Tag Archives: Lao Tzu

J: Journey…

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for writers and creatives working on large projects, such as writing a book. This is series is part of the Blogging A-Z April Challenge where we write our way through the alphabet to a theme. Today, we’ve reached the Letter J and I’ve chosen a quote which focuses on the journey. No doubt, you probably know it, but it’s always good to be reminded:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Lao Tzu

Over the last few years, the word “journey” has been seriously over-used and has lost a lot of its magic. However, just because the word is tired, doesn’t mean that the nature of a journey has changed what with its changes of scenery, challenges, ups and downs and inherent movement from a beginning, through the middle and to the end. Of course, this progression could well be chopped and changed around when it comes to writing about it. However, one of the important things about a journey is that it needs to be lived.

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I’m always intrigued whenever I see these snail markings squiggling through the local rock pools. Well, it actually looks like the limpets in the photograph have made that journey.  

The quote from Lao Tzu is one of my all time favourites, and I often remind myself that the hardest part about achieving anything is usually getting started and taking that first step. Somehow, it seems to get easier once you’re actually moving, gain momentum and are on your way.

This quote is also a reminder not to let the enormity of what lies ahead, defeat you. Just get started putting one foot in front of the other and you’ll get there eventually.

Keep Going!

Obviously, to reach your destination you also need to keep going long after you’ve taken that initial step. After all, we’re talking about a journey of a thousand miles. That’s a long journey. It’s not a journey of one step and you’re already there to reach out and grab hold of your prize.

Isn’t it amazing how much you can get out of that one simple sentence?!!

Very great wisdom indeed!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

L-A Letter from Lao Tzu

Dear Rowena,

I heard you have been writing Letters to Dead Poets and Robert Frost mentioned that you had a few questions about the journey after reading his poem: The Road Not Taken. This might help:

“A good traveler has no fixed plans
and is not intent upon arriving.
A good artist lets his intuition
lead him wherever it wants.
A good scientist has freed himself of concepts
and keeps his mind open to what is.

Thus the Master is available to all people
and doesn’t reject anyone.
He is ready to use all situations
and doesn’t waste anything.
This is called embodying the light.

What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher?
What is a bad man but a good man’s job?
If you don’t understand this, you will get lost,
however intelligent you are.
It is the great secret.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

You are undertaking an incredible journey into the human psyche and it has been such a pleasure to walk down but a short part of the road with you!

Blessings always!

Lao Tzu

PS By the way John Lennon says he forgot to mention this:

“Life is what happens to you while you‘re busy making other plans.”

-John Lennon

Coffee By Moonlight

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share!

How was your week? I hope you’ve had a good week but I also understand that many of you have a lot on your plate and things aren’t easy. That’s what friends and community is for. Somewhere to rest your weary soul and feel the tension release.

If we were having coffee this week, we’d be looking at the night sky and the stars and philosophising. I’ve been in a reflective, contemplative and even vegetative state for the last few days after the excitement of our son’s triumphant return from the Australian Scouting Jamboree. It’s been a welcome relief from the weeks of renovating and cleaning which went on while he was away.

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Of course, when you go into his room now, it looks like it’s always been this way. That we’ve done nothing, which in effect glosses over all our hard work. In some ways, this defeats part of the purpose of renovating his room. That is to show him we love him and for him to look at his room and feel loved, valued, special. At the same time, we didn’t want him to feel guilty or that we weren’t happy to do the work. It truly has been a labour of love where our hearts have been turned inside out and plastered to those walls. Will he still feel the intensity and purpose of that love if he can’t appreciate what it took? I don’t know.

Perhaps. we should’ve stuck post-it notes all over the place, pointing out all our many hidden battles. “Patched hole in wall here”, “This skirting board has been sculpted to accommodate crooked wall, poorly situated powerpoints and network cables”. Or, perhaps I should simply stick a post-it  with “OMG” in huge caps on there. There were also edges we went over and over with blue then white then blue paint as we kept wandering out of the lines. I could also write a note documenting how my husband was staying up really late working on the room every night after exceptionally early starts and doing overtime at work. Of course, through the usual twists and turns of fate, a really busy time at work just had to coincide with an urgent project at home. The endless days of very heavy rain also slowed things down.

So, we ended up having quite a tight deadline towards the end. Of course, we didn’t need anyone to tell us that our best intentions would be destroyed if his bed was still out in the lounge room and his room under construction when he returned.  After 11 nights of camping on a rough stretcher, we would have been done for. The absolute worst parents in the world!!

I should also add that just the whole prospect of painting the skirting boards for his room, triggered a terrible near panic attack where I became completely paralyzed by my fear of failure, making a mistake: Scaredy Mum!The boards were yet to be fitted so it wasn’t difficult. However,  as heavy rain prevented me from getting started, these fears really festered badly. Sure, it’s difficult to know what your capabilities are as a person living with chronic health and disability but that’s no excuse for dropping your bundle. Particular now I’ve been reminded about another aspect of Lao Tzu’s quote: “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. At least for me, that first step is the hardest part and after that it’s smooth sailing. I did encounter difficulties painting the wall and became dizzy but I put in a respectable effort.

The dog had a bit to say about my efforts there and also wrote his tips for fighting fear: Dog’s Guide to Fighting Fear

In the end, we know full well that the lad won’t appreciate what went into fixing up his room until he’s a Dad doing the same for his kids. Then, he’ll know and we might even get a phone call.

That’s just the way it is.

So, now that’s done, I’m pleased to announce that I’ve hung up my paintbrush and handed in my resignation. No more renovating! Hey, who am I kidding? When you have an old crooked house, renovation is like the good old days of painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Once it’s finally over a one end, you’re back to the beginning again!

By the way, Mister did appreciate his room. No huge leaps of excitement but it was deemed “very good”.

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Also, he said returning home was “weird”. Weird to have electricity again after 12 days going without and it was also “weird” having somewhere “comfortable to sleep”. Not unsurprisingly,  since his return he’s spent much time playing on his iPad, curled up in his blanket in bed.

I should also add that after missing Mister all that time, the dogs barely spoke to him when he first came back and gave him the real cold shoulder treatment. By the end of the night, however, all was forgiven.

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Boy & Dog Reunited.

School goes back in 11 days so now this naughty, rebellious little night owl re-establishing something approaching normal sleeping patterns. Somehow, I need to acclimatize to waking up at 6.30AM to drive our daughter to school 45 minutes away. Instead of being able to have a daytime nap, I’ll be staying up there to bring her home in the afternoon. This is also going to dramatically play around with my writing and getting on with the Book Project, especially until I find a cosy nook where I can write and call my own. Once she’s settled, she’ll be catching the train and bus and I’ll probably just be dropping her at the station and picking her up. She might even become fully independent. I’m just playing it by ear.

Tomorrow, we’ll be off to buy Mister’s high school uniform. Not sure whether I’m truly ready for that either. That said, it would help if I got out of my pyjamas!

In terms of my writing in the last week, I’ve been rather inspired by Mister’s trip away at the Australian Scouting Jamboree and all his adventures. I had pretty low expectations of finding out much of what happened at camp and I was delighted to overhear him talking on the phone…his  Jamboree Tips. He sounded so grown up.These make for entertaining reading.

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As time went by, tales of Funnel Web Spiders began to emerge. These are considered the most deadly spiders in the world. Apparently, while I was concerned about him being out in a tent in the heavy rain, he was scared of Funnel Webs. It is mating season and the male funnel webs are out on the prowl in search of true love. A couple of funnel webs were found close to their tent and then a warning was issued that funnel webs had been found in scout’s bags returning home. Mister promptly ejected his bag out of his room and dumped it at MY feet. Perhaps, I should’ve been proud that he had such faith in his old Mum but not being the most attentive soul, I didn’t have a lot of faith myself. I have bifocals and sometimes they even miss the blatantly obvious. At the same time, I have  my self-respect and didn’t want to stoop to the “wait til your father gets home” routine. You can read the full story here.

book pile

I am also trying to reduce my book pile. After scouring the book shelves, however, I’ve only found 6 books to move on. For some reason, I just can’t find the heart to be ruthless to such good friends and good intentions. Perhaps, I’ll have better luck with the kids’ books. Trouble is, I like reading some of them too!

Anyway, thank you so much for joining me for coffee and I hope you have a great week ahead. This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share  and here’s the link up.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

# Cats and Dogs Are Friends

“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks”.

Daniel Boone

The last few weeks have been terribly confusing for yours truly. We all know about the dreadful events which have taken place right around the world. Being quite the philosopher, I often wonder what the humans are doing to our planet. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before they either blow us all up or we all get fried to a crisp.

It’s hard being a bystander. I had hoped things would improve in the New Year but it’s only got worse.  But what can I do? I’m only one dog. Yet, I am not any ordinary dog. I have magic powers. Well, that’s what I call being smart and finding solutions to age-old problems. That has to be a sort of magic.

Rewinding the clock, I considered what I could change in the New Year. As we all know, a new year is a clean slate and anything is possible. Of course, like all good dogs, I wanted to put my best paws forward. However, as I’ve had no luck with dieting and I’ve never smoked or taken drugs, I was stumped.

That was until Mum heard about this new idea of choosing a word to define your year. Mum’s word for 2015 is “love”. That sounded very inspirational but being my usual enthusiastic, over-achieving self, I decided to aim a little bit higher. Why settle for just one word when I could achieve so much more with these three words:

Change the World

Earth viewed from space.

Earth viewed from space.

I know you probably think that I’ve set myself the ultimate in impossible goals. However, quite frankly, it has to be easier than losing weight. These love handles of mine have definitely become permanent fixtures.

It was this quest to change the world which launched my journey into the perplexing field of philosophical research. From there, the Golden Rule certainly seemed to be the best way forward but further analysis confirmed that there is indeed an exception or challenge to every rule. For me, it was cats.

There was also the matter of my canine companion, Lady, who chews up my tennis balls without any consideration about my feelings at all!! This travesty posed yet another challenge to the Golden Rule. As I said, the Golden Rule works well when everybody follows it but when someone bucks the system, where’s the justice then?

Or, do we just hope karma intervenes?

Being somewhat jaded and disillusioned, I briefly turned to the dark side , investigating a different ideology: Do unto others as they would do unto you. While I could see that this approach could result in both good and bad outcomes, I thought it was all too easy to just start living for No. 1. That was definitely NOT where I wanted to end up. After all, while I’m not responsible for the actions of others, I do have to live with myself!

So it seems that my ideological journey went around in a great big circle and I was almost back to the beginning again. Back to the Golden Rule and trying to work out how I could be nice to cats.

Somehow, Odie pulled it off.

Odie loves Garfield but what does he get in return?

Odie seems to love Garfield unconditionally.

This was all well and good in theory but like all of my philosophical theories, difficult to put into practice.

To be nice to a cat, I actually had to get near a cat and even that was impossible. You might be surprised but I’ve never actually met a cat let alone tried to converse or conduct any type of meaningful dialogue with one. The closest I ever came to fraternising with a cat was when I bailed up that wretched thing, I mean, the nice cat from next door. I’d had that cat cornered until Dad suddenly appeared, grabbing me firmly by the collar, allowing my guest to escape before we’d been properly acquainted. Needless to say, she never came back.

Cats aren’t exactly innocent either.

"The cat next door" slashing Snoopy's doghouse

“The cat next door” slashing Snoopy’s doghouse

Firstly, let me mention my friend Snoopy and his encounters with the  savage cat next door to him. He is an extremely vicious cat who terrorizes Snoopy and Woodstock. Whenever Snoopy mocks the cat from across the yard, the cat slashes and Snoopy’s doghouse or sometimes, him. Charlie Brown usually ends up having to buy another doghouse, as a result.

Then there’s Garfield who constantly berates Odie.

Garfield needs to learn the Golden Rule.

Garfield needs to learn the Golden Rule.

I guess it’s probably due to heated moments like this that humans have decided to keep us separate: dogs here, cats over there. Even when I go to the vet, cats are inside, dogs outside. As I said, we live in divided worlds.

However, how is separation and ignorance building bridges between cats and dogs? Bridging the gap and trying to overcome our differences? It’s not.

The time has come to start bridging the gap uniting cats and dogs through love, understanding and forgiveness to create a better world. To achieve this, we  at least need to interact and get to know each other better. After all:

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

The trouble is how do we break the ice and get the ball rolling?

All I do know is that if I want to change the world, it all begins with me. I have to be the change.

Back to the lab… A protocol is definitely required to improve relations between dogs and cats.

How to Become Friends with Cats

  1. I drew a picture of myself being nice to cats and stuck it up inside my kennel. Perhaps, if I could visualise being friends with cats, that could be a start.
  2. I keep repeating “I love cats” over and over and over again. I’ve even stuck a flag on top of my beloved kennel: “I love cats”. While I still make the occasional slip of the tongue, surely, it must sink in eventually.
  3. Feed your enemy. As everyone knows, the easiest way to the heart is through the stomach. I retrieved a dead fish from the beach and shoved it under the fence. I had thought about sharing my bones and even throwing my ball to the cat next door but I soon realised that cats don’t value either of these canine pursuits. This is what’s known as the Inverse Golden Rule “Treat others as they would like to be treated”.
  4. Find a dog who lives happily with a cat and request an introduction. After all, a dog just can’t approach any old cat and say hello. I’d be torn to shreds by their dreaded claws.
  5. Start small by taking very small steps.  Cats and dogs have been fighting since forever. It’s going to take time for things to change:

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step”- Lao Tzu

6. Learn from the past but make a new beginning.

7. Forgive.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.

Mark Twain

However, while I thought I was a real genius putting this protocol together and was expecting a Nobel Peace Prize for my efforts, a cat appeared in my backyard last night. I don’t know how much you know about dogs. Although we try to be good,  we’re actually reactionary by nature. We act first and think later. So despite all my philosophical research and heartfelt desires to be nice, I failed. I still took off after that cat at full speed, barking with the same vicious growl that I usually reserve for the posty. Yet again, I’d fueled the war between cats and dogs despite my best intentions.

Back to the drawing board.

Bruce the Shark smiling at the fish.

Bruce the Shark smiling at the fish.

This time I decided to try social media. Suffering from creative block, it took awhile to get the creative juices flowing. However, inspired by Bruce,  the Great White Shark in Finding Nemo. I developed my own hash tag:

“# Cats and Dogs are friends”.

Now, I just need to get the word out.

That means Mum has to learn how to twit or was that tweet? I can’t remember but I know it had something to do with those wretched feathered things that keep invading my backyard and tormenting me so much.

Well, she’s always telling me that an old dog can learn new tricks. Now, it’s her turn.

Wish me luck. As always, I need plenty!

xx Bilbo

 

My Light Bulb Moment

A few days ago a large, glass Moccona jar fell out of my kitchen pantry and landed on my foot. It made this awful loud thump as it hit and the pain was excruciating…a definite twenty out of ten. I was pretty convinced something was broken but these jars are tough. They might not bounce but they don’t shatter. I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have tiles!

My foot was sort of fine too eventually …after two Panadols and an ice pack!

Well you might ask why that jar fell out of the pantry but I’m sure you already know. After all, I’m only human! I was simply doing what most of us mere mortals do…struggling to squeeze just one more tiny little thing into an already over-stocked pantry. Hence I was doing some kind of juggling act holding back a row of Moccona jars while trying to quickly and very deftly slam the door shut before the avalanche hit.While using those big Moccona jars seemed like a great idea for storage, they don’t stack and they’re not square and they certainly don’t breathe in and squeeze into tight places. Instead, they jump out and do nasty, nasty things to your feet. Believe me! I would just love it if our pantry was all stacked and ordered like something out of a Tupperware catalogue but who am I kidding? I’m just not some domestic goddess. I’m somehow beyond the flow. That’s all. Sorting out the pantry just doesn’t seem to make it to the top of my to-do list. It’s one of those killer jobs I keep putting off.

A row of Moccona jars removed from the pantry for photographic purposes!

A row of Moccona jars. They have understandably removed from the pantry for photographic purposes!

Well, you would think that after that jar fell on my foot that I would suddenly find the motivation to get on with it. See it as a sign or perhaps an act of God? After all, what am I waiting for? A jar to land on my other foot or perhaps for all of those jars to jump off in unison like 10 green bottles standing on the wall? That would definitely be a trip to Emergency if not a ride in an ambulance.

As I said, I would dearly love my pantry to be neatly stacked and organised just like something out of a Tupperware catalogue so why don’t I just do it?

What will it take for me to act?

We all know this goes way beyond just sorting out my pantry.

That the pantry is a metaphor… a symbol. Or in my case, perhaps it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

For some reason most of us are creatures of chronic inertia…even when it involves changing something which really matters.

You could quite possibly call it “Tomorrowitis”.  It’s a serious almost incurable disease and you can be assured that if you do actually manage to cross a few things off your “Gunnado List” (this lingo might be Australian but let me assure you it’s a universal disease!!!), you’ll never get to the end. That’s just the way it is.

Such light bulb moments have changed the world even if they haven’t changed me.

Archimedes who was a Greek mathematician, engineer, inventor, and astronomer had a legendary “Eureka!” moment some 2,200 years ago when he realised the principle of buoyancy while taking a bath. He was reportedly so excited that he immediately jumped out of the bath and ran onto the streets naked shouting ‘Eureka!’ ‘Eureka!’ (You can read the whole story here. It’s an awesome story http://www.itsnotmagicitsscience.com/science.asp?newsid=381)

Perhaps, you’ll be thankful I haven’t seen the light after all. The sight of me running through the streets naked isn’t what it used to be!

An apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head and he came up with the Principle of Universal Gravitation.

Meanwhile, a jar hits yours truly on the foot and what do I do?

Absolutely nothing. Nothing at all!

Well, I did do something. I wrote about it instead.

However, after writing about this all day, I have finally reached that elusive state of acceptance. You see, everybody has their own set of priorities and we can’t possibly get everything done. I went for my swim this morning… all 10 laps and it was a small pool but you can only do what you can do. That’s all. It’s taken me a long hard day slogging away on this post to reach this state of acceptance but I’m finally there and it feels like such a release.

I have finally accepted that I don’t have to conform to what someone else considers important or be able to do what they can do. I just need to be me. That is good enough.

Now, I finally “get” the Serenity Prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

What happens when all your light bulbs go on at once?

What happens when all your light bulbs go on at once?

PS: After I reached this lovely point of acceptance, I was flicking through Lao Tzu’s  Tao Te Ching and found this advice, which just turned all my acceptance on it’s head:

Keep filling your bowl

and it will spill over.

Keep sharpening your knife,

and it will blunt.

Keep hoarding gold in your house,

and you will be robbed.

Keep seeking approval

and you will be chained.

The great integrity leads to actualization

never overfulfillment.

I will get to the pantry. I will….

How have some of your light bulb moments turned out?

My son has an all systems light bulb moment. He received this lamp for his birthday today.

My son has an all systems light bulb moment. He received this lamp for his birthday today.

xx Rowena