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Awareness
 
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  The TAO TE CHING 

Learning a new way to see and communicate how we experience our lives is the path to enrichment. Our relationships take on a new dimension. We actually see and experience another human being.

We are looking for a not so new state of mind. A state promoted by the ancients through thousands of years to this present day.

It has been called many things and the path to it  has appeared in many forms.  Meditation, Dream Interpretation, the Empty Mind, Inner Wisdom, Self Actualization.  The Path to self actualization or how to believe in and tap our inner wisdom is like a maze.  The exit is always there, the twists and turns that end up nowhere, the beginning.  Unlike a real maze with a beginning a middle and an exit, the Path is a Way not a destination, an unplanned journey not a fully planned vacation, an interpretation of the moment not a solution for all time.  

Essentially the individual comes to realize that it is easy to get stuck in any phase of our lives.  To exit this stuckness requires two things.  An awareness that we are stuck, and the ability to let go of what is preventing us from moving on. The sticky shoulds, ought tos, demands, and self image drivers that dictate our behavior, churn our emotions, and force us into patterns of living that we find dissatisfying or disagreeable.

We have plenty of warning signs. Increased irritability, anger, dissatisfaction, depression,dreams and a few others.  Even without these signals our responses to the moment can be guided not by our inner wisdom but by our presumed knowledge and judgement,  These are our history and although they are valuable, each moment is different and needs its own attention. 

The TAO teaches us to let go, eliminate the chatter of our mind, achieve an inner quiet and be responsive to the moment.   It begins with Awareness.  From there all things are possible.

To achieve this special state of mind we  Accept the tool that does not chain us, does not bind us, does not diminish us, but lifts us up and alters who we think we are. We Accept the simple answer but learn to apply it in complex situations. We Join with others in spirit to carry this with us always.

Conscious "AWARENESS" (OSHO, Eckhart, Buddha, Jesus, Lao Tzu, Jung, Watts, the list is endless.)

All of our spiritual teachers had these ideas and so much more. Let's take a quick look at one of them, The TAO, documented by an ancient Chinese Sage (Lao Tzu) 2600 years ago. This is an excerpt and not intended to fully describe or interpret Lao's work or the TAO itself. But it is worthwhile to sift through it and discover the diamonds littering the sands of time.

Introduction

Lao Tzu may or may not have been a real person but the enduring messages passed down through the centuries is a testament to someone's great wisdom and desire for a better life. The ability to pass on a timeless message from an age of warring empires, with 2600 year old knowledge, is nothing less than remarkable.

Today, we believe the consciousness of mankind is currently making an evolutionary step forward. If all of us complete that step I am confident it will ensure our very survival. It is up to each of us to continue our journey as enlightened Human Beings. The lessons of the ancients and current spiritual teachers are worth our attention and respect.

Much of this was extracted from Wayne Dyer's "Change your Thoughts Change your Life". It also extracts from many other authors who have translated and interpreted Lao's work.

"Progress is impossible without change, if you cannot change your mind, you cannot change anything" George B. Shaw

The Tao (pronounced DAO) is the creative source of all that is. It is God without religion and Religion without organization or a deity. It begets everything, has no name, cannot be described and yet once you have tuned into the Way of the Tao you can follow the path with all of the humility and power of the greatest sages that have ever walked the world of 10,000 things. The world of 10,000 things in Lao's verses is the world of form, our material world . The Tao is the origin and source of the creativity, the awe and mystery behind the 10,000 things, behind our world of form.

The world of 10,000 things is our everyday world. It is humans, plants, animals, mountains, water, cars, thoughts, money, books, the sun, the stars, etc. These are all things of material form, objects. While thoughts are not objects in the literal sense, language and the meaning behind language can and does objectify the world. This means our thoughts (language) represent something permanent and real not elusive and temporary. We do not like to see or think of ourselves as impermanent, nor do we like the idea of transient or floating truth.

Living with impermanence requires a special state of mind that can reflect on the Web of Life as truth in motion, never static.

We all live in a structure of our own creation. Called our identity or Ego it has sheltered us and provided a cocoon for our often fragile self image. Many believe the Ego is in the way and needs to be released. While that may be appropriate in the most advanced states of enlightenment I would suggest a milder approach. Implement one of the tools in the Masters Toolbox of Mystical Wisdom, the Observer. Understand and create the quiet observer that notices everything, within or without. Over time this quiet observer places the Ego in the background. This safely removes the role of the Ego from boss to a role as our companion who helps us navigate the world of form but cannot help us navigate our awareness and connection to the Web of Life.

To live in the world of form without experiencing the Tao is to eat without smell, taste, or color. Your gifts are remarkable but the world of form limits your awareness and experience of these gifts. It has often been said we do not notice our own power within. This is a direct result of being solely in the world of form. For those who have been able to let go of the mind, the persistent thoughts of the Ego, they have been able to tap many new powers within.

Mankind embraces the world of form through thought, behavior and belief. We strive, accumulate, waste, rule, dominate and struggle for supremacy in the world of the 10,000 things. And yet our promise of fulfillment cannot be met solely in the world of form. We can create rules, follow religious dogmas and directives, establish forms of behavior, set goals, strive for understanding and new knowledge. But, if we remain in the world of form, our view of our physical reality fails to integrate the limitlessness of the all encompassing Tao.

The only known path to a complete awareness of the Tao is the process of letting go. Letting go of our identity, letting go of our fixed beliefs, letting go of our thoughts, letting go of the past and letting go of the future. Sooner or later, when we have accomplished these things, the magic and mystery, the awe, the peace and the excitement of the Tao becomes an integral part of our lives.

All behavior then sources from the Tao and not from the ego, from Divinity not from man, from Love not from hate, from Connectivity not from separation.

When we resonate with the Tao, we have learned to live.

Verse 1

"Ever desireless , one can see the mystery, ever desiring one sees only the manifestations. The mystery itself is the doorway to all understanding."

Verse 2

"The dual nature of our concepts and beliefs creates opposites, beautiful/ugly, tall/short, fast/slow, kind/mean. The Tao teaches us to walk the paradoxical path of unity where what is is. The judgement of our mind separates, it does not unify. A rose does not compete with the sunflower. When you can look at the rose and the sunflower and the crabgrass as one, you are on the path."

Verse 3

"In the world of 10.000 things status overvalues things creating contention and dissatisfaction, the sage weakens ambition and practices purity of service. Service is the willingness to share and give unconditionally. All things then settle peacefully into their own place."

Verse 4

"The Tao is inexhaustible, limitless, the ancestor of all things. It is nowhere and everywhere. When we feel it as the source our separation diminishes, our beginning and our end become a part of something greater, mysterious and never ending"

"Wisdom is knowing I am nothing, Love is knowing I am everything, and between the two my life moves." Nisargadatta Maharaja.

Verse5

"The Tao is impartial and judges nothing. None are more dear nor in disfavor than another. The sage follows this understanding and gives without conditions. The abundance of the Tao is inexhaustible, the more it is used the more it produces."

Verse 6

"In all of creation the spirit of the mysterious feminine is never lost and never dies. Her voice echos through all of creation and without fail, if we listen, brings us to our own perfection. Be creative in your thoughts, in your feelings, in your actions. Apply your uniqueness to everything you undertake."

 

Verse 7

"Let go of any doubt or fear you may harbor as you make the effort to harmonize with this awesome creative power, it is life itself. A Sufi poet, Hafz, tells us "Just sit there right now. Don't do a thing, just rest. For your separation from God, from Love is the hardest work in this world".

Verse 8

"Heaven and Earth live forever. They do not serve only themselves. The sage puts himself last, stays a witness to life and so endures. Let your actions and spirit serve others, do not concern yourself that your needs will be met."

Verse 9

"Stay close to nature and be in harmony with the moment. Be part of the flow and do not go against things. Be kind, gentle, honor your word and be timely in choosing your response to the moment. Your own wisdom will guide you."

 

Verse 10

"Do not overfill your cup, know when enough is enough. Hoarding beyond your needs creates insecurity and envy. Puff yourself up with honor and pride, overfill your ego, and you will surely fall. When the work is done, retire with forgetfulness, your contribution stands by itself. The pleasure of your creativity is its own reward."

Verse 11

"Give birth and nourish, have but do not possess, work without taking credit, lead without control or domination. Heeding these things brings the power of the Tao to this earth. As you experience these eternal virtues your ego dissolves through conscious attention to something greater than yourself."

Verse 12

"The usefulness of what is, often depends upon what is not. The bowl serves the space within, the spoke serves the hub, the walls serve the room, the body serves the mind, The mind serves the eternal mystery of the Tao."

Verse 13

"The mountain is not overwhelming, just pick up the pebble at its base. Each pebble, each step, arduous or easy, will bring you closer to the goal. You may plan the destination but work in the moment. To live only for tomorrow loses today. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."

Verse 14

"To notice only smell, color, taste or touch is to ignore the creative force behind all things. Reality is more than our senses and so the mystery unfolds if we become aware of the greater creativity behind all we see, hear, and touch."

 

Interpretation

To have only our selves is to be mortally wounded. To live beyond the self merges mortality with eternity. As all things come and go, spring into being and dissolve into dust, we no longer identify with only this self but become part of something greater. Thus dying no longer overwhelms us and living becomes more fruitful. This moment is all there is as it becomes the center of the web of life. This is our connectivity as we harmonize from our core to everything the web of life touches.

Solutions are for the world of form, necessary and often creative. But the mystery of the Tao does not require our problem solving, just our awe and imagination. When you thoroughly understand the seeds of life you know all of the intelligence, all of the miracle, springs forth under just the right conditions. We can nurture it, we can destroy it, but it does not need our input to spring into being.

Do not give instructions to a child on how to live, but allow them to explore every nook and cranny of their world. They are full of play, laughter, curiosity, imagination and wonder. What can you do but dampen their spirit with your reason and your ego. Instead learn from them on how to experience and play in the moment.

The path from birth to death is not a destination but a journey. As you walk the path absorb everything, be kind to everything, be curious about everything. You will not pass this way ever again.

In the world of man behavior is everything. To guide our behavior we have rules, laws and commandments. But to experience the Tao and follow the path requires only that we shed our egos, let go of status and power, hoard nothing and serve beyond ourselves.

Bear witness to life, nothing else is necessary or important.

The Masters Toolbox of Mystical Wisdom

Our sense of self which for a lifetime has provided us with motivation to continue, to accumulate, to thrive in the material world was and is life itself. When we were younger the search for meaning was overshadowed by the maturing nature of our self image. It was sufficient to intellectually explore meaning because all of it was comfortably wrapped up in the pursuit of agendas that helped the self survive and grow. As we cross over into aging the motivation from the self delusion of gaining and getting wanes as the desire for real meaning in our lives surfaces with a loud thump on the side of the head.

Many of the symptoms of depression (illness, disillusionment and the sense of being lost (without motivation to continue)) arise from this profound need to have meaning. This is more pronounced as aging sits annoyingly on our shoulders. In other words don't substitute behavior or things (in the world of form) for meaning in your life. We have the freedom to choose or as Lao Tzu suggested, each has the authority within to respond appropriately (with your own internal wisdom) to any situation or event.

In the interpretation of the TAO above, the scientific reality of our existence is replaced by a mystical connection to the Source. The world of form (as our senses see it) is placed in the background and the world of greater awareness of the creative source behind the world of form takes shape in our minds. This observing part of our inner awareness is our witness to our "selfs" and to the outer world. Thus something greater than our "selfs" (our ego) becomes part of us.

For a practical interpretation of what happens to the self over time we can turn to the well known mid life crisis. A way of looking at this event is that the self image, the ego, the identification with all that we have done and accumulated over a life time is no longer sufficient.

We are suddenly aware that nothing we have done, accumulated or discovered has prepared us for the second half of our lives. Meaning becomes more important than status, success, or even relationships. The crisis becomes drama (and hurtful to ourselves and others) when we don't address this profound shift but instead substitute a whole array of fill in behavior as a distraction to the reality hitting us in the face.

Many experience a crushing overwhelming weight that takes them down and down until there is nothing left. This extreme loss either ends in death or a bottoming out (the person literally becomes sick of being sick). This is really not necessary but someone or something needs to be there at the right time to allow the crossover to a broader vision of each human's value in the greater scheme of things.

Jesus, Buddha, Eckhart, Lao-Tzu, and thousands of others have suggested ways to reinterpret our relationships in the world of form to something greater and bigger than our individual self images have learned up till now. I Consider these ways of reinterpreting our relationships as a Master's Toolbox of Mystical Wisdom.

The owners of this toolbox number in the thousands, maybe even tens of thousands. For ease of reading and understanding allow me to acknowledge that all of the sages, prophets, religious leaders, spiritual guides, and others from all walks of life have at one time contributed to this toolbox. I do not exclude you or me for it is amazing how many times I have heard others say "I knew that, I do that, I practice that all the time,...." As I said, I believe we are entering a new level of consciousness for the human race, which generates a high level of hope all on its own.

Here are the tools in the toolbox, in no particular order or level of importance. Stillness, Awareness, Witness, Observer, Meditation, Breathing, Mindfulness, No Mind, The body's flow of energy, The Tao, God, Surrender, Acceptance, Love, Forgiveness, The Creative Universe, The Integral Self, Unity, Oneness, No Self, Letting Go, Humility, Cosmology, Awe, Mystery, Evolution, The Source, The Intuitive Self, Resistance.

The Observer, the Witness and Awareness

Awareness is the part of us that knows we know. It just informs us and doesn't do anything. As I am driving down the road I am aware of the wobbly man on the side of the road. But as he lurches onto the road it is my automatic system of responses that helps me swerve and miss hitting him. I am aware that in a heated exchange between my wife and I, I am beginning to get unnecessarily angry. But once my Ego has assumed control of the situation I am doomed to commit a grievous error, I will be a part of the escalation of the argument and suffer the consequences.

Enter the Witness or silent Observer.

In the toolbox we have a mixture of perspectives and states of mind that with practice, diminish or even eliminate the drama pictured above.

In order to have the Witness or Observer become an integral part of our daily lives, we must first learn how to invoke them.

First we recognize that most of our drama energy comes from the jabs and minor injuries to our self image. This is our Ego and it is the boss of our everyday exchanges with the outside world. When I say "Hey, I take that remark personally", I and my Ego are off and running. When I stand in front of a group of people and am nervous, my ego is afraid of their disapproval. When a loved one frowns at me and suggests I am less than the flea on a dog's behind and I feel the disappointment and anger rushing to the surface, my self image has been threatened and my Ego assumes charge of the situation. I will fight back and defend my self image.

This could go on forever, but the only message here is we spent our entire lifetime building and saving our self image. What we call our Ego is a representation of that self image in our minds. It has protected us, guided us and helped us through countless trials and tribulations. But it is not always doing us a favor by its over protective behavior. It is time to bring into focus the natural Observer. We do that through a process called "Approaching Stillness".

Preferably in the beginning find a quiet place, sit down or lie down, and concentrate on your breathing, or your hands, or a speck of dirt on the floor. Or, close your eyes and let go of everything between you and what you are focusing on. At first there will be interference as thoughts, noises, and loss of attention distract you from this simple mission.

This is where the Observer or Witness can enter the picture. Begin to notice and allow each of these interruptions and then go back to your focus exercise. No matter how this exercise progresses maintain the observer with complete tolerance for all of the interruptions. Do this for one entire week as often as possible, even if you are waiting in line at the checkout counter, or for your car to get repaired. Soon you will not experience any interruptions as you focus, or all interruptions will be acceptable.

After one week we move to "Stillness without Judgement" or "How to be in the moment".

Continuing the previous exercise we then add a new wrinkle. We begin observing things, people, situations without judging or labeling them with the same level of stillness. Small examples would be watching it rain without identifying or commenting on the fact that it is raining (meaning it is not a gloomy day, it is just raining), watching a child play, being in traffic without any tension or emotion, eating a meal without comparing it to any other meal, listening to every word in a conversation with another person without analysis, judgement, labels or your own thoughts on the subject.

One of the best tests for being in the moment is in conversations. Did you listen, did you observe their clothes, posture, tone, inflection? Did you understand what they said? Did you accept it all without judgment?

If this proves too difficult at first, try looking at a flower. Can you see the flower without attaching any labels to it such as beauty. Or, focus on a rock. Nothing about the rock should invoke a label or judgement. Mostly as you continue this exercise your own thoughts will surface. You can then notice them and then let go even if they have a lot of history behind them.

As the Observer in you begins to notice the external world, and the internal world (emotions, thoughts, triggers, stories you tell yourself, behavior) the intensity of your response to attacks against your Ego, diminish. Over time another's opinion of you will generate this response "I didn't know that, thanks for sharing that with me". You won't even call them an idiot as you turn away.

The Integral Self, No Self, Letting Go

The Witnessing Observer, or just the Observer, teaches us to notice without judgement, both our internal dialogue and our relationships with the external world. By mastering this phase of our life our Ego loses its hidden control over our response to the moment. We no longer are trapped by our emotional ties to the past or our projections into the future. We more and more accept or respond appropriately to what is or what is not.

When we are deeply absorbed in a task we will from time to time notice that a lot of time has gone by.  If we took further notice we would be aware that the only thing in our minds was indeed the task at hand. Our egos are not present, we are being mindful or fully present.  For a period of time, moments or hours, we have "Let Go".  We are operating in the field of "No Self" or "No Mind".

There is a saying that if two masters are fighting one another (Master signifies ultimate skill), there can be no winner or loser as long as each continues with "No mind, and no Self" . This is because they have each trained themselves to respond instantaneously without the delay of thought, fear, or anger. Most of us have not spent a lifetime mastering this idea. But we can in a short interval of time master the concept of "No Self" or better "No Ego".

The Observer is our tool for limiting the Ego's Role in the defense of our Self Image. As we become more and more aware and alert to our internal dialogues we are no longer captured by our Ego's attempts to marshal all of our defenses to protect real or imagined insults to our identity or self image. As we operate in the world of form we observe more, judge less, and respond appropriately. This process of "Letting Go" of our opinions, our beliefs about everything, our self images, our past and our fears for the future bring us closer and closer to the reality of the moment. Judgements change nothing but our perception, labels mistakenly allow us to attach permanence to impermanence, facts to truth.

The simple flaw in our awareness is that it is a partial and sometimes thing. The elegant simplicity is that awareness can be a total and all times thing.

Even with our use of language our conscious awareness of the words we use can really improve our communication. Without conscious awareness our use of language, its meanings and our beliefs behind its use, conspire to defeat the very thing language was invented for in the first place. To successfully communicate.

The language is not at fault, it is we who hide from ourselves and others the essence of what and who we are.

Language is a beautiful tool but often it is used incorrectly to mislead or as a weapon. We talk, we exchange ideas (sort of), but we do not communicate. For to truly communicate, our "selves" must be in the background, way in the background. We must be empty if we are to receive new information, and unguarded if we are to perceive and be perceived.

When we live by rules alone, large pieces of us die every moment. We must learn to live without rules, without labels, without judgement. We must learn again to Live.

Our inner voice is correct when it warns us this is not all there is, this is not what we wanted out of life, this is wrong.

To listen and absorb this message into the deepest fabric our lives is to begin to live. This shift, brings us to the edge of our possibilities, and hopefully, beyond.

We have allowed others to tell us the right way to love, live and hate. We have been taught how to perform the mechanics of thought, but not how to think with all of our being. Our mind is either dominated by the one, or in conflict with our past or fears for the future. The deeper knowledge of how to live and be in harmony with each other and the world gets lost very early in our development. We are actually trained to become unconscious. We each have a vast intelligence but it is unique to each species. Our species intelligence works quite well untill we cloud our interpretation of the moment with the  impact of events and feelings from our past. While it can be difficult at times to honor our own wisdom, it is the best thing we can do for ourselves and others.

Intelligence is our most basic attribute of being human. It is what emerges from our DNA so that we may experience and interpret our everyday world. Intellect, however, is the knowledge we absorb and the skill of logic, reason and problem solving we develop. Our Ego/self image concentrates on the latter and ignores the former.

Resistance to life, what is, what is not.

Right from the beginning (2 year old) we develop resistance to what is and to what is not. Resistance begins when we want and cannot get, or get what did not want. Harmony begins when we act with awareness to challenge appropriately, or to accept, what is and what is not.

As we integrate ourselves more with the material world we become more and more separate from the essence of life and the creative forces all around us. Our self image is more concerned with the "I" in us than the "we" of the Universe. Separation, or "objectifying" our world serves to disconnect us from our source. It is practical. It allows us to notice and be comfortable with objects. It does not allow us to connect to the greater picture.

There is the mystery of the creative force in every relationship on this earth and throughout the Universe. From Quarks to atoms to molecules to cellular life, to the strange constants of Physical laws, to the Love of a single human for another,  the creativity of the Universe, is present.

It is only we who want to separate this mystery from the magic of Human consciousness, awareness, and personal meaning. Our great flaw is separation. Our Great need is Unity and Approval. And so we hate and destroy in our separation and weep in our dreams for Love and Approval.

Our task is to sort out not the rules of man but the presence and being of man. Man does not need dogmas and rules to feel the presence of this mystery. Whether you believe or do not believe, whether you participate in religion or do not participate, each of us can experience the essence of creation in every aspect of our lives, and behave accordingly.

For it is the consciousness behind the act and not the act itself that shows us the way.

To become aware allows so many things and becomes such an integral part of our lives that it will take more than a little time to explore the value of it.

So lets begin, and have some fun along the way.

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