Monday, 30 January 2012

Verse 68


The best warriors
do not use violence.
The best tacticians
try to avoid confrontation.
The best businessmen
serve the communal good.
The best leaders
become servants of their people.

All of them embody
the virtue of non-competition.
Not that they don’t love to compete,
but they do so in the spirit of play.
In this they are like children.
This since ancient times has been known
as the ultimate unity with heaven.

Peace is the way of the Tao.

We lose peace the moment we become lost in a mentally-constructed sense of ‘me’ and ‘mine’ that has to be upheld, reinforced and constantly solidified, no matter the cost. This ego self, a mirage of consciousness folded in on itself, is the root of our suffering.

The need to compete and emerge triumphant, to win and be better than others stems from the ego and not the Tao. If this can be uprooted or at least seen for what it is, we can instead engage life not as a battle to come out on top, but as the play of form that it is.

We take it less seriously because we take ourselves less seriously. We become lighter, freer and instead of bringing more heaviness and conflict into a world already saturated with negativity, we help sow the seeds of harmony and balance.

We become instruments of the Tao, and there is simply no higher calling than that.

Verse 67


Many people talk about ‘my Tao’
with such familiarity.
What folly!
The Tao is not something found at the marketplace
or passed on from father to son.
It is not something gained by knowledge
or lost by forgetting.
If the Tao were like this
it would have been lost and forgotten long ago.
Some say my teaching is nonsense.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.

There are three jewels to cherish:
simplicity, patience and compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thought,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.

The ultimate Truth is not something that can be bought or acquired. You can’t learn it or read about it or take a class in it. At best you can find pointers toward it, and some are more helpful than others.

But even the clearest pointers and the most beautifully expressed teachings have to be let go of at some point. If you truly want to realise the Tao, you must go inward and find it within yourself. That is the essence of the teaching.

Yet once you find it, you mustn’t try to grasp it, name it or conceptualise it. The moment you do so, you lose it again.

So can we allow ourselves to be rooted in that which is beyond form, definition and conception; that nameless essence that pervades the universe in its entirety?

Embodying the qualities of patience, simplicity and compassion will not only help us to travel inward and reconnect with this primordial essence, but will also benefit our outer life in all respects.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Verse 66


All streams flow to the sea
because it lies below them.
Humility gives it its power.

If you want to govern the people,
you must place yourself below them.
If you want to lead the people,
you must learn to follow them.

The people will not feel burdened
if a wise person is in a position of power.
The people will not feel manipulated
if a wise person is in front as their leader.
The whole world will be grateful to her.
Because she competes with no one,
no one can compete with her.

Humility is a quality that is essential in any great leader.

Unfortunately, such is the nature of the human ego, the moment someone assumes a position of power, that person runs the risk of assuming an attitude of superiority. Abuse of power by inflated egos is all too common a problem, not just in government, but in every institution and in every walk of life.

The wise leader does not try to elevate herself above anyone. She retains her humility and simply does what needs to be done without fuss or fanfare. Thus does she retain her integrity as a living embodiment of the Tao.

Verse 65


The ancient Masters
who understood the way of the Tao
did not try to educate people,
but kindly taught them to not-know.
They did not try to enlighten people,
but rather kept them in the state of simplicity.

When they think that they know the answers,
people are difficult to guide
because they think they are too clever.
When they know that they do not know,
people can find their own way.

Not using cunning to rule a country
is good fortune for that country.
The simplest pattern is the clearest.
Content with an ordinary life,
you can show all people the way
back to their own true nature.

The message of verse sixty-five appears to be simple. It speaks to us of the need for simplicity and humility.

Lao Tzu tells us those who have mastered the Tao do not try to educate or enlighten people, or impose ideas, concepts or beliefs upon them. Instead, we’re are encouraged to be in a state of simplicity and openness and to have the humility to realise that there is often very little we actually do know.

The more we think we know, the more we tend to close ourselves off from an experience of reality as it is, getting stuck on the level of merely what we think it is. Of course, when this happens the ego tends to get involved and we pride ourselves on our cleverness and conceitedly think we know it all. Our minds become narrow, closed off and deadened, and so too do our hearts, for an open heart is impossible without an open mind.

This attitude is incompatible with the Tao. It’s important to recognise when we’re falling into this mindset and to be able to shift out of it. Having the humility to realise just how much we don’t know keeps us in a perpetual state of openness and wonder. Instead of trudging through life like so many with a jaded, know-it-all attitude, we can embrace life filled with the wonder and marvel of a child. Life can regain its mystery and magic as we find ourselves always open to new possibilities and new ways of seeing and relating to life.

Maintaining simplicity and humility are therefore keys to being rooted in the Tao and are good qualities to encourage and nurture in others.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Verse 64


What is at rest is easily managed.
What is not yet manifest is easy to prevent.
What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.

Put things into order before they exist.
Prevent trouble before it arises.
The giant pine tree grows from a tiny seedling.
A tower nine stories high starts with a single brick.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
By forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.
People usually fail when they are on the verge of success.
So give as much care at the end as at the beginning,
and there will be no failure.

The Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He does not collect precious things;
he learns not to hold onto ideas.
He helps people find their true nature
but does not venture to lead them by the nose.

This verse features perhaps the most famous line of the entire Tao Te Ching: “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” In keeping with the previous verse, it offers sage advice for taking action and dealing with whatever challenges we might face in the course of our lives.

We are urged to lay solid foundations, to deal with potential problems before they arise and to have the patience to avoid rushing things to premature completion. Instant gratification and immediate results are very much of the focus of our fast-paced society. But the Tao Te Ching advises us to avoid rushing into action and instead to pay careful attention to each step of our journey, being sure not to rush or force things. The more we rush, the more mistakes we make and the more we grasp, the easier it is to crush the very thing we are trying to nurture.

Everything in life has its own flow, its own pace and speed. If we can tune into that and align ourselves with it, we might find that we can indeed achieve without undue exertion and find an effortlessness and ease in everything we do. We will instinctively know what to do and when to do it. This intelligence comes from a place far deeper than the surface-level of the mind; it comes from our connection to the Tao.

Verse 63


Act without doing,
work without effort.
Think of the small as large
and the few as many.
See simplicity in the complicated.
Achieve greatness in little things.

Difficult problems are best solved
while they are still easy.
Great projects are best started
while they are still small.
The Master never takes on more
than she can handle,
which means that she leaves
nothing undone.
She never strives for greatness,
thus she achieves greatness.
When she runs into a difficulty,
she stops and gives herself to it.
Because she always confronts difficulties,
the task is always easier than planned.

Verse sixty-three offers advice for daily life, for approaching work and projects of any kind and for dealing with difficulties and avoiding undue problems.

The Master sees the large in the small and simplicity in the seemingly complex. Simplicity seems to be the key message. Rather than chasing after the grandiose, the Master keeps her focus on the small details, simply doing one thing at a time, and never taking on more than she can handle.

She works simply, effortlessly, without forcing things and is sure to tackle problems before they get out of hand. These simple instructions offer a Tao-based approach to daily life and promise an easier, smoother path than we might otherwise experience when we lose sight of the Tao.

Verse 62


The Tao is the true nature,
the secret source of everything.
It is the good man’s treasure
and the bad man’s refuge.

If a person seems wicked,
do not cast him away.
Awaken him with your words,
elevate him with your deeds,
repay his injury with kindness.

When a new leader takes office,
do not give him gifts and offerings.
Offer instead to
teach him about the Tao.

Why did the ancient Masters esteem the Tao?
Because, being one with the Tao,
you find without looking and
when you make a mistake, you are forgiven.
It is the source of all good,
and the remedy for all evil.
It is the most noble thing in the world.

There’s absolutely no doubt that in this world we often have to deal with ‘wicked’ people; those that are so misaligned and dysfunctional that they cause untold misery for themselves and all those around them. Relating with such people can be an enormous challenge. Lao Tzu gently advises us to embrace rather than reject them and to shine a light into the darkness around and within them.

In spite of all appearances, the darkness can never harm the light, for it is merely the absence of light. If you walk into a dark room, you deal with the darkness by switching on a light – and it’s gone, just like that. It may not be quite so simple when dealing with people – for many tend to cling to their darkness, having made an identity out of it – but the principle remains the same.

It is worth bearing in mind, however, that we should not try to force others to change, but simply accept and embrace them, and in so doing help them to become all they are capable of being.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Verse 61


A great country is like the lowland,
toward which all streams flow.
It is the reservoir of all under heaven,
the feminine of the world.
The female overcomes the male with stillness.
Her tranquility gives rise to her humility,
The more powerful a country grows,
the greater the need for humility.

If a great country lowers itself before a small one,
it wins friendship and trust.
And if a small country can lower itself before a great one,
it will win over that ‘great’ country.
If a nation is centred in the Tao,
if it nourishes its own people,
if it does not meddle in the affairs of others,
it will be a light to all nations in the world.

Most nations want to achieve ‘greatness’, to be higher, more elevated, prosperous and influential than other nations. Nationalism in all its forms is born of the ego’s desire to create a stronger identity for itself and it does so by trying to be ‘better’ than others. This is not the Tao. Lao Tzu asks us to adopt the very opposite approach and to recognise the value of humility.

Instead of trying to be bigger and better than other nations, we are asked to embrace humility, to become like the lowland toward which all streams flow along their path to the sea. This is the feminine approach, which is one of stillness, equanimity and peace.

There is no place for conflict, war or erroneous notions of ‘more than’ and ‘less than’ when a country is at one with the Tao. We’ve tried it the other way. It didn’t work. Perhaps it’s time for us to approach world affairs and foreign policy with an altogether different approach.

This doesn’t mean that we become the doormats of the world. The Tao is a state of perfect balance, not idle passivity. But it is a state of alignment and a very necessary recalibration after countless centuries of striving to be on top, to subjugate and dominate other nations. True victory is not coming out on top: it is unity, peace and harmony between all nations.

Verse 60


Governing a large country
is like frying a small fish.
You spoil it with too much poking.

Approach the universe with the Tao
and evil will have no power.
Not that it isn’t there,
but you will be able to step out of its way.

Give evil nothing to oppose
and it will disappear by itself.

Lao Tzu begins this verse with a humorous but pertinent metaphor, in which he again stresses that trying too hard to make things turn out right is likely to cause disaster and ruin. So don’t poke your fish too much! We need to relinquish our tendency to force things and to know when less is more.

This verse also speaks of evil. Another word for evil is ‘ignorance’, which is usually at the root of all acts of cruelty and harm and which begets other undesirable states such as hatred, prejudice and self-righteousness.

To be centred in the Tao is to bring a shining light into the darkness. The darkness is then either transformed by the light, or (as often happens with those that are deeply rooted in their ignorance) it is repelled by it. Either way, being centred in the Tao is the ultimate remedy for eradicating and transforming evil. It may not cease to exist, but it loses its power to harm.

Verse 59


There is nothing better than moderation
for governing people and serving nature.

Moderation begins with giving up one’s own ideas.
For those who follow the Tao,
nothing is impossible.
If nothing is impossible, then there are no limits.
If a man knows no limits, he is fit to lead.
Tolerant like the sky,
all-pervading like the sunlight,
supple like a tree in the wind,
he has no destination in view
and makes use of anything
life happens to bring his way.

This is the way to be deeply rooted and
firmly planted in the Tao;
the secret of long life and lasting vision.

This verse urges us to live in moderation and to let go of all our fixed ideas, notions and concepts, which only serve to limit us.

Instead, we are asked to find and embrace the limitless. Only then can we truly be in tune with the Tao; breathing, living and radiating the very rhythm of life.

This is the only real prerequisite for being a great leader, for we are no longer guided by the limited ego and a set of mentally-constructed ideas and concepts, but are instead like an empty flute, through which the breath of life can flow and create the most beautiful, harmonious music. This is the music the world most needs to hear.

Verse 58


If a country is governed with tolerance,
the people are comfortable and honest.
If a country is governed with repression,
the people are restless and disturbed.

Try to make people happy,
and you lay the groundwork for misery.
Try to make people moral,
and you lay the groundwork for vice.

Bad fortune is what good fortune leans on;
good fortune is what bad fortune hides in.
Good things seem to change into bad,
and bad things often turn out for good.
These things have always been hard
to comprehend.

Thus the Master is content
to serve as an example
and not to impose his will.
He is pointed but does not pierce;
he straightens, but does not disrupt;
he illuminates, but does not dazzle.

Lao Tzu’s lessons on leadership are not necessarily easily for the mind to grasp. The key is to lead by allowing, to nurture without imposing and to trust that people will manifest their own innate virtue if they are allowed to do so. The most common objections to this come from our fears that without adequate control and laws, bedlam would ensue and people would go about stealing, pillaging and killing. Is this true however?

All but the most dysfunctional have an innate sense of rightness that runs far deeper than any outwardly-imposed codes of morality and conduct. Imposing such sanctions only indicates our deeply-held misconception that our true nature is something grotesque and dangerous, that we are at core ‘wretched sinners’ as some religions purport.

This notion runs counter to the Tao. The more we try to impose what we think others ought to do, how they should be happy and what ways they should behave in terms of ‘morality’ (which is entirely a mind-made concept and which clearly is context and culture-dependent), the more we stifle them and cement over their true nature as expressions of the Tao.

Allow people to know what is best for them, what is right for them. Maybe they will initially make mistakes, for we have been driven by our mind and outer senses for too long, while being ignorant of our true inner connection and power. But it is from our mistakes that we learn.

‘Good fortune’ and ‘bad fortune’ are again but concepts in the mind and Lao Tzu reminds us that the two are indefinable and inseparable. Good fortune often comes from disaster and misfortune, while often the most seemingly fortuitous things contain the seeds of misfortune within them. Don’t be led by the mind and its notions of what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Be led instead by a deeper understanding of the Tao, in which you see all threads interconnecting to create the perfect tapestry that we call ‘life’.

The final lines tell us that the best way to govern is by example and not by imposing our will. This encapsulates the essence of the Tao Te Ching’s teaching on leadership, which, as noted before, is relevant to anyone in any position of power or authority, from those in government to CEOs, school teachers and parents. Lead gently, but pointedly, don’t impose unnecessarily and illuminate but do not dazzle. This is to lead in accord with the Tao.

Verse 57


If you want to be a great leader,
you must first learn to follow the Tao.
Stop trying to control.
Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
and the world will govern itself.

How do I know this is so?
Because in this world,
the greater the prohibitions,
the less virtuous people will be.
The more advanced the weapons of state,
the less secure people will be.
The more laws are posted,
the more thieves appear.

Therefore the Master says:
I let go of the law,
and people become honest.
I let go of economics,
and people become prosperous.
I let go of religion,
and people become serene.
I let go of all desire for the common good,
and the good becomes common as grass.

In this section of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu returns his attention to aspects of leadership and finding a means to govern that is in harmony with the Tao.

It would indeed be advantageous if our leaders paid heed to this ancient wisdom, for most the time our countries are governed with the exact opposite approach.

Leadership that is aligned with the Tao displays the characteristics of non-interference, equanimity, non-grasping and allowing. It’s abundantly clear that the more rigid and authoritarian the state, the more dysfunctional, disharmonious and unsustainable it is.

Nature itself is the greatest governor of all and it is nature that reflects the harmony and perfect balance of the Tao. It leads without effort, without the need to control or unduly shape its constituent parts. There is no clinging to concepts or imposing rules, for when all is allowed to be as it is, all flows in perfect harmony and governs itself.

Verse 56


Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.

Stop talking,
block off your senses,
meditate in silence,
release your worries,
blunt your sharpness,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
harmonise your inner light
and settle your dust.
This is the primal union or secret embrace.

One who knows this secret
is not moved by attachment or aversion,
swayed by profit or loss,
nor touched by honour or disgrace.
Such a one is far beyond the cares of men
yet comes to hold the dearest place in their hearts.
This, therefore, is the highest state of man.

This verse begins with one of my favourite lines of the Tao Te Ching: ‘those who know do not talk. Those who talk do not know.’

The loudest and most visible ‘authorities’ are often the most deluded and ignorant. The TV evangelist spouting talk of fire and brimstone is arguably about as close to true understanding of the Tao as the murderer sitting in a jail cell. At least the latter does not claim understanding of something he clearly knows not.

Those that genuinely get it are often the quietest and humblest of people. They have no need to make a show of themselves, for they have moved beyond such cares. They know the virtue and power of silence because, indeed, that’s where their wisdom comes from. It is the only place truth can be found, the only access point to that which remains changeless and is obscured when the senses are engaged only in the outer world of the transient.

Although the Tao is within and sustains all form as its deepest essence, it cannot be seen with the outer senses and is invisible to the eye. Therefore, it is necessary to go inward to get in touch with this essence.

Lao Tzu speaks of ‘primal union’ or ‘the secret embrace’, which can be achieved by sitting quietly in meditation, closing off the outer senses and settling into a peaceful experience of inner union with our source. It’s something we can strive after and seek to acquire as we would in the outer world of form, but more something we can relax into with effortless ease. It melts away our tensions, dissolves our problems and unties all our knots.

This primal union is the gateway to an experience of higher consciousness, which we can then invite into every aspect of our lives; a detachment and transcendence, an overwhelming and unconditional love and acceptance of life and all the beings and circumstances we encounter. This is to fully merge with the Tao and is, as Lao Tzu suggests, the ‘highest state’ available to us.

It is the way to peace and full union with the Tao. Perhaps this is the only worthy goal we can ever have for our lives. The ironic part is that it’s not a future state we can hope to achieve and move toward. We’re already there – we’re already at one with the Tao – we just have to remove the obstructions of mind and habit and realise that we already are that which we seek. It could never be any other way. Accept this invitation to primal union and see where it takes you.

Verse 55


One who is in harmony with the Tao
is like a newborn child.
The infant is protected from insects,
wild beasts and birds of prey.
Bones are soft, muscles are weak
yet its grasp is firm and strong.
Though its mind is innocent,
its body is virile,
so intense is its vital power.
It can cry all day without becoming hoarse.
This is perfect harmony.
The child is one with the Tao,
living within harmony and grace.
This is why the child
finds eternity within a single day.

To know harmony is to know the changeless;
to know the changeless is to have insight.
The Master understands that when something
reaches its prime
it will soon begin to decline.
To unnaturally try to extend life is not the Tao.
And whatever is against the Tao soon ceases to be.

Lao Tzu uses the example of a newborn baby or young child as being one that is in perfect harmony with the Tao. An infant cannot help but be at one with life, for its mind has yet to develop and attempt to take over the show.

The infant does nothing, yet nothing is left undone. Its body is soft, flexible and weak, and yet contains tremendous power (sometimes when a baby or toddler grabs your hand it’s amazing how much strength they possess!). The child has a great deal of integrity; there is no holding back, no role-playing, no getting lost in thought and conceptualisation – that will all come later, for better or worse.

The child expresses itself unreservedly, unapologetically, without any hesitation. It can be tremendously enlightening just watching a young child, for they live in a state of freedom and approach life with a great deal of immediacy and freshness. Until the ego develops and the child gets lost in a sense of “I”, “me” and “mine”, it approaches life effortlessly and largely without desire and preconception. Time is meaningless to the infant; the child lives entirely in the present moment, not yet lost in the mind-created concepts of past and future.

Lao Tzu advises us to ‘know the changeless’ as we progress through life and experience the inherently changeful nature of phenomenal existence. In spite of all the immeasurable changes that are forever occurring in and around us, what never changes? It’s worth spending time pondering this question. The answer is only within. Are you aware of the changeless, or the ‘constant’ as some translations call it? Can you be rooted in that? Can you avoid the desire to cling to and unnaturally extend life?

Because the Master is rooted in the changeless, he is unafraid of outward changes. He lets all things come and go as they please, holding on to nothing. He has no expectations, no desires, no need to cling to the temporal. Thus is his spirit immortal and unchanging.

Verse 54


Whoever is planted in the Tao
will not be rooted up.
Whoever embraces the Tao
will not slip away.
She who honours the Tao
will be honoured from generation to generation.

If the Tao is cultivated in your life
you will become genuine.
If the Tao is cultivated in your family
your family will flourish.
If the Tao is cultivated in your country
your country will be an example
to all countries in the world.
If the Tao is cultivated in the world,
then virtue will be with everyone.

How do I know this is true?
By looking inside myself.

To simply read and try to understand the words of the Tao Te Ching is insufficient. Each verse is an invitation to embody and actually live the wisdom of the Tao. This verse again emphasises the virtue of coming into alignment with the Tao; which is not so much something to be striven for, but simply allowed to happen. When we clear the obstructions to our true nature, we can be firmly planted in the Tao and nothing in the world of the 10,000 things will be able to uproot us.

The effects of being at one with our source, with the Tao, will spread outward like ripples across the surface of a pond, for in truth nothing exists in isolation. We can transform the world by first transforming ourselves, by consciously living the Tao.

This allows us to cultivate the way of the Tao in all our actions and interactions: in our family life, our work life, among our friends and gradually the effects will spread outward to encompass our whole country and world. Even if the effects are subtle or seemingly invisible, they are there nonetheless. By changing ourselves and coming into alignment with the truth of our being, we make it easier for others to do so. The elevation of our own consciousness is therefore perhaps the greatest gift we can give the world.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Verse 53


If I have even a little sense,
I should walk in the Great Way,
and my only fear would be straying.

The Great Way is very easy,
yet people prefer the side paths.
That is why there is corruption.
While farmers lose their land,
government officials spend money
on weapons instead of cures
and the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible
while the poor have nowhere to turn.
To wear fancy clothes and ornaments,
stuffing oneself with food and drink,
amassing wealth to the extent of not knowing
what to do with it,
is like being a robber and
is called the crime of excess.
This is not in keeping with the Tao.

Lao Tzu noted the flaws of society around 2,500 years ago and sadly those same flaws are still very much evident today: the crime of excess, of accumulating excessive money, possessions and power while others are penniless and starving. Why should we function like this? To behave in such a way is to be out of alignment with the Tao.

The Great Way of the Tao is the essence of simplicity itself, but it’s not a path that’s particularly attractive or alluring to the majority of people, whose egos and covetous natures are compelled by the accumulation of wealth and power at the expense of others.

“Getting ahead” and “getting what you want out of life” is still the general modus operandi of our society. And sadly it is the result of all the corruption we see on individual and collective levels. Governments are corrupt and have dubious priorities, focussing on power, supremacy and strong economies rather than harmony, balance, equality and holistic regard for all. In fact, so many people are curently rooted in their own self-interest that many simply wouldn’t allow a government to operate any way otherwise. Again, this is because most have chosen (whether consciously or unconsciously) the path of excess and greed over the path of the Great Way.

In order to live the Tao, one must let all that go. Clearly not everyone is up to that challenge. But that doesn’t matter, the only question that matters is this: am I up to it? Can I take the road less travelled and choose the Tao over the petty whims and desires of the ego?

It’s a simple choice, although not necessarily an easy one...but it is the choice between deep and lasting peace and a life of perpetual craving, striving and continual frustration and dissatisfaction.

When seen like that, you realise you’d have to be crazy to choose the winding side paths over the Great Way.

Verse 52


In the beginning was the Tao.
All things issue from it;
all things return to it.
This beginning is the Mother of the world.
To find the origin,
trace back the manifestations.
When you recognise the children
and find the Mother,
you will be free of sorrow.
When we know we are the Mother’s child,
we begin to protect the qualities of the Mother in us.

Keep your mouth shut,
guard the senses
and life is ever full.
If you keep your mind from judging
and aren’t led by the senses and desires,
your heart will find peace.

Seeing into darkness is clarity.
Knowing how to yield is strength.
Use your own light
and return to the source of light.
This is called practising eternity.

“Gnothi Seauton” were the words inscribed above the temple at the Oracle at Delphi. It translates as “Know Thyself”, which is perhaps the most powerful piece of advice ever given in the entire history of humankind. The root of all our problems is a deep ignorance of what we are.

This verse of the Tao Te Ching advises us to trace all manifestation back to its source. Everything is this world has a common source – that source being the Tao, or the Mother of the world.

Instead of getting lost in the “world of the 10,000 things” we must always stay aware of and rooted in the origin of all external form. In other words, observe the children (the form) but hold onto the Mother (the formless).

This means finding and real-ising the Tao at the core of our being. That is what is meant by self-realisation. It is the doorway from the transient to the eternal.