I have been listening to Wayne Dyer’s interpretation of the Tao Te Ching over the past few weeks. Having the life I have, it’s slow progress: I don’t get the swathes of peaceful time to listen that I might like, but I find nonetheless that the moments I do manage to snatch are enormously rewarding. It’s as hit and miss as my meditation ‘practice’ but just as revitalising. And of course, the plan to listen that is subsequently thwarted is an ideal opportunity to practise acceptance
The Tao Teh Ching is a Chinese philosophical work written in around the 6th Century BC by a man called Lao Tzu and in his book, Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life: Living The Wisdom Of The Tao (which I have mentioned a few times recently), Dr Wayne Dyer gives us the benefit of his interpretation of its 81 short and somewhat ambiguous verses. He describes, at the beginning of the book, his method of writing this tome: he spent days contemplating and meditating on each before almost channelling its explanatory essay. And each verse is inspiring; uplifting; something to aspire to. At the end of each chapter, he has a small section entitled “Do the Tao now”, which is a simple method for implementing each into our daily lives.
So, each time I’m hanging out the laundry, for example – and with five small boys I have a heck of a lot of laundry! – I plug him into my headphones and listen. Being human as I am, some days I am more aware, awake and switched on than others; some days I really take it on board and, by the time I have turned it off feel energised, invigorated, inspired anew. But even on the days when I am not so awake or open, I find listening to him a huge help. Dr Dyer has a fabulous voice: gravelly but soft, like a gentle but authoritative dad, and listening to the wisdom of his, and Lao Tzu’s words brings me a comfort and renewed hope I often find I need.
Lately, though, I have noticed a rather strange phenomenon. Putting his audio book on shuffle, the same verse comes up again and again and again: verse 26 of the Tao Teh Ching. Where in the past I may have become slightly irritated, suspected a glitch and shuffled it on, I no longer ignore the synchronicities and, on paying closer attention, have realised that this is a verse I really need to assimiliate into my life. Without further ado, this is the way Lao Tzu put it two and a half thousand years ago:
The heavy is the root of the light.
The still is the master of unrest.
the successful person is
poised and centred
in the midst of all activities;
although surrounded by opulence,
he is not swayed.
Why should the lord of the country
flit about like a fool?
If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
To be restless is to lose one’s self-mastery.
I have listened to this one a lot now! Dr Dyer’s explanation following this verse is entitled simply “Living Calmly”, and all of us, no matter what our walk of life, marital status, age, parental status, living or work conditions, would be helped enormously by remembering its message. It doesn’t matter what your circumstances (and here comes the important bit):
Each moment is a choice and you can choose to be calm. You can take a deep breath and alter your focus.
Our very own Rudyard Kipling gives us this message too in his fabulous poem “If“, so we needn’t even rely too heavily on Chinese philosophy here
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
You know, it occurs to me too that it is very often only through straitened or difficult circumstances that this message can sink in. If we are not tested, we don’t know our strength, do we? From the most difficult of life situations to the simplest daily hurdles.
The other day my eldest son came home from school and his first words to me were a reprimand. I felt aggrieved. I love him, I had missed him, and his complaint was, as far as I was concerned, unfounded and ungenerous. Tired after a long day (and whatever other justifications I might come up with for my childish response to him may easily be inserted here), I threw a mini hissy-fit and stomped into the house. Where I then had cause to reprimand myself. I often talk about not beating ourselves up. I wasn’t. But I did recognise that my reaction had been very far from ideal, calm, adult, responsible. And I went back outside to find him sitting in the garden. I sat quietly next to him for a moment and took a deep breath.
“I feel punished but I don’t know why. Can you help me?”
“Yes.” He mumbled. “I think I’m taking it out on you.”
Sometimes, we are so close to our subject that we cannot see it clearly. I have lost count of the number of times I have reassured friends whose children are behaving in a less than peaceful manner with: “He’s/She’s taking it out on you. You’re the closest, the safest, you won’t desert him/her. You’ll love him/her through it. You’re the sounding board.” And here it was happening to me.
But what impressed me most of all was his emotional maturity and his honesty. He responded to calm openness with calm openness. Why are the simplest things such a profound revelation?
We sat outside for a while longer discussing his concerns calmly and then went in together, arm in arm and happy.
In our daily lives we have innumerable opportunities to sink into Victimhood. My son, on his arrival home, was the victim of me; I became the victim of him. And we could have played that soul-destroying, joy-depleting, energy-sapping dance of victim consciousness for the rest of the afternoon and long into the evening. But without ego, without blame, without the need to be right, with nothing but a desire to live a calm, peaceful, unified and happy life, we have the choice to let it all go.
Would you rather be right? Or loved?
Would you rather be vindicated? Or happy?
Would you rather dig in your heels? Or hold out your arms?
Take a deep breath and, as Byron Katie might say, “Turn it around”.
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