Daily Tao / 273 – Helixes

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Three subtle energy currents:
Twin helixes around a jade pillar.
This glowing presence
Is the force of life itself.

Deep in meditation, it is possible to become aware of the life-force itself. You can see it if you learn how to look within. To describe it as electricity, or power, or light, or consciousness is all somewhat correct. But such descriptions are inadequate. You have to see it for yourself. You have to feel it for yourself. You have to know it for yourself.

To be in its presence is like being in front of something primeval, basic, mysterious, shamanistic, and profound. To be in its presence makes all references mute and all senses slack, leaving only deep awe. One is drawn to it in utter fascination. It is the mighty flame to our mothlike consciousness.

This column of energy that coils around itself holds all the stages of our growth. It is our soul; it is the force that animates us and gives us awareness. If you want to engage your life completely, it is essential for you to come to terms with this inner power. Once you harmonize with it you can blend with the dynamics of being human.

Daily Tao / 272 – Determination

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Lady butterfly,
I saw you a week ago.
Now you are back,
With your lover,
In tandem flights
And helical tangents:
How many times
You return gladly!

In the legends there is the story of the butterfly lovers. They loved each other so much that even in death, their hearts were fixed faithfully upon one another. In honor of their devotion to each other, the gods changed them into butterflies and let them come back together in reincarnation after reincarnation.

Would that all of us could manifest such determination and faith to what we loved!

Daily Tao / 271 – Commitment

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Maiden plucks folk tune on steel strings,
Crickets chant like monks.
I’ve walked into autumnal contentment,
Yet a young boy seeks guidance.

One my be quite far along on the path, but if one meets a beginner who sincerely seeks guidance, then one should help without reservation. If such a beginner were to come to you, what would you say? This is what I said to someone today :

“The time of beginning is one of the most precious times of all. It can be very exciting and full of wonderful growth. The first thing to do is to make up your mind that you are going to go the distance.

“When I first began, I made a lifelong commitment. I determined that I would learn from my teacher for at least seven years. Now, it has been much longer than that, but the essential element is still the same : commitment.

“But commitment needs something else in order to be perpetuated. It needs discipline. This is the perseverance to keep on when things are tough. Adversity is life’s way of testing and perfecting a person. Without that, we would never develop character.

“Rice suffers when it is milled. Jade must suffer when it is polished. But what emerges is something special. If you want to be special too, then you have to be able to stick to things even when they are difficult.”

Commitment and discipline — these are two of the most precious words for those who would seek Tao.

Daily Tao / 270 – Sweeping

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Gold dawn disk edges purple cliffs.
Old woman bends to sweep temple steps.
She bathes each stone with loving care.
How many worshipers think of her work?

I went at dawn to a magnificent temple. Its architecture was such a supreme expression of the human spirit that it was a treasure. Generations of worshipers had left offerings at the shrines, hundreds of monks had reached their enlightenment on the consecrated grounds, and thousands had been blessed in life and in death in the venerable halls.

Yet my most moving observation was an old woman silently sweeping the steps. Her concentration was perfect. Her devotion was palpable. Her thoroughness was complete. Her uncelebrated act showed a true holy spirit.

Later in the day, wealthy people came to worship. Children with brightly colored toys ran over the gray stones. The abbot walked to his ceremonies. Monks passed in silent prayer. Of all who passed, how many were aware of the saintly service that had made their own devotion possible?

When the way is all we have to walk, those who prepare the way should be truly honored.

Daily Tao / 269 – Modesty

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Have you ever had a knot in your shoelace?
You have to bend down to untie it.

Difficulties in life confront us all; people respond in their own ways to adversity. Some succumb, some grow boisterous. Some marshall their determination, some respond with trickery. All too often, hardship will mow a person down.

When confronted with difficulty, those who follow Tao respond with modesty : they conform to the situation. They bow before it, and they concentrate upon it until they find a solution. They do not apply undue force; neither do they acquiesce meekly to fate. They examine the situation and carefully undo it. In the same way you bend down to untie a knot in your shoelace, they bend down to find guidance.

Even modesty can become an error if we become meek and insecure. Some people become so humble that they become self-defeating. They are talented but their personalities are so split that they cannot achieve their potential. Therefore, there must be limits even on modesty. It works. Like anything else, it must be applied in the right manner.

Daily Tao / 268 – Nature

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My back is stooped from scholarship,
My eyes are dimmed by history’s words.
Surrounded though I may be by learning,
I still cannot compare with nature’s perfection.

Learning is a passion shared by many of us. There is a great allure to education and a fascination with the accomplishments of civilization. We go to libraries and museums. We go to exhibits showing the diggings from royal tombs. We are enchanted with new inventions. And yet, if we look out our windows and see a tree in its perfection, or gaze into a tide pool, or watch a cat as it strolls its territory, or see the flash of a blue jay, we can see another order of beauty and intelligence in this life.

The works of humanity cannot compare to the works of nature. The works of civilization lack the balance and refinement of nature. Too many times, our accomplishments are tainted by impure motives : profit, hardship, desire for fame, simple greed. We achieve, but we cannot foresee the results because we are unable to place our actions into a greater context.

Nature is a conglomeration of contending forces, of tooth and claw, venom and perfume, mud and excrement, eggs and bones, lightning and lava. It seems chaotic. It seems terrible. And yet, for all its unfathomable workings, it far surpasses the business of our society.

Think about what you do. How much of it can compare to the perfection of nature?

Daily Tao / 267 – Style

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An old man sits on a granite step.
He plucks a treasured guitar.
The strings throb with feeling;
He needs no audience to open his heart.
A boy enthusiastically wants to learn his style.
“Style?” asks the man slowly. “My style is made of
The long road of life, of heartbreak
And joy, and people loved, and loneliness.
Of war and its atrocities.
Of a baby born.
Of burying parents and friends.
My scale is the seven stars of the dipper.
The hollow of my guitar is the space between heaven and earth.
How can I show you my style?
You have your own young life.”

Everyone has their own style in life. The old have perspective. The young have vigor. We can learn from each other, but we cannot have what the other generations possess. We are each shaped by our generations, and to transcend the limitations of our time is a rare occurrence indeed.