April 7 – Being Shaped by Others – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

“The whole world could praise Sung Jung-Tzu and it wouldn’t make him exert himself. The whole world could condemn him and it wouldn’t make him mope. He drew a clear line between the internal and external.” Chuang Tzu 

These words were spoken by Chuang Tzu in the fourth century B.C.E. I read them fifteen years ago and taped them to my closet, so I could be reminded not to let the opinion of others shape me.

I have changed a great deal since then: where I live, who I am. Many things have come and gone. The closet to which Chuang Tzu’s words were taped is holding someone else’s clothes. But the words are in my heart, though I struggle not to be shaped by what others think.

This is at once the clearest of spiritual intent and yet the hardest to stay true to: how to stay open to what others feel and not to what they think. We cannot live without being affected by others, but we are only real when we let truth and love shape us from within.  Our want to be liked, our want to avoid conflict, our want to be understood – all these traits tease us away from taking the voice within seriously.

Though the Earth is touched by everything alive, it never stops turning around the fire at its centre, and though we are touched by the stories of strangers and the far off songs of birds lost in wind, we find our way by following the spirit’s voice at our centre. Too much is lost in waiting for someone else to tell us that what moves is real.

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