Be … Here … Now

by Christopher Lovejoy on November 17, 2013

To be wholesome, to be whole some of the time, is to allow the Whole to inform us, to guide us, to inspire us in ways and by means that both delight us and perplex us.

To be here now is to drop past and future as temporary measures, to release regret and worry, to allow vital spiritual energy from the Whole to inform us, guide us, inspire us.

Let us not forget, however, that we can still learn from the past, that we can still cherish memories from the past, that we can still establish a thread of continuity with the past. Let us also not forget that we can still picture desired outcomes by drawing energy from our anticipations of the future.

Nevertheless, by dwelling in the present moment, we can set our intentions and fulfill our desires.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 64

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

These words in verse 64 are the most well known of all the words in the Tao Te Ching, which is curious because they don’t even begin to capture the essential wisdom contained in this verse.

What is at rest
is easily managed;
what is not yet manifest
is easy to prevent.
The brittle is easily shattered,
the small is easily scattered.

Act before things exist;
manage them
before there is disorder.
Remember: a tree
that fills a man’s embrace
grows from a seedling.
A tower nine stories high
starts with one brick.
A journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step.

Act, and you destroy it;
grasp, and you lose it.
Sages do not act,
and so are not defeated;
they do not grasp
and therefore do not lose.
People usually fail when
on the verge of success.
So give as much care
at the end as at the beginning;
then, there will be no failure.

Sages do not treasure
what is difficult to attain.
They do not collect
precious things; they learn
not to hold on to ideas.
They help the 10,000 things
find their own nature,
but do not venture
to lead them by the nose.

Edited slightly to enhance flow and to reflect more inclusive language

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

Can we say, philosophy of life in a nutshell?

My Impressions of the Verse

Of all the verses from the Tao Te Ching that I’ve read and studied and commented on so far, this verse is, for me, by far the most interesting and intriguing of them all.

Verse 64, containing as many metaphors as it does, is packed with meaning.

To unpack it all, let us start at the beginning, with a single step.

What is at rest
is easily managed;
what is not yet manifest
is easy to prevent.
The brittle is easily shattered,
the small is easily scattered.

This world is a blank canvas, waiting to be filled with color, but only if you can step back and view it restfully, without bias and prejudice.

With respect to anticipating difficulties before they arise and become too slippery or big to handle, these words are spot on: the brittle is easily shattered, the small is easily scattered.

Act before things exist;
manage them
before there is disorder.
Remember: a tree
that fills a man’s embrace
grows from a seedling.
A tower nine stories high
starts with one brick.
A journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step.

Even if this world can be viewed as a blank canvas, we must act nevertheless.

Here, these colorful words encourage us: wherever possible, unprocrastinate.

Act, and you destroy it;
grasp, and you lose it.
Sages do not act,
and so are not defeated;
they do not grasp
and therefore do not lose.
People usually fail when
on the verge of success.
So give as much care
at the end as at the beginning;
then, there will be no failure.

We might be tempted to object to the apparent contradiction that arises in this third passage with respect to the second, namely, act before things exist, but then, do not act, as you will destroy it, and do not grasp, as you will lose it.

This apparent contradiction, however, is easily resolved when you take into account levels of spiritual maturation (organic growth) and spiritual maturity (conscious growth), or more precisely, personal levels of spiritual alignment with the Tao, the Great Way.

Students master procrastination in all of its forms before reaching the level of mastery. At the level of mastery, sages dare not act, having learned not to grasp and having learned how not to be defeated by following the principle and practice of nondoing.

One vital clue to having the mastery of sages can be found in the last five lines of this portion of the verse: people usually fail when on the verge of success. So give as much care at the end as at the beginning; then, there will be no failure.

I would even go so far as to say that “at the end” can either mean “at the end of a process of learning and discovery” or “at the end of a relationship” (of any kind). Such endings, when treated with an attitude of gratitude or with due respect, can be successful regardless of any perceived failure.

Sages do not treasure
what is difficult to attain.
They do not collect
precious things; they learn
not to hold on to ideas.
They help the 10,000 things
find their own nature,
but do not venture
to lead them by the nose.

These are the remaining clues to having the mastery of sages, to having the mastery of those who have mastered procrastination by having it cease to be an issue in their lives.

The first three clues are easy to understand, but not so easy to appreciate and put it into practice, as they seem to require a fair amount of personal sacrifice, at least from the point of view of those who have yet to reach mastery.

The fourth clue, being the final say on the matter, and therefore being the most important of all, requires careful qualification.

The 10,000 things is a reference to the world and its many things, to the indefinite multiplicity, to the things of manifestation rather than the beings of creation. As such, they certainly do not require our help to be anything other than what they always already are.

I must wonder if it might not be better to formulate this portion of the verse as follows: They help those who engage the 10,000 things to find their own nature, but do not venture to lead them by the nose.

Masters have mastered their relationship with the 10,000 things and they’re usually available to help those who have yet to peel away their conditioning and act in accordance with their own natures.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

The vital and supreme importance of being aligned with the truth, the beauty, and the power of the Tao, of the Great Way, is a theme that weaves its way through the entire Tao Te Ching.

In verse 64, we receive some essential and practical guidelines as to how.

Even if we are not yet ready to embrace them wholesomely and wholeheartedly, they nevertheless point to a stage for our future cultivation as beings amidst things, living and loving, knowing and feeling, choosing and doing in the midst of the 10,000 things.

As I said, this world is a blank canvas, but only if you can step back and view it restfully, without bias and prejudice, where bias arises from an insecure relationship with the world of ideas and things, and where prejudice arises through insecure relationships with others of our kind.

Again, this world is a blank canvas, but only if you can step back and view it restfully, without bias and prejudice.

This proposition is our starting point on a personal journey of discovery, even if it seems idealistic to the many among us, as being wholly without bias and prejudice implies standing alone, of being wholly responsible for all that we think and feel, say and do.

An ideal, however, is not a standard. We do the best we can, assuming a witness perspective in the midst of challenge and crisis, without losing heart or mind. We do the best we know how, taking nothing personally, and where possible, remaining true to our word.

Ideally, we stay true to our word, make no assumptions, take nothing personally, and always do our best. Much easier said than done, I know, because when you seek the light of love and wisdom, you must also negotiate the dirt, the dark, and the depths.

In spirit, we need not grapple with the surging, conflicting, interfering urges and impulses of a human animal body.

In spirit, we are the White Beings in the White Room, in search of contrast so that we might know ourselves fully.

The surging, conflicting, interfering urges and impulses of a human animal body serve us admirably, providing all manner of comparison and contrast, having us learn and master a myriad of lessons, so that we might press humanity into serving the aims of divinity.

We never die. Not really. Nevertheless, the appearance of earthly death is a rich source of divine lessons, as are the appearance of earthly challenges, carefully and masterfully disguised as accidents, disasters, afflictions, obstacles, inadequacies, problems, and difficulties.

You see, in spirit, in planning sessions that preceded our births, we got a sneak preview of our lives mapped out with mind-bogglingly complex flowcharts of possibilities, making agreements with other souls to do certain things, to have certain things happen, to be certain ways.

And then, we agree to forget.

At birth, the superconscious part of ourselves remains covered in gift wrap, allowing the conscious part of ourselves to play pretend. We get to pretend that evil and pain and misery and every form of suffering are as real as getting unexpectedly poked or pinched.

Remember, souls require contrast – and the deeper and more intense the contrast, the deeper and more fully souls can know themselves.

Of course, things in the earth realm might not get played out as planned. And that’s okay. No big deal. It just means we learned our lessons ahead of time; or, it just means we lost our way; or, it just means we got scared and decided not to go through with the plan.

By ‘we’, I mean our personalities wedded to animality, in contrast to the souls for which personalities act as vehicles. Where the personality wedded to animality serves to bear the lesson to learn the lesson, the soul serves to contain the lesson to absorb the lesson.

These lessons are all about getting a full and fulfilling experience of … brace yourself … acceptance, balance, compassion, cooperation, courage, empathy, empowerment, faith, forgiveness, gentleness, gratitude, harmony, humility, joy, kindness, open-heartedness, patience, peace, perseverance, persistence, reverence, self control, self love, self reliance, sharing, spirituality, trust, and unconditional love. I don’t pretend that this list of divine virtues is exhaustive – only comprehensive.

My understanding is that a few of these qualities (typically two to five of them) serve as central themes for the life of a soul, and that a host of others serve a supporting role in helping personalities learn lessons and get a clue (I invite you to consult Your Soul’s Plan to learn more).

Speaking as soul, here’s a snapshot of what I’ve learned about the course of my current earthly life so far:

I came into this world to learn acceptance: to learn what it means to take another’s point of view, to allow others to be themselves, to embrace past, present, and future circumstances. I came here to push through feeling unworthy of what I desire, to experience a greater knowing of my strength and power. Acceptance and empowerment: almost since birth to the present day, these have been the recurring themes of my life, and the six basic lessons that I came here to learn and master support the realization and fulfillment of these themes: trust, self control, self reliance, courage, empathy, and patience. For me, the clues to mastery are many: balance, humility, self love, kindness, cooperation, sharing, perseverance, gratitude, and compassion.

Generally speaking, two motives and four reasons have been identified to explain why souls enter human animal bodies as personalities.

This general statement in itself is provocative beyond belief, buttressed by countless hours of careful study and credible investigation into the afterlife, past lives, lives between lives, future lives, planned lives, channelled lives, reclaimed lives, and extraordinary lives.

In consultation with those who have direct or indirect access to the Other Side, investigators have learned that souls are not personalities, which is not to say that souls and personalities are separate and distinct – only that souls serve to contain personalities and that personalities serve to express souls.

Souls are pitch perfect, personalities less than perfect, and this contrasting dynamic serves the aims of every soul and every personality, as souls are hungry for the experience of divine virtue through earthly value, even as personalities are hungry for the experience of earthly value through divine virtue, in a shifting, transforming, evolving world of contingency and necessity supported by a world of absolutes.

Here in the earth realm, we have legions of personalities doing the bidding of souls in need of a body with two motives: to experience contrast and to be in service to others. As far as I know, these motives may or may not be mutually exclusive. That is, souls may or may not have need of contrast to be in service to others, or vice versa: souls may or may not have need of service to experience contrast.

In support of these motives, souls have four reasons to maintain a presence in the earthly realm: to awaken personalities to spiritual realities (this might involve an illness or an accident, a serious conundrum or a serious betrayal), to experience healing from wounds sustained from past lives or from a current life (which serves to awaken or enlighten), to balance karma (to bring energy back into balance), and to release false beliefs (around lack and limitation).

In short, we’re here (as embodied souls with personalities) to realize ourselves fully and to fulfill ourselves deeply.

As an aside, here is my declaration of intent as a personality in service to my soul:

I allow any outstanding karma to balance, any required healing to be realized, any service to others (or from others) to be given (or received), any false beliefs around lack and limitation to be processed and released, and any desired contrast to be experienced honestly, with integrity, while choosing a compassionate path of loving kindness. Herein lies the ultimate fulfillment of my person with respect to soul and spirit.

From my reading of those who would divine the intentions of souls, it would seem that many if not most deeply, intensely hurtful or harmful events in the lives of personalities were planned prior to birth. If true, this would be extremely controversial because it implies that evil is planned, that pain is planned, that suffering is planned, that misery is planned, for all of the motives and reasons discussed so far.

Such events include the death of a loved one, a serious accident, a spirit-crushing betrayal, a prolonged addiction, an illness or disease or affliction, coming out of the closet as [fill in the blank], et cetera. All such events can be chosen between and among souls prior to birth.

With this spiritual and metaphysical context in mind, let us now explore the notion of pathway and tie it in to verse 64 of the Tao Te Ching by starting with a question that I’ve asked before.

Let it be or make it so?

In keeping with the spirit of this pithy question, we would do well to discern the difference between ‘following a path’ and ‘blazing a trail’. To the Eastern way of thinking, with its respect for soul, letting it be and following a path ring true. To the Western way of thinking, with its emphasis on having a strong and vital spirit, ‘making it so’ and ‘blazing a trail’ ring true. Could this be a dichotomy in need of integration?

From the Eastern way of thinking, we get ready acceptance of past lives and karma. Respect for soul is expected, i.e., respect for challenges that soul chooses to experience before it incarnates in human form. ‘Letting it be’ and ‘following a path’ are par for the course.

From the Western way of thinking, we get ready resistance to not making the most of your life. Admiration of spirit is expected; enthusiasm and determination are cultivated in balance with tolerance and patience. ‘Making it so’ and ‘blazing a trail’ are par for the course.

In my post, Who You Really Are, I began a three-post exploration and examination of my tagline for this site: serving you as your guide along your path of personal fulfillment in harmony with who you really are. I was careful not to presume that your path is a path towards fulfillment as an abiding sense of fulfillment can always already be embraced and enjoyed through an awakening to present moment awareness. Nevertheless, the notion of path figures prominently in this statement of service.

Wayne Dyer, in his study of the Tao Te Ching, identifies three paths in his commentary on verse 64.

  1. the path of suffering
  2. the path of presence
  3. the path of foresight

Curiously, the first path can be either conscious or unconscious. People who remain asleep to spiritual reality suffer in ways that are very different from those who choose to suffer as martyrs for a righteous cause, in the manner of Christ, for the sake of Christ consciousness.

Fulfillment can be found in following a path of suffering when suffering is conscious and serves to purify spirit in relation to soul. Such is the case as and when inadequacies, obstacles, afflictions, problems, difficulties, and challenges are viewed as bearers of gifts or lessons.

The second path, the path of presence, can only ever be conscious as and when present moment awareness is maintained. A connection to Spirit, Source, God, the Tao, the Way, the Law, the Mind, the Field, or the Universe for the sake of guidance is presumed at all times.

Fulfillment can be found in following a path of presence when present moment awareness serves to guide the spirit for the sake of the soul. Such is the case as and when silver linings are discovered and realized in the clouds of crisis, confrontation, or challenge.

The third path, the path of foresight, is the purview of Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching.

Those who master this path are not merely conscious, they are superconscious, having a knack for viewing perceived problems and difficulties as blessings in disguise or for anticipating and therefore preventing genuine problems and difficulties before they arise.

Fulfillment can be found in mastering a path of foresight not only when present moment awareness serves to guide the spirit for the sake of the soul but when present moment awareness remains intuitively and playfully bound by the soul’s prerogatives and directives. This can only happen when animality, personality, and soul are spiritually united in harmony with the environments in which they find themselves.

Focused on suffering for the sake of purity, one cannot dream a better dream; focused purely in the moment, one need not dream at all. The path of foresight is therefore the only path out of the wilderness of unfulfilled dreams.

Presence, peace, promise, power, poise, purpose, and possibility: these are the seven natural ingredients in a recipe for knowing, feeling, and choosing what is required for the sake of personal satisfaction and what is desired for the sake of personal fulfillment.

Be still, and know that you are present, so that you may know your peace with a sense of promise, but be active, be involved, be engaged, so that you may tap the power of intention, conduct yourself with poise, and realize your purpose with a sense of possibility.

Be present to what is required, but be responsible for what is desired; look to the East for the first and look to the West for the second; and then incorporate the wisdom of verse 64 with the intention of bringing East and West into balance.

Next up: Cunning and Caring (Living by Staying Simple-Hearted)

/

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

Previous post:

Next post: