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Is It Tao or Dao?

Is it Tao te Ching or Dao de Jing? The spelling of Chinese words is confusing and inconsistent. Here’s an explanation.

Chinese writing consists of simplified images called pictograms, which represent words. Many Chinese pictograms combine two or more images. So the word for forest is simply a few trees combined into one pictogram. The choices within a pictogram can say a lot more about a word than what Western letters communicate.

A good example of this is the word Tao, the Way (seen above). It combines the image of taking a step and that of a head. You walk using your head – both when choosing a direction and in learning from the walk. One could say that it’s a way for mind and body to align. A spiritual path, if you will.

Pictograms illustrate the meaning of a word while analyzing the history and origin of the word. But it doesn’t help much in pronunciation or spelling.

The Western alphabet is all about pronunciation. In Western language, there is pretty much a consensus about how each letter is pronounced. Chinese pronunciation isn’t based on the Western letters and their sounds; in fact, the Chinese have sounds that differ slightly from the ones we are accustomed to. Again, Tao is a good example.

The sound for “T” is pronounced somewhere between a “T” and a “D” in our ears, somewhere between the unvoiced and voiced consonant. It was translated as “Tao” in the late 19th/early 20th centuries using a Romanization system called Wade-Giles. “Dao” was later transcribed into the Western alphabet using a Chinese adaptation called Pinyin.

The “unvoiced T––voiced D” is far from the only difference in transcriptions. Here are other differences in Tao’s transmutation:

Wade-Giles

Tao te Ching

Lao Tzu

Chi

I ching

T’ai chi   

Pinyin 

Dao de Jing

Lao zi

Qi

Yi jing

Taiji

English

Scripture of the Way

Founder of Taoism

Energy

Book of changes

Great art of boxing

And the list continues.

The mystery of pictograms lives on.

 

 

Relax the Need to Be Heard

Find the Innocence of Listening

You know that sinking feeling you get when you have your hand up in a class or round table talk and the mediator isn’t calling on you? You have something relevant to say, but the powers that be silence you.

Typically for me, after recognizing that the dialogue was going to continue without my contribution, my hand would come down and I’d sit stoically stewing in, what felt like, their disregard. And this is where it would end.

More recently, rather than focusing on being disregarded, I started to deliberately take a step back and focus on regarding them. I’ve become curious about what IS being said. Does my point work with or against the conversation? Is there something I could learn from listening here rather than talking? Is my comment still relevant after they have finished discussing their perspective of the issue?

The outcome consistently surprises me. When the discussion slows down, the mediator addresses me and asks, “Did you have something to add Tammy?” With eager delight I speak my mind, I’m heard with genuine interest, and I feel honored.

When I let go of the need for others to respond to me, they became interested.

 

“Not needing to make things happen, one understands deeply.

Needing to make things happen, one learns about practical matters…”

Being disregarded is an old story in my life. It is not what is happening in my life now, but the old wound can easily be triggered. I have had to learn how to step back from this trigger––the need to feel heard and considered––to successfully develop in my career and relationships.

I suspect that I am not alone in this trigger!

Here’s what to do to unplug the trigger’s charge:

  •      First, take advantage of the stoic posture. Chin dropped and drawn inward shortening the throat, while the neck is elongated toward the sky like a swan, giving you the same alignment you would use if taking an actual step backward. Then rather than filling your neck and throat with stoic anger, open the crown of your head with innocence and wonder.
  •       Second, relax your eyes back in their eye sockets, remember that they are floating in water like when we float on a blow up raft in a pool, and listen from that receded and relaxed place.
  •      Lastly, recognize the added space between the eyebrows. This space focuses you to observe openly and you instantly enjoy receiving from the other(s).

When speaking we make things happen––yang––when listening we allow things to happen––yin. On one side we are giving, on the other side we are receiving, both are essential for a dialogue. Needing one over the other brings an imbalance to the dialogue that can turn the communication spout off or cause defensive responses.

 

“… Core and surface are parts of the same whole.

It is in being open and innocent that the

Possibility of understanding arises.”

Tao Te Ching

This became apparent in my daily life when I started to address my newly adopted parrot, whom has shown signs of mishandling, with receded soft eyes rather than gregarious let’s-be-friends eyes, she instantly started purring. She clearly felt more comfortable when I was in a listening posture. I believe she felt no expectations to be or do something she didn’t want when I was listening. It was a breakthrough in our relationship.

If listening is what creates trust in a relationship, perhaps we could all learn to soften our gaze and open our crown to the wonder of innocence.

 

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Peaceful Duck

THE UNIVERSAL LAW OF PAUSE

Peaceful Duck

When We Stop Chasing It––We Experience It.

Allowing myself to sleep in past 6AM, a gesture that I don’t often make to myself, I listened to my two cats scampering about in a determined crazy-cat frenzy. If you’re a cat owner, you know that untamed state that possesses our sweet kitties and then mutates them into wild beasts?

I indulged in a mattress belly flop, half awake and half asleep, in that magical subconscious paradigm.

“Do that which is not done by doing.
Make that which is not made by making.
Taste that which cannot be distinguished by taste.
Hold the same regard for the few and the many.
Requite the unkind with kindness…”

As I listened to their industrious pitter-patter for a long luxurious moment, I handed over my current labor-intensive chase to create my perfect world, to their obvious commitment to do the same. At this particular time in my life the culmination of life altering events were coming to fruition at once.

I was involved in the last days of the last editorial read of my first book’s deadline. I had just adopted an Amazon Parrot to join my already befriended Conure of 18 years. Both had been in the works for years.

The pressure to finesse the perfect book and the perfect birdhouse were both rooted in creating alignment in the world. The book’s focus being alignment between mind and body, the bird focus being alignment between adversaries––cats and birds.

When I finally decided to get up and face my day’s demands, what I found gave me pause.
I had created my dream! It had arrived!

A tiny sparrow was motionless on my kitchen floor. One of the cats had clearly captured it and brought it in from the terrace. I know this because, though I sleep with the terrace door open the curtain is closed, so the bird did not fly in.

Startled, of course, I tried to access the situation. Was the bird hurt?

I had heard that handling the bird would ostracise the sparrow from its’ flock. For that reason I placed a clean dish towel over it, swiped it up from the floor, and brought it to a pot of dirt back out on the terrace to offer a safe and familiar resting place.

As my towel was raised from the sparrow, it quickly flew away. All was well in the world. In fact, it was perfect.

All that ruckus I had listened to in my hesitancy to get up and start my daily dream chase, was the innocent witnessing of my dream being realized.

My cats had plenty of time to annihilate the bird, (I know this because they’re great mousers) but they didn’t. They choose to play with the sparrow (it was that sparrows lucky day!). Much like their mama—me—plays with the parrots.

When I reflected back on my mattress belly flop I recalled how open my pelvis was to the bed and how my quadriceps extended in a relaxed surrender away from the determination that fuels my gut’s passion. I was in a state of what Tao calls “non-doing” receptivity. I allowed the cats to be at the helm of the household’s direction.

“… Thus, one of integral virtue desires what is not connected with desire,
Sets no value on the rare goods of the world,
Learns what is not learned through learning,
And induces people to return to that which they have overlooked.”
Tao te Ching

It was a moment of trust.

So accustomed to using my quadriceps to drive my passions forward, this incident reminded me that, yes my quadriceps’ actions produce my future forward, but my quadriceps’ release recognizes that yesterday’s future is now.

Balance giving and receiving to move forward tirelessly.

 

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