Daily TAO – January 31st – Orientation

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Planets orbit the sun.
Forms orbit the mind.

Most of us embody disparate aspects in our personalities; these are our forms, the way we take shape. If we aren’t careful, we can become confused by such complexity. We should not deny any part of ourselves.  We should arrange them. All elements are valid — they must simply be placed in the right context.

Those who follow Tao understand that a diverse personality is problematic only if some aspects dominate to the exclusion of the others. This is unbalanced. If there is constant alteration between all aspects, then equilibrium is possible. Like the planets, feelings, instincts, and emotions must be kept in a constantly rotating order.  Then all things have their place and the problems of excess are avoided.

Just as the sun is at the center of our solar system, so too must the mind of wisdom be the center of our diverse personalities. If our minds are strong, then the various parts of our lives will be held firmly to their proper courses, and there will be no chance of deviation.

Set of Cats and set of boobs.

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Daily TAO – January 30th – Lovemaking

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Nocturnal downpour
Wakes the lovers, Floods the valley.
Making love is natural. Why be ashamed of it?

That seems simple, but it is actually a great challenge in these complex times. Too many other layers of meaning have been imposed upon sex. Religions straitjacket it, ascetics deny it, romantics glorify it, and intellectuals theorize about it, obsessives pervert it. These actions have nothing to do with lovemaking. They come from fanaticism and compulsive behavior. Can we actually master the challenge of having lovemaking be open and healthy?

Sex should not be used as leverage, manipulation, selfishness, or abuse. It should not be a ground for our personal compulsions and delusions.

Sexuality is an honest reflection of our innermost personalities, and we should ensure that its expression is healthy. Making love is something mysterious, sacred, and often the most profound interaction between people. Whether what is created is a relationship or pregnancy, the legacy of both partners will be inherent in their creation. What we put into love determines what we get out of it.

Christina Hendricks with Doogie

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Daily TAO – January 29th – Scars

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Markings in dry clay disappear
Only when the clay is soft again.
Scars upon the self disappear
Only when one becomes soft within.

Throughout our life, but especially during our youth, many scars are inflicted upon us. Some of them are the results of violence, abuse, rape, or warfare. Others arise from bad education. A few come from humiliation and failure. Others are caused by our own misadventures. Unless we recover from these injuries, the scars mar us forever.

Classical scriptures urge us to withdraw from our own lusts and sins. But scars that have happened through no fault of our own may also bar us from spiritual success. Unfortunately, it is often easier to give up a bad habit than to recover from the incisions of others’ violence. The only way is through self-cultivation.

Doctors and priests can only do so much. The true course of healing is up to us alone. To do this, we must acquire many methods, travel widely, struggle to overcome our personal phobias, and perhaps most importantly of all, try to acquire as few new problems as possible. Unless we do, each one of them will bar us from true communion with Tao.

My face started healing quite well after a fall in a parking lot.

In the Spring of 2005 my face was full of character.

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Daily TAO – January 28th – Accountability

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A father without a father
Has difficulty balancing.
A master without a master
Is dangerous.

We look up to our parents, our teachers, and our leaders with trust and expectation. Their responsibility is to guide us, educate us, and even make judgments on our behalf when circumstances are uncertain.  Ultimately, they are to bring us to the point where we can make our own decisions, based on the wisdom that they have helped us develop.

But the potential for abuse and mistakes is very great. What person can be right all the time? A simple lapse at the wrong time can cause confusion, psychological scars, and even great disaster. Harsh words during a child’s impressionable moments can engender years of problems.  That is why we need a parent for the parent, a master for the master, and leaders for the leaders. This prevents errors of power. In the past, even kings had wise advisers. Every person who would be a leader should have such assistance.

Eventually, someone has to be at the top. And who will that person turn to? Let us invoke not deities but pragmatism. It is experience that is the ultimate teacher. That is why wise people travel constantly and test themselves against the flux of circumstance. It is only in this way that they can truly confirm their thoughts and compensate for their shortcomings.

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Daily TAO – January 27th – Feasting

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Feasting is the flame in mid-winter
That kindles the fire of friendship
And strengthens the community.

In the past, feasting was a way to bind the community closer together. The same is true today. Whether they are cultural gatherings, times of group worship, or even special dinners with friends, we all need moments where we come together and reaffirm the importance of our group.

The cheer that we feel is essential both to the collective and the individuals involved. The affirmation of the group should not be a sublimation of the individual but rather a framework for involvement. A good gathering requires participation — the efforts of organization, work, and attendance — and in turn gives back sustenance for body and soul, a sense of belonging, and the accomplishment of something that could not be done by the individuals alone.

Like any other human endeavor, the feast is vulnerable to manipulation and politics, the selfish maneuvering of cynical individuals. This is difficult to avoid completely, for it is impossible for any group to truly be united. The only way to mitigate this is for the collective to keep its intentions strictly on its purpose, to select its leaders wisely, and for those leaders to be as enlightened as possible.

The Monkeys' Feast

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Daily TAO – January 26th – Adoration

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Images on the altar,
Or imagined within :
We pray to them,
But do they answer?

The wise tell us how important adoration is. So we kneel before altars, give offerings, and make sacrifices. In our meditations, we are taught to see gods within ourselves and to make supplications to receive power and knowledge. This we do with great sincerity, until the masters say that there are no gods. Then we are confused.

The statue on the altar is mere wood and gold leaf, but our need to be reverent is real. The god within may be nothing but visualization, but our need for concentration is real. The attributes of heaven are utopian conjectures, but the essence of these parables is real. The gods, then, represent certain philosophies and extraordinary facets of the human mind. When we devote ourselves to gods, we establish communion with these deeper aspects.

The thought that we are worshipping symbolism may make us uncomfortable. We are educated to accept only the tangible, the scientific, and the material. We doubt the efficacy of adoring the merely symbolic, and we are confused when such reverence brings about genuine personal transformation. But worship does affect our feelings and thoughts. When the wise say that there are no gods, they mean that the key to understanding all things is within ourselves. External worship is merely a means to point within to the true source of salvation.

Two ossuaries near Naqsh-e Rostam, Fars, Iran. They were previously (< 1971) thought to be fire altars. photo by Arash Zeini

Two ossuaries near Naqsh-e Rostam, Fars, Iran. They were previously (< 1971) thought to be fire altars. photo by Arash Zeini

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Daily TAO – January 25th – Uselessness

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An ancient gnarled tree :
Too fibrous for a logger’s saw,
Too twisted to fit a carpenter’s square,
Outlasts the whole forest.

Loggers delight in straight-grained, strong, fragrant wood. If the timber is too difficult to cut, too twisted to be made straight, too foul-odored for cabinets, and too spongy for firewood, it is left alone.  Useful trees are cut down. Useless ones survive.

The same is true of people. The strong are conscripted. The beautiful are exploited. Those who are too plain to be noticed are the ones who survive. They are left alone and safe.

But what if we ourselves are among such plain persons? Though others may neglect us, we should not think of ourselves as being without value.  We must not accept the judgment of others as the measure of our own self-worth. Instead, we should live our lives in simplicity. Surely, we will have flaws, but we must take stock in them according to our own judgment and then use them as a measure of self-improvement. Since we need not expend energy in putting on airs or maintaining a position, we are actually free to cultivate the best parts of our personalities.  Thus, to be considered useless is not a reason for despair, but an opportunity. It is the chance to live without interference and to express one’s own individuality.

640px-Tree_example_VIS

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Daily TAO – January 24th – Laughter

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Hilly village lanes, Whitewashed sunlit walls.
Cerulean sea.
The laughter of children.

No matter where in the world you go, no matter how many languages are spoken, and no matter how many times cultures and governments clash, the laughter of children is universally uplifting. The mirth of adults can be variously jealous, insecure, sadistic, cruel, or absurd, but thesound of playing children evokes the ideal of a simple and pure act.There are no concepts, no ideologies —only the innocent pleasure oflife.

We as adults dwell upon our grizzled complexities, our existential anxieties, and our preoccupations with responsibilities. We hear the merriment of children and may sigh over our lost childhoods. Although we can no longer fit into our old clothes and become young again, we can take comfort in the optimism of children. Their rejoicing can gladden us all.

We are too often in a rush for our children to grow up. It is far better for them to fully live each year of their lives. Let them learn what is appropriate to their time, let them play. And when their childhood is spent at adolescence, help them in a gentle transition. Then their laughter will continue to resonate with cheer and hope for us all.

True_laughter

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Daily TAO – January 23rd – Renewal

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City on a hill,
Untouched land beyond.
A fallow field is
The secret of fertility.

In the city, we see millions of lives represented in the windows, doors, and many floors of each building. We see excitement and the glories of civilization. But no matter how much those who follow Tao may enjoy the city, they understand the need for retreat into nature.

In the countryside, they find the nurturing quality of freedom. They can see new possibilities and can wander without societal impositions.  In the past, pioneers saw the open prairies and were filled with dreams of dominating nature with the glories of man. Now we know different : We must preserve the wilds for our very survival.

We need time to lie fallow. If you cannot leave the city, just find a little quiet time each day to withdraw into yourself. If you are able to walk in fields or in the hills, so much the better. But none of us can maintain the fertility of our beings without renewal.

CAM01634

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Daily TAO – January 22nd – Communication

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Movement, objects, speech, and words :
We communicate through gross symbols.
We call them “objective,”
But we cannot escape our point of view.

We cannot communicate directly from mind to mind, and so misinterpretation is a perennial problem. Motions, signs, talking, and the written word are all encumbered by miscommunication. A dozen eyewitnesses to the same event cannot agree on a single account. We may each see something different in cards set up by a circus magician.  Therefore, we are forever imprisoned by our subjectivity.

Followers of Tao assert that we know no absolute truth in the world, only varying degrees of ambiguity. Some call this poetry; some call this art. The fact remains that all communication is relative. Those who follow Tao are practical. They know that words are imperfect and therefore give them limited importance : The symbol is not the same as the reality.

"Kaninchen und Ente" ("Rabbit and Duck") from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter

“Kaninchen und Ente” (“Rabbit and Duck”) from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter

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