Your Legacy to the World

Reflections on Chapter 50 of the Tao Te Ching:

Colourful autumnal leaves illuminated by the sun

We appear with life
and we disappear with death.

For every ten lives,
three pursue life,
three pursue death,
and three just pass between the two.

Truthfully, they live too heavily.

I have heard it said,
the one with a complete life –
does not fear encounters with wild animals,
and needs no armor in battle.

The rhinoceros has no place
to thrust its horn,
and the tiger has no place
to sink its claws.
Soldiers have nowhere
to pierce their blade.

The complete life is without death
because death has nowhere to land.

Who are we that is disappearing and appearing?

In so many spiritual texts, this comes up. Who am I? That ancient question. On a most superficial level, you could say that you are an accountant, or a writer or a woman. But really, as you dive deeper and deeper, can you even say that you are a human being? How you look at yourself, at who you are, and how you look at your life really summarizes it. How big do you want to go? How do you want your life to be defined?

I want my life to be really deep. I want to move people.

Neil Armstrong died recently. They had this huge funeral with tons of people. Neil’s family must have been thinking that his life was so much more than his walk on the moon and yet there were just so many people there to honor his life. Why was that? It was because he walked on the moon. What does walking on the moon represent to us? It represents the understanding that I can do anything. Before he did that famous walk, no one had any idea that we could really do that – that we could walk on the moon! That is what he stood for. Look at the impact that his death had! He walked on the moon nearly 50 years ago! He represents such a big thing to us.

When you think about the people that have inspired you,
you look at that and can ask yourself, “How am I so different from that?”

Maybe you don’t want to be that person that inspires lots of people. I think that a lot of people do, though. I think a lot of people would love for their lives to be meaningful to other people like that. That is your legacy. Chris Guillebeau is one of my favorites. He talks about leaving a legacy in his book, The Art of Non-Conformity. That is a good thing to think about. What are you going to leave this planet with? You can’t leave with your body, you can’t leave with your money, you can’t leave with your kids. You are here just such a tiny bit of time, so what are you going to do with your time?

What he is saying here in this chapter is that you are not your body. You are not this lifetime. You are not any of that. The rhinoceros cannot put his horns into you because you are not your body. It is not possible to kill you because you are spirit, you are soul. I love reading spiritual texts that bring you to this point where you can really get that. I think that is why so many of us study spirituality because we love that. We love that recognition. That is part of the joy of being human. That is part of the joy of coming here and signing up to be a human being.

Sometimes we think, “What have I signed up for?”

It is too painful, too difficult to be a human being on this planet. Then other times we are just in awe of how beautiful it is. In those moments, we realize that we are more than this experience. People might tease you when you talk about those moments. They might tease you a little bit because they are uncomfortable  because it is so raw.  It is so real to be there and to be in that space, but that is where it is. That is the gorgeous place to be, where things are deep and awesome.

If you live by other people’s comfort levels,
you will end up on the surface your whole life.

Who wants that? Really? We don’t want to stay there. We may get in moods where we just want to stay on the surface temporarily. I get in moods where I don’t want to go deep. I am in the mood for silly or funny or a great dancing rock song. It is more about appreciating the in and out. You go in deep and then you come out on the surface. It’s like swimming. You have to come out on the surface once in a while and then go down deep again. It’s all good. Especially if you can find a way to enjoy all parts of it. If you can find a way to get that depth and then wash yourself in that sadness. Go deep in the sadness. If it’s happy/silly, just revel in it!

People might say, “How can you enjoy death?”

I am enjoying death when I think about the life of Neil Armstrong. Granted, I did not know him personally so it is easier for me to say. I am enjoying the beauty of the life that he made. That was his contribution, his legacy. His legacy may not seem very spiritual, but it is. Look at what he has done for people. We all have that. It may seem on the surface like we are “just a nurse” or something like that.

The impact that you have changes people.

Your life has the potential to change people. Every day is a new day and you get to start over and say, “What is my life going to be about today?” You get to decide again. Every day. Maybe today it will be full of shit. Maybe it will be just a crappy day. You can learn from that. You can use that as manure. It’s shit to grow your life with. If it’s a really crappy day, what is there to learn from that? What can you teach yourself from that really bad experience? Maybe it is just that you decide that you are not going to do that thing anymore that made this a crappy day.

I am not going to do that thing anymore that makes me feel like that. I’m done.

Until you become conscious of it and really absorb that, you can’t do anything with that. How are you defining yourself? What do you define yourself as? What are the points that you say, “this is me”. How deep do you go with that? How much are you willing to have it be you? Play with that. Just today, play with that.

I would love to read your thoughts on this! Please share your comments below!


  1. “…It’s shit to grow your life with…” OMG, you have just turned something around for me. I am going to picture my disappointing weekend as a pile of manure with a beautiful rose rising from the center.

    Thank you!
    Susan recently posted…Then and NowMy Profile

  2. Fabulously written! Well said. We can be so much more when we have that perspective, when we take responsibility for our own lives, and when we are fully aware that we decide how each day will be.
    Kama recently posted…Comment on 5 Social activities to avoid unless you are a fun loving person who doesn’t take life too seriously by KamaMy Profile

  3. Fantastic post. Really struck a chord with me today. It can be really difficult to define yourself and be true to it! Thanks for some insightful thoughts…
    Emily recently posted…Health Benefits of Lemon WaterMy Profile

  4. Today I cried due to a deep sadness relating to a lost relationship and for those moments, I felt the full intensity of the sadness. I went deep into it and allowed it to express itself in me. Later on in the day, I came to realize I had made a spiritual choice about this relationship and it was best to accept what had taken place. I didn’t loose a friend, just a relationship that I wasn’t ready for. Sometimes loneliness takes the place of love and that isn’t a good reason to be with someone. I am at peace with myself and really enjoy the things you share with us! Thank you for you!

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