LETTER 14th APRIL 2024 – The Broad Place

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LETTER 14th APRIL 2024

Lao Tzu was a Chinese philosopher who was the eventual founder of Taoism or Daoism (as it’s spelled two ways). I say eventual founder as Lao Tzu may also have been entirely mythical but this body of work has informed the basis of Taoism. There are few records surrounding him in 6th Century BC!

Lao Tzu is said to have been a part of the Zhou court, and become impatient with corruption and on departing was asked to write down his wisdom before he disappeared into solitude as a hermit. This formed the Tao Te Ching.

The Tao Te Ching has been a reference point for leadership, spirituality and personal development over thousands of years and has inspired many to explore its teachings and meanings. The irony being that the essence of Taoism is that that which can be spoken in words has missed the point entirely. The Tao, or The Way, is about the great mystery. That which cannot have words put to it. In a similar vein to Zen, it is consciousness, the invisible force that animates everything that cannot be accurately described. 

Which admittedly can be confusing. What are we studying per se if it cannot be described? What are we to understand that cannot have words placed around it. Within this lies the essence. I liken it to the experience of love, many have put words to it but they’re nowhere near as potent as the experience of deeply loving someone. When we move beyond an intellectual understanding and move more into our felt experience the whole thing shifts. When we move from our small self and favour our higher Self and see from a larger, if somewhat more vague description, we can see the world, ourselves and the animating force with the awe it deserves. As Korean Zen teacher Seung Sahn so frequently taught, we need to move from Don’t Know Mind. 

In the modern world where knowing everything appears to be the aim, where we can quickly snatch our phones and ask Siri for an answer, this philosophy is at odds. Seung Sahn noted when first travelling to America his astonishment at people’s need to ‘know’ and more importantly to be right. He said he was shocked that many people he met would prefer to make up something, than admit they didn’t know. 

In order to understand The Tao, we need to move deeply beyond our intellectual mind. Think about trying to describe eating a peach to someone who has never had a piece of fruit. You could describe its shape, you could describe the fuzzy skin and slippery inner flesh, you could attempt to describe the flavour – but peach flavour means little to someone who has never encountered a peach. The juiciness and the way you navigate the wrinkly pip is a challenging description if you have never eaten a single piece of fruit at all.

Let’s explore some key themes to give this some body. Wu Wei, effortless action, or flowing action, sounds like a contradiction – don’t we have to put effort into actions? Consider though swimming with the current of a river, or catching a wave in the ocean, or that sweet spot in yoga when you’re in flow, or a natural easeful conversation with a much loved friend. You’re not ‘trying’ but instead just present, you’re in flow, action is happening, but from a natural animation, not from force, or from personality. By contrast, think about how clunky it is when we are forcing an idea, or having a conversation we have overthought ahead of time. 

So Wu Wei might be tricky to get intellectually, but you will also have a felt experience of it. 

The above verse in the graphic, 11, from the Tao Te Ching as transcribed by Stephen Mitchell brings colour to this even more. 

We join spokes together in a wheel,
but it is the center hole
that makes the wagon move.

We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house,
but it is the inner space
that makes it livable.

We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.
It is the spaciousness, the invisible, that makes everything what it is, including us as humans. When we meditate we are connecting to this space. 

As an exercise, move through the next hour, paying attention to that which cannot be described. Your felt experience, the invisible yet also tangible. What does spaciousness REALLY feel like? Pay attention to what is animating you, what is bringing to life everything around you? You cannot see it, yet you know it is there. Nature moves around you, humans move around you, what is the nameless effortless action? Can you fill your mind not with thinking, but with spaciousness in which to feel into the mystery and the awe. 

As another exercise, for the next week observe your need to know and be right. Watch your conditioned mind, personality and intellect join forces to ensure you are seen, heard and recognised. Be tender with yourself instead of frustrated at what you might find. And gently release the hooks of the demanding mind, and instead find the soft landing space inside your heart, and navigate your days from here. 


Mutribo and I have started a Conversations series I think you might like. A way to have a weekly session of meditation and knowledge at your own timing. We start with 15 minutes of meditation, chat for about an hour then complete with 15 mins of meditation. You can try the first talk out through the link below.

We are going to offer a few of these talks as a gifted offering and then we will fold them into our Portal Membership and then these Conversations will be available to all our Portal Members as a weekly offering as a part of your membership! 

The Portal Membership is a teaching resource where you can come and learn at your own pace including our Mindfit Meditation program, a multitude of courses and programs on self development and spirituality, that also includes our Live Monthly Talks that you can join me with each month where we explore themes and practices. It is truly an incredible resource and we have made it as financially accessible as we can – an investment the equivalent of a take out cup of coffee a week. You can join annually with a huge discount, or pay monthly, and the membership spans a year. 



This beautiful project, the transcriptions of talks done weekly after meditation sittings by Mutribo only has a few dozen copies left, if you’re interested please grab a copy as I doubt we will do a third run, even though it has been so well received! Sadly printing costs in Australia continue to increase, especially with sustainable paper like we used to print this!