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Living With The Tao Te Ching : Verse 4

The Tao is like a well:

used but never used up.

It is like the eternal void:

filled with infinite possibilities.

It is hidden but always present.

I don't know who gave birth to it.

It is older than God.


What Is It All About

The Tao, the way. That elusive 'thing' that guides us, enchants us, inspires us, moves us, motivates us. It is infinitely replenished; eternal and timeless; hidden in plain sight; ever-present.

For thousands of years man has tried to access it, articulate it, describe it, pass it on - but it defies language, words and form.

It is something we have to come to know, to live, to feel through our own experience and not through our intellect or study.

I believe deep down we all know this elusive Tao is there; our greatest obstacle to truly feeling it is our minds and our thoughts. The mind wants to rationally and logically know the Tao but it never can, essentially because the mind that does the thinking is a part of the consciousness that the Tao is.

If the Tao was the clear blue sky and everything the mind can conjure up are clouds in that sky, then both the clouds and the sky are still a part of it all, they aren't separate. Analysing the clouds doesn't help you to know the sky any better, you just gather lots of rather useless knowledge about clouds. Are grey clouds better than white clouds? Is rain better than snow? Accepting though that skies have clouds, often many different kinds of clouds, is a much healthier way to look at things. That's reality. Then everything is part of the Tao. We don't need to look so hard to try and find something when it's already there.

I don't know who gave birth to it.

If we continue with the sky metaphor. Who created the sky? At what point does the sky become outer space? At what point in the awesome, incredible, vastness of the Universe do we come to the beginning of time, the Big Bang? What came before that?

These thoughts are as old as mankind. We can never find the definite answer, and would it really help us in our daily lives if we did? How would understanding that help us right now in this very moment? Even The Tao states it doesn't know, perhaps therefore it actually doesn't matter.

It is older than God.

This last line of verse 4 suggests to me that the God that is being referred to here is the label that the human mind uses to try and grasp some understanding of the Universe and creation. This harps back to verse 1 of the Tao and 'naming is the origin of all particular things'. Before humans came along and tried to label everything, and attempt to put a name to the mysterious, existential feelings that we each felt - there just was. Life, the Universe just was. It existed regardless of any labels, tags or names.

By putting a name on creation we instantly reduced it's magnitude and magnificence down to

something that could be understood and rationalised. We have worked hard for the last few thousand years to distort that concept called God and to use it as an excuse to separate and segregate ourselves, and subject our fellow humans to some of the greatest horrors ever imaginable.

It is older than God. This tells us that before we added names to things, the Tao, the Way existed. It always has and always will.


How To Practically Apply Verse 4 To Ordinary Life

I believe that verse 4 is teaching us once again to not dwell too much on concepts, thoughts, labels and names. It is even suggesting that we don't need to know the answer to the secrets of the Universe in order to live by The Tao.

Instead what we need to do is be more present here and now. This moment is all that matters. In the present moment we can access all those infinite possibilities, we can sense the timelessness, experience the eternal energy that The Tao is.

We have to learn to let go of the mind's constant need to understand and control things and relax into the moment, trusting that 13.8 billion years has brought us to this very moment. The Universe seems to work just fine without our intervention. Our hearts are beating. Blood runs through our veins. We are breathed.

It's time to trust The Tao, it's always been there, all of our lives and it always will be. Surrendering to it is like stepping into a clear, warm stream and laying down and allowing that stream to carry us wherever it takes us, no destination in mind.

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