How do you know when you’ve reached your limit?


Image from In the Spirit

Many years ago, as a young teacher in Hong Kong, some of my colleagues and I practised a Friday ritual of ‘Happy Hours’ at the local ‘Someplace Else’. As there were four of us, it wasn’t long before we got dubbed the ‘gang of four’. You can’t accuse us of not being culturally (and historically) relevant.

It was in the midst of one of those ‘happy hours’ (two drinks for the price of one) and possibly on my second pina colada when the question arose in my mind “How do you know when you’ve reached your limit at anything (not just alcohol)?”. You’ll be pleased to know that along with the question, the answer also presented itself which prompted me to ask my ‘happy’ and earnest colleagues the question.

Several responses were provided but none of them were correct. In exasperation, they growled at me to tell them. I did and it had a momentarily sobering effect on all of us. I said ‘momentarily’.

Well, would you like to suggest an answer? Of course, I am bringing this up in the context of Lao Tze’s advice of the effects of excesses from my previous post. Anyway, do give it a go. I’d love to see what you come up with!

Lucy Lopez
Learning the Wisdom of the Tao post by post

Forget moderation, go for substance!


12. Substance

Too much color blinds the eye

Too much music deafens the ear

Too much taste dulls the palate

Too much play maddens the mind

Too much desire tears the heart

In this manner the sage cares for people

He provides for the belly not for the senses

He ignores abstraction and holds fast to substance

Translation variously sourced and compiled at

Are these words to counsel for moderation in all things?  Why is it that we are wired up for moderation, for balance? Seems like an odd question to ask and yet, why must we moderate our lives, in all aspects?

It is as if the entire universe observes the principles of homeostasis.  When you go too far in one direction, there is a self-regulating mechanism that kicks in to redress the imbalance.  But why is it an imbalance?  Why can’t we just remain at one end, in one polarity?

Perhaps it is because our potential is widely distributed over infinite possibilities and when we focus only on some, we deny the rest and that interferes with our ability to flow fully and freely in Source, in the Way.

But Lao Tze is not just talking about moderation.  In fact, what he says here has less to do with moderation than it does with anchoring ourselves to the ground of being, to ‘substance’.  Substance is beyond abstractions or dualities or polarities.  It is beyond the flimsiness of sensations.  Substance is free, limitless and whole.  Substance is the true source of life.

Ah, that I be anchored in substance!

Lucy Lopez

Learning to live the wisdom of the Tao post by post!

This one has stumped me!


11. Tools

Thirty spokes meet at a nave

Because of the hole, we may use the wheel

Clay is molded into a vessel

Because of the hollow, we may use the cup

Walls are built around a hearth

Because of the doors, we may use the house

Thus tools come from what exists

But use from what does not.

Translation variously sourced and compiled at

This one has stumped me.  Tools are material and have form.  Uses, on the other hand, are immaterial and, from the examples Lao Tze gives us here, fulfill or make use of potential.  In all these examples, the potential is found in space. Yet, space is everywhere.  Some space is occupied by material and visible things.  But there is a lot of space that is not occupied by material or visible things.

Even when you get into the subatomic level, much of what has been traditionally described as ‘matter’ is in fact made up of space.  Is Lao Tze therefore talking about the potentiality that is always present?  Of creative energy that is always present and that we might be pointed to again and again with each new ‘thing’ that we create? Because each new thing, each tool, holds potential?

I wonder.  Do you have any idea?

Lucy Lopez

Learning to live the wisdom of the Tao post by post!

Anything else is not love


Nurturing your children, you become impartial

I used to tell my children when they seemed to need reassurance that I did not love one more than the other but that I expressed my love differently to each because each was unique.

It is sometimes easy to fall into the trap that it is possible to love someone more than another.  How can that be?  Love is beyond the thinking mind’s notions of bias, partiality, merit and demerit.  It’s simply not possible to love more or love less.  These vagaries have nothing to do with love.

To love is to be in the field of freedom, free from all conditionality, even the subtlest.  Anything else is not love.

Lucy Lopez

Learning to live the wisdom of the Tao post by post!

Clear your I have to?

07032009-1Nodding violets in my garden

‘Clearing your mind, you become clear’.

The mind is the powerhouse of our being.  It brings the physical world into being.  Everything without exception is the result of the mind at work. Only a very small amount of this work is done consciously.  The majority of it is done with little awareness i.e. unconsciously or subconsciously.  The Buddha observed

With our thoughts we create the world.

So it makes sense to keep the mind clear.  When the mind is clear, I am clear.  And I see a clearer world.  I see less of what troubles me and more of what sustains me.

Isn’t this denial?  Bad things and bad people exist.

Has it ever occurred to you that without your mind, you would not see ‘bad things’ or ‘bad people’?  Your mind is the common factor.

But Hitler did exist.  Mugabe is bad.  People do kill and rape and embezzle and lie.

Right.  And how does holding all this in your mind help you live more peacefully, more joyfully, more trustingly, more lovingly.

It doesn’t.

So, then, clear your mind of all that does not serve its well being and you will become clear.

Lucy Lopez

Learning to live the wisdom of the Tao post by post!

Becoming newborn


Image from Google images

‘Breathing gently, you become newborn’

Ah, I see.  A newborn does breathe gently, almost imperceptibly.  Does that mean that if I breathe harshly, furiously, I do not become newborn?  Why not?

Every state is created by a unique set of conditions.  The state of ‘newborn’ must also have its unique set of conditions, one of which is gentle breathing.  So I breathe gently for I wish to become newborn.  And I notice that as I breathe gently, my cares and concerns dissipate.  My preoccupations melt like the wax of a burning candle.  I am stripped of all burdens, free of thinking!

I rest in a consciousness of awareness, noticing things around me, within me but not reacting to any of it.  Even when I breathe deeply, I am breathing gently.  My mind ceases to judge, content to remain aware without getting involved.  The world is perfect as it is.

I like breathing gently.  I like becoming newborn.  Have you ever tried it?

Lucy Lopez

Learning to live the wisdom of the Tao post by post!

Risen from the dead

07032009002-2Bromeliad in bloom in my garden

You have just recovered from days of pain and discomfort.  You’ve risen from the dead.  What did you leave behind?  What have you brought back?

I left my hurts behind, my frustrations and feelings of victimization.  I left my regrets and my guilts behind.  I left my helplessness and despair behind.  I have left an aching body and watering eyes behind.

I have brought back a stronger body, hope, fresh eyes, tenderness, new visions, joyful dreams, more faith, a willingness to say “I don’t know.  It’s confusing.  I sense injustice”, and to leave it at that.

And in doing that, perhaps I am a little more able to ‘accept the world’ and thus ’embrace the Way’.  Perhaps.

10. Harmony

Embracing the Way, you become embraced

Breathing gently, you become newborn

Clearing your mind, you become clear

Nurturing your children, you become impartial

Opening your heart, you become accepted

Accepting the world, you embrace the Way

Bearing and nurturing

Creating but not owning

Giving without demanding

This is harmony.

Translation variously sourced and compiled at

Perhaps I’ll be better at ‘giving without demanding’ for what would I demand?  Am I wise enough to know what to demand?  But oh, I do yearn for harmony.

Lucy Lopez

Learning to live the wisdom of the Tao post by post!