Friday, May 29, 2009


Resistance is futile!!!
- The Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation

One of the basic - and most helpful - lessons I've taken from the Tao Te Ching is the concept of adapting. To go with the flow. To bend with the wind. To move with the groove.

Walking through the woods after a bad storm teaches a quick lesson in the futility of resistance. Even the mightiest tree can not always stand up to the forces of nature. Old trees are rigid and don't sway with the wind. Their branches snap off. Young trees, on the other hand, are soft and flexible. They move with the forces that blow against them. And when the winds stop, they are able to bounce back.

You can't stop change. You can't keep bad things from happening in your life. So what can you do? Simply bend with it.

Stop wasting your energy resisting every force that blows against you. Be flexible and move with it, using the force of the negative energy to steer it away (the martial arts use this concept very effectively).

When a strong wind blows at you, don't stand tall and firm and proud, taking the blow full force. You'll only wind up on your back. Instead, lean into the wind or turn away from it. By doing this, you're not letting the wind "win," you're letting it pass so you can continue on your journey.

Taking a force head on gives you the least control. Yielding puts you in the best position to stay on your feet and have the most control (of course, you can't really control it - but you can influence it).

Or as Kris Kristofferson put it: "You don't paddle against the current, you paddle with it. And if you get good at it, you throw away the oars."

Return is the movement of the Tao.
Yielding is the way of the Tao. (v. 40)

Thursday, May 21, 2009


When you're chewing on life's gristle, don't grumble. Give a whistle!
And this'll help things turn out for the best. And...
Always look on the bright side of life.
- Monty Python (Always Look On The Bright Side of Life)

The pursuit of happiness. It's right there in the Declaration of Independence. One of our inalienable rights. The founding fathers were smart, but they were setting us up for failure on this one.

Because if we are constantly in pursuit of happiness, we will never find it. Happiness isn't a destination, it's the journey itself. If you're living with the mindset of "I'll be happy as soon as I get this" or "as soon as I finish this..." you'll never find it.

The key to happiness is simple. Just be happy. Admittedly, that's extremely hard to do. But only because we think it should be hard. And because of our expectation of what happiness is - which, frankly, is pretty unrealistic. It's just an emotion. It will come and go. Just like being sad. Or tired. Or gassy.

Happiness is not a process. It's not a reward. It's simply a state of mind. And, lucky for us, that's the one thing we have somewhat control over - regardless of our external circumstance.

You're not happy because of things you have (or don't have) or where you're at or who is in your life. You're just happy. Don't give it a reason.  

Focus on being happy instead of finding happiness. Or as Nathaniel Hawthorne put it:

Happiness is a butterfly which, when pursued,
Is always beyond our grasp,
But which, if you sit down quietly,
May alight upon you.

Your state of mind always defines your environment. So choose a happy state of mind. Close your eyes and put a smile on your mind. And when you find yourself in your happy place, enjoy it! Because when you're there, things just feel... happier!

Be content with what you have;
Rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
The whole world belongs to you. (v. 44)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


What goes up, must come down. Spinning wheel got to go round. 
- Blood, Sweat & Tears (Spinning Wheel)

In Taoism, duality is represented by Yin and Yang. These two forces are eternally bonded together, constantly revolving and evolving into one another. They are mutually dependent - one simply cannot exist without the other.

It's like an electric current that needs both a positive and negative charge to power a light bulb. Or two magnets, each of an opposite charge.

As you push the magnets toward each other, you can feel the force between them, pushing them apart. If you try to force them together too fast, they will fly apart. If you hold them too far apart, they lose their identity. You no longer feel the magnetic energy. They are just two rocks.

This "dynamic opposition" exists between every two extremes. And how you balance these two forces has a major impact on... well, everything. You have to learn to hold your two magnets close enough to feel and use the energy between them. But not too close or not too far apart.

Recognize that both forces are necessary to exist. Instead of trying to reach the extreme of anything (extreme wealth, total happiness, no fear, etc.), it's better to seek the balance between the two opposites. Moderation. The middle way. 

Hard to do? It's easier than you think. Because it's the natural way. You must learn to trust your intuition. Know when you're moving too close to an extreme. Be aware of opposing forces and how they balance each other out. Everything is in constant flow. Day follows night, good needs bad, hard becomes easy. Recognize this flow and ride it. Just as you can't force the day to last longer than it really is, you cannot force the natural cycle of life. 

What goes around, comes around. Over and over and over.

All things have their backs to the female
And stand facing the male.
When male and female combine,
All things achieve harmony. (v. 42)

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Well, you know when you're young,
There's such a distance between you and your family.
Just can't see things from the same point of view.
- Bruce Springsteen (Family Song)

There's a Chinese proverb: "When the family is harmonious, everything prospers." Your family is your home base. Your source of strength and support. If there is dissent in the home, it will spill over into other areas of your life. And make no mistake. There is always, inevitably, some form of dissent in the home.

The Tao Te Ching doesn't specifically address family issues, but it does offer advice on governing nations and leading armies (and isn't that what being in a family is sometimes like?).

The main lesson? Don't rule with an iron fist. Allow the members of your tribe to grow in their own way. Guide but don't force. Caution but don't prohibit. Recognize that every family member is a unique human being with their own individual perspective and celebrate that.

Also, remember that a family is not a stagnant entitiy. It's an organic, ever-changing living organism. As children (or parents) grow and relationships change, the family dynamic should also shift and morph. Like water moving from a tall vase to a large, flat bowl. Same water, different shape.

You have to be able to open and adaptable to these changes - mainly because you can't do a thing about them.

And remember, harmony isn't produced by everyone singing the exact same notes, it comes from different notes complimenting each other.

Stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
And the world will govern itself. (v. 57)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


I get knocked down but I get up again. You're never going to keep me down.
- Chumbawamba (Tubthumping)

It's a cold, hard fact of life that things are going to happen in your life that knock you flat on your back. So it goes without saying that one of the keys to life is to learn to bounce back from these setbacks.

Remember the children's toy, Weebles? Rounded at the bottom, you would tip them or roll them but they'd always playfully bounce back. "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down."

When life pokes at you, be a Weeble.

That doesn't mean resisting the forces blowing at you. A Weeble doesn't stand solid when you poke it. It yields, moving with the force and using that energy to bounce back. To do this, it has to be smooth and rounded, not jagged and flat. That gives it the flexibility it needs. They're also weighted in their base. By staying centered, they have the resiliency to bounce back.

Go with the flow. Yield to forces that poke at you. Stay centered in the Tao. Trust that things will work out (they always do). Remind yourself of the constant circle of life: Day follows night, calm follows a storm, good times follow bad. There is a constant dance between the two. Without this movement, there is no life.

When life gets you down, close your eyes, take a relaxing deep breath and whisper to yourself: "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down."

Whoever is planted in the Tao will not be rooted up.
Whoever embraces the Tao will not slip away. (v. 54)

Sunday, May 3, 2009


If it makes you happy, then why the hell are you so sad?
- Sheryl Crowe (If It Makes You Happy)

The word pleasure conjures up a cornucopia of delights. It's defined by Mr. Webster as a state of gratification - a source of delight or joy. That's different for all of us. But we all like it. :)

Generally, we get pleasure from things defined by the senses: eating, laughing with friends, love, sex. These (and many other) sources of pleasure are all wonderful things. But too much emphasis on them can create problems, like obesity and addictions.

That's because pleasure is a temporary feeling. We enjoy it when we have it but then it goes away. And if your happiness is defined by pleasure, you feel empty when you're without it. So you go for it again. And around and around it goes. Pleasure. Emptiness. Pleasure. Emptiness. Pleasure. Emptiness. 

We get caught up in a never-ending pursuit of pleasure and spend our life running in circles. Like a dog chasing its tail.

And, because sources of pleasure are not necessarily sources of happiness, we have to keep upping the ante. Like a junkie needing more of a drug. Our hunger grows but we can never be satisfied. Because, as with all things, too much of a good thing is... well, you know.

That doesn't make pleasure bad. It just needs to be put in perspective. Aim for balance. Practice moderation (conveniently defined by your own limits or perpective of what's extreme). It's OK to indulge your pleasures. Just try not to overindulge too often. 

This life offers an all-you-can-eat salad bar of pleasures for you to enjoy. Enjoy what you want. Just remember to see them for what they are. Fleeting moments of satisfaction. 

Happiness is found in the Miracle of the Moment. That's the pleasure of living in the present.

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt. (v. 9)