On Living Virtuously

by Christopher Lovejoy on March 10, 2013

As someone who appreciates harmony, intimacy, and serenity, I am just as inclined to live blissfully, intuitively, and naturally as I am to live rationally, logically, and sensibly (if not more so).

For me, living virtuously does not put urges, impulses, longings, and yearnings into a cage labelled “caution”. For me, it’s about being “a valley under heaven” and “a fountain for my world”.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 28

Peacefully, blissfully, playfully, compassionately, living virtuously arises as and when I follow the Way …

Know the strength of a man,
but keep a woman’s care!
Be a valley under heaven;
if you do, the constant virtue
will not fade away. You will
become like a child again.

Know the white, keep to the black,
and be the pattern of your world.
To be the pattern of your world is
to move constantly on a path of virtue
without erring a single step,
and return yet again to infinitude.

Those who appreciate splendor
with enough humility and grace
act in accordance with eternal power.
To be a fountain for your world is
to live a life of virtue and abundance.

When the formless assumes form,
the original qualities invariably fade;
in returning to these original qualities,
you can be a witness to anything.
Truly, the best governor governs least.

Edited slightly to adjust meaning and to enhance the flow of text

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

This verse invites us to adopt three integral ways of being: be a valley under heaven and move constantly on a path of virtue; be a fountain for your world and live a life of virtue and abundance; retain your sovereignty with originality and be a peaceful, blissful, playful, compassionate witness to your world.

My Impressions of the Verse

Be the pattern of your world; be a fountain for your world; be a witness to your world.

The emphasis here is on “your world”, or more precisely, “your version of this world”.

This is not an invitation to ignore or dismiss the consensus reality, but to be mindfully and playfully aware of your own capacity to be wholly present to your own experience of reality, to the ways in which you generate this experience uniquely, creatively, responsively.

I tweaked a few words in this verse to more accurately reflect my view and version of this world. The verse is nevertheless rich in metaphor and presents a comprehensive worldview that smooths the way for harmony with the Way.

Know the strength of a man,
but keep a woman’s care!
Be a valley under heaven;
if you do, the constant virtue
will not fade away. One will
become like a child again.

A second childhood is a recurring theme in Taoist literature. The point here is not to be childish, but to be childlike, knowing and respecting the strength of a man while appreciating what it means to graciously keep a mature woman’s care. But then, being childlike is not the point either.

Being childlike is incidental to being a valley under heaven.

Being a valley under heaven suggests a lowering of expectation, a receiving of grace with humility, an opening to fertility from the seeds that blow in the wind and eventually settle into the soil.

Being a valley under heaven evokes the image of a stream, flowing and meandering naturally, with effortless ease, inviting us to be at peace, to follow our bliss, to be playful like a child.

The reference to “the constant virtue” is a reference to the supreme virtue: “to follow the Tao and the Tao alone”.

Know the white, keep to the black,
and be the pattern of your world.
To be the pattern of your world is
to move constantly on a path of virtue
without erring a single step,
and return yet again to infinitude.

To err is human, to forgive divine, but only if we persist in being human (only) rather than divine (also).

The reference to being the pattern of your world is a reference to following the light and holding the light for others in the face of dualities.

To move constantly on a path of virtue without erring a single step is to live blissfully and divinely, in accordance with the constant virtue. A return to infinitude is a return to the boundless stillness within.

In negotiating an apparent obstacle responsively, with humility and grace, I return to a place where presence, peace, and promise reside.

Those who appreciate splendor
with enough humility and grace
act in accordance with eternal power.
To be a fountain for your world is
to live a life of virtue and abundance.

A life of virtue and abundance arises naturally and spontaneously in the wake of acting in accordance with the eternal power of the Way, the Source, the Tao, which requires enough humility and grace to invite, welcome, and receive the splendor.

Ultimately, to be a fountain for my world is to allow the Way to move through me, to have its way with me.

When the formless assumes form,
the original qualities invariably fade;
in returning to these original qualities,
you can be a witness to anything.
Truly, the best governor governs least.

The original qualities in my formlessness prior to birth arise and flow from a sound relationship with unity and harmony in a world of form: peace, love, joy, bliss, grace, gratitude, humility, simplicity, and compassion.

By assuming human form, I placed a veil over my original qualities. At some point, it was up to me and me alone to reclaim them, to bring them into a world of form through my relationships with self, others, and the world at large.

By allowing my original self – my vibrational essence, if you will – to emerge in a world of form, in the world of the 10,000 things, I can be a witness to anything, which means I can apply a light touch to the pattern of my world.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

In keeping with the wisdom of verse 28, personal fulfillment in harmony with the Way reflects and expresses four ways of Being:

1. Be a valley under heaven

The first cornerstone of Being involves being a valley under heaven (see my impressions above) from a place of childlike innocence and wonder; when I am such, the constant virtue of following the Tao and the Tao alone is my constant companion.

2. Be the pattern of your world

The second cornerstone of Being involves being the pattern of your version of this world, which requires a willingness to mindfully, skillfully, artfully, unerringly handle duality in the face of any and all obstacles before returning to ground zero – stillness.

3. Be a fountain for your world

The third cornerstone of Being involves being a fountain for your version of this world, which requires enough humility and grace to invite, welcome, and receive the splendor of your virtue and abundance with genuine understanding and appreciation.

4. Be a simple uncarved block

The fourth cornerstone of Being requires allowance and acceptance, involving a return to your original nature, to being a simple uncarved block, metaphorically speaking, by cultivating the receptive stance of a witness with your version of this world.

These four cornerstones of Being speak to the reality of presence, peace, promise, and possibility, respectively.

With presence, I can be a valley under heaven; with peace, I can be the pattern of my world; and with promise, I can be a fountain for my version of this world. As a simple uncarved block, I can open up and trust the arrival of possibility.

 At the start of this post, I put the spotlight on a few of my values, which I explore more extensively in The Art of Surrender.

I noticed a rather curious pattern emerge spontaneously in my consideration of these values with respect to the cornerstones of Being. I might be reading too much into this, but in a spirit of play, I’d like to share my findings.

First, the pattern:

beauty
a valley under heaven
harmony
the pattern of my world
serenity
a fountain for my world
intimacy
a simple uncarved block
ecstasy

The perception and appreciation of beauty requires form.

If the formless serves to energetically in-form and/or trans-form, then the formed is an energetic product of formless in-formation and/or trans-formation.

With presence, I can be mindfully aware of beauty in the valley under heaven, in a place where I can be receptive and responsive to the harmony that arises between observer and observed, formless and formed.

Naturally, harmony brings peace. At peace, I can be the pattern of my world, negotiating duality with relative ease, even as it disturbs my peace, before returning to ground zero in the valley under heaven.

In my bliss, I feel the promise of my serenity in humility and grace. With promise, I can be a fountain for my world, a vessel for inviting and receiving the fruits of my virtue and abundance with understanding and appreciation.

With prosperity consciousness, blessings abound. Intimacy seems assured – intimacy with the world, intimacy with another, intimacy with others, but most especially intimacy with the Self, in a return to originality.

In the valley under heaven, the presence of a beautiful view evokes a feeling of harmony, bringing a sense of peace as profound as the feeling, allowing subsequent patterns to emerge with relative ease from a fountain secured with originality.

As a witness to my world, which includes a valley, a pattern, a fountain, and a block, I become a natural channel for ecstasy and for the experience of ecstasy in the fullness of presence and peace, promise and possibility.

Life is great (boundless); life is good (fruitful and fulfilling).

Next up: A Time and A Place (Living by Natural Law)

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