Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu Chapter 16, Empty your mind of all thoughts

Empty your mind of all thoughts.
Let your heart be at peace.
Watch the turmoil of beings,
but contemplate their return.
Each being in the universe
returns to the common Source,
to what is and what is to be.
Returning to the Source is serenity.
If you don’t realize the Source
you stumble in confusion and sorrow.
When you realize where you come from,
you naturally become tolerant,
disinterested, amused,
kind-hearted as a grandmother,
dignified as a king.
Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,
you can deal with whatever life brings you,
and when death comes you are ready.

Here we are urged to empty our mind of all thoughts, be aware of the turmoil around us and to realize something that most people don’t readily like to admit: that, like it or not, we’re all on a return trip. Returning is the nature of the Tao. A wave rises above the surface of the water but must ultimately return to that from which it came. So too it is with us. Lao Tzu calls this wellspring from which all life arises the ‘Source’.

Although we appear to be separate beings cut off from our Source, the truth is we shall all return to that Source, whether by physical death or by consciously aligning ourselves with it while we are still alive. This is called “dying before we die”. It allows us to consciously realize what we truly are. Many spiritual teachers over the centuries have highlighted this as the essence of spiritual awakening – simply, to know who and what we are.

Until we realize that from which we came, our lives are difficult and we stumble around in fear and sorrow. But when we realise where we came from – which is inseparable from what we are – we reach a state of peace with life. We naturally become tolerant, kind-hearted, disinterested (or detached, which simply means not unduly caught up in the transient comings and goings of life) and even amused by life.

In short, we are able to deal with whatever life throws our way because we are no longer caught up in the illusion that we are separate beings, disconnected from the whole, having to fight to survive in a hostile universe.

We no longer place undue emphasis on that which is but a transient dream, ever morphing and shifting – and, because we know what we are at the deepest level, we no longer fear death. Because we no longer fear death, we no longer fear life (which is really a far more tragic and crippling fear). Some have called this state of being ‘enlightenment’.

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