O, Sweet Harmony

by Christopher Lovejoy on June 16, 2013

Effort: a determined or vigorous attempt; the effect, result, or outcome of such an attempt.

Attempt: the performance of an act taken to bring about a desired effect, result, or outcome not certain to arise, succeed, or manifest.

In contemplating these definitions, we can easily see that ‘no effort’ need not imply ‘no attempt’, as and when a grudging attempt is made without vigor or determination. No effort merely implies that no determined or vigorous attempt is being, was, or has been made.

Even more radical than making no effort is making no attempt: instead of making attempts, I invite, I welcome, I accept, I allow.

With an inner posture of presence and peace, the law of least effort transmutes effortlessly into the law of no attempts.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 42

Strive: to make great efforts to bring about desired effects, results, or outcomes; to struggle or fight vigorously (!).

Striving is endemic in this world of trials and tribulations. So many feel they must strive, stress, struggle, and strain.

But what might it mean to relax, to give up striving, to let go and let be, to go with the flow, and melt into harmony?

The Tao
gives birth to one,
one gives birth to two,
two gives birth to three,
three begets the 10,000 things,
and the 10,000 things carry yin
and contain yang, in balance,
as they circulate in harmony.

People suffer
at the thought of being
without parents,
without food, or without worth.
Yet this is the way
kings and lords once
described themselves,
for one gains by losing,
and loses by gaining.

What others taught, I teach:
the violent do not die natural deaths;
this is my fundamental teaching.

Edited slightly by yours truly to enhance the flow of text (effortlessly)

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

Despite what you might have read or heard, the lines in this verse blend harmoniously and belong together.

My Impressions of the Verse

The two most important words in this verse are as follows: being without.

I invite you to read and savor these words slowly and deeply, with the following emphasis added: being without.

Perhaps the most poignant image of being without is the space made by a worm at the core of an apple.

The core of my apple – a metaphor for my beingness, or more simply, my being – is where it all begins, continues, and ends, at least where my doing is concerned, in keeping with the maxim the way to do is to be.

More succinctly, I do what I be.

As my doing arises from my being, which is where I invite, welcome, accept, and allow encounter and experience to show up with presence, then my having arises naturally in the course of being and doing, with no effort, no striving, and no attempts made.

But what happens when a worm shows up at the core of my apple?

Should I make an effort? Should I strive to compensate?

The Tao
gives birth to one,
one gives birth to two,
two gives birth to three,
three begets the 10,000 things,
and the 10,000 things carry yin
and contain yang, in balance,
as they circulate in harmony.

These lines set a context to appreciate the wisdom that follows.

Tao - Sun and Moon

The balanced taijitu serves as a potent symbol of this context.

People suffer
at the thought of being
without parents,
without food, or without worth.
Yet this is the way
kings and lords once
described themselves,
for one gains by losing,
and loses by gaining.

Let’s not mince words: thoughts of being without parents, without food, or without worth are confused with intimations of a living death. In the flow of experience, being without complements being with. Being without need not oppose being with.

Likewise, the endlessly flowing circularity of gaining and losing, of losing and gaining, as we go about living our lives, are most essentially about encounters and experiences rising and falling on and along the pathway to and from awareness.

With detachment and without attachment, I can learn to appreciate what is given and what is taken.

It has been said: only when you have really lost it all can you realize just how little you truly need.

What others taught, I teach:
the violent do not die natural deaths;
this is my fundamental teaching.

Violence is a reaction to lack or loss, real or perceived. Being without violence is being with yourself, truly and wholly.

Being with yourself is being receptive, reflective, and responsive to what arises as it arises.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

Ernest Becker, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death, once called death “the worm at the core”.

For those who believe that death is the end – a one-way trip to oblivion – this characterization of death would make sense, but for those who know better for having made one or more trips to The Other Side of The Great Divide, death so-called is merely a passing, a transition.

Truth be told, the worm at the core is not death per se, whether said death be physical or spiritual; the worm at the core is a gnawing, squirming intimation of a living death, where the very essence of a living death is a death of real or perceived opportunity – the real or perceived opportunity to sing your song, to dance your dance, to bounce your ball.

From a witness perspective, with detachment and without attachment, people, places, and things come and go. Life goes on, and so do we, if we’re wise and whole. To remain stuck is a refusal to say “yes” to reality as it is and move on from there.

The taijitu reminds us, over and over, again and again, that all seeming opposites are complementary, always already in balance, as and when we effortlessly bring the cores of our respective apples into alignment with this natural, spontaneous balance.

Unless, of course, there’s a wriggling, pulsating, chomping worm inside the core of my being, in which case, I would do well to accept, allow, invite (coax?), welcome, and release it, wisely and wholly – alone or in concert with another or others.

And do so with alert, authentic, responsive conduct guided by a peaceful inner posture of presence.

Next up: Proceeding Softly (But Not Too Softly)

/

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

Related Posts

Previous post:

Next post: