Thoughts from the Tao: An Introduction

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intro

The Tao Te Ching was allegedly written by a Chinese writer, Lao-Tzu, some time around the 4th or 5th Century BCE. We know almost nothing about him – all that we have is this brief book of 81 verses. Lao-Tzu himself could even be a fiction – certainly we don’t even really have a good translation of his name. “The Old Master”, or even “The Old Boy” perhaps. So even the author is ephemeral, difficult to grasp, impossible to see. And it feels like that’s what Lao-Tzu himself would have wanted – to disappear so thoroughly that the wisdom of The Way could be more clearly seen. Even the book’s title is cryptic “The Book of The Way”. It seems to almost beg to be treated as immaterial, ephemeral: Lao-Tzu writes with confidence and certainty about something that cannot be described, labelled, explained. And yet there is clarity and deep truth woven throughout these simple verses.

Tao Te Ching loosely translates to ‘The Book of the Way’s Virtues’

Dào/tao meaning ‘way’ or ‘the Way’ – the essence of the Universe, the Oneness, the Infinite

Dé/te meaning ‘integrity’, ‘inner character’, ‘virtue’ or ‘divine power’

Jīng/ching meaning, simply, ‘great book’.

It is of course written in Chinese character form, where each character is not just a word, but also a concept, a thought, an entire raft of meaning which needs to be factored in to any attempt to provide a translation. And equally, it has changed its source and its script over the years from its origins probably in zhuànshū script and later in kǎishū. We have no way to tell whether the version we have is in any way close to what Lao-Tzu originally penned… but I like to believe that it is, and that when we study it with an open mind and a willing heart that we find truth within its pages.

Exploring the Tao Te Ching is not like reading a book, but more a process of meditation: almost a conversation between the book and the reader where meaning is discovered not just in the reading, but in the living, and in the way that the book sheds light on other aspects of our own journey.

The Tao is full of paradox, riddles, contrasts. At times it seems that the meaning of the words is becoming clear – and then it slides off into an inscrutable mystery that hints at an answer, yet refuses to be pinned down. To me, there really is no one way to interpret the book. It demands to be read, and pondered, and reread. It demands us to consider its paradoxical thought, and perhaps then to be happy with unanswered questions – if it has caused us to think more deeply, then it has done its work. Even if it allows us to be comfortable with the idea that truth may not be absolute, that we have to live within the paradox, then it will have taught us well. Each of us will have our own insights into the book, our own interpretations – and that’s as it should be. For Lao-Tzu, truth is not rigid, or easily defined. It cannot be written down, it can only be discovered and experienced for each one of us personally – yet if we choose to hear, it will transform us.

One of the beauties of the Tao is that it doesn’t require a belief in any form of God or Supreme Being – yet equally its truth can equally be applied whether you are a theist, atheist or agnostic.

For some reason study of the Tao Te Ching eluded me for many years – popping up in various quotes and commentaries, making a brief appearance then diving down below the surface again. My journey with the Tao Te Ching really began when I started studying with the Interfaith Foundation – one of our required reading books on the course was a translation by fantasy author Ursula K Le Guin – a translation that seemed both true to the original yet shaded and textured by the author’s own search for meaning. I was also deeply inspired by spiritual author Wayne Dyer, who took a year out to meditate on the Tao verse by verse, a year of insight that became the book “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life” – and I followed in his footsteps by embarking on a journey into the Tao that took me deep into one verse every week. This year I’m restarting that journey with the intention of publishing my own personal thoughts on the Tao each week here on this web site.

I believe that studying the Tao Te Ching has opened me up to a new way of looking at the mystery of Life, at my own spiritual journey, at my beliefs, behaviours and truth as I see it. I do not for one minute claim to be a definitive scholar of the Tao, if such a thing exists. But I hope that my thoughts will maybe help inspire you to look more deeply, to see perhaps way beyond my own insights and come to your own conclusions.



Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

For those of you who are interested, I’ve used translations from Ursula K Le Guin, Stephen Mitchell, Jonathan Star, Jane English and Wayne Dyer’s own paraphrase version. I’d say Stephen Mitchell’s is the version I like the best.

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Back in the Dojo

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A while back I wrote a post about getting back into my karate practice – how after many years away, it seemed like the right time to get back into a karate-gi, join a karate club, and actually start practicing again. That journey continues, much to my amazement.

And now it’s time to get back into a different dojo – back into a place where I can create, write, share some of my thoughts. It’s not been an easy time for me, the last few years, and sometimes my disorganised and chaotic life feels like this:

I do not have ‘ducks’. I do not have ‘a row’. I have squirrels. And they’re at a rave.

But maybe, just maybe, I can get my life sufficiently in order to be able to create something. And maybe, if you’re reading this, maybe a long dormant dream can awaken for you, too. Perhaps this post is as much for you as it is for me…

A while ago a very wise woman said to me:

“I foresee a surge of people who need to be given hope and be uplifted and search for possibility from the seeming chaos..the sparks of potential that haven’t come to light yet, but are already forming. When you stand in that sliver of space that is completely and utterly you, then you are awesome, magnificent, wonderful.. and when you pull from the scattered pieces those that depict what is true for you, tune into the melodies of your heart and tug on the fibres of your being..they will reform into something that is destined for you to be doing, experiencing and giving to the world – your sliver of space will emerge as you do.


You need to make a commitment, and as you do, life will give you some answers.”

I’ve held on to that quote for years now, and it feels as alive now as it did when she first wrote to me. And perhaps, now, it’s time to make a commitment, and let life give me some answers.

We want, always, to have the answers before we make the leap, before we jump into the unknown, before we start on something new. But life doesn’t work like that. We have to make the leap, take the risk, step through the door before we know how it’s going to work out.

So here’s a commitment.

I commit to writing at least one blog post here every week. Thoughtful, I hope, maybe even insightful. Or maybe not. I may not have answers, but I sure do have questions. I’m still on a journey. I’m still just a student on the path of life, and that’s why this blog is called ‘Thoughts On The Way’.  And I commit to restarting my journey exploring the Tao Te Ching and posting my thoughts on each chapter once a week too.

How’s that for a plan?

Now in the interests of being open and honest, I’m not writing this for you. I’m writing this for me. For me to explore my path. For me to understand what I feel, what I know, what I believe. For me to try in all humility to answer the questions that I face. But maybe you have those questions too. Maybe they will find a resonance in your being, some echo in your own soul. If they do, then that’s wonderful. If they don’t, well, just pass on by. It’s OK.

So here I am, starting again. Let’s see what happens.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org


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It’s OK not to have New Year’s resolutions…

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It’s okay not to have New Years resolutions

It’s okay not to have big goals for your life

It’s okay not to have plans you want to Manifest…

It’s okay not to chase your dreams

That path is not for everyone

Some walk the path of Unbecoming

They are travelling the road Backwards

Seeking the core

What is basic and essential

What has been there all along

Though we may be headed the same direction

Our spirals are mirror opposites

Some walk the path of the visionary

Creating abundance and

Dancing inside a multiplicity of forms

And Some walk the pathof the serpent owl

Becoming more and more naked

Shedding layers of fantasy into the ash Night sky

Sitting in the dark

And seeing the way the wind moves

They do not walk a line or poise their arrow to the target

They sit at the bottom of the ocean

And waitLetting the waves devour them

They are following the pulse of listening

To silence

Like a tiger in the brush

Waiting for existence to strike lightning

Into the fire of the heart

For this kind

Nothing less will do

Some are opening the palms of their hands

And unravellingTo becomeLess and less

Until they areNo-Thing

To become the still pointIn the center ofAll

You know who you are.Keep going.

– Maya Luna

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Mocking God?

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1474035-nebulaOne of the topics that has fascinated me over recent months has been the idea of a Flat Earth. Now, just to be clear, I do not in any sense believe the Earth is actually flat. As far as I can see all the Flat Earth believers rely on is personal incredulity (what do you mean, we’re flying through space at thousands of miles an hour?) and simplistic observation (it looks flat so it must be flat). But their motivation and determination to believe despite all the evidence fascinates me, and will be the subject of a future post, I’m sure.

I got into a bit of an on line conversation with a flerfer1 who accused us of mocking God and his creation, which apparently according to the Bible is a circle (or possibly a square) 40,000km across underneath a dome on which a light show of sun and moon, stars and planets plays. Which made me think . . which is more of a mockery of a creator: this limited flat son et lumière show, or the observable Universe. So my reply to him was essentially this:

“Mocking? The Creator Source I could believe in can create an infinite Universe full of a myriad stars and planets, galaxies and black holes, mysteries and wonders for us to discover, ponder and marvel at. All held together by a simple and elegant force that creates and sustains this amazing cosmic dance. I can look at the night sky and be awestruck by its beauty. I can look at pictures from space and be stunned by beauty and the sheer enormity of what I see. And you dare mock that creativity and power by confining the Creator to someone who created a mere stage and light show? Which one of us is really mocking God?”

This Universe in which we live is a glorious, incredible infinite world full of mysteries and wonders, marvels and surprises. And we live “far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy”2 seemingly a billion miles away from all the interesting stuff. It’s incredible, unbelievable, and yes, I get why it might challenge someone’s personal incredulity, their sense of scale, their ability to grasp the sheer vastness of space.

Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean you may think it’s a long walk down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space. (Douglas Adams2)

For me, I’m not sure about God. Or a Creator. It may surprise you to know that after 63 years on this planet, I am more uncertain than I used to be about something so basic, so foundational. And I am certain that it’s not some long bearded white dude in the sky. But I know this. If there is a Creator of all this, then I’m voting for the one who can create a star studded magical infinite Universe full of secrets and surprises, wonders and marvels. Face Infinity. And let your whole being thrill to what’s out there.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

1: flerfer (noun) a semi derogatory term for a flat earther
2: Douglas Adams in ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’


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Thoughts from the Tao 1: Living the Mystery

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The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.

The unnameable is the eternally real.

Naming is the origin of all particular things. Free from desire, you realize the mystery.

Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations. Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source.

This source is called darkness. Mystery within mystery.

The gateway to all understanding.

tao 1

Lao-Tze sets out his stall in verse 1: he’s very clear that you can’t describe The Way, you can’t explain The Tao, you can’t walk The Path. Mind you, he’s going to take another 80 verses to try explain it, but I kinda understand what he means.

It’s pretty much indefinable. Elusive. The heart of the Tao seems to be a mystery: something impossible to explain. Linguists understand this – that as soon as we begin to name and describe a thing, we lose the thing itself. Psychologists often say that ‘the map is not the territory’: a way of saying that whatever we may write, or draw – however we may describe something, it is not the thing itself. And Buddha himself said ‘the finger that points to the moon is not the moon’.

The only way to experience The Way is to walk it. Or at least to try. We’re not going to get it right, if there is such a thing as ‘right’. And we’re not going to get anywhere just talking about it either. The Way is to be experienced, to be lived, viscerally. There are days when I know that what I am feeling and what I am thinking – and how I am being – has never been part of a formalised faith.. and yet it has more reality than any of these. I walk a line between faith and atheism that cannot be called agnosticism, but can be best described as ‘walking according to what I feel’. And that’s the best I can ever do.

You can have what you want, Lao-Tze suggests. You can have what you can describe, what you can name – all the goals, all the dreams. Or you can let go of all that, and simply experience the mystery that is life, lived. The Way, walked.

The moment we name something, it ceases to be truly real. The Tao asks us to live in the mystery. Not to seek to get everything explained, but simply to live what presents itself. In our modern, rational, scientific age we have become used to demanding explanations, to have things clearly organised and structured, to be able to know and to have certainty about the truth. As we seek to clear out our preconceptions, our previous understandings, our own personal myths, then things somehow become more transparent, more real. As Herman Hesse observed of his life: “I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me.”

It seems to me that I understand less as I grow older – or perhaps that understanding has become less important, and experiencing and simply being has replaced that. Without grasping, we find a new level of peace and harmony. By allowing, we let the Universe unfold around us. Because as soon as we let go of trying to describe The Way, it opens itself up. As we seek to step into the mystery, not to understand it, but simply to experience it, then we step through the doorway to true understanding.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org


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Tech Junkie to Digital Minimalist in 284 pages

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Read Time:6 Minute, 8 Second

I’ve worked with technology all my life – from my early attempts to write a computer programme on punch cards (I dropped the deck – attempt over) way back when the only materials on microprocessors were typewritten pages – the technology was moving so fast that no-one had got round to writing the books – through working on process and laboratory computer systems and surviving the early years of personal computers and networks. I’ve worked on global email services and corporate collaboration software, and helped design computer systems that supported tens of thousands of users world wide. I even worked on palmtop computers and tablet PCs before the iPhone and iPad were a glimmer in Steve Jobs’ eyes. Computer technology is woven in and around my life, so when I encountered Cal Newport’s book ‘Digital Minimalism’ I wasn’t sure whether this was something to welcome, or something to run from.

The book is subtitled ‘on living better with less technology’ and is a long hard look at the benefits – and the pitfalls – of our ‘always connected’ world. As Adlai Stevenson observed in 1955:

Technology, while adding daily to our physical ease, throws daily another loop of fine wire around our souls. It contributes hugely to our mobility, which we must not confuse with freedom.

In a similar vein, Max Frisch observed that technology is “the knack of so arranging the world that we don’t have to experience it”.

Newport argues that computer use, and particularly the combined impact of mobile computing and social media, is a dangerously powerful narcotic that draws us away from reality and into a dangerous shadow world. He cites examples like Facebook’s introduction of the ‘Like’ button which turned Facebook into a social slot machine – every post being a gamble as to whether anyone would like or comment on their post. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all provide a  continual hum of distraction such that their users live continually fearful of missing out, while we try to apply rules of normal conversation to an audience that may comprise several hundred vaguely interested parties. We substitute a rushed online ‘Happy Birthday’ or comment ‘awww’ on a new baby snap for real interaction and conversation while drawing attention away from what really matters.

Rather than simply ditching technology and trying to live without it, Newport introduces what he refers to as a philosophy of Digital Minimalism which supports our values and our goals:

Digital Minimalism: A philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else

He suggests that we work out what’s important to us, and then decide whether technology supports this for us – and forces us to ask not only ‘is this useful for me?’ but also ‘is this the best way to support me in this?’ Having worked out what’s really useful, and disregarding digital activities that add little real value, we can escape some of the bonds of our digital slavery and focus our lives on things that really matter.

Cal suggests a thirty day ‘digital declutter’ to take a break from optional technologies (recognising that for many of us technology use is part of our work lives) to decide what’s useful – and what isn’t). At the end of the month, you’re free to reintroduce technologies – provided that you have a clear purpose for it to support something you value.

Cal’s principles can be summed up:

Principle #1: Clutter is costly. Cluttering our time and attention with too many devices and apps that demand huge amounts of interaction costs us our productivity, real-life connections, creativity and the pursuit of a well-developed leisure life.

Principle #2: Optimization is important. We need to figure out how to use technology to best support the things that we value.

Principle #3: Intentionality is satisfying. “Digital minimalists derive significant satisfaction from their general commitment to being more intentional about how they engage with new technologies.”

In place of this he suggests that we dedicate more time to disconnected leisure, to the practice of solitude, to walks and to time for reflection and deep thought, as practiced by Lincoln, Thoreau and Nietzsche, who observed that ‘only thoughts obtained by walking have value’. He suggests we spend more time on deepening personal social connection rather than the surface froth of ‘social’ media. He also advocates picking up a creative craft, whether that be woodworking, the guitar or gardening – and if possible to find a way to do that in a social setting.

When I did my own version of his declutter I found that ‘always on’ computing tended to be a distraction. I started using a program called ‘Freedom’ which blocked access to distracting web sites like Facebook or YouTube for substantial parts of the day. I started turning my internet router off at night – and leaving it off for most of the day. (I have a suspicion that removing one more source of radiation from my home has improved my sleep). I bought a real clock rather than relying on my phone for wakeup alarms and relegated it to charging downstairs. I even separated my study desk from my work desk, making it harder to just check something on my laptop. I regularly have ‘unplug days’ where technology simply doesn’t happen.

I stripped a lot of applications from my phone, making it harder to just check Facebook or Twitter, and went in hard to drop subscriptions, newsletters and Facebook groups that add little real value. I use the Social Fixer app to filter my Facebook feed and remove stuff that’s irrelevant, and rarely check it on my phone. I now resist ‘liking’ products and services, and try and avoid clicking ‘like’ or commenting as it just brings another flow of less than relevant commentary into my feed. Early on in my use of email – and now carried on into WhatsApp and Messenger – I started to disable notifications and alerts so that my phone isn’t a source of continual interruption. As you might expect, technology is a useful tool for me, but I’m determined to keep it in its place. That’s not always easy – but it’s certainly a goal.

And I am continually refining. Deciding what matters and what doesn’t. Finding ways to use technology to support my values and goals and dreams, to underpin the things that matter. Technology is in my blood.. but I am determined that it supports me rather than dominating my life.

I happen to think that ‘Digital Minimalism’ is well worth reading. There’s plenty of science in there to back it up along with real world stories of people who’ve explored the idea. If you take one or two ideas on board it’ll make a huge difference. Go for a full digital declutter and ask yourself the hard questions, and it might just change your life.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org

(Watch this space for a review of Cal Newport’s book ‘Deep Work’ soon. He also has a new book ‘A World Without Email (reimagining work in an age of communication overload)’ which I hope to get round to reading soon – but for those of you who buried under a deluge of corporate email, you might want to check that out!)

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A Thirst for Simple Light

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I love this poem from the fabulous Mark Nepo: for anyone who has had their dreams dashed to the ground, and has emerged into the light on the other side living kinder, deeper and simpler . . . and for anyone who is still trying to pick up the pieces . . .

At first it’s about achieving.

Creating something that might last.

Then having the thing so carefully

carried break before our eyes. And

building it again. Only to have our

foundation crack. If we have the strength,

we might keep building.

But sooner or later,

we turn to help others carry simple things

or find what’s been lost. And one day

purpose is a fugitive who’s forgotten

why he’s on the run. And as the body

is worn to only what matters, we are

worn to care, not build. To Care.

About anything. About whatever is

before us. Singing. Packing groceries.

Learning the names of all the leaves

on Earth. Collecting movies that have

life in the title and giving them away.

Anything that keeps us tumbling like

bottles of light destined to break

for those thirsty enough to

drop their need of cups.

(Mark Nepo: Drinking From the River of Light)


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Snow dreaming . .

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Read Time:4 Minute, 47 Second

IMG_2421Today it snowed. A few soft flakes started to drift to the ground in the late morning, and I expected to see a light dusting that disappeared almost as soon as it had settled. But the snow continued to fall, lazy clumps of snowflakes, spiralling and drifting gently to the ground. And so I walked. No matter that I had already been for a walk that morning – I have so missed the snow. Down to the town, seeing the old buildings transformed while the town centre was covid-quiet. I walked on and down to the local park and around the lake, my thoughts disturbed only by the occasional walker and the park ranger on his tractor. The snow covered a multitude of sins – what had been a muddy, squelchy walk only days before was now pristine, matt white spread deep on the ground while the trees bent under the weight of snow that clung thickly to the branches. And I walked on, lost in thought and reverie, as I allowed the snow to heal my heart.

IMG_2431I met a friend in another park, and we talked skiing and snowboarding while her two black Labradors jumped and played, leaping for snowballs, and her son made snowmen and fished sheets of ice out of the floodwater.

I am a snow hound, I know that – happier on a mountain in snowboard boots and a beanie than on a beach that slows me down with its intimidating and oppressive heat. I miss the cold, the icy clutches of snowdrift and frost. I miss the crunch of snow underneath my boots as I walk. I miss the frosted sparkle of ice particles in the pale wintry sun. I have missed the annual trips to ski run and back bowl, board tracing lazy arcs across the hillside as the cold wakes me up and brings fresh clarity.

And in the late evening, I walked again, the snow still blanketing the quiet streets, covering cars that lay unused in lockdown inactivity, sat softly on fences and hedges, disguising the outlines of post boxes and street signs, softening the harshness of hard edges and sharp angles. Ice white street lights bringing sharp definition to the thick canvas stretching out in front of me while clouds drifted gently across the sky to reveal a scattering of stars, and a haloed ice moon.

IMG_2450It felt as if I could walk for ever – to carry on as my feet bit into the snow, crunching with every footfall, to walk ’til sunrise found me. I didn’t want to waste a moment – snow is so ephemeral in this country, arriving one day to be washed away in drizzly grey rain or winter sunshine the next. And memories washed back – of years before walking by the river trying to solve the seemingly intractable mess I had got myself into. I’ve made my share of bad decisions in the past, discarding something good for the sake of a dream of freedom. I have foolishly thrown away opportunities, through moments of confusion, or unworthiness, or madness. There have been times when faith and hope have seemed so far far away when in truth they have been my constant partners. Walking has always helped me through to clarity, the cold and the snow acting to further focus me. It would have been a shame to waste these frost-bound moments of clear headed thinking.

IMG_2446And the next day I was up before the sun had even begun to think about putting in an appearance, lacing on boots, pulling on hat, scarf and gloves, taking every opportunity to enjoy this brief moment before sun, rain and gritting salt washed it away, before it stopped being beautiful, dramatic, pristine white and faded into slushy melancholy grey. I walked by the river, enthralled by the unique soft crunch under my boots, watching rosy sunlight wash through the trees and light the landscape in shades of pink. Sheep looked back at me, dotted around fields and sheltering under trees. The river, swollen with recent rains, cast a slight mist on the water and cascaded through lock gates opened to allow its flow. And all around, setting each tree and bush, each trail of footprints, each gatepost, fence and house in a jewelled frame that draped the outlines with a frosty  white anonymity that forced me to look closer to identify each piece.
And again the calm tranquil quiet allowed me to reach a new level of peace with my own thoughts.

IMG_2456Snow here is fleeting, shortlived, occasional, lasting only a brief time before it is gone again. Our moments are like that too, dealing opportunities which must be taken up before they vanish, lost forever in time’s shadows. And mysterious Life itself is like that, to be enjoyed, and lived, and experienced deeply, and fully in each vibrant second of Now. These moments do not come again, and each one is precious.
Our days are not meant to be wasted, or saved, but spent lavishly and with exuberance, immersing ourselves in the excitement of what it means to be Alive.

And so, last night, walking in the icy night air, the streets silent and close around me, it seemed for me that I have been spinning my wheels for too long, lost in repeated uncertainty, pondering the imponderable, doomed to inaction as I second guess my own intentions. The morning sunrise brought illumination, a new determination, a decision to start to weave a new story, to begin again to declare something new with a confident and bold hand. So perhaps now is a good time to write again, to use these moments of icy clarity as a springboard to something new.

Find out more at www.timhodgson.org


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Back in white pyjamas

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Read Time:3 Minute, 19 Second

IMG_2414So there I was, nervous and uncomfortable, barefoot in a Peterborough gymnasium, and clad only in a pair of white pyjamas. The floor cold and hard, adrenaline spiking in my veins. The only source of comfort and security was the belt wrapped round my waist – my name and my old club embroidered on it – that and the months of extra training I’d put in during lockdown, pacing up and down my living room as I practiced. Somewhere in that practice I had tapped into muscle memory, and what I knew slowly started to flow back. They say that what you learn never truly leaves you. They say that any art practiced for ten thousand hours makes you a master. I’m no master – maybe I’d not spent ten thousand hours in practice, but four or five hours a week in class (at least) plus everyday practice for over ten years had made me solidly proficient.

Flashback: When my eldest son was younger, we rocked up to a traditional Shotokan karate class at a nearby school having seen an advert in the local paper. Some very tough years of training followed, with one or two injuries, and struggles with co-ordination, flexibility, speed and my innate lack of timing.. but eventually both he and I made it to our coveted black belt. And a couple of years later, I graduated again as a second dan black belt. But when I set up my own business, something had to give and, sadly, at that time karate was the thing I ended up giving up. But it felt as if a part of me had gone missing.

They say that black belts are masters. They say black belts are the ultimate fighting machines. Black belts know they are not. They know they are just at the beginning of the journey – that the only thing they had achieved after years of training was simply the right to be on that journey – and I had taken time out from that path to focus on other things.. important things, for sure, but now it was time to get back into the dojo, to put the gi back on and to train hard again. This was a new club, new instructor, new syllabus, and a new beginning.

IMG_2403And in the end, I was better than I feared, and probably even better than I had hoped. I could hold my own – not particularly because I had the skills, but because I had the determination to make it happen, and because that which you’ve learned never does really leave you. I had done my preparation work – reviewing what I had learned before, practicing over and over again in my cramped training space. I’d re-read my old books, watched the videos and went through my old applications and bunkai. But in the end it came down to turning up one day, leaving my pride, my ego and my fears outside the dojo doors, and starting again.

I’m nowhere near as good as I used to be – but it’s coming back, piece by piece, as I install new memories of old favourite katas and of fearsome sparring drills. My flexibility and speed need some attention, and there are katas to refamiliarise myself with, but there is progress, simply because I had chosen to turn up and try.

And suddenly, in that moment in the dojo, there was a deep knowing, and a deep sense of calm settled on me – something felt fundamentally right – as if I was putting a shard of who I am back in its right place. So it is that every time I pull the heavyweight white cotton fast around my shoulders, every time I tie the simple ties securely at my side, and especially when I knot that precious black belt firmly round my waist, I know I have come home, and that a piece of my life – a piece of who I am – is back where it belongs.


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The Oneness Declaration

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Read Time:6 Minute, 6 Second

the world

People tell me that it’s impossible for us to live like this. And I want to know ‘why?’. They say it can’t be done. And I ask ‘why not?’ They say there are more important things to think about. And I say that these are the important things. Get these right, and the rest of Life will simply fall into place.

Here’s some thought provoking stuff from Hungarian philosopher Ervin Laszlo.

THE ONENESS DECLARATION

Sixteen Hallmarks of the New Consciousness

by Ervin Laszlo

1.    I am part of the world. The world is not outside of me, and I am not outside of the world. The world is in me, and I am in the world.

2.    I am part of nature, and nature is part of me. I am what I am in my communication and communion with all living things. I am an irreducible and coherent whole with the web of life on the planet.

3.    I am part of society, and society is part of me. I am what I am in my communication and communion with my fellow humans. I am an irreducible and coherent whole with the community of humans on the planet.

4.    I am more than a skin-and-bone material organism: my body, and its cells and organs are manifestations of what is truly me: a self-sustaining, self-evolving dynamic system arising, persisting and evolving in interaction with everything around me.

5.    I am one of the highest, most evolved manifestations of the drive toward coherence and wholeness in the universe. All systems drive toward coherence and wholeness in interaction with all other systems, and my essence is this cosmic drive. It is the same essence, the same spirit that is inherent in all the things that arise and evolve in nature, whether on this planet or elsewhere in the infinite reaches of space and time.

6.    There are no absolute boundaries and divisions in this world, only transition points where one set of relations yields prevalence to another. In me, in this self-maintaining and self-evolving coherence- and wholeness-oriented system, the relations that integrate the cells and organs of my body are prevalent.  Beyond my body other relations gain prevalence: those that drive toward coherence and wholeness in society and in nature.

7.    The separate identity I attach to other humans and other things is but a convenient convention that facilitates my interaction with them. My family and my community are just as much “me” as the organs of my body. My body and mind, my family and my community, are interacting and interpenetrating, variously prevalent elements in the network of relations that encompasses all things in nature and the human world.

8.    The whole gamut of concepts and ideas that separates my identity, or the identity of any person or community, from the identity of other persons and communities are manifestations of this convenient but arbitrary convention. There are only gradients distinguishing individuals from each other and from their environment and no real divisions and boundaries. There are no “others” in the world: we are all living systems and we are all part of each other.

9.    Attempting to maintain the system I know as “me” through ruthless competition with the system I know as “you” is a grave mistake: it could damage the integrity of the embracing whole that frames both your life and mine. I cannot preserve my own life and wholeness by damaging that whole, even if damaging a part of it seems to bring me short-term advantage. When I harm you, or anyone else around me, I harm myself.

10.    Collaboration, not competition, is the royal road to the wholeness that hallmarks healthy systems in the world. Collaboration calls for empathy and solidarity, and ultimately for love. I do not and cannot love myself if I do not love you and others around me: we are part of the same whole and so are part of each other.

11.    The idea of “self-defense” even of “national defense,” needs to be rethought. Patriotism if it aims to eliminate adversaries by force, and heroism even in the well-meaning execution of that aim, are mistaken aspirations. A patriot and a hero who brandishes a sword or a gun is an enemy also to himself. Every weapon intended to hurt or kill is a danger to all. Comprehension, conciliation and forgiveness are not signs of weakness; they are signs of courage.

12.    “The good” for me and for every person in the world is not the possession and accumulation of personal wealth. Wealth, in money or in any material resource, is but a means for maintaining myself in my environment. As exclusively mine, it commandeers part of the resources that all things need to share if they are to live and to thrive. Exclusive wealth is a threat to all people in the human community. And because I am a part of this community, in the final count it is a threat also to me, and to all who hold it.

13.    Beyond the sacred whole we recognize as the world in its totality, only life and its development have what philosophers call intrinsic value; all other things have merely instrumental value: value insofar as they add to or enhance intrinsic value. Material things in the world, and the energies and substances they harbor or generate, have value only if and insofar they contribute to life and wellbeing in the web of life on this Earth.

14.    Every healthy person has pleasure in giving: it is a higher pleasure than having. I am healthy and whole when I value giving over having. The true measure of my accomplishment and excellence is my readiness to give. Not the amount of what I give is the measure of my accomplishment and excellence, but the relation between what I give, and what my family and I need to live and to thrive.

15.    A community that values giving over having is a community of healthy people, oriented toward thriving through empathy, solidarity, and love among its members. Sharing enhances the community of life, while possessing and accumulating creates demarcation, invites competition, and fuels envy. The share-society is the norm for all the communities of life on the planet; the have-society is typical only of modern-day humanity, and it is an aberration.

16.    I acknowledge my role and responsibility in evolving a planetary consciousness in me, and by example in others around me. I have been part of the aberration of human consciousness in the modern age, and now wish to become part of the evolution that overcomes the aberration and heals the wounds inflicted by it. This is my right as well as my duty, as a conscious member of a conscious species on a precious and now critically endangered planet.

(For more from Ervin go HERE)

Perhaps we just need to think a bit more clearly about who we are….


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