As the years pass, as I study the cosmos, as I practice my cultivation, I am ceaselessly surprised by the aptness of messages that cross my path -- without my intent to find them, arriving in moments devoid of any special urge to "discover the meaning," but always rich with the cosmic archetypes. This morning, under the quiet, profound energy of the Scorpio moon, I opened the Tao Te Ching to this passage:
Accept disgrace willingly.
Accept misfortune as the human condition.
What do you mean by “Accept disgrace willingly?”
Accept being unimportant.
Do not be concerned with loss or gain.
This is called, “accepting disgrace willingly.”
What do you mean by, “Accept misfortune as the human condition?”
Misfortune comes from having a body.
Without a body, how could there be misfortune?
Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things.
Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.
- Tao Te Ching, Chapter 13, Trans. Feng English
It seems in life lately I am continually reminded of this lesson: that this existence is so tiny, and the things that we believe are so important really mean nothing, at all, in the grand scheme of things. The natural spirit is eternal, it doesn’t perceive loss as loss. Being misheard, misread, and misidentified determines absolutely nothing about its true nature. Nobody can disgrace you, if you remember your true spirit. This is easily seen when we observe those who have lived their authentic spirit -- wildly, freely, and openly. For whatever humanity may reside there — preferences, weaknesses — it is the spirit that is indomitable. It is the spirit that transcends. And it is the spirit that we most recognize.
As humans in this world that is so driven by ego — we must practice to remember that we are not our ego. We are not how people see us. We are not what happened to us. And we are not the roles we keep. Who we really are is so much more profound. Inside all of us is that which is unchanging & infinite. Inside all of us is a being who has traveled the star systems. We’ve created this world. We’ve chosen this life. The spirit is more powerful than anything that could ever defy it in this human existence… and we know this. We come here to know birth and death, and then one day remember again that birth and death are no more than mere passages from one realm to another. That we’re here for now, and some day in the future, we will also be gone. I am reminded of a passage in the I-Ching which states, “One day a man rides a horse in the street, the next he is dead in his coffin. This is the glory of life.”
The beauty of Tao is that is contains all experience, yet puts no rules around it. It says, live in your integral spirit. Certainly you could choose not to do this, it would be no matter. But the wisdom is in knowing that living life from ones integral spirit (e.g. the true self), is the path to peaceful simplicity… and that even along that most simple path — even in the most normal and mundane — we will still know loss. We will still know joy. We will still know pain. We will still know love. And in fact, we may know it so much more deeply than we ever could have known it. Because we took the time to know ourselves.
So, to me, the Tao is not a philosophy of leaving the world behind. It is not a philosophy of covering ones eyes. Though it is sometimes seen this way. To me, it is a philosophy, a way of life, that is about seeing what is there most deeply. About living all aspects of living completely, thoroughly, with heart.
In Tao it is said, lose something every day.
What is left then? One might wonder.
The truth as I see it today: Hold nothing, have everything.