One of the best parts of Christmas for me is that after wonderful family time, there is wonderful alone time. And the best part of alone time is reading the new books which are invariably under the tree because my husband knows me so well! He has quite the knack for choosing books I love, even when they are not ones I would necessarily have picked up on my own.
Such was the case again this year. I have just finished the third and last book of my haul and it was the best of them all. Beautifully entitled “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself”, I didn’t even need to crack the spine before seeing, in my mind’s eye, a field full of white balloons tethered to a railroad tie fence and then cut loose to float freely into the firmament.
Given the dawning of the new year, it is hard for me (previously self identified self help book fan) to read a book subtitled ‘ the journey beyond yourself’ without setting a goal or two! ?
After thoroughly enjoying this read, the first lesson I will work on this year is to practice avoiding extremes in all areas of my life.
Imagine a continuum. Polar opposites. Good, bad. Hard, soft. Yin, yang. As we go through life, our behaviours often seem to lurch from one side to the other: couch potato to gym rat; hermit to party animal; miser to big spender.
In popular lingo, we talk a lot about striving to be centered, balanced, grounded. In the Tao te Ching, Lao-tzu discusses this most difficult-to-achieve notion and proffers what he called the Tao (pronounced dow) meaning “the Way”.
Science says if you pull a pendulum one way, it will swing back just that far the other way. When the pendulum finally and invariably comes to rest, it will come back to the middle, to the place where there is no energy pushing it in either direction. The forces quietly balance. This is the Tao. It isn’t a thing to hold on to, nor can it be seen. It’s like the eye of a hurricane; hollow and empty. As life forces swirl around it, it remains unaffected . A pendulum can only spend a brief moment at a time in its outermost positions. But as it comes to rest in the middle, it can remain there forever.
Energy, like time, is finite. We have 24 hours in a day and we have to choose where to expend our daily allotment. How much energy have I wasted by focusing too much on the extremities? And the more extreme it is, the more it becomes a full time project and the more it saps our energy. As the author Micheal Singer says: ” When you spend your energy trying to maintain the extremes, nothing goes forward. You get stuck in a rut. The more extreme you are, the less forward motion there is. You carve a groove and you get stuck in it. Then there’s no energy moving you into the Tao; it’s all being spent serving the extremes”.
The power of the Tao is the energy that used to be spent swinging sideways gets pulled into the centre. By drawing on this concentration of energy, you will be able to accomplish tasks more effortlessly. You won’t be wasting energy on thoughts about opposites. Your focus will be on the here and now. By not following the extremes, your “pool” of energy is always accessible to you.
As with everything that requires mindfulness and practice to become accomplished, I have no delusions that this will be a slam dunk for me. But I am intrigued enough to see how and if I can make this work for me and inspired by the belief that my life will be enriched when I accomplish this.