Open Up and Trust

by Christopher Lovejoy on February 3, 2013

For a while now, and with some success, I’ve been using an online service to sell household items to the public.

One of its features allows me to post anonymously; another allows me to receive messages anonymously. In using these features, I’ve observed some interesting results.

Some responders to my ads are understandably cautious and therefore impersonal when they query. For example, their email addresses are clearly secondary, their names are initialed, and the tone of their messaging is terse, even abbreviated.

Other responders (not spammers) are surprisingly friendly and therefore personal when they query. Their email addresses are more permanent and their tone is more open and trusting; they’re also quick to include first names and phone numbers in their messages.

In getting to meet up with those from the first group, I find that I’m more conscious of my desire to build bridges of trust, which can be done when I match their vibe of caution and follow their lead with respectful attention and a tone of trust.

In getting to meet up with those from the second group, I find that I’m more conscious of my desire to keep trust alive, which can be done if I raise my vibe of trust as I go along, as I reveal more and more about what’s required to make the sale.

I would venture to say that those in the first group have been exposed to more encounters and experiences that breed suspicion and mistrust, while those in the second group have been relatively more insulated from such encounters or experiences.

But then again, perhaps those in the first group are less discerning and those in second group more seasoned.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 23

After reading this verse, you might think that it counsels you to live more naturally, but I believe that its message goes further and deeper …

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.

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
are we able to do so?

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 from goodness,
become one with failure.

If you express the Way,
power flows through you;
your actions are those of nature,
your ways those of heaven.

Open yourself up to the Tao,
trust your impulses and responses,
and everything falls into place.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

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

The message here clearly encourages us to embrace the supreme virtue to live naturally and divinely in harmony with the Way, but it also cautions us about consequences if we should ever stray.

My Impressions of the Verse

Rich with metaphor, verse 23 builds a case for harmony both natural and divine, to open up and trust the Way.

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.

The unexpected, the unpredictable, the uncontrollable – all have their time and place in the overall scheme of things, but they never last.

Again, we see the personification of heaven and earth, as if they are persons, as a means of comparison for what we do – or fail to do.

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
are we able to do so?

Here, this portion of the verse appeals to common sense to have us realize, not only that “this too shall pass”, but that a deliberate push to force anyone or anything to bear fruit cannot last.

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 from goodness,
become one with failure.

This wise counsel builds on previous verses, assuming that readers already know the answers to the how and why of following the Way.

Forcing anything (or anyone) serves only to breed hard feelings, increasing the risk of incurring doubts that weigh on the mind or regrets that weigh on the conscience.

If you express the Way,
power flows through you;
your actions are those of nature,
your ways those of heaven.

One does not conform to the Way (the Way is formless, after all); one expresses the Way with its power, informing and transforming one’s version of this world by serving as a vessel (soul) and vehicle (spirit) of information and transformation, respectively.

Open yourself up to the Tao,
trust your impulses and responses,
and everything falls into place.

Open up (that is, be naturally receptive, reflective, and responsive to moments of divine ascension) and trust your impulses and responses both natural and divine. If you do, your reward will be unity and harmony: everything falls into place; everything flows like water.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

An experience of this world requires human animal bodies with which to perceive the world through five senses, and because these bodies are vulnerable to all sorts of afflictions and inflictions, we are capable of fear and pain, which lend urgency to the reality of free will.

As we infuse our bodies with love and light, in lieu of fear and pain, we become more and more like the creators we are – creators of our own experience of reality, even as the anxiety fed by doubt that comes from living a limited but valid perspective of survival continues.

Make no mistake about it: fear, anxiety, doubt, and pain are ubiquitous. We are spiritual beings in biological bodies at the mercy of random forces and circumstances – unexpected, unpredictable, uncontrollable events that can shatter hopes, dreams, and lives at any time.

Some would argue that this basic condition, because it’s rare, is not central to who we are. This, I would argue, is sheer nonsense.

This basic condition of vulnerability is absolutely positively central to who we are. No amount of denial will change the fact that it is always in the back of our minds when it is not at the forefront of our minds, each and every day of our lives.

Furthermore, this basic existential vulnerability spawns myriad fears: a fear of not being, doing, or having enough, of not being good enough, of being controlled and manipulated or having to control and manipulate; a fear of not being worthy or worthy enough; a fear of being ridiculed or rejected; a fear of being truthful or being caught in a lie; a fear of being seen as a fake or a failure – or as real and successful; a fear of not having enough time, money, freedom, status, or power; a fear of being injured, of becoming sick, of getting old, decrepit, and dependent; a fear of being at the mercy of corrupt institutions and mindless authorities; a fear of causing an accident or being in an accident; a fear of having to deal with unexpected inadequacies, obstacles, challenges, difficulties, problems; a fear of enemies and frenemies; a fear of the grim reaper.

We are a species drenched in fear, doubt, worry, anxiety, and pain. It’s truly a wonder that any of us can go along to get along with anyone.

Become lovers of Unity and Harmony? Be at one with the Tao and follow the Way? Replace fear with love? Open up and trust? Be receptive, reflective, and responsive? Who am I trying to kid? Or am I just a be-good lunatic who has completely lost his mind and his marbles?

The world is full of people who are full of fear and pain. There’s no denying this – and there’s no pretending that it’s not as bad as it really is, although you are more than welcome to try, as many do. I hate to break it to you, but for the most part, we are conditioned fearbots.

Are these exposures to truth an excuse to give up and give in to the fear and the pain? Or is there something we can actually do about it?

For Lao Tzu, the way to do is to be. When we place emphasis on paying attention and setting intention, we can be witnesses to our own responses and reactions. This is our salvation – always has been, always will be, for as long as we inhabit this pretty blue globe.

One option – the conventional option – is to hunker down in a bid to purchase some security and stability. You know the drill: get educated, develop skills, secure a stable job, mortgage your future with a nice place, find someone to share it with, have kids, buy some toys.

The other option is a little more radical: consolidate your earnings, throw caution to the wind, reduce your holdings, and follow your bliss.

Many of us, however, are not so lucky to be in a place where we can exercise either one of these options, relying more on one or more of the many and various sources of consolation, many of which have one thing in common: the universal theme of unity and harmony.

Just for the sake of discussion, let’s employ the holy cross as a symbol of reference to explore my intended meaning here.

holy cross in nature

The vertical beam represents a grounding of the divine in the earthly realm, of bringing heaven down to earth. The horizontal beam represents time spent here in the earthly realm, from birth to death. The point at which these beams intersect represents a meeting of natural and divine at the heart of your soul.

By exercising pure positive focus and appreciation (with focused attention), we manifest desired outcomes and conditions (through focused intention) from the heart of soul, where natural seems divine and divine seems natural. Ultimately, this is the only way we can heal the fear, the hurt, and the pain.

Earlier, I spoke of harmony and unity with respect to the Tao. I wrote, and I quote:

Open up (that is, be naturally receptive, reflective, and responsive to moments of divine ascension) and trust your impulses and responses both natural and divine. If you do, your reward will be unity and harmony: everything falls into place; everything flows like water.

This is the ultimate ideal with respect to earth and heaven, horizontal and vertical, natural and divine, selfishness and selflessness – of bringing heaven down to earth. We can be naturally selfish (positively or negatively, this is always a choice) or we can be divinely selfless.

The more we open up and trust, the more purely and positively focused and appreciative we become, and the more purely and positively focused and appreciative we can be, the more easily we can open up and trust, but the point is not to be purely selfless or selfish.

Service to self and service to others is a false dichotomy, which only serves to perpetuate the age-old rift between natural and divine.

As long as we continue to inhabit biologically vulnerable bodies in the earthly realm, the point is always to negotiate the intersection between natural and divine – or, if you’ve advanced sufficiently as a spiritual being in human form, between sacred and divine, natural and eternal.

Ideally, we are neither purely selfless nor purely selfish and we are never one and then the other; we are a cultivated cross between the two.

Are we ready to incorporate a new paradigm of living? To remember who we are and live from the essence of who we are? Are we ready to embrace freedom and live fully and fearlessly? To embody peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, gratitude, abundance, harmony, and unity?

More and more people the world over are beginning to ask these questions in one form or another.

As we grow more aware of who we are, perhaps these questions will converge on this answer: yes.

Next up: Purify to Perfection (Living Without Excess)

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

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