Living Beyond Form

by Christopher Lovejoy on December 2, 2012

If you’ve lived a relatively good life, if you’ve lived mostly with purity in your heart, if you’ve given generously of yourself to others, then if accounts from The Other Side are anything to go by, there is nothing in this universe more wonderful, more peaceful, more blissful than the event of your passing from this world.

But here’s the irony: if you enjoy your life, if you feel relatively content, happy, free, and fulfilled, there’s no incentive for you to do away with yourself, but if you’re struggling, feeling mired in frustration and despair, and you see no way out, then taking your own life might only serve to postpone your problems to the next life.

Based on my reading of tales from The Other Side, there’s no doubt in my mind that living beyond form is as real as real can be. By most accounts, living beyond form is not a fantasy, it’s not a dream, and it’s not a hallucination. It’s completely and utterly real to those who have been there and come back to tell the tale.

This post, however, is not about living beyond death, at least not directly or entirely. This post is about living beyond form in this life, and from what I can tell, living beyond form in this life does have some rather interesting practical implications for living this life in the here and now.

Let’s explore some of them.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 14

Some scholars have singled out verse 14 as the most fundamental of the 81 verses in the Tao Te Ching, noting that verse 14 expresses a universal principle that underpins all of existence …

That which cannot be seen
is called invisible.
That which cannot be heard
is called inaudible.
That which cannot be held
is called intangible.
These three cannot be defined;
they are merged as one.

Each of these three
is too subtle for description.
By intuition you can
see it, hear it, feel it:
the unseen, unheard, untouched
are present as one.

Its rising brings no dawn,
its setting no darkness;
it goes on and on, unnameable,
returning into nothingness.

Approach it
and there is no beginning;
Follow it
and there is no end.
You cannot know it,
but you can be it,
at ease in your own life.

Finding how things
have always been
brings one into harmony
with the Way.

Edited slightly to enhance flow

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

Invisible, inaudible, intangible, unknowable, ineffable, the formless can never be known directly, but you can nevertheless be it.

Even better: not only be it, but take your ease with it.

My Impressions of the Verse

Some people have unusual difficulty believing in the existence of that which cannot be seen, heard, or touched.

But we all know it exists. It exists when the invisible becomes visible as a pattern of iron filings in the presence of a magnet, when the inaudible becomes audible as heartbeats in a stethoscope, when the intangible becomes tangible as a lifeless body in a car full of CO.

The formless is seen, heard, and touched through the manifestation of form. For the skeptics among us: as form evolves, how else might the formless manifest in this world, to be seen, heard, touched, felt, known, and expressed as completely and utterly real?

I invite you to think about this before you assess my impressions of the following …

That which cannot be seen
is called invisible.
That which cannot be heard
is called inaudible.
That which cannot be held
is called intangible.
These three cannot be defined;
they are merged as one.

We cannot define that which has no form; “merged as one” does not mean “merged as one form”. Perhaps a more accurate denotation would be “treated as one”.

Each of these three
is too subtle for description.
By intuition you can
see it, hear it, feel it:
the unseen, unheard, untouched
are present as one.

The subtlety of the formless – collectively known as the invisible, inaudible, and intangible – can only ever be denoted, but only as and when its elusive influence manifests in a world of form.

Where reason can see patterns in iron filings, listen to heartbeats, and touch cold dead bodies, intuition can have you see, hear, and feel a torrential downpour even before it manifests.

Its rising brings no dawn,
its setting no darkness;
it goes on and on, unnameable,
returning into nothingness.

This eloquent passage attempts to describe the indescribable, as elusive as it is mysterious.

Approach it
and there is no beginning;
Follow it
and there is no end.
You cannot know it,
but you can be it,
at ease in your own life.

I love this portion: you cannot know it, but you can be it, at ease in your own life.

Being at ease in my own life requires trust and trusting – trust and trusting in the energy of life and love that continuously supports and sustains the essence of who I am and the inner guidance that it manifests from the wellsprings of the Tao.

Finding how things
have always been
brings one into harmony
with the Way.

Harmony with the Way is the ultimate prize of living the inspired life – by resting in patience, by being sensitive and receptive to the invisible, inaudible, intangible, unknowable, ineffable Tao, as and when it manifests in your life, over and over and over again.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

We are not here, in this world of form, to bypass or transcend it once and for all.

We’re here to explore it, to express ourselves with respect to it, to expand ourselves alongside it.

We’re here to play with forms, to work with forms, to observe them and create them for our own benefit and for the benefit of others. We’re here to seek and find and know fulfillment through forms.

Forms are ubiquitous. They show up as natural or artificial, organic or synthetic, or some combination of the two. We find them in nature, art, science, and technology. Our bodies, our homes, our possessions? All forms.

Form follows function and function follows form, depending on who you ask.

Forms can be described as animated or activated, functional or dysfunctional, present or absent, restrained or abandoned, and yet, we would do well to remember that the world of form is not just a world of forms.

Verse 14 of the Tao Te Ching points to an active in-form-ational, trans-form-ational energetic presence, acting elusively and mysteriously behind and beyond form: the formless, formlessness, the formless Tao, if you will.

In one hand, I can hold an object, in the form of a magnet, a slide, a test tube; in the other, I can hold nothing at all. The weight of the one is balanced by the presence, the promise, and the wisdom found in contemplating the other.

I need not be attached to any form: I can drop it at any time, I can be free to move it any which way, I can release my grip on it, toss it this way or that, be free to experiment with it, exploring, expressing, and expanding my perception of it – at any time.

Free of fearful attachment to form, I can welcome my infinite nature, allowing my world and my life to manifest as and when it does, bringing harmony and peace of mind; informed and inspired, I can follow my bliss with grace and ease.

Tapping my inner vision, I can go far beyond the stars, beyond what I see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and feel, turning my life into a walking, talking meditation, following my intuitive guidance by Way of the Absolute so as to be informed and inspired.

What is the essence of what my senses reveal to me? What is this mysterious, magical energy behind this creation or that manifestation? What is the inspiration that lies behind this thought, that feeling, this urge, that impulse, this desire?

In light of these questions, I find it not only prudent but necessary to allow my sense of awe and gratitude to pay me regular visits as and when I embrace the principle of forever and leave myself open to following the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

Immersed in a world of form, I can nevertheless see, hear, and feel the mystery and the magic.

Next up: On Living Spaciously and Profoundly (i.e., Unhurriedly)

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This post is one of many in an ongoing series that began here.

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