TAO TE CHING TEACHINGS: Living in Stability

desolate

“The best places to live are level.”

This is also usually  translated as ‘the best place to live is the earth.’ Or ‘Where the Way dwells becomes good ground.’ Either way, it is not a literal teaching. Many Taoists favored living in difficult mountains and terrain that were anything but level! So what does this phrase mean?

In Taoist alchemy, Earth represents our centre, which, like the earth, should be stable and balanced. It becomes our internal crucible. A large portion of alchemy consists of generating and preserving energy or chi. If our centre is not stable, then as soon as we are upset, or our emotions arise, then our energy flies off. It is like pouring water into a cracked bowl – not matter how much we keep filling it up, energy will just keep leaking out of it. If we want to stop that energy from leaking, we must nurture our stability as much as possible.

What is stability? Stability is a harmonious state of inner strength. Remaining calm and placid at all times, we take precautions to prevent anything that could destabilize us. As Ancestor Lu taught:

“When you do not get confused,

Your nature naturally stabilizes;

When your nature naturally stabilizes

Energy naturally returns;

When energy naturally returns

The elixir spontaneously crystallizes

This is what we meant by living in stability

Astral Travel Part 2: UFOs, Dragons, and Tongues

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At one point in my travels, I decided to turn myself into a spaceship. This made me think about the UFO phenomenon. UFOs, whilst having many shapes and types, are usually described as being silent; capable of aerodynamically impossible manoeuvres; moving at incredible speeds; and have the ability to pass between dimensions.

The reason UFOs are able to thwart aerodynamic laws is because they do not operate on aerodynamic principles, but instead, on quantum-holographic principles. UFOs are created by the minds of their inhabitants, and driven by the minds of their inhabitants. The majority of extra-terrestrials are very psychically and spiritually accomplished beings – to think of them only on a physical, earthly level is very ignorant indeed.

I also changed my form into that of a dragon. I could feel myself shifting through the dark avenues of existence, thunder and lightning booming and exploding in time with the contortions of my body.

Towards the end of the meditation, I began to chant spontaneously for about half an hour. The chants sounded as though they were shifting between Chinese, Tibetan, Native American, and a mixture of other languages I wouldn’t be able to place. They kept shifting and changing before settling into a mantra that went:

HEY DA HEY HOOOOOOOO – BUMDELUMDEDADUMDA!

As I chanted this mantra, I felt merged with the deep serenity of the void. The way the mantra kept shifting taught me something about the nature of sound geometry. The language was completely unimportant – rather, it was the way in which I shaped the sound that was most important, vigorously latching it onto the patterns of reality.

Nourishing the Mind

Food brain

I was reading Liu I-ming’s commentary on the hexagram ‘Nourishment’ in the I Ching, when I was struck by his definition of what nourishment really is:

“Nourishment is what is beneficial to body and mind – 

What is not nourishing is not beneficial to body and mind.”

I was very struck by his insight that nourishment is not restricted to the vitamins and nutrients we gain from the food and fluids we consume. It also refers to anything that we actively allow to enter into our consciousness. The nourishment of the body and mind are not separate. You cannot nourish one without nourishing the other. You cannot harm one without harming the other. They are completely unified in every way.

The insight I gained from this is that the wholeness of our happiness is hugely influenced by what we allow our minds to eat. Just as many people eat themselves into sickness by nourishing themselves with fast food, chocolate, and sugar, how many of us think ourselves into sickness by nourishing our minds with conflict and hatred, manipulative media stories, negative conversations, and films and TV shows espousing violent, divisive, and materialistic values?

It’s very easy to shrug off all of these things as being too marginal to have an effect on us. It’s just entertainment, right? But the culture we imbibe – the books we read, the films we watch, the sources of information we trust – ultimately determines our wordview, and, in due course, how we respond to that world. If you are repeatedly exposed to media glorifying violence, anger, resentment, jealousy, revenge, and conflict, such behavior begins to seem to be permissible and reasonable to your mind. Monkey see, monkey do doesn’t turn off just because we’re being passive. If you fill your mind with bad things, you will be more likely to do bad things. Corruption doesn’t spontaneously appear in a pristine mind – the seeds of the idea have to be placed there by an external precedent that seems to justify it.

Conversely, if we feed our minds with positive content, we will bear the fruit of positive actions. Buddhists refer to this practice as ‘planting the seeds of the Buddha Mind.’ Likewise, positivity won’t arise spontaneously in a corrupted mind. You have to plant the right content into it, before happiness takes root, and weeds out suffering.You can’t grow an oak tree by planting a landmine. So, if you want to be happy, don’t feed your mind with the mental equivalent of psychological fast food. Nourish your mind with that which is likely to benefit it. Then wholeness can be achieved.

Don’t Poke the Boil!

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I take very good care of myself. So, I was quite surprised, yesterday, when I noticed I had what appeared to be a large sting on my bottom. I was so surprised, in fact, that I kept poking it, scratching it, and making it worse. Before I realized what a stupid thing that was to do, and resolved to stop.

It made me think about how many of us do the same with our other sources of suffering.

When we become aware that we’re feeling angry, irritable, horny, lonely, or sad, instead of leaving it alone, and letting it pass, we start poking the boil. We remind ourselves that we’re feeling lonely, angry, and unsatisfied. We tell others that we’re feeling that way. And instead of doing things that might resolve those emotions – (like meditation or something productive) – we practically make a comfortable environment for our frustrations and sorrows, so they’ll be more inclined to stick around for good.

But this is no good. It is like getting stung by a bee, but refusing to remove the stinger, pushing it in deeper. By holding onto our problems, and treating them like permanent things, they become just that – permanent problems.

We need to understand that all our negative emotions are temporary and without a permanent reality. They are not a product of our external environment, but originate entirely in the mind.

If we hold onto them, we create a distance between reality and our self. There is You – there is Your Anger – and then there is Reality. But if you take that negative emotion away, everything becomes reality again.

So, the next time you feel angry, lonely, sad, frustrated, or dissatisfied, remind yourself these feelings will end – that they are not permanent – and that they have no basis in reality. No one is to blame for these feelings. Any cause that you can find for them outside of yourself is illusory. It all starts within you, and must be solved within you too.

Tell yourself that you will overcome them. Tell yourself that peace, equanimity, and compassion are the only eternal parts of your being. These negative feelings are just like dust falling on a perfect mirror. Insignificant, tiny particles of non-truth, that can always be cleared away.

Meditation is the best way to keep the mirror clean.

Just stop poking the boil!