Newsletter - February 2021

Start with a Single Step

 

Welcome to the first issue of this newsletter! I hope you enjoy the ideas we’ll be sharing.

 

For me, the Tao Te Ching is the original how-to book. I feel each chapter provides insights into some truth about living our lives. All we need to do is bring the insights down-to-earth, so we can apply them in some practical way. This is easy to say. But how do we do it?

 

I suggest we think of a brief quote from the Tao Te Ching as being a key which unlocks a puzzle, or solves a problem. I’ll take a shot at what I think the puzzle or problem is, and then spell out how I think the quote unlocks or solves it – at least, in principle. Then I’ll contribute an example from daily life to show what I think the application of it might look like in practice. Then I’ll invite you to do the same.

 

Here’s the first quote I ever posted on my Facebook Author Page www.facebook.com/FrancisPringMillAuthor. (To see any discussion, please visit the page and scroll back to September 10, 2018.)

 

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” (Lao Tzu)

 

How often we are daunted by the thought of a thousand miles. Have you ever taken just a single step and been surprised at how easy it was? The Tao Te Ching (Chapter 64) reminds us that single steps are all it takes. We just need to keep taking them.

 

(Click on “Chapter 64” to read the full chapter of the Tao Te Ching.)

 

This is one of the best-known quotes from the Tao Te Ching. So, if this quote is the key, what is the puzzle or problem which it unlocks or solves?

 

I think this quote addresses the problem that undertaking big things often fills us with doubt, or trepidation, or even fear and dread. At best, these reactions sap energy from getting started with whatever the “big thing” is. At worst, they can stop us dead in our tracks. Lao Tzu uses a thousand-mile journey as his example of a big thing. This is a great example because a thousand miles is a long way to go. Especially if you plan to go on foot!

 

The quote suggests the solution is to spend no time or energy on pondering the “bigness” of the “thing.” Every moment spent pondering is a moment taken away from the progress we might make. What’s worse, as we’ve seen, this type of pondering often causes us to react in unhelpful ways. The way to make progress is simple: just put one foot in front of another. It’s called taking a step – and it’s not complicated. Then simply do it again. And again. This way, we will cover a thousand miles without ever letting the length of the journey get in our way. What matters is getting on with the “thing” at hand, and not getting caught up with thoughts about its “bigness.”

 

For me, an example of a thousand-mile journey is writing a book. If I ponder the book as an unfinished whole, the task seems immense. In fact, if I ponder for long enough, I’ve discovered I can procrastinate writing indefinitely! In my case, the “single steps” are the chapters, pages, paragraphs, sentences, and words that (will) make up the book.

 

What does a “single step” look like on any given day? Well, on some days it’s several pages, on other days it’s just paragraphs, on some days it’s just sentences. The point is, it doesn’t matter. Every word on the page is a step. Yes, this even applies to the words which I end up deleting later. Why? Because I couldn’t move forward without having written them. And, in the end, all journeys are about moving forward. The Tao Te Ching reminds us that taking steps is the only way to move forward.

 

What’s an example that’s true for you? What thousand-mile journeys do you have on the go at the moment? What does a single step look like for you? What stands in your way? If the step seems too big, how could you make it small enough that you could actually take it?

 

To participate in the discussion, please go to my Facebook Author Page. I will post “Discussion points from our February newsletter” and you can “comment.” This way we can share what we all think, and make replies or comments as much as we like. Do you have any questions or topics that would be good to explore in future newsletters? If so, please let me know.

 

You can get in touch with me by:

 

Also, if you’re interested, this month I’m doing a Zoom author event on Feb.25, 7:00pm (Pacific Time) with Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane, WA. This is a free event with no travel required!

 

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to share this newsletter.

Francis