Powerful Mind Part 35
Created November 2, 2023
This quote from Lao Tsu’s Tao Te Ching is worth unpacking. Taoism traces its roots to this collection of wisdom and another book, the Zhuangzi. Both books were written about half a millennium before the birth of Jesus Christ. Now, about two millennia after that world changing event, almost every living person knows and understands what the Force means to a Jedi knight, and this is the closest thing to the Tao in our modern pop culture. There are many differences however between Steven Spielberg’s brilliant conception and the Tao.
There is no “dark side” to the Tao. The Tao is the animating principle of all of existence and its common soul or spirit. It is inherently innocent, simple, humble, honest, natural, and spontaneous. Lao Tsu attributed the “dark side” of human beings to their falling out of synch with the Tao due to unnatural additives to natural simplicity and humility. In the language I use to explain such things, these de-synchronizing additives are all the result of ego attachments to things that reach beyond the natural enjoyments of life.
Lao Tsu describes the Flow state as being brought on by the wu wei attitude, in which nothing is added to natural innocent spontaneity. Wu wei may also be translated as doing nothing. Like Plato, and like Zen, both of which came later, Lao Tsu was aware that the use of language itself invited the mind to build imaginary things that could lead the individual to desynchronize from the natural universe. Both Taoism and Zen provide exercises for relaxing back into natural spontaneity.
There could be a philosophical connection between Taoism and the Bible story of Adam and Eve eating from the forbidden Tree Of Knowledge. This was a move away from natural innocent spontaneity.
For us in the accelerated culture of the 21st century, using words in articles/books like this one are playing with a two-edged sword, using words to reduce the hypnotic effects of a lifetime of detachment from natural spontaneity that was itself caused by millions of words, and overpowering attachments to conditioned desires, and thousands of traumatic memories from unassimilated learning experiences when those desires were thwarted.
“Spontaneity” is one of those two-edged words which can have opposite meanings in certain contexts. When one is in the Flow state, back in synch with the Tao/Universal Consciousness, every action we take and every thought/feeling that goes through us is perfect, and there is nothing gained by hesitation, checking each impulse before acting upon it. Yet in the Observer state, the state which I’ve learned is more sustainable and a jumping-off point for the Flow state, the opposite is true: in the Observer state, it has the most positive outcomes to check oneself before acting on impulse. This is probably the most subtle trick in the book of life, knowing when one is in Flow and can trust the natural impulses of the heart, versus knowing when is not in Flow and ought to seek shelter in the Observer state in order to maximize one’s positive effects on the world and the self.
Negativity is the basic clue to making this discernment properly. Any presence of negativity in oneself is a clue to restrain action, because negativity is incompatible with Flow. The cue may be subtle internally and it takes practice to learn to pay attention to subtle guidance system internal cueing.
This is why timing is so important, because there is this knife-edge distinction between one’s readiness to Flow versus the wisdom of holding back and studying one’s own impulses before letting the action occur.
Mind Magic pages 137-141 offers an exercise which can help train your mind to automatically achieve this balancing act between action and non-action. Here are a few excerpts from that passage:
Do not move any part of your body
From the position it is now in.
Regard any such movement
As an action to be evaluated prior to action.
Are you curious
About something that is now going on nearby?
What specifically will you gain by looking?
Why do you want to gain this?
Be aware of, but unmindful of, voices and feelings
Which tell you that you must decide now
Or must take action now.
These voices and feelings
Are a force that has had power over you until now;
They originate in society;
Society which expects you to perform in certain ways.
Then you should remove all force
From the feelings inside you
Which tell you to move.
Hurrying (in most cases) is a sign that you are afraid and/or that you wish to get past the thing you are currently doing, in order to do something specific that you can’t wait to be doing. It would be far more valuable to set aside the thing you are doing in a rush and to do the thing you really want to be doing. That is what brings on the Flow state, doing something that you find to be fun.
My good friend Marshall Cohen, known as the guru of the cable industry, sent me an article indicating that billionaire Warren Buffett is aware of Flow state, and purposely leaves open certain days on his calendar in order to maximize his own experience of Flow.
Planning and scheduling your time and leaving enough time to not feel any time pressure is a wise course of action, and will tend to maximize the quality of what you create, and your enjoyment of life. Remember James Taylor’s saying “The secret of life is enjoying the passage of time.” This is very Tao.
Sometimes you will feel that the Universe has given you an inspiration, an idea which will make a positive difference in someone’s life or even in the lives of many people. Your natural tendency will be to share that idea as quickly as possible. But the timing must be right in order for an idea, no matter how good, to be accepted and acted upon. If you spill it out impulsively because your ego has become attached to the praise you expect from it, the likelihood is that it might fall flat, and then take even longer to be adopted. Wait for the cue that it is the right moment to use such ideas.
Be especially sensitive not to mistake right timing because your idea might be very rational and the person you are giving it to might be in a very emotional state, or vice versa. If you sense any subtle doubt in yourself, wait. If you are missing the moment the Universe will give you an encouraging cue to say it now.
Consciously determine how much to take your time
Best to all,