…second to simplicity, according to sage Lao-tzu, sixth century B.C. author of the Tao Te Ching (Tao). Some sources cite the Tao as the second most translated work in history, preceded only by the Bible. As always, second place may or may not impress but what is impressive is that each of the Tao’s 81 sections (or 5000 Chinese characters) provides us with the constant contradictions inherent in life and then, most generously, offers us strategies within the Tao’s three central teachings–simplicity, patience, and compassion—for every moment we live.
That simplicity precedes patience is not difficult to appreciate. Before we can be, we must separate the strands of our life, acknowledging each strand unto itself as well as its relationship to every other strand. Patience emerges from the untangling but “the place of waiting is always trying and very difficult to live out…fear wants us to act too soon…patience, hard as it is, helps us outlast our preconceptions” (Mark Nepo).
If we practice patience rather than relying on a conditioned response—that which we have always known or done—our perception of what is possible changes completely. Within patience, the moment is fresh and free as in Moksha, a Sanskrit word meaning freedom or release. Deepak Chopra has referred to Moksha as “choiceless awareness,” in which the moment is emotionally free from the situation surrounding it.
In the freedom of Moksha, every moment is free because it is now, completely and fully present. Just as the strands separate to reveal simplicity, in Moksha, the present moment is removed from any future or past situation. The moment is free of any complication, of any condition. The moment is.
Like the moment, how we respond is free and fresh, separate from any situation that has established itself in the past or in the future. As long as we are completely present, we are as emotionally free as the moment. Essentially, we are not attached to the situation’s outcome– a central tenet of Buddhism—as yet another ancient tradition reveals itself within the practice of patience.
Yes, I am weaving in and out of the Vedas of Hinduism and the Tao of Taoism along with the Zen of Buddhism, an intricate weave of no beginning and no end. Continuously, I am startled by similarities—as if I were following the strands of the weave for the first time rather than following a familiar pattern—there is such crispness, freshness to this wondrous weave’s undulating eternity. There is such life in these traditions and thus, freedom.
Yet, the moments from my previous meandering among these traditions show themselves from time to time. There is unraveling yet to be done but the strands sort themselves as only memory can. It takes time but I wait for I know every moment I have is free as long as I have patience. It is rarely easy but with practice, patience increases.
“… When feeling urgent to find your place on this Earth…wait…and things as you fear them will, more often than not, shrink into the hard irreplaceable beauty of things as they are…of which you have no choice but to be a part” (Nepo).
And buried therein are the seeds of compassion.
(All Mark Nepo quotations are from The Book of Awakening)