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Tranquility in Disturbance

bear in the woods

Taoism is a philosophy of removing boundaries, so we can dissolve back into the wonder and mystery that surrounds us. Because we have no boundaries, we are a part of all we see.

Knowing that nature has been perfecting itself for billions of years, we can take our place as one of its newest and most unique variations. We give our carved block to the woodcarver, so we can be shaped into who we were meant to be.

Everything that unfolds serves the purpose of unleashing our Te, or unique design. There will never be another person on this planet quite like us. Not siblings…not parents…nor the people we meet on our path.

We follow our instinct, or the bubbling of Te excited by the prospect of our ‘coming to be real.’

Tranquility in Disturbance is a Taoist idea that we can apply on the path toward living in joy. However, finding tranquility doesn’t mean negating a challenging event. It means acknowledging the disturbance, calming the mind, and returning to the threshold of awareness to understand how the event is shaping us.

Being non-reactionary is the first step in conserving our energy, showing appreciation, and cultivating joy.

The Cycles of Life

We live in cycles where a patterning from childhood emerges – this is our Te. Whether our parents, or the relationships we have – there exists qualities in ‘the Other’ meant to give definition to our ‘original sincerity.’

Sometimes a challenge can strip away the residue of ‘red dust’ that accumulates on the journey. The red dust can encrust us into becoming someone we are not.

For a woman, the mate can embody both encouraging and destructive qualities of the father. For a man, the same holds true for his mate and patterning from the mother. One quality is not better than the other because the destructive can be a ballast, meant to strip away what covers our unique nature.

Tranquility in Disturbance means recognizing why an event feels disturbing so we can give it proper respect. Nothing is good or bad – and there is no need to abandon our roots.

We cannot experience joy until we make peace with who we are. We come to realize that events shape us – the challenge also serves a purpose in our growth. We were provided the perfect surroundings for the emergence of our Te.

Just as we are encouraged through positive feedback, the same encouragement exists in our challenges. Life has been committed to our success since we took our first breath.

Meeting the Challenge

Applying my philosophy for cultivating joy, I experienced a crisis with the recent passing of my mother. If you have listened to any of my podcasts, you would know how much of an inspiration she was to me.

As a child, she taught me to not only honor nature, but to learn from it. I remember being awakened whenever one of our many animals was about to give birth – and we had many.

She taught us how we have an inner garden that sometimes requires rain to keep the inner landscape nourished and supple.

Much of what I write about nature’s inspiration is because of my mother’s philosophy. My version, however, was not her version, and sometimes she was critical. While she planted the seed, it took a lifetime of challenges before I could unleash the expression of my Te.

I had just returned home after one of my many trips to see her, having moved back to California in 2021 to be closer, and to care for her.

Hiking with my friend and the dogs in the remote mountains, suddenly, a bear bounded up the hillside and stood about 5 feet from us. It just stared, and yes, I felt fear.

I pulled out my air horn, but the front squeaker attachment got stuck in my pocket. So, there I was, holding a small can, pressing a button that only released air. There was a palpable silence, where the bear seemed to have a message.

It ran off, but I had a strange sense that it had stood in front of me for a reason.

I had lived in Lake Tahoe for many years, so seeing bears was not unusual for me. On the contrary, my friend was very frightened, and immediately wanted to turn back.

When I returned home, I had received a voice message from my father that my mother had died. The message came at the exact moment the bear had appeared.

The past few months have been very difficult, but I have not let go of my propensity for wonder. Of course, I wonder how she is and if she knows how much I miss her.

Don’t Lose Your Wholesomeness

After her passing, I had numerous encounters in nature, mostly comical, that seemed to be her, letting me know she was ok. But one night, she came to me in a dream and clearly said: “don’t lose your wholesomeness.”

I had to look the word up to understand what she meant. I hadn’t heard it since I was young.

I remember being a teenager in the 1970’s, a time when life appeared to be more innocent or wholesome. It was the decade between the demonstrations of the 60’s and the culture-clash of the 80’s.

Bordering on cheesy, I think wholesome would be a good way to describe the music of the 70’s. Songs were about living easy, and celebrating the simplicity of life.

I thought of the Herbal Essence shampoo commercials with Farah Fawcett. The Waltons was a popular tv show back then. Everyone said ‘goodnight’ to each other, and the plot would be considered boring today.

Songs like ‘I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing’ and ‘Morning Has Broken’ played on the radio. If we needed our bell bottom jeans to be longer, we simply sewed fabric on the bottom.

Today, wholesome might be described as a lifestyle of yoga, health and eating consciously. However, when people called me wholesome in the 70’s, they were referring to my innocence. I didn’t do drugs – I wasn’t escaping from anything. I was present, loving and cheerfully optimistic.

This was my original sincerity that was being tested. I was afraid I had lost my inspiration.

A Return to Innocence

One of the most important ideas in Taoism, is innocence. In interpreting Hexagram 25 Wu Wang Innocence, I use the quote: if you don’t know what cannot be done, you can accomplish great things.

Innocence is how we can stand at threshold of awareness, unjaded or sullied by the red dust that can gather on our journey.

Hexagram 25 refers to the three treasures: compassion when relating to others, appreciating how change is necessary to renew all of life, and releasing the illusion of control. All other hexagrams are merely capturing bits and pieces of how to stay simple in our desires, allowing ourselves to be led, and learning to follow the way of change.

“One who possesses virtue in abundance is comparable to a new born babe. The baby goes without knowing where it is going, and merges with the surroundings, moving along with it.” 

Cultivating and holding to this type of Innocence is a cornerstone of Taoism.

Finding Grace

25 Innocence can lead to Hexagram 22 Grace, or the gratitude that comes from having faith that everything is unfolding perfectly – even while we have yet to process the challenge.

Wholesomeness too, is a way of seeing how life leads us where we need to be so that we learn to trust. It may appear as naivety, but it is really the letting go of the illusion of control.

Celebrating life’s benevolence in 22 Grace, leads to 58 Joy:

“Content in your circumstances and genuine in kindness, you are the expression of the love that renews all things.”

Measuring outcomes or give and take behavior never leads to joy, only a sense of compensation. Wholesomeness is a way of living unconditionally, without expectation, and grateful for the opportunity to re-awaken into wonder.

Losing my mother was definitely the greatest challenge to my inspiration. For awhile, I thought I would never feel inspired again. She would have reminded me that although the 70’s seemed so innocent, the world would have appeared to be just as much in crisis as it is today.

No matter the vicissitudes, nature achieves change by bringing opposites together in search of a better way. Nothing can hide from nature – anything that doesn’t promote growth and wellness will be torn down.

We can judge life in terms of good or bad, but nature has been perfecting itself for billions of years. We showed up seconds ago.

When the way forward seems dreary, we need only wait while the inner garden is renewed by the rains.

This is captured in Hexagram 5 Waiting: “Time is perfectly spaced to hear the echo of your sincerity.”

If it is real – it will endure. If it no longer serves our growth, it will dissolve.

Sometimes we cannot know what is real or meaningful to us until we are forced to defend it.

It takes the challenge to bring this awareness out of hiding.