#DailyTAO – September 3rd – #Tree

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Did you measure to attain your height?
Did you use geometry to radiate your limbs?
Did you lament storm-torn branches?
Did you inventory your leaves for the sun?
You did none of these things, yet man in his cleverness
Cannot match your perfection.

When will we give up the artificiality of our tiresome lives and cleave instead to what is natural? All the achievements of man are only monuments to overwhelming pride. There has not been a single man-made item that has been a necessary improvement to the earth. Did we need the Great Wall of China? Did we need the pyramids of Egypt? Did we need the Colossus of Rhodes? Did we need mechanization, steam power, electricity, nuclear power, or computer technology? All our achievements have been for the sake of our exclusive comfort and gratification. We have only advanced the mad tangle of supply and demand that we call civilization.

We don’t need all this “sophistication” in order to live with Tao. Our involvement in society blinds us to this fact. We ignore the natural order of our own bodies and minds and close ourselves to the point so that only sex and drugs are stimulating enough. We lament that we are lost and alienated. Ironically, the answers are right nearby. If you just go to the nearest tree and contemplate, you will easily see the secret to natural living.

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#DailyTAO – September 2nd – #Garden

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Blinding heat divides day from night,
Brands short shadows into fecund soil.
Green tendrils, heavy with beans,
Coil around rustic bamboo racks.
Violet flowers gape erotically among velvet leaves :
A single gourd contains the entire world’s dream.

There is a great comfort in growing your own food. You are close to the soil. You use the basic elements — water, sunlight, earth, air, and plants — for your work, your sustenance, and your pleasure. You nurture your garden from seedlings to mature plants, tending, pruning, weeding. Year after year, you see cycles come and go, from sprouting to harvest to withering, to seeding again. You eat your plants to live. You don’t mind and they don’t mind. Some day, you will fall back to this earth, back into the sun-baked dirt, and you will become food for the plants. It’s the way of all life, and it’s all very agreeable.

Those who follow Tao say that all reality is like a series of nesting circles : microcosms within macrocosms. What is close at hand is a microcosm of what is far away. Why search all over for Tao? It is all contained in the seeds of the gourd growing in your garden.

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#DailyTAO – September 1st – #Farmers

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Plain country folk with rounded bodies,
Skin turning to bronze in the valley heat.
Why talk to them about Tao?
They eat when they are hungry,
They sleep when they are sleepy.
Even a sage with infinite permutations
Could not match their simplicity.

Do you want to know about simplicity? Go live with farmers. Their daily activities are coordinated with the seasons, they are close to the earth, and they do not spend their time figuring out how to attain status. They are honest and plain. They make no distinction between who they are as individuals and who they are as farmers.

Those of us who live in cities would be hard pressed to equal the farmer in simplicity. Simplicity, after all, is what Tao most celebrates. Who needs to know all the digits of pi? Who needs to engineer a new monetary policy? Who needs to strive for political office? None of these things is necessary to be a human being.

Give up unnecessary things.

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#DailyTAO – August 31st – #Dialogue

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I still talk in my sleep.
I still dream.
How can there be perfect stillness
When my brain’s so noisy?

We carry on a constant dialogue within ourselves. This is the origin of our problems.

The very word ‘dialogue’ means talking between two sides. We could not have an inner dialogue unless there was a split in our minds. We all have two sides; as long as they are not united, we cannot attain the wholeness that spirituality requires.

Even with years of self-cultivation, it is not easy to tame the wild mind. One might appear to have attained perfect control in all waking situations, only to find endless turbulence during meditation and sleep. This is a sign of incomplete attainment. Perfection must be total.

The process of perfection is long and must be methodical. Although our efforts must be to the utmost, we must never risk repressing ourselves. Indeed, rather than shutting away the unpleasant or unruly aspects of ourselves, we must take them all out and examine them. Daily introspection brings harmony to all our facets. Those aspects that are bad can be dissolved. Those that are of advantage can be cultivated. This effort will take many years, but in this gradual way, we resolve ourselves with our subconscious mind and free ourselves from the struggle and conflict.

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#DailyTAO – August 30th – #Heart

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Imagine your heart as an opening lotus.
From its center comes a crimson child,
Pure, virginal, and innocent.

One meditation gives this instruction :
Imagine your heart opening into a red lotus.
From its center comes a crimson child.
Bring this child out of your body and imagine him or her floating above your head. You, as a child, are holding a sun in each hand while each foot stands on a moon.
Hold this image as long as you can.
It is hard to bring out this child. When you try, you realize how many defenses you have built around yourself. You also realize how the experiences of adolescence and adulthood have stained you. Sometimes, you may even doubt that you have a pure and innocent self to bring out anymore. But each of us does. Each of us must find that crimson child within us and bring him or her out. For this child represents the time when our energies were whole and our hearts were untroubled by the duplicity of the world and ourselves.

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#DailyTAO – August 29th – #Utopia

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Chant one million times for world peace, they told me.
Pray three times a day to end all wars.
Practice austerities to liberate all living beings.
But the world’s miseries have never diminished.

Periodically, some religious group proclaims that if everyone would just do something like chant, some fundamental social problem would be solved. Claims have been made that spiritual devotion could affect wars, famine, disease, the economy, and overpopulation.

Only personal endeavors can be spiritual. What you do with your daily devotions is purely for your own sake. Once you put ideals on a grand scale, they are compromised by the contradictions of life.

There is no utopia. There never will be. There is only the valiant attempt of each person to live spiritually in a world where spirituality is almost impossible.

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#DailyTAO – August 28th – Goal

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What is an archer
Without a target?

It is not enough to have the philosophy of Tao. One must act. Actions, not words, are important. But mere movement is meaningless. One should have purpose.

Short-term goals help us determine each stage of our lives and experience it completely. Long-term goals give us perspective and continuity. Short-term goals help us understand the temporality of life and yet provide us with a way to benefit by that temporality. Long-term goals give focus to the experiences that we accumulate.

Our goals should be entirely personal. No one knows us better than we know ourselves. There is only one universal goal: a gracious death with no regrets.

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Daily TAO – August 27th – Youth

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You’ve left home too soon:
Drunks frighten you, profligates paw you.
What good is a hermit’s jewel?

Young people need compassion and guidance, not obscure mysticism. Here are some guidelines for young people :

Remember that you are always your own person. Do not surrender your mind, heart, or body to any person. Never compromise your dignity for any reason.

Maintain your health with sound diet, hygiene, exercise, and clean living. Don’t engage in drugs or drinking.

Money is never more important that your body and mind, but you must work and support yourself. Never depend on others for your livelihood.

Choose your friends and living situation carefully, for they will influence you. Find a mentor you can trust, one who can answer your every question, but never give up responsibility for your own life. No one lives your life for you.

A good education is always an asset.

Emotions are transitory and are not a good way to make decisions.

Every day, you must make decisions. Everything you do will have irrevocable effects upon your life. Before you go down any path, consider carefully. Rivers very rarely reverse course.

Know evil, but do not do evil yourself. Remember, there is a way out of the delusions of life. When you weary of the world, find someone who will show you Tao.

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Daily TAO – August 26th – Matrix

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This fragile body
Is matrix
For mind and soul.

We cannot afford to neglect our bodies, even if we recognize that we must not identify with them exclusively. Actually, in our search for our true selves, our physical existence is the best place to start. We can alter our lives by how we eat and exercise, and we can expedite our search by keeping ourselves healthy. If we are free of physical blockages and pain, we can identify our inner selves much better.

In the search for the mind and soul, it is wise to understand that the body is not the true self, but it is also wise to maintain the body. There should be neither denial nor mortification of the flesh, but it takes a wise person to both maintain the body and look beyond it.

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Daily TAO – August 25th – Body

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I am not this fragile body.

We are not our bodies. This may seem an odd assertion. After all, there is no other object on this earth that we know more intimately. Why should we not identify with it?

What is there about our bodies that is tangible? Of course it has substance, but how do we account for volition? A corpse is just as tangible as a living being, and yet no one would mistake the two. Something mysterious accounts for the differences between a live and a dead body. Something animates us.

It is the mind that directs the energy. But what of the mind can we call definite? It is like a flickering flame : At no point can we determine its exact contours. The more closely we examine ourselves, the more subtle distinctions become. Everything becomes quite indistinct. We cling stubbornly but futilely to the impression that we could find something in the reduction of things.

It’s all quite confusing. But one thing is certain : I am not this fragile body.

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