Sunday, December 8, 2019

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 65

Like other chapters which address principles of governance, this chapter applies just as well, and perhaps with more relevance, to how we govern ourselves.

In ancient times rulers who followed Tao
Did not teach people to be clever
But rather encouraged people to follow their true nature
Governing by manipulation brought ruin
But governing in alignment with Tao brought good fortune

I have taken great liberty with the translation here because the use of certain characters in this particular chapter seems atypical in the context of the Tao Te Ching. I hope I have captured the essential meaning. I think the point, expressing a theme throughout the text, is that nature has its own wisdom that we cannot improve on. And when we try, our interference causes chaos and suffering.

To know the difference between these two (the natural way vs interference)
Is called mysterious Virtue (Te)
Mysterious Virtue reaches deep and far
Linking all things to the Source
In perfect harmony

As I’ve noted before, the “Te” of the Tao Te Ching is often translated as “Virtue.” However, this does not mean virtue in any moralistic sense, but rather means the expression of Tao in the manifested universe. I think it is comparable to the fruits of the spirit in Christianity, which are not moral rules but rather the natural expression of being filled with the holy spirit.

Maybe I’m just getting too tired as I get older to expend a lot of energy trying to force things to be a certain way. I find more and more that when I allow things to run their natural course, everything turns out all right. In hindsight I see the wisdom of how things unfold, even if at an earlier stage it seemed that everything was going the wrong way. “Wrong,” of course, according to me and my limited vision and anxiety at the time. I’m learning to suspend judgment and take the approach voiced by a friend. “Let’s just see what happens.”

When I’m able to do that, all the moving pieces do indeed seem to settle into harmonious resonance. And it is perfect.

Trust the process. ~Kyle Cline

Monday, December 2, 2019

The Labyrinth of Life

I love maps. I love maps I can hold in my hand and unfold on a table. I love Rand McNally atlases. I love globes. I love the placemat maps I got for my grandson, so that we can move his plate aside and find where we live and explore the country or the world. I love maps in malls and hotels that say “you are here.” When I lived in Paris years ago, I didn’t go anywhere without my paperback street guide which included maps of the Metro and bus routes. I always knew where I was, where I was going, and how to get there.

I’ve had many occasions in recent years to ride in the car while one of my daughters is driving. When they get in the car, they automatically program the GPS for their destination, and follow the moving arrow along with the spoken directions. The directions lead them one step at a time, guiding them just as far as the next turn. Even when it is somewhere that, at least in my opinion, they should know how to get to, they turn over the directions to the GPS and trust that it will get them there. They are content to know only their immediate instruction and seem unperturbed that the rest of the route is a mystery, revealed only as needed. It is, I’ve come to appreciate, a lesson in faith.

Like walking a labyrinth. There is a lovely labyrinth not far from me, nestled among trees and bushes in a beautiful garden adjoining a monastery. It is open to the public and I have walked it many times in all seasons. A labyrinth, unlike a maze, has only one route to the center. You cannot make a wrong turn. However, it is impossible to stand at the entrance and see how you are going to get from point A to point B. The path turns and winds in such a way that you can only see the segment immediately in front of you.

Walking a labyrinth is a meditation in being present, trusting that no matter how many twists and turns you take, you are being led without mistake on the path to God (or the center, or your true being, or enlightenment, or whatever term you want to use). And once you reach the center, after resting in the power of its energy, you turn and walk back out, again trusting the path to lead you, this time back into the world, carrying the experience of truth with you.

So I’m not going to scoff at my daughters anymore for their reliance on and trust in that GPS. It might not be as infallible as the labyrinth, but perhaps it is their version of a practice in being present and trusting in the goodness of the universe.

I can appreciate that...and still like maps.

If we learn to love the earth, we will find labyrinths, gardens, fountains, and precious jewels! A whole new world will open itself to us. We will discover what it means to be truly alive. ~Teresa of Avila

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


I am the Lover and the Beloved
I am Love that longs ever for itself
I know this in my soul
I can taste it

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Clothed in Divine Raiment

The title to this post is more “religious” sounding than my usual writing. Yet this phrase came to me up at the cabin this last weekend and it has persistently stayed with me. So I, in turn, have persistently stayed with it! I meditated and asked this phrase to reveal to me its message. And the message came in the form of a prayer of praise and thanksgiving. So I will share it with you as it came to me.

Lord of glory
You have clothed me in divine raiment
I am magnified in your loving mercy
You have stretched forth your hand
And I take it gladly
Leaving all else behind
I walk into your embrace
Shedding all density
I am robed in your splendor
I am yours now and forever
Blessed in bounty
Loved into eternity

As I contemplated this message, I realized that indeed, the last two years have been intense years of shedding, letting go of everything I held onto – beliefs, illusions, hopes, expectations, fears, identities. The world is different to me now, and I am different in it. Everything is ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. Mundane and magical. Every day is an adventure, every moment is a gift, every breath a liberation.

This is, I think, the meaning of living in grace, living in alignment with the energy of the universe, entering the realm of oneness with all creation. It is, as Buddha said, the power of being awake.

I wish I could tell you that I experience this all the time. I don’t. But I do more and more. And when I do, I’m aware that indeed, like the lilies of the field, I am clothed in the divine raiment of life. And I am grateful.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. ~Psalm 139:14

Friday, November 15, 2019

A Flower Grows

I cannot make a flower grow
But I can plant a seed
Where the sun shines warm
And rain falls soft
Then when the time is right
The flower blossoms beauty
Answering the call of its own nature
Revealing what it has always been
So it is with us, my friend
So it is with us

Monday, November 11, 2019

What Values Do We Model?

As part of her college ethics class, my daughter was asked to list the core values she was raised with. Here is her list:

Always tell the truth
Work hard for what you want
Be kind

Wow, I thought, she really was paying attention when she was growing up! I was glad to see reflected back to me values that I hold dear in my own life, and glad that these were among the values she has carried with her into adulthood.

But what really stunned me was her answer when I asked her how she learned these values. She said that she remembers that this is how I behaved. She had some very specific memories as examples, especially of kindness. Some of the examples I didn’t even remember. But she was watching when she was a little girl, and learning not from what I said, but from what I did.

She told me that she sometimes thought my standards were unfair, especially when other kids were held to a lower bar. I remember one time when she was crying, asking me why I had such high expectations for her. I told her that these were just the basic expectations for being a decent human being – we had not gotten to the high expectations yet. Ha!

But now I see her teaching these same values to her children. And she says she is grateful that I taught her how to be a good person.

So this made me think about all the ways I model values for other people. Am I modeling kindness, compassion, honesty, integrity, courage, responsibility, accountability, tenderness, trustworthiness, understanding? Not all the time, I’m sure. But now, with a new generation coming up in the family, I’m more aware that little eyes are watching, and little ears are listening. And I am more careful.

Her list was an assignment for class, but I think I’m the one who learned the lesson!

Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them. ~James Baldwin

Tuesday, November 5, 2019


A few days ago I woke up with a migraine. I took some medicine and went back to bed with a cold gel pack on my forehead. The headache did not subside. It got worse.

As I lay there, I became aware of the constant chatter going on in my mind. We all have that background thinking loop that plays and replays behind our conscious and directed thinking. My mind, when left to its own devices, explores the most random locations, relives the past, rehearses the future, ponders plots from TV shows, imagines dire events unlikely to ever happen, picks at emotional scabs until they bleed, considers strategies to manipulate uncontrollable people and circumstances, and basically never stops talking.

When the pain shut down my conscious thinking, my attention was free to observe what was really going on underneath. What I hadn’t realized before was how exhausting it is to run this ceaseless program in the background of our minds. It is like the drain on our electric power by leaving things plugged in that we aren’t using.

And even more surprising was how painful these thoughts were. It was like I could physically feel the impact that the thoughts had in my brain. With the hypersensitivity of the migraine, the thoughts felt like a little chain gang hammering tiny spikes for a miniature railroad.

Naturally, I wanted it to stop. I tried to make it stop. No luck. I felt a little panicky at the relentlessness of this habitual monologue. And then I heard a soft voice gently saying, “Rest.” For a moment, everything quieted. Relief.

It started back up almost immediately, but now I knew what to do. I stopped listening to it all, and silently whispered “rest.” Again, rest... rest... rest. Tenderly, lovingly, like a mother soothing a restless baby.

For moments at a time, my mind quieted. The pain of the migraine was still present, but there was a spaciousness about it, a peace. I rested with the pain, and with the reminders to my brain to rest with me.

Since then, I’ve been more aware of this chatter. During meditation I bring my wandering mind home with the mantra “rest.” When going through my day, as I start to get hooked by the drama of the moment, I can pause and remember to rest. Just rest.

I am fond of acronyms, so I’ll leave you with this one. You might come up with one of your own.