment for all involved, but I did NOT love the scripted “churchiness” requirements of the experience—the dogma, the empty ritual, the traditions of doing something a certain way because it had always been done like that, and the dictatorial manner of the pastor deciding the church’s focus.

That kind of ‘pseudo-spiritual’ experience is definitely not for me—in fact it is the very church ladyreason I shunned churches in general for most of my life—because of the phoniness and hypocrisy of the experience.

Even from the start I knew that my participation in the group endeavor would not be easy because of my personal views on organized religions (Religion and spirituality are two very different aspects of believing in something greater than oneself, and while I am deeply spiritual, I am not a fan of the restrictive, entrenched, self-perpetuating structure of religious teachings.).

But again, I love my friends and wanted to help them pull off this effort successfully—to rebuild the dwindling congregation for the small-community betterment.church.jpg

After sitting with clenched teeth through eight months of services/sermons over what was being said and done at the pulpit and altar, I decided I couldn’t continue what felt to me to be a ridiculous charade and poorly disguised ego-trip for the preacher.

As Rumi said above, my piece of the mirror didn’t reflect what was being said and done there, so to me, it could never be MY truth. And I don’t feel bad about quitting the group endeavor or for leaving my friends there who are still a part of it.

What I would feel guilty about is if I hadn’t quit, because then I would be betraying my own self—my own spiritual connectedness that always feels pure and direct.

A week ago someone said something derogatory to me, and I let it go without responding or feeling ill will toward the person for saying it; and my best friend said to me that I was being a good ‘Christian’ about the situation.

rumi religion.jpgI had to bite my tongue to keep from saying back to her, No, ….that was being a good Muslim, or a good Jew, or a good Buddhist, or a good Jainist, or a good Taoist, or a good Hindi.

 

What I actually was demonstrating had nothing to do with any religion in particular, but with ALL in general: I was being a good PERSON!

We throw these religious labels around far too easily to separate us from others—to make distinctions between US and THEM—and what THEY believe as opposed to what WE believe.

But the entire point of living this life is to recognize our similarities and our sameness, not accentuate our differences. character quote

So to me, if you want to build a better world and create more loving and peaceful environments for everyone, including yourselves, then be better people, not proselytizers of elite-ness and separation from those who don’t share the same piece of God’s TRUTH mirror that you have in your hand.

Let’s put all those mirror pieces back together and then look within the reconstructed TRUTH mirror because it is only God’s TRUTH when it is in Its wholeness.

gods truth