A moving door hinge never corrodes.
Flowing water never grows stagnant.
Even in the autumn of your life, you cannot give up growth. If you do, you only invite decline.
All the different aspects of a person — body, mind, and spirit — have one curious quality : If they cease to be exercised, they stop growing. Once they stop growing, they begin to atrophy. That is why, no matter how much you have accomplished and no matter how old you are, you must keep exercising all parts of yourself.
We only grow when we are challenged. Muscles do not strengthen without resistance. Mental faculties do not sharpen without critical thinking. The spirit does not soar without something to excite it. It may seem like a great effort to constantly try new things, but unless you do, you fall out of your heights very quickly. The constancy of physical exercise, varied from time to time into new routines, and the constancy of mental and spiritual challenges are essential to stave off the infirmities of aging.
We cannot reverse aging completely, but we can slow it down. As long as we are vital, we will not suffer as much. Although aging is natural, sometimes following Tao means more than following the route of least resistance. Why slide into old age, illness, and senility? The way of challenging oneself is also a valid but difficult path. Sometimes Tao chooses the difficult over the easy.
I am not this fragile body.
We are not our bodies. This may seem an odd assertion. After all, there is no other object on this earth that we know more intimately. Why should we not identify with it?
What is there about our bodies that is tangible? Of course it has substance, but how do we account for volition? A corpse is just as tangible as a living being, and yet no one would mistake the two. Something mysterious accounts for the differences between a live and a dead body. Something animates us.
It is the mind that directs the energy. But what of the mind can we call definite? It is like a flickering flame : At no point can we determine its exact contours. The more closely we examine ourselves, the more subtle distinctions become. Everything becomes quite indistinct. We cling stubbornly but futilely to the impression that we could find something in the reduction of things.
It’s all quite confusing. But one thing is certain : I am not this fragile body.
Outside is form,
Inside is thought.
Deepest is the soul.
Traditional sages describe a human being as having three sheaths. The outer one is the physical body and incorporates primitive drives and instincts. The inner one is the mind and includes discrimination, reasoning, and sense of individuality.
Both the body and the mind are enslaved to the outer world because they gain their knowledge from sensory input. They cannot know anything “intangible,” anything without a form or a name.
At the core of every person is the soul. This is a pure, virgin self. It does not think in the ordinary sense of the word, has no egotism, and is not concerned with maintaining itself in the world. Although the body has a shape and the mind is multi-faceted, the soul is completely without form or features. No markings, profiles, names, formulas, numbers, ideas, or conceptions can be projected upon it. It is pure, shapeless, and empty.
Any person with training can reach this soul. Only then can you be convinced of its presence. When you reach it, your body and mind will become irrelevant, for you are now in a state beyond the senses and beyond thought. The soul is called absolute because it is beyond all relativity.
Body is the tabernacle.
Traveling one thousand miles,
The gods are still in place.
The body is the temple of the gods. It should be kept clean and pure, so that the holiest of events can take place. Sacred, it should be kept undefiled. Consecrated, its interior is where the deepest questions are explored.
In olden times, the devout carried tabernacles so that they could keep up their devotions when when far from their homes. Their gods were inside these boxes, protected and treasured. Followers of Tao believe that the gods are within themselves. Therefore, wherever they go, they carry the gods within them.
During their travels, when they come to a resting place, they open not a receptacle but themselves. They carry their sense of “place” within themselves. Even while sojourning, they remain oriented to their inner sacredness. Perhaps they can even make breakthroughs more quickly, for the preoccupations of the mind are no longer present to interfere with the flow of the divine. Once people connect to their inner strength, there is no end to the wonders of travel.
Diet, mind, conditions
Hold the possibility of correction.
Whenever you feel out of sorts, or cannot sleep, or find it hard to work and think, you are separated from Tao. If you want to get back in touch with it, ask yourself three questions : Am I eating right? Is my mind tamed? Is my world safe?
It is not facetious to look at the way you eat whenever you feel out of step with life. Many problems can be alleviated by feeling better physically, and even if this doesn’t remedy things, it will give you a good basis for coping. Eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients. Take the time to understand proper nutrition and eat a large variety of foods according to the seasons. The skillful use of foods is far superior to medicine.
Next is the difficult mind that seems to have its own interests, habits, and excesses. The only way to counter this is to guard against worry, stress, intellectualism, scheming, and desires. This can only happen through a strong philosophical grounding and by methodical meditation.
Finally, environmental factors such as weather, natural and man-made disasters, and socioeconomic problems can break our unity with Tao. To cope with this, gain as much control over your environment as possible. Keep your home a haven, have control over your work place, and be independent enough to face emergencies. It is inevitable that one will fall in and out of Tao. The wise arrange their lives so that they can always return to balance.