I study Tao. I pull into my center, into the mandala of self, closing out all else. One morning I read the following: Always complete your actions.
I read further: When you do something, don’t hold back. Shoot for it all, go for it all. Don’t wait for a “better time,” because the better times are built on what you do today. Don’t be selfish with your skills, because the skills of tomorrow are built upon the performances of today.
To be with Tao is to live a creative life, I continue reading. To live a creative life always means that you express who you are. And expression is never helped by suppression. Expression always benefits from coming out. Then more inspiration will come from that source.
When you act, the advice is, act completely. Follow through. Do everything that has to be done. Be like the fire that burns completely clean: only from this pure stage can you then take the next step.
My early morning reading stays with me throughout the day. I ponder myself. Am I fully expressing myself every day, not holding back? Am I truly burning the fires within completely clean, so that I am free to take the next step unattached to the old? I recapitulate recent life events, and without hubris know that I am fallible, yet I am also intent on continually studying how to be more aware each day, even as I repeat old mistakes. Lessons are learned every day. I know this. I set my intent to give my all, to live and express to the fullest, to constantly follow through and complete my actions.
In the afternoon, I write. Working on the second book in The Recapitulation Diaries series, I face my old self of ten years ago. I see how much I have changed, and I also see where I still fall back into some old habits, not too often, I humbly say, and not too deeply, but just enough to let me know I have not completely burned through some rather tiresome old issues.
Paying attention to the Tao reading I have gotten earlier in the day, I sit in stillness and go deeply into my present self. I sit in the center of my being, at the center of my mandala of self, and build a little fire. I intend to completely burn away the old self still lingering, to fully express it so that I may return to balance, to the mandala of self with its geometrical symmetry in calmness once again. I intend that new expression birth out of the old.
I am an observer. I can’t help it. It is my nature. I am a sensation type. Like a camera, I constantly take photographs of the world around me. I report on what I see. The world has always been “out there,” separate from my inner world. As an artist the two meet nicely, my talent offering a means of expression for how my outer world observations meet my inner world.
During my recapitulation, I learned how to turn my observer self inward upon myself, to train my camera on my past and zoom in on everything that came from deep within. My inner world turned cauldron-like as I recapitulated, as my camera honed in on the truths that lay at my core. The embers of the fire within flared up repeatedly until a nice fire was burning. Eventually, I burned off enough of the past that I was able to emerge out of the flames of recapitulation into new life, transformed, a totally different person.
During the fiery process, I discovered that recapitulation is not a one-time thing, but a lifelong process of study. Like Tao, it requires constant attention to deep inner truths, constant release and constant rebalancing, to achieve new, fresh life.
While pondering all of this, I hear a loud racket outside the window. Observer that I am, I cannot help but get up from my inner ponderings and take my camera self outside. Standing on the deck, I see my inner world, my morning’s study of Tao, in action. Nature, the grandest guide of all is playing out the very reading I have spent my day studying innerly.
As I watch, a shiny black crow swoops down into a tree and snatches a baby robin. I watch the robin parents and many others—birds of all kinds, even the tiny wrens—come to the rescue. An army of birds dive-bombs the crow, attempting to knock the fluff of baby bird from its beak. Shrieking and screaming, they fly at the crow repeatedly. Instinctively knowing that every second counts, they do not hold back. The crow, seemingly oblivious to the attacks, flies up to a branch and holding the baby beneath its claws, gives a loud and sharp CAW! Then it picks the baby up again and flies off with it in its beak. Flying directly over my head, I see the baby bird firmly clenched, most likely dead already. I accept this fact. It’s dead. The robins will never get it back. They have to give up, I think, just let it go. But do they “just let it go?” No! They chase after the crow! They do not accept defeat yet.
Shrieking, they fly after the crow, furiously attacking with sharp beaks. With stiffened wings, like knife cuts, they attempt to knock the baby loose. They do not give up, but complete their attempts to save the baby. They give it their all! And then, only when it is truly clear that there is nothing left to do, when the crow has flown off, do they then take the next step. Even now, they don’t simply “let it go.” Not yet!
There is still something else to do in order to complete this most traumatic event in their lives. Now they grieve! I hear them crying loudly. Horrific, heart-wrenching sobs of grief and mourning, the most gut-wrenching sounds of sorrow, erupt from their wide-open beaks. Their deep sadness, like a moaning Greek chorus, reaches the heavens and then back to me where I stand on the deck. I take in this profoundly moving process. The robins of nature are not holding back, not suppressing a thing, they are fully expressing their loss and the great depths of their sadness.
This deeply affecting wailing goes on for several minutes. Only when they are completely done, when they have fully expressed themselves and fully emptied themselves of their sorrow, do the robins return to their nest, to the tree where their baby was snatched from, perhaps back to tending other babies that may still remain, or to take the next step. There is always a next step, new life to experience.
In shock, I step back inside. In awe, I realize I have been given an example of Tao in action, of ALL. This is how to complete a task, how to give all to a situation, and then, only when truly done, to move on. In fighting as fiercely as they did, in not giving up, until there was no longer any reason to fight, then in grieving fully, the robins completed their task. Now new life can happen.
In Tao, in life, everything is meaningful. Everything is directed toward evolving. I take my experience seriously. I return to my inner circle of self, turn my camera inward again, and sitting in my calm mandala center, I go ever deeper. I understand more fully now what it means to take everything to its completion, to not hold back, to give my all. I am thankful for nature, once again showing me the way. I am thankful for Tao.
Give ALL. Always complete your intent, express fully, live fully, evolve.
NOTE: Excerpts are from Everyday Tao, by Deng Ming-Dao