Newsletter - April 2021
Open Yourself to the Tao
“Open yourself to the Tao, then trust your natural responses; and everything will fall into place.” (Lao Tzu)
Really? Sounds far too simple. Chapter 23 of the Tao Te Ching reminds us we are typically closed to anything but fulfilling our desires. Trust our “natural responses”? For things to fall into place, surely we have to plan and control them. What if we were content to guide and shape instead? To do this, you’ll first have to step back and “open yourself to the Tao.” Worth a try?
Too often, our experience of the world is that everything has not fallen into place. At least, it hasn’t fallen into the places we want. Instead, reality has somehow failed to measure up, and it’s our job to fix it. It’s worth noting there’s nothing natural about this response. This is the mind doing its own thing. It’s our thoughts that create the “better” version of reality, that measure the extent to which reality is falling short, and that come up with the lists of actions we need to take to remedy the situation. Planning and controlling, that’s the solution isn’t it?
If we step back for a moment, comparing reality with a supposedly better version of reality is a curious exercise. Whether we're aware of it or not, an important side-effect is that we become closed to what reality actually is. If we think of the Tao as the Oneness/Wholeness that includes everything, then to be open to the Tao is to let go of seeing it in terms of what we want it to be. Instead, we simply accept reality as it is and respond with openness. This is the “natural response” that the Tao Te Ching is inviting us to trust. This is the difference between being open and being closed.
What if, instead of planning and controlling, we were to open ourselves to the Tao and be content to use our actions to guide and shape reality as it unfolds? The Tao Te Ching suggests that if we do this then “everything will fall into place.” Worth a try? I think so.
For me, an example of this is that I tend to organize and plan more than necessary. This means I tend to look at the extent to which reality is failing to match what I want it to be, and then come up with a plan to get it back on track. Or, more accurately, back on the particular track I have in mind. However, to do this is to close my mind and risk no longer being open to other alternatives. What’s worse is that I don’t even see them. What if one of them were better than what I had in mind? I would never know, would I? Perhaps my approach is not always so good after all.
My way of keeping my mind open is to take a walk outside in natural surroundings. Preferably in among the big trees, or somewhere I can see mountains and water – anything that’s bigger than the thoughts in my head. Whenever I do this, I always come back refreshed. What’s more, sometimes I discover a problem has solved itself behind my back without my intervention, or I find myself open to a different approach. Often things “fall into place” with less help from me than I thought they needed. On top of this, sometimes the “place” they fall into turns out to be better than the one I had in mind. That’s quite a few upsides for letting go of my version of reality and being open to the Tao, as it were.
Imagine a situation in which you are closed-minded to any outcome other than the one you have in mind? What would happen if you let go of your expectations and simply trusted your “natural responses”? What might those responses be? What might fall into place if you trusted them?
If you have any thoughts you'd like to share, you can get in touch with me by:
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