The Long Road to Simplicity

Reflections on Chapter 43 of the Tao Te Ching:

Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden

The softest things overcome the hardest.

Things without substance can go anywhere.

This is how we know that no-action
is most beneficial.
To teach without words
and to act without action.

Understood by so few.

The Void is a very powerful space to come from.

We really are such noisemakers. The world is so noisy, at least where I come from. I work in the city, I commute, I work in a busy office and my life is just noisy. I really would love for it to be less so.

I spent a week in the woods recently.

Whenever I go camping, I get very reflective. One of the things that is so beautiful about camping is the simplicity of nature. When we camp, we camp as a family – my sisters and their families and my parents and my little family of three. It is our yearly family tradition. The simplicity of camping is the outdoors and about having things not have to be so perfect and contrived. With camping, you really a sense of the quietness of nature.

You get up with the sun and go to bed with the sun.

It is more difficult at night because you have to use a flashlight to get anywhere, so you really get in touch with how our lives have come so far from the natural rhythm of things. Whenever I come back from camping, I always feel so out of sorts. It is nice to be in my cushy bed, but I just love nature so much that it is hard to transition back to my normal life.

This chapter is about that for me. It is about the simplification of things, about not having things be so busy and complicated. I don’t think that it needs to be like that. Our lives can be very simple, very plain, and there is great joy in having that.

Nature is very soft.

City life and fast pace has a hardness to it. There is a gentleness to natural things. Non-action is most beneficial. When you have all this busy-ness, you are crazy running around and doing all these things – there is a nothingness to that. When you are doing nothing, there is a richness to that. It is that duality component coming back into play. There’s an emptiness to having all that craziness and there is a fullness to the empty life. There is a fullness that comes out of having life be really simple and plain and not having so much going on.

As a parent, I am always trying to help my daughter as much as I can.

I want to give her everything that she needs to make her life fabulous. I just want her to have those things. Yet I feel like I just give her too much. Less is more. It is better to let them learn their lessons, to step back and let them learn things on their own. Let them struggle through things so that they can feel like they accomplished something. That is what he is talking about here.

How do you teach without speaking?

Modeling. Body language is 90% of communication. Your actions are so important. How you present yourself is much more important than what you say. Your words are just the surface of it all. There is so much underneath that. Everything counts. We all have our moments where we don’t get it and we know we don’t get it. We screwed up and we know it. Those moments can be really frustrating, but it’s in that moment that you recognize it, the moment that you see your mistake that you have the greatest potential for what you can become. It’s what you do after that moment which will have the greatest impact in your future.

It’s not about talking.

People can’t teach you those kinds of lessons. There are a lot of things in life that no one can teach you. You just have to learn it. You have to do it. You have to experience it. It just doesn’t come about any other way. This chapter is really about that subtle layer underneath it all and how do we work with our mistakes and have them carry us forward?

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  1. As I read this verse, I immediately pictured a slug. I’m not sure why that flashed so quickly – perhaps because they are a hardy garden pest and a few have been sneaking through the produce inspections. They’re soft and without much substance and boy do they know how to survive. I’m not sure I’d want to be one, though :-).

    I can certainly identify with your pull to nature, Amy. Interestingly, over the years, I’ve come to try to move with the sun. It’s not always practical (as much as I’d like to sleep 12 hours in the winter time some days), but feels right when it does work. All the critters get pretty noisy around here about a 1/2 hour prior to sunrise, so serve as a good alarm clock.
    Nanette Levin recently posted…The Tao of marketingMy Profile

    • Yeah, I have noticed that you are an early bird like me. I beat the sun up and back these days! lol… Yes, it gets more challenging in the wintertime, for sure!

  2. So beautiful. I just finished a book called Radical Simplicity by D. Price. I accidentally (or maybe not) ordered it on Amazon and it was the wrong author. I guess it’s a popular book title. So there it sat lying around my house for over a full year when this summer I grabbed it and took it up north with me. I found myself engrossed in his amazing story about simplifying his life and more than once I cried. And when I was done I vowed to live a simple life. Thanks for the great post and the reminder that when busyness creeps into my life to pause and take a breath and CHOOSE to create again. ♥
    Julie Geigle recently posted…Aligning with Spiritual WillMy Profile

    • Thanks, Julie. Yes, I almost did the same thing! I was just blogging about the video, Radically Simple, the other day on my blog. How funny. I did the same thing – I looked it up on Amazon and saw the other one. Now at least I know that they are both good! lol…

  3. Hi Amy,
    I know exactly what you mean whenyou talk about the ability to reflect when ‘in’ nature. It’s almost more a pull to reflect rather than just the ability to.

    For me I often go for walks along the coast not too far away, and that’s what does it for me!

    We could all do with a bit more of it I reckon!
    The Great Gordino recently posted…The Paralympics – The Olympics Plus Added Wow?My Profile

    • Interesting, Gordon. You are right. It is like a pull to reflect. Almost like the nature wants us to participate in quiet with it. Us noisy humans.

  4. Nature somehow gives us a venue where verbal communication isn’t necessary, we can just be. I love taking photo’s in nature, walking slowly and seeing all the things that often get missed. I can take photo’s in nature for hours. The lessons we learn in our own silence are so precious.
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    • I never thought about it like that, Kama, but I think that is why I love taking photos of nature also. We miss so much when we rush around in our daily lives. It is such a treat to capture those little sweet experiences as best we can.

  5. This is a post I will be reflecting on. Nature is very soft. The idea of teaching without words…there is an internal peace about that idea…peaceful and, yet, so powerful…
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  6. Going in the woods is always so healing and restoring. Getting quiet and being still…puts things into perspective. And yes, parenting has such intense challenges. Thanks for the revealing post. ~kathy
    Kathy Anne recently posted…Hello Autumn!My Profile

    • Thanks for the visit, Kathy Anne. I agree that parenting has its challenges. I think it’s the greatest job in the world. It has taught me more than anything else.

  7. Pingback: Tao Tuesdays Chapter 43

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