Ruminations on the Tao Te Ching
Updated: Jan 27, 2020
Under Heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.
Therefore, having and not having arise together;
Difficult and easy complement each other;
Long and short contrast each other;
High and low rest upon each other;
Voice and sound harmonize each other;
Front and back follow each other.
Therefore, the wise go about doing nothing, teaching no-talking.
The ten thousand things rise and fall without cease,
Creating, yet not possessing,
Working, yet not taking credit.
Work is done, then forgotten.
Therefore, it lasts forever.
Lao Tsu (translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English)
As the old year ends and a new year begins, this quote by Lao Tsu feels appropriate. This being human has so many ups and downs, pleasing things and displeasing things, even health and unhealth seem to rise and fall like the oceans tides. How do we lead a life with heart? How do we enjoy the simple things? One thing that has been shared with me, is delighting in what we have right now with gratitude. Perhaps with a gratitude jar (where you put a little piece of paper with something you're grateful for in), or a gratitude journal, or a time of day that you and your family just take a pause and share something you are grateful for, or just spontaneously acknowledging throughout your day things you are grateful for. This shifts our mind out of a feeling of lack or poverty, and into a place of fullness and receiving what is in the present moment. Gratitude softens the day to day ups and downs and brings our attention to what really matters.
Bronnie Ware, an Australian palliative care nurse, wrote a book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, after her time spent working in hospice care. The top five life regrets that she saw over and over were:
1. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
3. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
4. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
5. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
It may seem a bit odd to look at others regrets, yet it conveys a beautiful lesson in choosing a path with heart and living the lives we want to create now, before we’re on our deathbed. I believe that that is often accomplished with small steps and persistence. We can check in and see if we’re living into our dreams, connected with our friends and family to the degree we would like to, if we have the kind of health and energy we desire, if we feel fulfilled in our work, home life, parenting, etc., if we are doing things for our earth, community or some other way that we “pay it forward” to others, and if not what do we envision? What small thing could we shift to work towards those dreams or goals? The new year is often a time that people make resolutions, but also important in dedicating to something new is sometimes asking, “is there anything that keeps me from doing this? Is there anything I may need to let go of to fulfill this new commitment? Who would I be if I didn’t tell my usual story of ________________ (fill in the blank: victim, martyr, unlucky, not smart, not worthy, not lovable, etc.) As Rumi says in one of my favorite quotes, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
Wishing you all a happy New Year filled with joy, health, and radiant aliveness!
Laozi, et al. Tao Te Ching. Vintage Books, 2012.
Ware, Bronnie. Regrets of the Dying. 12 Dec. 2019, https://bronnieware.com/blog/regrets-of-the-dying/.
A quote by Rumi. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2020, from https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/9726-your-task-is-not-to-seek-for-love-but-merely.Under