The Pulsing of Consciousness

cc Image by +Kev on Flickr

cc Image by +Kev on Flickr

Reflections on Chapter 16 of the Tao Te Ching:

Attain the highest emptiness.
Maintain constant tranquility.

We observe the Ten Thousand Things pulse in unity and return to the void.
All things bloom luxuriously and each returns again to its source.

Returning to source is the supreme stillness.
This is known as the return to destiny, the natural pattern.

Returning to destiny means to be constant.
Understanding constancy is known as realization.
Not understanding this constancy leads to disaster.

To be all-encompassing means being impartial.
Being impartial is your highest nobility,
The true nobility of Heaven.

Natural divinity is Tao.
Tao is everlasting.
When you lose your sense of self, you are immortal as the Tao.

One of the things that Lao Tzu talks about in this chapter is constancy.  There is a pulsing on and off of existence. In Chapter 2 of the Tao Te Ching, we talked about duality. We talked about the yin yang symbol and how it represents the opposites of things. The yin yang has another element to it, which is on and off. In the movie, What the Bleep Do We Know, they spoke of this. They talked about Quantum Physics and the pulsing of form between particles and waves. Life is a constant blinking of consciousness, unconsciousness, consciousness, unconsciousness. We need to understand that it’s all the same. It’s all Tao. Everything is connected.

Another thing he talks about here is the stillness. In the on – off pattern we are talking about, the “off” is that vast void of silence. In the times when I meditate, there is an amazing energy that comes out of that silent time. It is palatable. You can feel it. It’s an amazing space to be in. When you allow yourself that empty space, what comes up is everything. Any story you’ve got going on in your head is going to come up for you during that time. That is the nature of the mind – to just keep going. Meditation is so interesting because you can just look at it. My Consciousness Coach Judith says to just tell your thoughts, “Thanks for showing up,” and then shoo them out the door. The silence is really important.

In Chapter 15 of the Tao Te Ching, we talked about the rhythm of things and how everything cycles back around to the opposite.  So if things are going really well, it may cycle back to things not going so well. It’s all perfect. It’s sometimes not easy to look at it that way, but it’s all perfect. There is great relief in that. There is relief in that it is perfect in being messy and perfect in it being ugly. It gives you license to not be perfect. I think we really need that. I know for myself, that is definitely something that I have struggled with. Not necessarily with being perfect, but having the desire to be perfect. In having that be a kind of pressure that I put upon myself. None of us are. We aren’t perfect. But that is the perfection, that we are not!

So, in this stillness you begin to realize that it is rhythmic. There is a rhythm to awareness. It goes up and down. The light goes on and off – your consciousness goes on and off. In the off moments, there is nothing. The only moment that we have is this moment right now. These are little realities that we are living in every single step of the way. Given that this is true (and who can argue?), what am I going to choose for that reality? If you had only this moment to live, what would be holding you back on doing anything you wanted to do?  This is all there is.

We have freedom in that. I am so grateful to my culture that I have so many freedoms. If you took someone who was spending their life  in prison with very little freedom. There are some people living their lives in virtual prisons.  That is their life. That is where they live.  I can speak of freedom, but if I were in their shoes would I really feel that freedom? Is that freedom really possible? I say that it is. I’m really not one to talk because I am not in it, so it’s hard for me to really relate to how that would be. I imagine it would be very difficult to keep my mind in a place where it wouldn’t be. Nelson Mandela is a very good example of that. He was in a prison. Granted, it was a prison of political prisoners so he probably fared better than many. But he was in a prison and he made huge changes in the world from that place. He did that primarily with the way that he believed himself to be. He believed himself to be a free man. Not just a free man. He felt this desire to help others to have that feeling as well.

Then you look at Viktor Frankl, who lived in a concentration camp. He had many opportunities to let his mind go to where he could say that life had done him wrong.  Very wrong…yet he chose not to. He chose not to. He chose to live in a space that was saying that he has freedom. They might take his body and put it in bondage, they might torture him, but his mind was his own. He said that in his wonderful book, Man’s Search for Meaning. That’s just how it is. No matter what the circumstances.

It is fun to just be in that place of stillness and see what is opened to you. See what is possible.

So what do you think of all of this? What do you think about this pulsing of consciousness? Please share your comments in the space below!


This post is part of my contribution to the Ultimate Blog Challenge. If you are part of that challenge, please say hello and I will check out your blog as well! If you are a blogger and are not a part of the challenge, it is worth a look! It’s a great opportunity to share and be shared.

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  1. I have to admit, it took me a lot of years to learn to quiet my mind, but what a difference it’s made. Still haven’t quite mastered being still :-). Thanks for another interesting post.
    Nanette Levin recently posted…Sorting through social mediaMy Profile

  2. Thanks so much to Nanette for writing about my blog! I love marketing so it was fun that you connected two of my big loves in a post about my blog! (BIG SMILE!) Her blog is here:

  3. Amy, I so enjoy your blog! I was struck by one of the lines, it has special meaning for me today as I finish writing one of the most difficult/emotional posts I have written in this UBC challenge.

    “Returning to source is the supreme stillness.
    This is known as the return to destiny, the natural pattern.”

    Even after the challenge is over, I will be visiting your blog, thank you 🙂
    Kelly recently posted…“When we die, we will turn into songs.” (experiencing death)My Profile

  4. Guided here by Nanette, who told me recently I need to make time to sleep. More importantly, maybe, I need to make time for silence. Thank you, Amy.
    Alan Miles recently posted…Managing Our Own ExpectationsMy Profile

    • Thanks, Alan! You certainly have stood out in the challenge for having been such a help with the commenting issue! lol… Silence is a wonderful thing. In this busy world, I think we could all use a little more of it!

  5. You are so sweet, Kelly! I love your blog too! Lao Tzu’s work is really amazing. Something that lasts for 2,500 years or more and is still as relevant today as any day since is powerful stuff!

  6. Thank you for this post Amy. Tao plays a big role in my life and I’m endlessly fascinated by I Ching.

    You mentioned two of my all time favorites – The What The Bleep Do We Know movie and Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl wrote that our attitude is about the only thing that we actually have control over in our lives. He chose to have an attitude of freedom as you pointed out.

    Moments of stillness are absolutely necessary. I try to schedule a time to be still every day.
    Julia Neiman recently posted…The Four Types of Support People Needed to Succeed Lesson 12 in the Empowering Young Entrepreneur SeriesMy Profile

    • Thanks for the visit, Julia! I was just thinking about the I Ching this morning. This year I am focused on the Tao Te Ching. I suppose, with my domain name, I should probably maintain that focus (lol) but I thought it would be fun to work on that book too. Years ago, I did regular I Ching readings for myself using rice and Hua Ching Ni’s copy of the book, which is my favorite one. (He is also my favorite Tao Te Ching translator.) It was always helpful. I also did tarot readings and noticed that there is a very different energy between the two oracles. Tarot tends to be very direct, whereas I found the I Ching to have more of an energetic overlay to the situation instead. I always loved it.

  7. Pingback: 16 – Constancy

  8. Hi Amy,

    A very nice reflection of the pulse of being! And it was great to see Viktor Frankl’s great book mentioned here, it’s one of my favorites. Something he said in it helped me out many years ago:

    “A man’s concern, even his despair, over the worthwhileness of life is a spiritual distress but by no means a mental disease.” It’s good to remember that when it feels like life has driven us crazy and into despair it’s just the universe nudging us toward spiritual consciousness and the true worth we find there.

    My Chapter 16 commentary is brief, you will find it here:

    Thanks, Amy.


    • Hi Bob,
      That is a great quote. For me, it seems the pulse is forgetting/remembering/forgetting/remembering… I love Victor Frankl. It read that book years ago and I still remember reading it. I’ve read hundreds of books, but that one has always stood out as special.

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