Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Living Naturally

We are continuing to have beautiful weather. I love to step outside my front door in the early morning, stand on my porch, and breathe in the cool, fresh air. Later, after I have completed my morning commute and parked my car, I walk through the park between the parking garage and my office building. In the East, the sun is shining bright and walking through the park relaxes me before I jump into my days work. The weather has been so pleasant lately that I find myself also going outside during my lunch. Yesterday I did this and it was wonderful to have a few moments of quiet reflection sitting on a bench looking at the water fountain. I was brought back to reality, however, when I realized that birds had pooped all over my bench. Why do birds only poop on benches in the shade? Do you think it's because the benches are right under the trees? Gee, maybe that's why the bench is shady! How do you like that for deductive reasoning? I'll be happy as long as the birds don't poop on my bald head.

I am still reading the Tao Te Ching. Chapter 23 is about living naturally.

To talk little is natural, fierce winds do not blow all morning, a downpour of rain does not last the day. Who does this? Heaven and Earth. (I can't help but think of my friend, Natalie, in South Florida who awaits a hurricane. Even a hurricane doesn't last forever.) But these are exaggerated, forced effects, and that is why they cannot be sustained. If heaven and earth cannot sustain a forced action, how much less is man able to do. Those who follow the way become one with the way. Those who follow goodness become one with goodness. Those who stray from the way and goodness become one with failure. If you conform to the way, its power flows through you. Your actions become those of nature, your ways those of heaven. Open yourself to the Tao and trust your natural responses, then everything will fall into place.

I believe that which is called the Tao basically contains what I consider universal truths. The Tao Te Ching is 25 centuries old so it predates some religious traditions. Anyone who had done any study of religion knows the major religions share many basic truths. There's more than one way to study and learn the Truth. Some of my Christian friends get upset when I suggest that Christians don't have a monopoly on the Truth. In my mind that is liking saying Christians have a monopoly on love. I think Gandhi, a Hindu, hit the nail on the head when he said, "I like your Jesus Christ. It's your Christians I have a problem with". I think most of you know what kind of people he's talking about. I think what this chapter of the Tao Te Ching is talking about is "How do we really follow the Way"? It doesn't matter if you consider the Way to be the compassion of Buddhism, the non violence of Hinduism, or the love of Christianity. This chapter is saying that the transformative power of the Way, whatever way we follow it, is not found in big bursts of energy or in actions we do more for others than for God. Our inner transformation is to be found in the daily living out of our beliefs and convictions. If you live compassionately, you will become compassion. If you live non violently, you will become non violence. If you love, you will become love. "Your actions become those of nature, your ways those of heaven".

I found the following quote from Thomas Merton last night and it really describes many of my own feelings. Thomas Merton was a monk at the monastery where I once lived and that I visit monthly. Merton has been one of my great teachers in life although we have never met in this life. Maybe the next one...

Paradoxically, I have found peace because I have always been dissatisfied. My moments of depression and despair turn out to be renewals, new beginnings. If I were once to settle down and be satisfied with the surface of life, with its divisions and its clich├ęs, it would be time to call in the undertaker. So, then, this dissatisfaction which sometimes used to worry me and has certainly, I know, worried others, has helped me in fact to move freely and even gaily with the stream of life. My unspoken (or spoken) protests have kept me from clinging to what was already done with. When a thought is done, let go of it. When something has been written, publish it, and go on to something else. You may say the same thing again someday, on a deeper level. No one needs to have a compulsion to be utterly and perfectly "original" in every word he writes.
-Thomas Merton. A Thomas Merton Reader.

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