Practicing Makes My Life Deeper

Reflections on Chapter 74 of the Tao Te Ching:

Blue Tree Sunrise

If people are not afraid of death,
how can they be threatened?

If people live in constant fear of death
and unlawful people are arrested and killed,
who would dare to  go against the law?

There is always a master executioner.

To take the place of the master executioner
is like borrowing the tools of the master craftsperson.

If you borrow the tools of the master craftsperson,
you are surely to cut your own hand.

One of the ultimate practices in your life is overcoming your fear of death.

I have thought about this a lot. In the Christian American culture, we have an odd relationship with death. A lot of people in the U.S. are Christian. In the Christian culture, many have a strange perception of death. In some beliefs, God decides whether your soul spends an eternity in Heaven, which is a wonderful place and all is good. Or, you spend the rest of eternity in Hell, which is awful and there is fire. It is black or white.

I really don’t ascribe to that thinking at all.

These beliefs are underneath the surface in a lot of people’s lives. It makes death a very frightening thing. What is our soul after we are gone? This is a big part of why I do this work. If I spend my life wisely, I am spending my energy learning how to grow deeper.  I am looking deeply at my life and realizing how phenomenal this life experience is. That is why I do it. When I invest in this practice, my life grows deeper and I am investing energy in that.

The more I practice, the deeper my life gets.

The fear of death comes out of not living your life fully. For people who live into old age and have lived fully, death is not frightening. People who fear death have not really lived. They have let fear decide their fate their whole lives. This is what I find so sad about some belief systems… when people have been taught to fear their whole lives, they get to the end of their life and they have this extreme fear because all that is left for them is Heaven or Hell.

If I know human behavior, most Christians practicing fundamentals beliefs probably believe that they are going to Hell… no matter how “good” they have been.

Human behavior is about constantly making mistakes. The 12 Commandments are tricky to live all the time. If God is a judging character in your world and you get to the end and you’ve made some mistakes, perhaps he will decide that you are going to Hell?

What kind of existence is that?

Inside, I get kind of upset when I hear that. I think about the millions of people that have been taught that their entire lives and it really bothers me. That has people living in this fear their entire lives. It is just one of those things. It is really hard for me. It makes me angry to think about it.

This chapter is fabulous because he addresses this fear of death.

Lao Tzu is saying that if you are not afraid of death, nothing can threaten you. Nothing can stand in your way. What else is worse than death to be afraid of? Nothing. There isn’t anything to be afraid of! There is nothing to be afraid of because every mistake can be rectified.

Every mistake can be forgiven.

You can make mistake after mistake and you can keep going back and you can keep doing life and it is OK. No matter what happens, no matter what you’ve done, no matter what the circumstance, you can keep moving forward. That is an incredible thing. It gives you license. If you really look at human behavior, everyone wants to be fabulous. Everyone wants to be the person who does it right. That is a shared human condition, shared by all of us.

Everyone wants perfection and everyone fails.

Those who seem most perfect probably have the biggest ghosts in the closet. The most perfect person is probably the one who has the most failures, hidden from view. Don’t be afraid of failing. Don’t be afraid of death. Don’t be afraid of the death of things or events because nine times out of ten, what comes out of it and the birth on the other side is amazing.

There is nothing to be afraid of.

 

What do you think? Do you think that I am off my rocker for spouting such crazy ideas or do you agree? Tell us what you think in the comments below. If you like this post, please share it with the buttons at the top of the right panel! Thanks!

 

16 Comments

  1. I absolutely, 150% agree with you.

    I was raised in an extremely religious fundamentalist family, but I have embraced Taoism for 20 years.

    After the loss of my father to cancer, I’ve seen what you say here vividly, up close. You are right. No matter how they try to spin it, no matter how much they talk about their own particular brand of forgiveness, the Christian Way and message is essentially ‘believe what I say and tell you to believe or to hell with you’ – literally. Especially for the ‘born again’ evangelical, fundamentalist sects. To experience their reaction to death, and the brain-shattering dichotomy (and hypocrisy) of it all can be both infuriating and heartbreaking.

    Thank you for writing this beautiful piece, and for giving voice to ideas I’ve held for a long time. I’d like to share it with my twitter feed and blogs in the hope that it might help, comfort or enlighten someone else who has walked in both the world of Christianity (past or present) and the path of Taoism during trying times.

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  5. This is a great topic that Lao Tzu clearly addressed. Over time I’ve concluded I’m more interested in life before death vs life after death. I believe Benjamin Franklin said “there are two two things in life for certain, death and taxes.” I’m not that concerned about taxes, so why worry about death? Lets make each day count. Laugh, eat, run, create and make love. This is the secret of happiness.

    Great post Amy. Great post.

  6. Golf and drink quality beers and dry red wines too.
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  7. An amazing post Amy, I had a near death experience at 18yrs old and I have never been afraid of death since. It was a wonderful feeling of being at peace with everything around me.The normal day to day stuff didn’t matter there and I felt completely and utterly loved. Like a lot of people who have had NDE’s I did not want to come back.However the wise voice of my grandmother brought me back to reality. Since then. through the years I have read alot and experienced alot. My view on heaven and hell has shifted I believe they are states of mind rather than actual places and we can and do experience them both here on earth. When we die I think we lose the ego the physical body and become what we have always been a state of pure love.
    Athena Brady recently posted…How do you deal with forgiveness?My Profile

    • So beautiful, Athena. I always enjoy reading your comments. They are like posts in themselves! I should have you do a guest post on my blog!

      What an amazing thing, NDEs… I hear that so much from people that have had them. It is the closest we get to ever consciously knowing inside of this life experience. What a special thing.

  8. Beautiful. Question…what is a daily practice with Tao De Ching? Is it reading and meditating/thinking deeply about the chapter? Is it reading and then sitting with it? Any guidance would be deeply appreciated…..also, I have two children, a 6 yr old and a 2 yr old…how can we begin to teach them these ways? Are there children’s versions?

    Thank you,

    Ed

    • Great questions, Ed! I would suggest that you begin study by getting yourself one or more copies of the Tao Te Ching book. (I don’t have one published yet, but the chapters on my “List of All Verses” is a way to view my chapters.) There are many to choose from! Once you have one or two copies, you can either choose chapters at random or start at the beginning. Just read the chapter and reflect on it. What does it mean to you? You could journal your responses or just think about it or meditate on it.

      As for children, I believe that being a model for them is the best way to teach them. Consider the principles that are expressed through each chapter and consider if you are living them or not. Don’t worry about your past failures. We ALL fail. (It is called being human!) Let your children see how you have struggled and learned your lessons. If you see that there is a principle that is being challenged by some behavior, ask them about it. I often ask my daughter how it feels when she does something that is obviously wrong. These days, however, she is teaching me more and more! Sometimes they are so close to their own innocence that we can learn a lot just by observing their natural tendencies and we can help them be stronger by pointing out the beauty of who they naturally are. I hope this helps. I wrote a post not long ago about some of my favorite Tao resources. You can read that here.

      • If I may add a comment. I noticed your list of translations of the tao. I have read several and they do a good job. My personal favorite and I have purchased at least 50 copies for various students over the years is R.L. Wing’s translation, “The Tao of Power.” Unfortunately its out of print, so it must be purchased on amazon either used or just a single copy. As for the daily use or study of the Tao. I found that once I understood what Lao Tzu was saying….and I mean really understand, so that knowledge is intuitive, I have found that it takes over my life. As I mentioned to you in an earlier correspondence, I use my understanding of the Tao, every day. Understanding allows a person to live their life in a taoist way. Fear of anything is anathema. Fear is emotion, part of the ego. Live by the tao, put your ego to sleep. Fear of death is just another part of fear of life. Death is part of life. What comes next is to be anticipated, not feared. Lao Tzu also warned us against falling into any organized religion. Remember his words, “don’t trust anything that preaches philanthropy or morality. Organized religion is one of the greatest inhibitors of men since we started praying rather than thinking.

        • Thanks for the book suggestion. You are not the first one to tell me that and I don’t have that one so I will definitely have to check it out. The beautiful thing about this work is that it respects our own path. The character for Tao has a person on a path. There is no one path. We all naturally find our own and that is a beautiful thing. If we all had the same path, it would get pretty dull.

  9. People who have been mistaught are ones who dislike Christianity and dwell on its’ teachings. When you are completely at peace with your belief system, you feel no need to even be upset thinking about another faith. I stumbled upon this post after googling the tao just to find out what new beliefs my mother (who is in rebellion, was a non denominational pastor’s wife for 30 years, and has been everything from a Hare Krishna to atheist in the last 5 years) has subscribed to. If you understood the bible (rightly divided), you would understand that God sent his Son to die for your sins. It’s not about how good you’ve been. You should follow the golden rule/Ten Commandments, but, that does not determine your salvation. Christ’s shed blood on the Cross determines where you will spend eternity. You simply accept the free gift he offers. Accept His payment, freely… that’s it, that’s all, end of story. He paid the price. “Shall we continue in din that grace may abound? God forbid.” We don’t have a license to sin. Would you tell your child he can steal from a store with no consequence? We are taught in everyday living that there is a penalty to pay for illegal activities. Well, the God (one) who created you has a penalty for sin. However, that debt has been paid. Free of no charge. You don’t have to do anything. Simply believe.

    • I am not sure what you are trying to say here, Lisa, but I hope that you and your mother can find a place somewhere in the middle where you can find peace.

  10. Edit: continue in sin…

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