February 11 – Simplicity – Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

“I have just three things to teach; simplicity, patience, compassion. ┬áThese are your greatest treasures. Simple in actions and in thoughts, you return to the Source of Being.” Lao-Tzu

In the sixth century B.C.E., the legendary Chinese sage Lao-Tzu gave us this threefold instruction. I will talk about simplicity here and devote separate entries later to both patience and compassion.

But regarding the three as a whole, let me confess that while stumbling about my own path, I have found that I must continually learn and relearn these things – not just once, but again and again, in deeper and deeper ways. They appear now like a spiral staircase and with each stepping, I find myself deeper in the life of my soul.

So, what does it mean to be simple? In a world that is complicated, we are often mislead to believe that being simple is being stupid, when in truth, it holds the reward for living directly, which is that things appear, at last, as they really are.

How many times have I seen the gestures of a loved one or colleague and then struggled privately to uncover what it all really meant? How many times have I done everything possible but ask directly? How often do I refuse to be direct; not saying what I mean, not showing what I feel, not letting life around me really touch me?

Amazingly, nothing else in nature is indirect. The leopard trying to scale the mountain strains and shows its effort. The frightened squirrel in the tree hovers and trembles, showing its fright.  The wave mounting toward shore saves nothing as it bows and spreads itself over and over agains the shore that openly crumbles to be so loved. Only humans say one thing and mean another. Only we go one way and wish we were somewhere else.

Like so many other tasks that await us, the reward is hardly what we imagine. It seems that Lao-Tau reveals to us a secret tool of living, kept secret by our unwillingness to accept its truth. This ancient sage tells us quite openly that the act of simplicity – of living directly – is the doorway to the Source of all Being.

Imagine if this is true. I implore you, when feeling lost or far away, try it – try being direct – and the Universe without a word will come alive.

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