(4/2017) In the 76th Chapter of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu describes the flexibility that living things naturally possess. He also contrasts this flexibility with the dry brittle quality associated with death (from the Stephen Mitchell translation):
"Men are born soft and supple; dead, they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant; dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail."
Choose to be a disciple of life! Learn to let go and go with the flow. How can you let go? Here’s an ancient Zen story about the concept of "letting go" of stress and worry that you might find helpful.
A Buddhist master and his student set out for a temple in a valley beyond the woods. While making a pathway through the woods, they came upon a choppy river they needed to cross. At the riverbank, they saw a young woman dressed in silk. This was somewhat of a problem because in their religion they were forbidden to look at, or even speak
with, a woman. She however, was deeply upset because she had to cross this river in order to continue her journey to reach her sick father. She begged the master and his student to help her get across the river. Very gently, the master picked her up and carried her through the shallow water and then put her down on the other side.
He said goodbye and went on his way with the student. Being a master, he could tell that his student was quite upset, even though the student was silent for the rest of their journey. Finally, that night as they were preparing for bed, he said to his student, "Is everything all right?" "No," the student exploded. "Everything is not all
right! You spoke with a woman today and then carried her across the river. How could you do that? Our religion tells us that this is wrong." The monk replied, "Really, when did I do this?" "This morning, this morning!!" his student shouted, becoming more agitated. "Oh, this morning. Now I remember," said the master. "I already put her down, but you’ve been
carrying her all day long."
The beautiful message of this story is about compassion, and letting go (living in the present moment). The monk placed the needs of the young woman above his own spiritual practice, then had the ability to let go of the fact that he had deviated from the path of his personal commitment without feeling guilt-ridden. We can all learn from
this lesson. How often do we carry around guilt, past hurts, or resentments toward others when truly the person that we are hurting is ourselves?
We must not allow ourselves to ruminate over past actions or events, because it will only weigh us down and deplete us of our energy. We must accept the transient nature of life; watch Mother Nature as she adapts and changes. In fact, we all had the opportunity to experience such a change. In late February, we had a spell of warmer spring
weather. The daffodils shot up from the ground, and some even bloomed. Trees pushed buds, and some even bloomed. Many robins and other song birds showed up. Then came March 14th and Snowstorm Stella with over a foot of snow, winds, and really cold temperatures at night.
Do you think that the daffodils cried about the fact that they had bloomed and now all was lost? No, the daffodils that bloomed had met their purpose in life – they had matured and bloomed! Do you think that the trees, while swaying in the winds, were saying, "Wind, stop blowing! Don’t blow on me?" No, the trees stayed in the moment and
just swayed in the wind. We were the ones lamenting about the poor daffodils and trees. Nature is able to adapt and change. Our resistance to the transient nature of life only brings about mental suffering.
Instead of suffering, we can choose to let go of what doesn’t serve us anymore and stay focused on the present moment. When the "winds of life" hit us, be flexible and bend. Do not break because of rigid thinking. Go with the flow.
Try this exercise provided by Grand Master Lu, OMD from TCM World Foundation: Picture a beautiful maple tree in autumn. Now project the things that you are holding onto (grudges, hurts, negative emotions), one at a time, onto that tree. Imagine that each leaf is a negative emotion that you’ve been holding onto. Picture the leaves falling
and landing in a stream. Watch them flow gracefully downstream, over rocks, over smooth and rough points, and past branches, until they reach the ocean. As you picture the leaves flowing farther and farther away, imagine the negative emotion also flowing farther and farther away. By linking your issue with the image of the tree and leaves, your heart will begin to
open up. Over time, you will be able to empty out that "box" of negative emotions to make room for love and forgiveness, and other positive emotions.
Choosing to remain flexible is choosing life. Be a disciple of life.
As Lao-tzu said, "A tree that cannot bend will crack in the wind. Thus by nature's own decree, the soft and gentle are triumphant."
Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist and physical therapist with over 25 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA. She can be reached at 717-752-5728.