Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Frolicking through the Pedestals

We've been looking at verses from the Tao Te Ching. Reminder: We're on #3!

Here it is:

If you overesteem great men,
people become powerless.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.

The Master leads by emptying people's minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.

Practice not-doing,
and everything will fall into place.

It's a dangerous place, the pedestal. Whether you're on it, or looking up at it.

So this week I had a great example of pedestelian proportions. Sure, it isn't a word, pedestelian, but it should be, shouldn't it? It's fun to write and say. You can say it really quickly in a sentence and sound scholarly, "Pedestelian." Or in a big booming voice, like a political leader on an ego trip: PEDESTELIAN! Try it! Fun.

Anyway, I had a great couple of days working with someone who was on a pedestal. I didn't put him there, but so many others had that trying to talk to him from such a distance was difficult. I must add that he worked it to stay up there.

Our "company" was working with this gentleman who has great talent in our field of work. People love his style, his attention to detail, and in our field, he is one of the top players. Needless to say, over time he has gathered a good following. People respect his work and ask him to present his abilities in workshops and seminars. He's good! And a lot of our clients are his clients.

With his popularity, however came power. Our company's board of directors allowed him to control and influence decisions because his name brings in the money. The company board of directors were ultimately afraid of losing a large number of clients and therefore continually bent over backwards to please him.

For every person looking down from their pedestal there are those beneath them looking up. You can't have one without the other. Yin and yang.

This is clearly how people become powerless. Even though they've helped to create the powerlessness.

So Lao Tzu, the author of the Tao Te Ching, challenges us to be our own "Masters" (a person who is at peace) instead of putting others on pedestals by clearing our minds of evaluation and returning to simplicity. In other words going back to your core, your original identity. Not your job title, your associations, illness you live with, hobby or any other external device you cling to.

This verse is saying empty your mind of your expectations (I should have been... I could have been... I used to be...) of your ambitions (I need a widescreen T.V... I thought I would have 2 children by now... I should have been promoted WAY before that lady) and experience the peace of not-doing.

Well, as usual, it's much easier to read this stuff than to do it.

I've a family to feed and shelter and educate. I can't drop everything to frolic naked in the woods among woodland creatures tapping into the joys of freedom all day.

And I would certainly be arrested.

But is this verse asking us to do that? What Lao Tzu writes is those who are "Masters" in life behave as if they're frolicking even when they've been passed over for that promotion, even when they haven't had two children, even when they're home is widescreen TV challenged. Because none of that shit matters, honestly. When you're in the midst of it, it feels like it's the ONLY thing that matters. (And now you know how a teenager feels every waking moment of his/her teenage life.)

When he writes: "practice not doing, and everything will fall into place" he isn't suggesting to get rid of your job and possessions and pick a spot in the wilderness to meditate for the rest of your life. He's saying get rid of your mind's obsessions and LIVE. Go frolic wherever you happen to be. Work. Cleaning you home. Playing with kids. Running errands. Paying taxes. Grocery shopping. (Mental note: long lines vanish when you frolic here.)

This verse is saying to me: I don't care about the letters after your name. I don't care about your title, your demographics, your accomplishments. I don't care if you are a garbage man or a Sanitary Engineer. Secretary or Administrative Assistant. Homemaker or Ma. Nothing in those descriptions change but our internal evaluation of them. And the second verse of this book has already uncovered evaluation as a ridiculous mind game.

Quit playing.

Yeah. A lot easier to say than to continually do.

One of the things I do daily is raise my children. (This is a perfect setup for a self-deprecating slice of humor, but I will resist.) Anyway, sometimes, when one of my children is telling me something, I find myself listening as "The Parent."

'Now,' I say to myself while my daughter's mouth is moving and I am partially listening to her words, 'being the "parent," how should I respond to this outpouring from my child in an instructional and meaningful way? How can I bestow knowledge to her to make her strong and self-sufficient? How can I use this moment to reach out and connect with her?"

How about shutting up and listening??

Honestly. Is that the way you would want someone you love to respond to you? All heady, clinical and distant? That response is from someone playing the role of "Mother." That's someone "doing" Mother.

There are other times when I do look into their faces and hear them. And it's just me. Present. I may not even have any answers for them when they're finished talking. They aren't usually necessary anyway. And that's when I'm "not-doing" Mother. I just am.

Practice not doing, and everything will fall into place. It makes sense.

Your thoughts?

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