Thursday, January 29, 2009

Understanding "The Way"

The Tao Te Ching is really one of my favorite poem/books to read. The words strip any kind of tension from me and make life plain and simple. Oh how I love plain and simple!

I've wanted to take each section and post my thoughts or observations from it for a long time, but I always felt that my knowledge would stand out like a leafless tree in midsummer.

And all of a sudden my left brain kicked in with: "Bonehead! [Seriously, does it always have to call me that?] That's exactly why you should do it! People will be able to post their own thoughts and experiences to fill out the bare branches! Quit pretending to meditate and get it done."

So we start today! Or, I start on the branches and hopefully you'll fill in the leaves?

(By the way, I ignored my left brain and finished my meditation - even though it threw a little hissy fit for a couple of minutes.)

Verse 1
The Tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.

Th unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.

When my kids were little, the first thing I did was to teach them the names of everything.

I wish I hadn't.

When you give something a name it becomes an object, separate from you. It is a much different feeling when you walk down a path with no labels or names of the things around you. Eckart Tolle suggested to walk in nature without labeling or naming objects (Sorry if you aren't a Tolle fan! Get out of your judgmental left brain and just hear me out). The experience is much different. You feel connected to the beauty around you - not separate from it. This unnamable is the eternally real. Naming separates us into particular things.

When I experience nature or the people around me for who and what they are - not Jesse the gay man, Helen the woman with the anger issues, bagger lady at the grocery store who hates fruit - when we take all of the judgment and evaluations away...ahhh...we connect on a much deeper, more compassionate, more loving place. We are free of desire (i.e. expectations). We know the mystery!

When we don't, we live with our manifestations: judgment, racism, homophobia, hate, fear...which lead to everything from hateful feelings, fights, inner disharmony on a small scale to poverty, war, ethnic cleansing on a large scale.

So how can the Tao Te Ching also say that our manifestations and our mystery be rooted from the same source? Cause lemme tell ya, it sure feels different!

Well, I believe we can choose to cultivate compassion and love, but we can also choose to cultivate hate and fear. It's all there in the darkness. Just a matter of which you choose to develop.

And where you wish your understanding to be rooted.


  1. You did a good job. Kids are kids and curious and want answers. I nod and grunt and mock my kid's words as if we are both on mushrooms; nevertheless, the nameless would not be nameless but for the named.

    The very act of writing about Nameless is a joke, a cosmicish joke. Very funny. The crude, assinine joke though is reading and believing because those are much further removed from the joke itself.

    Old Old Teacher: very funny.

    Blink now.

  2. "the nameless would not be nameless but for the named."

    Very true. And of course I had to teach my children names of 'things'. I'm hoping they'll see the spirit of things themselves.

    And as for writing about the Nameless, I sure am glad Lao Tzu did. It's made more sense to me than many other good books.

    But that's I said, I love plain and simple. It's honest and clear.

  3. I have been blessed with a fair amount of brain damage from a car wreak in 1975. I've had days when I couldn't remember my own name and had moments when I forgot everything and thought like and animal.

    My last relationship was with a woman that had been in a coma for two years. She was brain dead and came back anyway.That is something the doctors don't want people to know.

    We could read each others minds at times because we had both been in that darkness.

    Words are just tools and books only a collection of tools. Things are detailed and complex beyond my imagination or any one soul's understanding and I like it that way.

  4. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and I loved that : "Oh how I love plain and simple! "

  5. Thank you, horse and moon. Plain and simple are sometimes hard to come by, but when they do: aaahhhhh! :) Thanks for sharing such an powerful experience. We don't live in Flatland (Edwin A. Abbot). And I like it that way too.

  6. I'm glad you didn't take my comment the wrong way. I can be blunt at times in my belief system.

    I feel your post had truth in it. I just wanted to add another point of view.

  7. I suppose I better thank you again then, Robert! You help fill in the bare branches. :)