The Tao of
Three Surprising Lessons from Ancient Masters
- Start by managing your relationship with yourself.
The ancient masters taught that you
must first bring harmony into your heart before you can bring
harmony into your home. Similarly, you must master your relationship
with yourself before extending that mastery to others.
One important key to self-management
is present moment awareness. This means living fully in the here and
now. There is no dwelling in the past, regretting what could’ve
been, nor is there dwelling in the future, fearing what may come to
pass. Your focus is right here and now, where you are at peace with
Another important key is the “soft”
approach to life. When we look at a tree, we can see that living
branches exhibit pliancy and flexibility, while dead branches are
hardened and brittle. Take this as a cue from nature, and invite a
new perspective into your consciousness as you transition into a new
chapter of your life.
This new perspective is a gentler and
more graceful path. As you start down this path, you find yourself
feeling no need to rail against the world, or get worked up over one
outrage or another. You’ve already fought your battles; it’s time to
enjoy the rest you have richly earned.
Lesson: let your relationship with
yourself be a peaceful one, and let your peace spread outward, like
a ripple. As this ripple touches your family and social circles,
you’ll see the potential for improved relationships blossoming like
lotus flowers — one after another.
- Take the holistic view when it comes to your relationship
with the younger generation.
When there’s friction, avoid focusing
only on the fault of the less mature, less experienced side of the
discord. It is always possible that you have overlooked the part you
play in the overall picture.
Recently, a troubled parent asked a
spiritual teacher: “Master, my child is giving me a lot of
negativity in attitude and back talk. What should I do?”
The teacher asked if the parent had
ever made photocopies. The parent nodded. “Yes, Master.”
The teacher then asked: “What if you
see an error on the copy you have made? Would you correct the copy,
or the original?”
Instantly, the parent understood the
deeper meaning in the teacher’s words. Often, young people reflect
the best and worst in us, so if we notice something not quite right
with a child, there may be a trace of that something within us as
Upon seeing the look of
comprehension, the teacher smiled: “I think we can all agree that it
would be best to correct both the copy and the original.”
Lesson: discord can be an
opportunity, not for expressing your disappointment and frustration,
but for a deeper examination of all parties involved. Let everyone,
including you, be a part of the solution. This Tao will help you
strengthen your relationships, and not push any loved ones away.
- Be “the coin” when it comes to your relationship with friends
The ancient Chinese coin had a square
hole in the middle, so people could string many coins together for
easy organization. When sages saw this, they used it as a metaphor.
They taught that one should be like the coin, square on the inside
and round on the outside. This meant one should be exacting and
disciplined with oneself, while remaining relaxed and easygoing with
Notice how many people are the exact
opposite: harsh, critical and demanding with others, while giving
themselves plenty of latitude and excuses. This is a double standard
that destroys relationships and alienates people.
Ancient masters felt no need to be
harsh, critical or demanding. They preferred to set positive
examples with their actions, rather than to lecture or preach with
their words. When people witnessed the effortless skills they
demonstrated in life, they flocked to them, hoping learn from their
We, too, can be like the ancient
masters. Rather than to expend energy complaining about the
imperfections we detect in the external world, we would be far
better off directing that energy internally, to better ourselves.
Lesson: expecting more from yourself
and nothing from others as you ease into this way of being. Soon,
you will see people becoming naturally drawn to you, as if by magic.
Ultimately, this is the Tao that builds relationships, and attracts
fellowship, goodness and joy into your life.
Copyright 1998-2016 by Derek Lin
All Rights Reserved.
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