Words Along the Way – #1


“Knowing that there is a creative principle that reacts to that which I entertain in thought, I now establish in my thinking an attitude of expectancy of good things. I let go of the limitations of the past and live with an enthusiastic expectancy of the good that will encounter today.” ~ excerpt from Creative Ideas by Ernest Holmes

Use this as a daily affirmation. Try it for a week and see how it changes your outlook on things. When negative and limiting thoughts come, remind yourself of this excerpt and realize that those thoughts are not worth entertaining. If your thoughts have a creative force behind them, then do you really want to create more negativity?


45th Verse – Look Beyond the Surface

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The greatest perfection seems imperfect,
and yet its use is inexhaustible.
The greatest fullness seems empty,
and yet its use is endless.

Great straightness seems twisted.
Great inteligence seems stupid.
Great eloquence seems awkward.
Great truth seems false.
Great discussion seems silent.

Activity conquers cold; inactivity conquers heat.
Stillness and tranquility set things in order in the universe.

To our ego-centered mind, everything and everyone that we encounter is interpreted a certain way on the surface. However, if we go beyond the initial surface interpretation, we can see the underlying truth and perfection.

For example, if I meet someone for the first time, I would instantly set certain expectations and make certain judgments of the person based on their surface level appearance. Their hair color, skin color, clothes, profession, etc all set certain interpretations.

However, if I allowsmyself to get to know that person better, I might find out that there is much more to him or her than my original ego-based assessment told me. In addition, I might learn that many of my original assessments were completely wrong. (This was one of the epiphanies that I wrote about from my recent Vipassana mediation course.)

This is the same with situations that we come across in our life. We see situations in our life and assess them on the surface as all wrong. I am in the wrong job, only if the weather was different, those people shouldn’t act like that, my kid isn’t behaving as I wanted him/her to act, etc.

That which seems wrong, twisted, stupid, awkward, false, etc on the surface is really perfection in the eyes of the Tao. Everything is unfolding just as it should even if it does not meet the expectations of our ego-centric mind.

Even though we refuse to agree with it, the bad things that happen in the world are part of the perfection according to the Tao. They are just as important as the good things that happen. This is the yin and the yang. Both are needed for either to exist.

By connecting with the stillness inside of ourselves, we can learn to see all things as neither good nor bad. They just are. Only when we realize this can we see “order in the universe”.

Some take-aways from this verse.

    • Learn to connect with the stillness and tranquility inside through meditation techniques.
    • Whenever you encounter someone or some situation, take notice of your internal self-talk. Realize what expectations and judgements you are creating as a result.

These steps start to build awareness, which is always necessary before any change is possible. Once you can utilize these steps on a regular basis, then you can learn to let the expectations and judgements go without attaching to them.

43rd Verse – Fluidity in Action

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The softness of all things overrides the hardest of all things.
That without substance enters where there is no space.
Hence I know the value of nonaction.

Teaching without words,
performing without actions-few in the world can grasp it-that is the master’s way.
Rare indeed are those who obtain the bounty of this world.

This verse once again touches on the concept of being flexible and fluid in your actions and thoughts. We have seen before how forced actions cannot be sustained. Actions that are fluid and can bend as life changes are more easily sustained because there is a sense of effortlessness behind them.

This first stanza brings to my mind an image of water flowing through a rocky canyon. The soft, pliable water flows effortlessly through the hard rocks and enters any open spaces that it comes across. The water can flow at great speed and continuous motion while the rock is shaped by the pressure from the flowing water. Because the rock is hard and attempts to maintain its position, it is eroded and carved by the water.

Non-action is used in the verse to mean acceptance for what is and openness to the way of all things. In other words not fighting or resisting the natural flow of life. Of course, as we have seen in previous verses, this does not mean sitting on the couch and letting life pass by. Action is needed, but the key is to not get so caught up in expectations and outcomes (see Living in Expectancy) that we create more suffering and hardship in our lives.

The “master’s way” that is referred to in the second stanza is the state of being where a person can act without effort. Think of great sports legends who defined the sport that they excelled at. They often describe how when they are playing effectively, they are in the moment. They feel as if they can see the next action without even knowing it. They are in the flow and connected with what they are doing.

Many of us have glimpses of this “master’s way” when we are doing what we love and feel totally engrossed in the activity. We are in the zone, plugged in, on it, feeling it, or one of the many other euphemisms used to describe this state. This is when time flies by and nothing else matters.

As the verse says, “rare are those…” who can tap into this state on a regular basis. Those that can do it by remaining soft and pliable, accepting to the changes in the flow of life, and being unattached to particular outcomes or expectations.

This ability to be in tune with the “master’s way” is something that we all have. We just need to quiet the mind from the constant chatter of its rigidity in thought, focus on expectations, and resistance to change.

You cannot stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn

Translation – You can not stop the problems and hardships from entering your life, but you can learn to accept and use them to learn and grow.

23rd Verse – Everything is Temporary

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To talk little is natural:
Fierce winds do not blow all morning;
a downpour of rain does not last the day.
Who does this? Heaven and earth.

But these are exaggerated, forced effects,
and that is why they cannot be sustained.
If heaven and earth cannot sustain a forced action,
how much less is man able to do?

Those who follow the Way
become one with the Way.
Those who follow goodness
become one with goodness.
Those who stray from the Way and goodness
become one with failure.

If you conform to the Way,
its power flows through you.
Your actions become those of nature,
your ways those of heaven.

Open yourself to the Tao
and trust your natural responses…
then everything will fall into place.

Everything in this existence is temporary. Like a flower, everything blossoms and then withers away. This is not good or bad, it just is. It is the Way.

No matter if we are referring to our bodies, our possessions or the situations of our lives, nothing is exempt except for the Way itself.

Apply this idea to the so called bad situations in your life. When you feel all hope is lost and you are stuck, know that this too shall pass. Even in the darkest moment, the sun is just over the horizon.

“Open yourself to the Tao.” Set your intentions and have faith that they will come.

“Trust in your natural responses…”. Don’t be tied to the how. The path to your intention may be presented to you differently than you expect. Don’t force it. Even nature cannot sustain a forced action.

Do this and “…everything will fall into place”.

14th Verse – The Peace Within Us

Peaceful Sunset

That which cannot be seen is called invisible.
That which cannot be heard is called inaudible.
That which cannot be held is called intangible.
These three cannot be defined;
therefore, they are merged as one.

Each of these is subtle for description.
By intuition you can see it,
hear it,
and feel it.
Then the unseen,
and touched
are present as one.

Its rising brings no dawn,
its setting no darkness;
it goes on and on, unnameable,
returning to nothingness.

Approach it and there is no beginning;
follow it and there is no end.
You cannot know it, but you can be it,
at ease in your own life.

Discovering how things have always been
brings one into harmony with the Way.

Peace is in all of us. I am not talking about the rallying cry of the 60’s hippie movement. I am talking about the peace that is a state of being. The peace that is present in the mind and body.

It is not something that you can see, hear or hold. But if you look within yourself, you know it is there. It is there because it is an innate part of all things.

The verse says that “You cannot know it…” because the sheer nature of life is not peaceful. There are always trials and tribulations to deal with in life. However, the verse continues to say that “you can be it”. You can bring peace to the turbulence of life’s situations by being at peace yourself.

Discovering this peace within you will bring you into harmony with the way.

This has been one of my struggles; learning to bring peace to situations that I would otherwise bring anger, fear or general negativity to. Here are the things that I am learning to bring to these situations instead:

  1. Live in expectancy instead of with expectations. (see posting on this topic) In other words don’t go into the situation expecting things to happen a certain way.
  2. Only put energy into that which you can control. For example, you cannot control other people’s actions or feeling in any given situation. So don’t waste energy attempting to.
  3. Remember to breathe. It is amazing how much you can withstand while you are focused on your breath.

May peace be with you.

Live in Expectancy and not with Expectations

Is it ok to have desires and goals in our lives? We live in a material world where we are expected to be consistently moving forward toward the next goal or accomplishment lest we be named a slacker.

This was the idea posed at the beginning of yoga class yesterday. The class sat in a seated meditation posture in the darkened studio listening to the soothing music fill the room. The instructor stood by the window at the front of the room with the sun setting over the mountains in the backdrop behind him. With the darkened room and the light pouring in from the setting sun, the instructor looked more like a shadow than a three dimensional body. He held a book and softly read from it while the class sat in silence.

The book was on teachings from the Buddha and was a question and answer format with a Buddhist teacher. The instructor read the question and answer that we were to think about during the class.

Is it ok to have desires and reach for goals?

The question was “Is it ok to have desires and reach for goals”. The answer was “yes”. However it is important to not identify with the outcomes of your goal. So if your goal was to get water, you should not get caught up in expectations about how you are going to get the water. You instead come up with a way to get the water and then go for it. If you don’t get it, you don’t get upset and cry or lash out in anger or become frustrated. You instead laugh it off and figure out a different way to get it. “Woops I guess that didn’t work. How else can I try to get the water?”

Expectancy vs. Expectations

The answer to this question reminds me of a quote that I heard at some point. It said to Live in expectancy instead of with expectations. In other words expect great things, but don’t expect them to happen in a specific way.

Living with expectations not only leads people to disappointment, but also leads them to give up trying even before they try. “Oh I’m not going to do that because I know that I will fail.” They think that they will fail because they have a set of expectations regarding what it means to accomplish their goal. They are afraid because so often when we go for something we want, we don’t accomplish what we expected, but often times what we accomplish is something even greater. We are just so caught up in our expectations that all we see is failure instead of the great thing that resulted despite our expectations.

Is there something that you are wanting to reach for in your life, but are instead holding yourself back because of your fear of not meeting your (or someone else’s) expectations?