Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Our Eternal Practice

The Chinese character for “practice” occurs only once in the entire Dao De Jing. I found that intriguing and thought we could explore the practices suggested in that chapter.

Close the mouth – Quietness

The first practice is described as closing the mouth. This of course could literally mean not talking. And certainly many of us, me included, sometimes talk when we should be listening. It could also mean internal quietness, letting our thoughts settle like silt in murky water until the mind is clear and pure.

Don’t meddle – Allowing

Talking when we should be listening is sometimes connected to interfering. The impulse to meddle is often well intentioned. We think we are helping out of love. If we look deeper, however, we might discover that we are acting not out of love but out of fear. Allowing, in contrast, is rooted in trust, trust in the natural unfolding of things in alignment with the sacred flow of the universe.

Allowing can be misunderstood as standing back and doing nothing all the time. I don’t think that’s it. I think of allowing as listening to the guidance that comes in the quietness mentioned above. Our nonaction, then, or our actions are part of the natural unfolding, an appropriate response to the present moment rather than trying to control or direct things from a place of fear or worry.

See the small – Mindfulness

Seeing the small, to me, suggests paying close attention, being mindful. When we pay attention mindfully, we see things as they are, instead of through the lens of our mental narratives and judgments. This practice invites us to slow down, be fully present, be open minded and curious, and appreciate the wonder of, well, everything. Seeing the small is connected to enlightenment in this chapter.

Abide in tenderness – Compassion

This one makes me smile every time. Abiding in tenderness is such a sweet concept. Just reading the characters softens my heart. And lest we think this would leave us weak or vulnerable, the chapter tells us that abiding in tenderness is called strength. Compassion for ourselves and those around us brings us into alignment with heaven and earth. We become a conduit for the infinite power of the universe to manifest through us.

Quietness. Allowing. Mindfulness. Compassion. This is our “eternal practice.” The traditional character for practice is composed of a top part meaning feathers or wings, and a bottom part meaning white or pure. Thus, the chapter assures us, our practice lifts us on wings of purity to return to our natural state of enlightenment.

How beautiful.

7 thoughts on “Our Eternal Practice”

  1. Hi Galen. How interesting that “practice” is only written once in the book. It seems like such a fundamental experience of Taoism. Even how you explain what is meant by it: Quietness, Allowing, Mindfulness and Compassion all seem to be “practices”. I’ll have to contemplate it I guess. But I love the idea of Quietness and especially Allowing. Both of them appeal to my intention of surrender for this year. I’m afraid I like to talk a little too much and as for allowing… I also catch myself meddling when I should just let go and surrender. Thanks for these excellent reminders. ~Kathy

    1. I know, I was very surprised to realize that that particular character is only used once, at the end of this chapter. The character can be singular or plural. I could have translated that as “these are our eternal practices.” So I guess in my mind, the eternal practice was using those four to return to our natural enlightened state. I love that idea that our practice doesn’t take us to some destination that we have to attain or achieve. It simply returns us to where we already are and always have been. (Some of the prayer responses in my new book emphasize this as well — we never really left our natural state. We just covered it up and forgot.) Your practice of surrender encompasses this as well. As Adyashanti says, surrender is the name of the spiritual game! Thanks for commenting, Kathy.

    1. I’m so glad, DJan, that this post brought you some sunshine smiles. Thanks so much for commenting.

  2. Galen…I am such a literal person. When I began reading this, “practice” reminded me of my learning to be self sufficient after Earl passed away last December. I had to relearn to drive…every where, relearn to keep my finances in order and the list goes on. But, because of some forgotten inner strength and with “practice” I get better each day.
    Oh and quietness…it made me smile. I have discovered that there is a tape you can buy to keep your mouth closed…really. This is the one I need to practice a lot.
    I think that you are a person possesses the qualities that embraces each of these practices. You make me proud to just get to know you. Thank you.

      1. Barbara, I’m so sorry to hear about Earl. What a testament to the value of practice. You weren’t only practicing driving and financial management. You are also practicing courage and confidence and willingness and most of all compassion for yourself. I think I am the lucky one to know you. Please take care, and let me know how you’re doing.

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