Tao Te Ching Summary: Lessons From Lao Tzu – Lesson 3

Lesson 1: The Lesson of God
Lesson 2: The Lesson of Silence
Lesson 3: The Lesson of Simplicity
Lesson 4: The Lesson of Acceptance
Lesson 5: The Lesson of Detachment
Lesson 6: The Lesson of Giving

Lesson 3: The Lesson of Simplicity

The previous lesson was about silence and the importance of being quite as a means to making contact with God and to do it consciously. One of the reasons why we find it so difficult to slip into that quiet space in our minds is because life has become so complex.

There seems to be so many demands on our time and attention that is sometimes feels like there simply isn’t enough time in a day to do the things we really need to do, not to mention the things we want to do.

“Through return to simple living comes control of desires.
In control of desires stillness is attained.
In stillness the world is restored.”

Lao Tzu (c.604 – 531 B.C.)

Lao Tzu’s lesson on simplicity offers a great solution to the dilemma that we all face to a more or lesser degree. He encourages us to simplify our lives as a means to attaining stillness.

For when we are still, we can get back to the center of our beings – to return to God and to make contact with what’s really important. You see, most people spend their lives doing what they have come to believe as important – juggling work, a family, running a business, keeping fit etc.

Yet they never make time for themselves and to make contact with their innermost needs and desires (that which is at the centre of your life).

Henry David Thoreau’s famous statement “Simplify, simplify, simplify” is more than just a catchy quote. It’s an encouragement for us to simplify the affairs of our life as a means to creating inner peace.

When your life is dominated by millions of things, by non stop deadlines and to-do lists you will rarely get to experience that level of inner peace that we are all striving for deep down inside. Your soul/spirit wants nothing more than to be at peace.

Constantly adding more needs or demands into your life will only fill your mind with more demands and create more inner turbulence. Always remember that anytime that you are at peace you are in an enlightened state.

We’ve all experienced this at times, often when we are on holiday, when you can slow down and calm down and when life isn’t chased by something, you get to experience that inner sense of peace.

In this state you become inspired easily ideas flow and often solutions to problems that you’ve been struggling with for a long time, just come naturally. When you simplify life, you create the environment for having peace within yourself.

When you load your life with “more” you create an environment of turmoil, and your entire experience of life gets distorted, and becomes one big blur where weeks, months and years just race by.

Simplifying your life does not mean giving up a life of abundance or riches. If anything is will make your life more abundant and give you a greater experience of life.

For starters you will be more “with it” and experience a greater awareness of life, to actually “be there”. We tend to think that to have a richer experience of life we have to “add more” and this is only a logical way of reasoning.

In reality, a greater abundance comes not from doing more, but from doing less. When you take on that extra task at work – what you are really hoping for is an improvement that will eventually give you more time.

One of Michelangelo’s famous statements was when he commented on his David statue in Florence. He said that David has always been in that massive piece of marble even before he started sculpting it – all he did was to chip away the excess. The same is true for your life.

Chip away the excess. Rid yourself of all those unnecessary “duties” and remember that in the end everything that you do with your life is a choice. Simplify, simplify, simplify! And allow this sense of inner peace to once again become your natural state of being and watch the abundance flow into your life.

Life sustains you and abundance is when you feel a sense of richness within yourself. Living a simple life is not about living an impoverished life in any sense of the word. Spiritually you will be rich because you are living from your highest self.

Emotionally you are enriched because you are not overloaded and you are able to feel. Your relationships will flourish because you have time for people and your life will be more on purpose because you have less distractions from what’s really important.

When you are living in this state you will find that you don’t need anything outside of you and ironically when you reach this point your life will overflow with even more than you ever dreamed of.

It is in “stillness that the world is restored” Lao Tzu reminds us. The world he is referring to is not a magic button for changing events and circumstances. He is referring to the inner world ,that world inside where we are actually living our lives.

Our minds process everything that happens on the outside world. We give it meaning and in the process we get to experience it. Instead of trying to change the world all you have to do is to change yourself. Ultimately the only changes you ever need to make in your life is in your self.

Through stillness we are forced to look inside and when you look inside you can create the change necessary to change your perception.

Application And Using This Lessons In Your Everyday Life:

  • Make inner peace a priority in your life. So often we set goals to have more money, to get a better job or a better body etc.

    Yet having a greater sense of inner peace is probably one of the greatest things you can give yourself. Everything in life “tastes” better once you have this authentic sense of inner peace, which is the foundation of well-being.
  • Choosing simplicity means treading your path deliberately, consciously and of your own accord. This path emphasizes freedom but also means being focused and not being sidetracked by consumer culture.

    This also means intentionally arranging our lives so that we give our true gifts to the world. Emerson reminded us “The only true gift is a portion of yourself.”
  • Unclutter your life. Get rid off all the things in your immediate environment that clutter your life. Clean your house out and get rid of everything that’s just collecting dust.

    Pay your unpaid bills, make that phone call that you’ve been putting off, finish that painting that you started. Clear all those things that are plaguing you at the back of your mind. As silly as it may sound these things only fill you up with unnecessary concerns.
  • By deciding what’s important to you, such as your family, home and job and getting rid of things which are superfluous, you become clearer as to what your really want.

    This is important because when your life is very cluttered, you usually don’t know what you want and this means the energy of life will vague in the way that it reflects back to you.

    Have you thought that you may have everything that you need at the moment and this is why you don’t know what you want? Get focused and when you decide what you want, then life will deliver.
  • Reassess the priorities of your life. Where are you spending your emotional time? Sit down and take a closer look at how much time you are spending on different aspects of your life and then find ways to create a greater balance.

    Take on less; clear your calendar of all those unwanted “obligations” and make more time to simply relax and to just “be”.
  • Simplicity can also mean feeling kinship with others. When we choose to live simply we can allow others simply to live. A compassionate simplicity is feeling a bond with the community as a whole and is a path of fairness and cooperation that looks for a future of safe growth for all.

    Most people are driven by deficiency motivation – an ego drive that is born from the fear of loosing and always comparing and wanting to be better than others and have more. Simplicity teaches us to let go of the disease of having more.

    If anything you need less to be truly rich and abundant because only through detachment can we truly be free and experience abundance.
  • Simplicity means living by choosing ways that touch the Earth more lightly and so lessen our ecological footprint. This life path bears in mind our deep roots within the natural world. It means experiencing our connection with the ecology of life and balancing our experience of man-made environments with time in nature.

    It means celebrating living because of the miracle of the Earth‘s seasons and accepting animals and plants have a place as we do. It means appreciating our deep interconnection with everything else and being aware of the threats we make to the earth’s well being, such as, depleting resources, species dying out and climate change.
  • Lao Tzu’s lesson of simplicity almost seems as though it was written for us now, in this day and age, as the as a family of the earth are assigned the task of working together to build a compassionate and harmonious future.

    We can apply an economic simplicity to our lives by using healthy and sustainable services and products including foods, energy systems and home building materials. Simplicity can be the path of beauty when our lives are represented through many of the hand made arts and crafts. Some of the most beautiful things in life are simple.

    Art, music, flowers, a simple thank you, a kind smile. These are most often the things that really make all the difference. Commit to having more of these “simple” things in your life.
  • Simplicity is the key, when you make the outer game so simple that it doesn’t impose or infringe on the inner you, you allow your inner life to catch up.

    Simplicity is the key to creating inner peace, which is the key to making contact with God and living your life closer to God.

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