81 Months in Contemplation

Living the Tao Te Ching

The Only Thing We Have to Fear September 8, 2010

Filed under: Year 2 — 81months @ 5:07 PM

60th Verse

Governing a large country

Is like frying a small fish.

You spoil it with too much poking.

 

Approach the universe with the Tao

and evil will have no power.

Not that evil is not powerful,

but its power will not be used to harm others.

Not only will it not do harm to others,

but the sage himself will also be protected.

 

If only the ruler and his people would

refrain from harming each other,

all the benefits of life would accumulate

in the kingdom.

  

In most occasions I am pretty good at catching myself in the process of having ill thoughts toward another person. This used to be most obvious in the middle of Miami rush hour. If you have never driven in Miami, be grateful that you have not experienced what it is to have eight mild heart attacks each morning on the way to work. I have spent now over 10 years in the car as an outside sales person, which means that I spent close to six hours behind the wheel of my SUV every day I went to work. Nothing got me to kick the road rage habit quicker than the realization that there was nothing I could do about it. I love my job, I love my car, and I love having the freedom to move around south Florida at will, seeing clients, having lunch, selling stuff. Leaving my job was not something I wanted to do but there was no way that I could be successful at what I do if I am constantly fighting with Miamians for my piece of road. There will always be a woman putting on eyeliner who comes just two inches from my rear bumper; there will always be a guy who used dental floss to tie down a twin mattress on top of his Toyota Corolla. Who would have thought it wouldn’t hold it as he sped 75 mph on the highway? Surely, there will always be the inexperienced (or very experienced) driver who can’t grasp why there’s a hurricane on one side of I95 and sunny as can be on the other. They will insist on going 15 miles per hour with their hazards on until they figure it out.

I think it was about 8 years ago that I decided to surrender to the “situation” and make my windshield time my Patty-time. This was way before all the personal development classes and the endless books by Chopra, Dyer, et al. I knew that I could fight it, or embrace it. I already knew that fighting just served to create more stress in my life for not only would I experience it first hand, I then would take my victim story to anyone within earshot and regale them with just how inconsiderate it was for someone to think of crashing their car in the middle of rush hour traffic, on the Palmetto, no less. I am embarrassed and I apologize to all of you who heard my whining. Getting upset was no longer an option.

So I went out and bought audio books. I must have listened to every audio book on the American Revolution ever recorded. Yes, I am a history nerd. Then I moved on to the Dalai Lama. I realized half way through The Universe in a Single Atom that I skipped a couple of steps and went back to something I could actually understand. I take account now of the last 8 years and how my experience in something as simple as the car has changed. Now when I hear people complaining about the traffic outside I am in genuine shock. What are they talking about? I didn’t see that accident. It wasn’t raining when I was driving.

Either I have lost my mind or I have managed to change the frequency of what I see when I am out on the road. By changing my energy of resistance to one of surrender and acceptance, what showed up for me every day changed. 

So why, when it was so easy with my road rage experience, has it been so hard when I want to change my experience of something else. I have major resistance with some people. Let’s be honest, it is just one person. I am all up in it when it comes to her. I judge her. She is selfish, self-centered, ignorant, and closed-minded. I resist everything about her. I would never pick her as a friend and I can’t believe I actually have to have this person in my life. I am steadfastly attached to what the relationship should look like: She needs to admit I am and have always been right and apologize for being a poor excuse for a human being. Phew! I’ve been holding all that in for years!

So of course, this is where my thoughts go when she is mentioned or is in my presence. I am conscious of it and all the while, I can hear the fight in my head. It usually goes something like this:

“Have some compassion, she doesn’t know any better”,

“If she doesn’t know any better,  she’s a moron”

“She’s doing the best she can with the tools she has”

“Why cant she go get some new tools? I did. I hate her”

“Why don’t you try to reach out and help her? She’s in pain. She is just acting out of fear”

“I’m done helping. There is no love for another human being inside that woman”

“All she wants is to be understood and to be loved. From where she’s standing, she’s just as right as you think you are.”

“Shut up.”

“I give up”

And so it goes. I’ve tried letting her be right, I’ve let her walk all over me, I have yelled and cursed, I have used sarcasm and I have prayed. I am still coming up against that wall. I know who she represents in my life and I know getting to the place where I no longer mind will create a big breakthrough in my life yet I am at a standstill.

The Tao tells us that

If only the ruler and his people would

refrain from harming each other,

all the benefits of life would accumulate

in the kingdom.

I know that it is the small attitudes; my small decisions to hold certain people in these places of fear and hate that propagate those same feelings on a greater scale. War did not happen one day. Someone was scared of some other person or something and was able to promulgate that same fear unto others until it became big and unrecognizable, until the fear was so great that they believed that it was permissible to harm another human being.

So where to go from here? Each time I have a thought that wishes harm, or judges and labels another person negatively, I will send them love. I will try to see them in their true essence instead of the manifestation that I am witnessing. I know that my experience and my judgments come from a place of fear inside me. Addressing that fear is more useful and productive than trying to address the fear in them. I have no business fixing others until I handle what I need to handle in me.

 

The Dearest Place in My Heart May 25, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized,Year 1 — 81months @ 12:47 PM

The Dearest Place in My Heart

56th Verse

 

Those who know do not talk.

Those who talk do not know.

 

Block all the passages!

Close your mouth,

cordon off your senses,

blunt your sharpness,

untie your knots,

soften your glare,

settle your dust.

This is the primal union or the secret embrace.

 

One who knows this secret

is not moved by attachment or aversion,

swayed by profit or loss,

nor touched by honor or disgrace.

He is far beyond the cares of men

yet comes to hold the dearest place in their hearts.

 

This, therefore, is the highest state of man.

 

How often do you encounter this scenario: someone begins to tell you a story they are excited to share. They have not even finished the set up of the story and already in your head you have narrowed down the possible scenarios and outcomes of where they are taking you. This is the point where you tune out; the rest of the story is irrelevant. You just remembered a similar story and your story is way better than the one your friend has to offer.  Why is it better? Because it happened to YOU.  So you bite your tongue until your friend finishes the story. You pause just long enough to be polite and then say something like: “that’s great, the same thing happened to me”, and so you start.

Of course, this probably doesn’t happen to you that often because the “you” in this story, I am sad to say, is me. I can’t tell you how many times I catch myself taking over the conversation. I rob my friend of the pleasure of telling me their story. The shameful part is that I am completely aware that I am doing it. I recognize the thought before I verbalize it, I judge it as a tasteless thing to do and then I do it anyway. Afterwards, I feel bad about it.

It’s just like smoking. It’s certainly unhealthy and filthy. Without fail, I feel physically terrible after I smoke. So why did I smoke a cigarette last Friday? Because for those few seconds, it felt so good (until the next morning when I wanted to die.)

About three years ago I reach out for advice to someone whose opinion I value on how to be a better manager. Of course, because control is my favorite tool, I asked for the feedback under very measured circumstances. Before I asked for his constructive criticism, I drafted a long, comprehensive and convoluted self-appraisal of areas that I had identified that I could improve on followed by a plan of action on how I could overcome my opportunities and strive.

I gave him my draft and asked for feedback. Now, if you have read some of my other posts, you know that I am somewhat of a master at set ups like this. My expectation was that he would take my action plan, agree with it, pat me on the back and always remember me as someone who was open to coaching and willing to grow. What’s great about this person is that he sees straight through my bullshit like you and I see through a pane glass window.

He said “this is great but I have one more I want you to work on”. He told me to listen. He asked me to stop and just listen. I didn’t understand what he meant until I interrupted him to put in my two cents. He stopped me and smiled. I realized that it was almost a reflex. Someone was giving me feedback and I was cutting them short for my benefit.

There are really only two places I can go after my interruption. I can argue that they are mistaken and cite examples of why they are so wrong and I am so right. It usually sounds something like “yeah, but……. Well, don’t you think that……?” My second option is to agree. The way that I agree is by saying “Yeah, I know.” When I do this I am still trying to rise above them by essentially telling them that their insight, although correct, is not useful to me as I have already identified it and have decided that it is not a problem or not something that I feel I need to work on at the moment.

I spent the rest of the meeting smiling and literally biting my tongue so I wouldn’t look like I wasn’t listening. The truth is that I didn’t hear anything else he said that day because I was so deep in my thoughts about how I don’t listen. Nice. It turns out that today, three years later; I can’t even remember what I had outlined in my plan of action that afternoon. The only thing I took from that experience was that I wanted to listen more. It is a skill that I have yet to master but I that I embrace consciously on a daily basis with my kids, my husband, my friends and my work.

My attachment to one-upping the people around me must come from my need to be right about something-about anything.  There are instances that when I stop and listen to the things that come out of my mouth, I notice that I actually have no factual evidence to support what I am saying. I am actually making stuff up as I go along. During the study of this verse, I have come to the place that I actually stop and think before I speak. I find that I say “I don’t know” and “I am not sure” more often than I used to.  I have even become pretty good at asking people what they think when they ask me for advice or for my thoughts.

It all really boils down to this: when I surrender my desire to be right all the time, I allow people to shine on their own. I know that when people treat me like that, when they truly listen to me intently, they come to hold the dearest place in my heart.

 

My Master Plan: Avoid at All Costs December 10, 2009

Filed under: 54th Verse,tao te ching,transformation,Uncategorized,Year 1 — 81months @ 11:56 PM

Verse 54

Whoever is planted in the Tao

will not be rooted up.

Whoever embraces the Tao

will not slip away.

Generations honor generations endlessly.

Cultivated in the self, virtue is realized;

cultivated in the family, virtue overflows;

cultivated in the community, virtue increases;

cultivated in the state, virtue abounds.

The Tao is everywhere;

it has become everything.

To truly see it, see it as it is.

In a person, see it as a person;

in a family, see it as a family;

in a country, see it as a country;

in the world, see it as the world.

How do I know this is true?

By looking inside myself.

I have tested this verse to it limits this month. If this journey is the anchor that serves to keep me grounded I get to plant it a bit deeper. I made a reference some months ago about being the queen of avoidance. I still hold that title close to my heart.

When am I really happy and excited at work? When I am stressed at home.

When do I struggle to go to work and somehow find ways to hang out at home? When I am stressed at work.

When do I stay up later than normal? When I am having recurring nightmares.

I am a master of creating distractions.

So why haven’t I blogged in over three weeks? Because I have been avoiding being dishonest. How could I possibly sit down and truly write about how enlightened I feel as I contemplate this verse when in reality I am feeling foggy and confused?

Many moons ago I caught wind of the story in the tabloids about Tom Cruise criticizing Brooke Shields for taking medication to deal with her Post-Partum depression. The public crucified him as insensitive and out of touch. On some level, I agreed with him.

Because I do believe that in this country we tend to over medicate, I made a blanket judgment about a condition I knew little about. I didn’t get that until this past month. I have self-diagnosed myself (because I am avoiding going to see a doctor) with post-partum depression. I am not sure why this has been so hard for me to admit. I think it may have even started while I was still pregnant. It was during my pregnancy that I started to disconnect from my life. I stopped getting together with my friends and avoiding my family. I managed to always have something come up: a cold, a migraine, a sick child. None of these were lies or exaggerations; they were just things I managed to create at the right time.

I told you I was powerful.

Once Jackson was born, the pregnancy excuse was gone and I expected to go back to my normal self. It’s been nine months and I’m still waiting. What made things come to light was when my Leadership Program ended. I will explain.

When Tori was born ten years ago I didn’t hesitate to immediately enroll in graduate school. Who in their right mind enrolls in graduate school while employed full time with a new born baby? A woman desperate to avoid something. The graduate school lasted a year and a half and by the time it was over, I was all better. I was so busy those 18 months I hardly had time to deal with what was underneath all my escaping.

I did the same thing when Jackson was born this year. As soon as he was done breast feeding, I enrolled in a Leadership Program that I knew to be time and emotionally intensive. No time to get depressed when you are busy saving the world. It was a perfect avoidance strategy. Too bad the rug got pulled out from under me when the class ended unexpectedly. I now understand why I was so upset when it was over.

Since the end of LP, I have had some trouble reconciling my feelings. It is like I have been in a fog for two months, just going through the motions and trying not to drive my car into a canal every other day. I get now that depression, post partum or otherwise, is real and incredibly difficult. It really is just like in the commercials for anti-depressants: I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to have social interactions, and everything bothered me. Bright lights would hurt my eyes; a light touch would actually cause physical pain.

The hypersensitivity was unbearable. It made me jumpy and irritable, which would cause me to get mad at myself for having a short fuse, which would cause me to get more depressed. I didn’t recognize the person that was in my head. The daily thoughts I was having would frighten most of you. The scariest part was the anger I felt. I have felt sad in the past but I haven’t been angry like that since I lived at home as a teenager. The rage was eating me up.

I don’t know what gave me the clarity but I finally understood what was happening a week ago. I thought about my behavior and connected the dots. Once I understood what was happening, I felt better. I am still a little sad and I plan on seeing a doctor but the fog is finally lifting.

So I guess the opening of this verse has served me well:

Whoever is planted in the Tao

will not be rooted up.

Whoever embraces the Tao

will not slip away

.

I have wavered but I have not fallen or been blown away. Even through the dark path I am ending now, I always knew there was a bigger purpose.

There is no breakthrough without a breakdown.

Bring on my breakthrough. I am grateful for this experience for it has allowed me to see a part of myself that I did not want to confront and I am all the better for it.

So this wasn’t necessarily hard to write although I believe it may be hard to actually post. Being open about not being in a good place is not comfortable for me. I am a controller, remember? Part of what I am always trying to control is what you think about me. I am, after all, just a 14 year old inside.

 

My Own Worst Enemy November 17, 2009

Filed under: 69th Verse,Year 1 — 81months @ 11:56 PM

Verse 69

There is a saying among soldiers:

I dare not make the first move

but would rather play the guest;

I dare not advance an inch

but would rather withdraw a foot.

This is called

going forward without advancing,

pushing back without using weapons.

There is no greater misfortune

than feeling “I have an enemy”;

for when “I” and “enemy” exist together.

there is no room left for my treasure.

Thus, when two opponents meet,

the one without an enemy

will surely triumph.

When armies are evenly matched,

the one with compassion wins.

It is no coincidence that I started contemplating this verse 17 days ago and it is now, after skipping two whole weeks, that I finally sit down and blog. When I chose this verse I was perplexed. I don’t have any enemies. Why would I choose this verse today? I took it literally, so I have spent the last two and a half weeks being nice to people. I have been conscious about the old adage if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. I have forced my mouth shut more times than I care to mention. A few days into my month, I thought: this is cake. I can check this lesson off the list, easy month.

Duh. Of course it isn’t as easy as pie (or cake). What was I thinking?

Once again, the answer is in the question.

for when “I” and “enemy” exist together, there is no room left for my treasure.


It turns out that it’s an inside job.

It was through my service to teenagers this weekend that I got it. It’s that little voice that one of the teenagers described as how you see it in cartoons: a white little angel on one shoulder and a little red one on the other. All that little red monster knows how to say is: you are not enough. I am about 20 years older than most of the kids there and I was 14 years old in that room. I was once again insecure and uncertain.

Do they like me? Am I making a difference? I bet you they won’t even remember I was here. I haven’t contributed anything. Is anyone going to whisper something in my ear? What if they can’t remember my name? Did I connect with anyone?

Seriously. That’s what I was thinking. How long have I been working on this? Does it go away? Ever?

By the end of the weekend my little red companion was proven wrong and I felt happy. I matter.

This morning I decided to settle in and blog something about my verse, maybe about the war in Iraq. I figured it would come to me. I was having breakfast and then came my duh moment. I am the enemy.

Not too long before I got pregnant with Jackson last year I was looking in the mirror at myself while I was dressing for work. I caught a glimpse of my face (I usually miss it since I am too busy looking at everything else) and I laughed. I looked like I had just smelled a dirty diaper. I was looking at my body’s reflection in the mirror and I looked like I was mopping up vomit. That is the day I decided to keep track. I had just watched What the Bleep do we Know for the first time and the water molecule experiment was fresh in my mind. I was going to count how many negative thoughts about my body I had in a single day. I like evidence so I figured I could work on getting the number lower once I knew the scale (not my best idea). By lunch time I had scribbled 48 marks on a sheet of paper. I figured it was complete insanity so I stopped counting.

How is it that I can spend most of my time so crystal clear about my purpose and still have these thoughts sneak in? I am not clear on how to shift this mentality.

 

The Prison Break October 26, 2009

Filed under: 57th Verse,Year 1 — 81months @ 3:32 AM

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty

Albert Einstein

Maybe the way to letting go of control is through compassion. So what if my son learns not to put his hand on the stove by burning it? OK, so he is 7 months and probably won’t be going near the stove for a while, but the analogy is too easy. Why does he get to learn by my telling him and controlling his behavior? He has free will and he has choices to make. I get to be his Wikipedia: The stove is hot. You can touch it or not touch it.

Don’t call child protection services just yet. I would never let my son or any other child go near a hot stove. I just don’t have that much self control when it comes to my children being in harms way. But I get to acknowledge the reality that he will make his own decisions. Some will serve him to move him forward and some will serve him to reflect on how to make other choices in the future that better serve him.

All of us have within us the power to be great, whatever that means to each of us. We get to be great by having the freedom to make our own decisions, whether they result in mistakes or not. These last 25 days in the 57th verse I have been in my head about control, more so than during my last verse. I have been reflecting on my actions and even editing what I do and say before I act so that I do not impose on other people. It has been trying on my ego but I have survived. Who knew no one would die if I stopped trying to control everything. What a relief!

If I keep from imposing on people they become themselves.

Yesterday we had another amazing cradle night for 17 remarkable new family members. There is nothing like being in service to people who are committed to transforming their lives. I did a lot of letting go yesterday. When my request to be grounding captain fell through, I took what other role was given, smiled and embraced it. When I watched my dear friend pour way too much glue on the contracts, I said nothing. She adjusted on her own. When we were demonstrating the cradle, I wanted to jump in and correct the captain. I really really really wanted to correct him, and I had reinforcements. I saw my team mates rolling their eyes, shifting uncomfortably in their shoes and simply disconnecting from the circumstances. I closed my eyes and let go of the tension I had on my shoulders. I said nothing and let him do his thing. As long as no one was dropped and we were in integrity, what was the harm in letting him have his way?

In this world,
the greater the restrictions and prohibitions,
the more people are impoverished;

My rehab

Today it was very difficult to not interfere and to not tell someone how right I was. I spent my entire day with an alcoholic half way out of denial. I say half way because although she admits that she has a drinking problem and needs help, she is not yet ready to let go and trust that the road to recovery can not be done her way, hence, the need for rehab. The quandary was that I saw that I knew that my way was the right way.

I was right a lot today but I kept it all in my head. I saw my price for being right was too high. She had already admitted and committed to checking in to rehab first thing in the morning. The only thing I was going to get out of being right was that she would get upset with me and possibly risk our trip to the treatment center. It did not matter that what she was telling me made no sense.

Nevertheless, I found myself struggling to keep quiet and to keep my advice to myself when I could so clearly see the decisions that would serve her best. I know I slipped up at least a couple of times and I saw her body language shift. I was able to catch it and shift myself quickly enough to remedy the atmosphere I had created without major damage. I still have a 9 AM appointment with her to take a drive to a hospital in the morning.

My relapse

At the end of my day, I had very little tolerance for not being right anymore. I was drained. That is when my phone rang. I got a phone call from someone who could run for president of Righteous Town-and win. I let him have it. I actually said: “you’re wrong. I am right about this.” I was unyielding. I was screaming. I ended the call by effectively telling him to go f**k himself. It was not my shiniest moment.

I have lots of stories about how he deserved it and how he really is wrong and how maybe he reminded me a little of another righteous person in my life. I won’t touch any of those stories. They don’t matter. There was a way to communicate with him with compassion. There was a way for me to hold him to his highest possibility. Maybe that way was simply by not picking up the phone. I knew what the call was going to be about. He just called me when I wanted to take it out on someone.

Back on the wagon

What I remembered now, hours later, is that there is only love and fear. Because I make up that he was not coming from love, I also get to make up that he was coming from fear. Who am I to judge? If he is frightened by something, why should I rub his face in it? This is where compassion comes in. I don’t get to choose who I have compassion for. The way out of this prison of righteousness is by having compassion for all creatures and nature. Compassion is love. I get to check in with myself again. Maybe this time, instead of trying to control what I am being right about, I can just choose to come from love all the time. Isn’t that why we are all here anyway?

 

The White Coats October 19, 2009

Filed under: 57th Verse,Year 1 — 81months @ 2:54 AM

It is always the same premise. Something occurs and I end up in a room with padded walls. I am in my own space, on my single bed surrounded by nothing and covered with a neat little white blanket. I am wearing a sexy hospital gown and nice people with badges are coming in to ask me how I’m doing. Every once in a while, I venture out to another larger room where there is a small TV and scattered people wearing my same sexy outfit are mirroring my actions. None of us talk. None of us make eye contact. It’s very One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest-Minus the drama. I grab one of  the many books on my shelf that I haven’t had time to read, peruse it until I fall asleep; I take a nap and wake up to one of the nice badged ladies telling me it’s time for my medication.

Is this a nightmare? Nope, this is my fantasy vacation. And I daydream about it all the time.

Forget a trip to Europe, Hawaii, or an exotic beach. Been there, done that. Check me into a mental hospital. At the hospital, I get to let go of everything with minimal consequences.  I get to disconnect and not be responsible for anything or anyone.

There must be a way to only let go of a little bit at a time. It must begin with the realization that things will go on with or without me. How do I want people to remember me when I am gone? I don’t know that I want anyone to say that I was great at getting things done. Although that is a quality I am happy I possess, it is not who I am. It is merely what I do. Who I am must be about me being in contribution. How do I make an impact on the lives of people around me? I don’t know that I see how to arouse transformation in others by just being. Where does the doing come in? It is this back and forth that makes me nuts.

The 57th verse of the Tao te Ching tells us:

Therefore the sage says:
I take no action and people are reformed.
I enjoy peace and people become honest.
I do nothing and people become rich.
If I keep from imposing on people,
they become themselves.

I take no action and people become reformed

Is it me or does this sound wholly paradoxical? How in the world do I change people by doing nothing? Does deliberate creation count as action? Take the following example; I have a dear friend who requires help with recovery from substance abuse. I have skirted the subject with her, never really willing to put my ass on the line enough to have an honest, vulnerable conversation with her about it. All I really need to say is: “You have a problem. I would like to see you check yourself into rehab. How can I help?”

These words are just too difficult. So I have talked to her friends in order to put together an intervention as a group without having gone as far as actually doing it. But I have meditated and prayed on it. I have spent hours hoping she comes to the realization herself that she needs help. What happened? Last week, I heard she reached to her best friend because she recognized that she had a problem.

Did I have something to do with that? I like to think I did. So it isn’t like I did nothing. I did a lot; just none of it was confrontational with her specifically.

I enjoy peace and people become honest

How does this mode of thinking affect peace? In 1993 Maharishi University of Management performed a two month study in Washington, D.C. They hypothesized that they could drop D.C.’s violent crime rate by 20% by having about 4000 participants meditate. Once the study was over the results indicated that the crime rate did, indeed, drop by 23.3%! (http://www.istpp.org/crime_prevention/)

By us enjoying peace we create peace. This is part of the reason I actually do believe that I will see peace in my lifetime. Everyday I see people acting in ways that I did not see before I started looking. Today I see people meditating to get closer to God. I see young people who are open to different ways of thinking and being. I see businesses I work with implementing processes in their work that will support their employees as people, not just workers; I see business networking groups popping up that support business people’s spiritual sides along with their pocketbooks. I know we are on our way.

I do nothing and people become rich

What is rich really? Prosperity is different things to different people. To me rich is having my family around me; having my husband with me always; enjoying good health. Being happy is raising honest, open and grateful children. Being prosperous is accepting the tools and gifts I have been given and serving others with it. I guess that doing nothing to me means that I do not seek to be rich but I become rich by being a source for those riches. They come to me. I can chase riches until I am dead but in that chase, I am in scarcity. It is impossible to become rich while standing in not having enough.

If I keep from imposing on people, they become themselves

This is my favorite. I’ve been working on this one a lot lately. I have to say that I have become good at it. It has been hardest at work. Instead of micromanaging, I am allowing them to do it their way. It has not been easy to not interfere when I see my sales numbers slumping. I am standing back and letting them learn on their own. They all know the prices and the payoffs. All of them have worked with me long enough to know them.

Although this way of being is simple, it is not effortless. It actually causes me to stay in my head a lot of the time, hence the mental checkout fantasy. Sometimes I still feel that this is all too much.

Maybe what I can do is start looking out the window of my padded room. I am sure there is a beach out there where I am also sitting on a lounge chair drinking a virgin pina colada with perfectly not-frizzy hair in a tiny violet string bikini surrounded by my family and friends. I will meditate on a different kind of vacation.

 

Hard Habit to Break October 12, 2009

Filed under: 57th Verse,Year 1 — 81months @ 8:44 PM

57th Verse

If you want to be a great leader,
you must learn to follow the Tao.
stop trying to control.
let go of fixed plans and concepts,
and the world will govern itself.

How do I know this is so?
Because in this world,
the greater the restrictions and prohibitions,
the more people are impoverished;
the more advanced the weapons of state,
the darker the nation;
the more artful and crafty the plan,
the stranger the outcome;
the more laws are posted,
the more thieves will appear.

Therefore the sage says:
I take no action and people are reformed.
I enjoy peace and people become honest.
I do nothing and people become rich.
If I keep from imposing on people,
they become themselves.

There seems to be a theme in my Tao studies: let go of control. It is perfect how, not knowing anything about the Tao prior to picking it up, and having only heard it referenced to by Wayne Dyer, I chose this book as my vehicle for growth for the next six years. One of the Tao’s fundamental teachings is that when we are trying to control, we are not in alignment with The Great Way. The difficulty for me these days is that I really like controlling. I’m good at it.

My love affair with control can be summed up in the lyrics to an old Chicago song: “Being without you, takes a lot of getting used to, I should learn to live with it, but I don’t want to. Being without you is all a big mistake. Instead of getting any easier, it’s the hardest thing to take. I’m addicted to you. You’re a hard habit to break.”

I like being a control freak. It makes me happy.

If it wasn’t for me nothing would ever get done. When I am in control things usually go well. I am usually pretty clear of what the outcome to most situations is going to be. I get to make it whatever I want. I almost always get what I want and I almost always end up looking good in the end. When I am responsible things get done quickly. Sometimes the details fall through he cracks but the overall results are positive-like 95% positive. In my book, that is still an A. So what if no one learns anything in the process? At least whatever we were up to got done. Isn’t that the point, to get things done? When I run things, people follow. I give direction and we all look good in the end. When I am in charge, I have fun. I feel that pressure in the pit of my stomach that tells me that I can’t fail because I will look like a moron. It is pure adrenaline.

When I am not in control things turn out different.

How in the world am I supposed to let go of control if no one else steps up whenever I do? Teach a man to fish? Well, I’ve been teaching and modeling and coaching. I still feel like I’m dragging people to the shore and putting the freaking fishing pole in their hands. It’s exhausting.

I get that when I do for people I enable them to stay in their smallness. I allow them to be in a place where I don’t hold them responsible. I prove them right that they wouldn’t have been able to do it anyways; I let them not risk so they won’t fail; I allow them to avoid being source. I hand them their payoffs on a silver platter. But why won’t they just do something when I step back?

My trouble with control is like my trouble with caffeine. I know I get to let them go so I can grow. It is just that they both feel so good to have. So after three and a half months of contemplating the Tao, I got the message. Find a way to let go and let God. It is the only way to come closer to God and to my authentic self. I will start with just one step and take bigger ones as I progress (but isn’t my strategy just another way of controlling?) I will start with my payoffs.

Life without me

Being that my ability to control is in itself a payoff to a great part of my behavior pattern, there has to be an underlining driver behind my unwillingness to let go. I believe that factor is faith. As long as I don’t trust people I will feel that I need to be in charge of everything. So how do I get to faith? Meditation.

I took time to go through a visual meditation a few days ago. I imagined what the lives of people around me would be like if I were not here. After I took out the emotional variable of how that would make them feel, I pictured my family. I saw that Ashley would go to college. Her homework would get done. Her wedding dress would get fitted. She would pass her drivers test. She would be pregnant, and get nauseous, and give birth, and name her babies-all without my “help”. I saw that Victoria would play with her BFF. She would learn about the birds and the bees, about drugs and alcohol. She, too, would take her SATs and GREs and whatever she wanted to take to go to college or wherever she wanted to go to. She would get married, have babies, buy a house, and decorate it her way. Would it be different if I was there? Sure. Would it be worse because I wasn’t? No.

It would be perfect.

I saw that my baby Jackson would learn to walk, speak his first word, learn to ride a bike, learn to swim, go hiking, do every little and big thing that he would have wanted to do in his heart whether I was here or not. I saw that my husband would take care of the kids, would provide for our home and provide for himself. I saw that things would get done.

This is not to say that I find that I am irrelevant in the lives of my family. I know I matter to them and that given the choice, they would want me around. This exercise, though, gave me a different perspective on how necessary or unnecessary my opinions and advice really are. I get to continue speaking to my children about things that may help them but the conversations get to be different from now on. I get to show them that there are other possibilities-whatever they make up that they may be. And they get to make educated choices that serve them. All I can truly give those around me is support and permission to look for another way, the way that best supports what they are up to.

So maybe control being a hard habit to break is just a choice. Will it be hard to let go of control? Maybe. Will it be easy to do it? Maybe. I choose it to be easy because I need all my energy to do all the fun and exiting things that actually do serve my life. Like bungee jumping. I just put it on my bucket list. Anyone game?