The Tao Te Ching for Everyday Living
The Tao Te Ching for Everyday Living
Dan Casas-Murray
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.
Tao Te Ching Verse 81: Staying Connected with Truth
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
Apr 8, 2021
29 min
Tao Te Ching Verse 80: Accessing the Utopia Within
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.
Apr 1, 2021
31 min
Tao Te Ching Verse 79: Staying Forgiving
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.
Mar 25, 2021
24 min
Tao Te Ching Verse 78: Staying Humble
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.
Mar 18, 2021
33 min
Tao Te Ching Verse 77: Staying Content
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.
Mar 11, 2021
27 min
Tao Te Ching Verse 76: Staying Compassionate
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. 
Mar 4, 2021
32 min
Tao Te Ching Verse 75: Abstinence
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?
Feb 25, 2021
29 min
Tao Te Ching Verse 74: Disqualifying Ourselves from Managing
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.
Feb 18, 2021
27 min
Tao Te Ching Verse 73: The Tao's Perfect Outcome
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.  
Feb 11, 2021
33 min
Tao Te Ching Verse 72: Reflecting
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.
Feb 4, 2021
29 min
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