h Phoenix Qi: Being One with the Dao

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Being One with the Dao

Fu Xi
Father of Daoism

Almost everyone is familiar with the first line of the first verse of the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching): "The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao" (– Tao Te Chingtranslated by Stephen Mitchell).

If you can perceive the whole of it, if you can name it, if you can define it, you have brought it into the realm of the small and manageable, so it cannot be the eternal Tao. Whatever else the Dao is, it is not small, manageable, or nameable.

Here is Stephen Mitchell's complete translation of Verse One of the Dao De Jing:

"The tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal Name.

The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin of all particular things.

Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding."

So, even though we can't name the Dao, discuss it with family and friends, does that mean we don't experience it?

I believe we do – we experience it every single day, perhaps many times a day, we just do not recognize it for what it is. We call it dreaming, and daydreaming, and believe it is all internal, our thought patterns going off on flights of fancy while we rest.

Sleeping and daydreaming are about as "internal" as your mind….and you know that your mind is not a physical thing tethered to your particular physical locale. If it was, you would never have to say, "Oh, sorry, I missed what you just said, my mind was wandering."

Your mind regularly experiences the Dao. How? Through the darkness, of course, the "gateway to all understanding."

In this instance, darkness does not mean absence of light, it indicates the yin principle which, among other things, is symbolized by darkness. The most famous of the yin principles, right after "female" is "receptive." In the harmonious workings of the universe, the yin principle is open and receptive to everything the yang principle bestows.

Even though yin is earthly and physically manifest, it receives the Dao through the immaterial, spiritual yang just as the earth beneath your feet receives the energy of heat and light from the heavenly sun.

In order to receive the energy of this enlightenment, you must enter the darkness, or the state of receptivity. Of course, you can learn to do that through various forms of meditation. However, that practice and discipline is connected to your desire to achieve a particular level of spiritual consciousness. This is often expressed as getting in touch with your Higher Power, your Higher Self, your Higher Consciousness, some call it God Consciousness, or tapping into the Universal Unconscious.

Many people believe that desire and goal setting, working diligently toward the achievement of that desire, is the only way to attain that particular level of consciousness. Oftentimes, these people are interested in attaining the full and complete understanding of all universal principles. Yes, that is one type of enlightenment, but it is not necessary to achieve that to experience being One with the Dao.

The truth is, many Oneness and enlightenment experiences are spontaneous – every time you experience an "Ah-ha!" moment, you have received a message and are enlightened in some way. When and how do you experience "Ah-ha!" moments? Usually when you least expect it and are thinking about nothing at all! You are at rest, at least mentally, and are therefore receptive to these spontaneous experiences.

You are at your most receptive when you sleep and when you daydream because you are not directing your mind or attention. Every day as a matter of course and of the human condition, you open yourself to messages of spiritual awareness. Hearing those voices which you have educated yourself out of hearing and following is instinct, intuition. In our modern day, about the only time we completely open ourselves to the receptive state through which we can receive these messages is when we are daydreaming or asleep.

In fact, I believe we move from physical to spiritual every time we go to sleep. At the REM stage of sleep when the body is most relaxed and regenerating, the mind is most active! This is the stage in which we dream. In the REM sleep stage, someone could poke you, and your body would not feel it; generally a person does not experience physical feelings such as pain when asleep. Some researchers thing that when in this sleep stage, you couldn't make your body move if you wanted to; it is too physically relaxed to respond to stimulus of any kind.

Likewise, if we are awake but day-dreaming, I believe we enter the same sort of spiritual (at least non-corporeal) awareness…we lose track of and don’t feel the physical body while in this awake/day-dream state, and we usually lose track of time, too, which is another indication of being in a spiritual place.

I believe that any daytime (or at least "non-sleep-time") awareness shift between spiritual and physical may not have anything to do with desire or reaching a goal (except perhaps to become unattached to normal, thinking awareness), it may simply be a matter of allowing ourselves to follow our natural instincts toward daydreaming and physical dissociation.

You will notice that this awareness has a common thread….dreams. In fact, the word "dream" is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word related to "mirth, joy, and music."

And when do we dream? When our mind is in "darkness," when it is in "receptive mode."

The verse tells us:

"Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

Yet mystery and manifestations arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.

Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding."

I believe that the message of these lines is to devote yourself to spontaneous experiences of enlightenment in order to become one with the Dao. The I Ching sheds some light on the meaning here, also.

Two things that "arise from the same source" are the I Ching trigrams of Earth and Water. In the Heavenly circular arrangement of trigrams, Earth stands in the North. In the Earthly circular arrangement, Water stands in the North. North is symbolic of darkness, darkness being "yin." So here we have two yin/darkness things springing from the same source, but one is spiritual, one is physical:

Free from desire – Water – symbolic of Tao & the spiritual.
Caught in desire – Earth – represents the physical manifestation.

Even more interesting is looking at the hexagrams formed by putting the trigrams together: earth over water (hexagram 7) or water over earth (hexagram 8).

Here is some information from the I Ching website of LiSe Heyboer:

Hexagram 7

Legion, Leader

Hex.7 is not only an army but also 'organizing', especially talents and assets. The character Shi means army, teacher, to teach, master, tutor, a model or example, to pattern or model after another, and a specialist (especially music, painting, divining or medicine).

Hexagram 8

Stand By (often a.k.a. Assembly, or Unity)

Bi(3): The character represents two people standing or walking behind each other. Original meaning: to juxtapose. Later to be close to, compare, equal, similar. A person turned to the left, REN(2), (2) is man, a person turned to the right, BI(3), (3 and 4: deceased mother) is a symbol for female. North, BEI(3), (5) is two people standing back to back - or a man and a woman. The middle between East and West? [The numbers in brackets refer to character diagrams on the website.]

Part of the interesting thing here is that most of the lines in these two hexagrams are darkness/yin; the only bright/yang lines are (always counting the lines from the bottom to the top) line 2 in hexagram 7, and line 5 in hexagram 8. Lines 2 and 5 represent Man in the Earth-Man-Heaven sequence of trigram lines, lines 1, 2, and 3.

By changing either of the yang man lines (hexagram 7 line 2, or hexagram 8 line 5) into yin lines, you turn the hexagram into Hexagram 2: (trigram earth doubled) Earth; The Receptive (the receiver of the spirit of heaven and makes it manifest).

By changing either of the yin man lines (hexagram 7 line 5, or hexagram 8 line 2) into yang lines, you turn the hexagram into Hexagram 29: (trigram water doubled) which is usually called “Pitfall, Danger.” There is a paradox here in that changing dark/yin lines to bright/yang lines actually takes you to a place of even deeper darkness – the “pit.” But also consider that water is the way of Tao, so double water is completely spiritual.

Even more interesting is that the character for Hexagram 29 (double water = double Tao) shows a man falling into a chasm….taking that "leap of faith" perhaps. Alfred Huang in his book The Complete I Ching: The Definitive Translation by the Taoist Master Alfred Huang calls hexagram 29 "Darkness." Consider the line from the Tao Te Ching: "Darkness within darkness, The gateway to all understanding." The man falling into the chasm is, symbolically, "falling" into the Tao (the water and the "understanding").

Now, falling is usually pretty spontaneous, and coincidentally (is there really such a thing as coincidence?) we often speak of falling asleep…in fact, many people (including me) often wake with a start just as I am falling asleep because I experience that "falling" sensation.

Ultimately, to experience Oneness with the Dao, be open and receptive, and don't try to plan it, allow yourself the spontaneous experience as you dream at night or during the day.

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