Tuesday, January 12, 2010

From Running with the Tao

Tao 15/Day 1: “Do you have the patience to wait til your mud settles and the water is clear?”

To hear the podcast click here.  
September 1, 2009
A feeling overtakes me as I run today — “I can make it if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other.”  I have no reason to justify this feeling.  I’m still way to out of shape to think my fifty year old body can finish 10K on this beautiful wooded lakeside path here in Victoria, BC.  - but the sun is shining, the air is cool, the snow-capped mountains are shimmering in the distance beyond the ocean straits, and I feel it just the same.

My labored breathing finds a calmer rhythm.  ”Less and less do you need to force things” says the Tao te Ching.  I stop forcing my breathing.  I stop forcing myself to go forward, and instead find a slower, more natural pace.  Out of the blue, I’m aware of my eyesight.  Or rather, the fact that I’m quite nearsighted.

It’s a reality I’ve always thought of as a defect, but now I deliberately remove my glasses.  ”Soften your glare,” says the Tao.  Instead of squinting to see further down the path, I allow my ‘defective’ eyesight to give me a perfect experience of what it means to soften my glare.  I become completely present as a practical necessity.  I can see clearly only as far as the distance it takes to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  - How many other aspects of my life have I labeled ‘defective’ that need instead to be honored?

My breathing slows and deepens.  My knees start to ache.  I’m faced for a moment with a decision to either stop so as to not push my luck, or to grit my teeth and force myself to finish.  - But then a third option springs up from somewhere deeper.  It says, “Don’t force it, but don’t stop.  Instead, allow life to increase your capacity for it.”

I suddenly feel like the top of my head is gone.  ”Allow LIFE (not my ego) to increase my capacity for it.”  At every stumble, every setback, every ache and pain, every labored breath, every step Life is increasing my capacity for the task at hand to the extent that I’ll allow it to do so.  I don’t need to try and force one of my ego’s intended outcomes.  Life is fully capable of accomplishing for more than I could ever dare hope or dream of if I can only accept, embrace, and persevere in its natural processes.

But that requires more slowing down.  And patience.  This is the way my ‘mud’ will settle — not when it’s being constantly stirred up.  Why have I kept constantly stirring up my mud til now (or allowing others to stir it up for me)?  I suppose the answer has often been just because it’s mine.  - Not only ‘mine’, but ‘me’.  Yet the Tao to Ching says that only when my mud settles that “THE water is clear”.

Why is the mud mine but the water isn’t?  Perhaps because the water is Life itself.  When It becomes clear, something amazing happens.  My experience of who I am changes radically.  No longer am I just my mud.  I am the water, too.  The Tao has a place for everything.  My mud settles in its natural place and in its natural state and the water is clear.  The Way becomes clear.

And so my third run (after literally years of inactivity) has become much more than I could have ever imagined before I began.  I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and eventually I do finish.  It feels good.  It feels like a place that I haven’t been to in quite awhile, but a place that has never really been lost either.  It’s a place that feels a lot like home, and I now joyfully realize I will finally be able to return to it over and over again, as long as I prioritize, like today, the inner path first, and then my outer steps.

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