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“WRITTEN BY A MODERN DAY MONK, THIS IS NEITHER AN ORDINARY SELF-HELP BOOK NOR A RELIGIOUS BOOK. IT IS A TRANSFORMING BOOK THAT REQUIRES A QUIET AND PATIENT HEART WORK WITH ONESELF. IT REQUIRES DAILY MEDITATION WITH AN OPEN MIND AND AN OPEN HEART. EACH WORD IS HEAVILY LADEN WITH MEANING. I READ IT THROUGH SEVERAL TIMES. AND THEN I REREAD THE CHAPTERS ONE BY ONE, OVER AND OVER SLOWLY. AND LO AND BEHOLD, EACH WORD BEGAN TO SINK IN HEAVILY IN MY HEART AND GREW BIGGER AND BIGGER. IN THE END I FELT LIFTED UP TO A NEW UNDERSTANDING MYSELF AND MY PLACE IN THE WORLD LIKE NEVER BEFORE. ANYONE LOOKING FOR MEANING NEEDS TO WORK WITH THIS GEM OF A BOOK.”
- Fakhruddin Muhammedali Adamji, MD, Author of Zanzibar to Chicago
You sit alone in a nondescript waiting room with no pictures on the walls, no magazines on the tables and a nurse sitting behind the front desk with her head bowed to whatever work is in front of her. Four doorways are open behind her, three of them with some light shining from the hall or room it leads to and the fourth completely dark, but you can’t see or hear any activity going on in any of them. The phone doesn’t ring. The nurse doesn’t speak. No one else enters or leaves the waiting room. You fidget with expectation of what you don’t know is about to happen. You’re not even clear why you’re in this waiting room or what sort of doctor you’re about to see.
And then, without looking up, the nurse says, “Next.” For some reason, you look around to make sure she means you, and then you nervously stand. You ask which doorway to go through and the nurse says nothing. You frown at the four choices and then decide to take a risk: you go through the dark opening. The door shuts behind you, plunging you into complete darkness. Very quickly, you’re utterly disoriented. It’s so dark… A voice – perhaps from the nurse, perhaps not – tells you to take off all your clothes and leave them in the room. Take nothing with you. No phone, no keys, no eyeglasses, no rings, nothing. You hesitate a moment and then shrug. You are, after all, at a doctor’s. This isn’t such an unusual request, after all.
As soon as you’ve discarded everything, a door opens to small, gray-lit room. Nobody is in there, either, and you go in and start looking for a hospital gown. The door behind you closes and instantly you’re gently pelted by a cold shower descending from the ceiling. You shriek at the coldness and do a little dance, but you calm pretty quickly and begin enjoying the cool washing. All right, you think. This is unusual for a doctor’s office, but maybe the doctor insists on all his or her patients being clean, so it still seems to make sense. Then the shower stops and the next door opens.
Chapter One: Start Small
A dance of a thousand movements begins with one step.
The climb of a great mountain begins in a low valley.
Make no effort to act and you will move.
Make no effort to speak and you will be heard.
Don’t try to do great things.
Start small. Be precise and patient.
Know what your finished work will look like so you can know when you are done.
Don’t waste time trying to put a name on it. Don’t talk about it.
Your opinion is the least important part of you.
Don’t linger. Don’t meddle.
Move on when your work is done.
No one plants an oak tree.
They plant acorns and then move on, letting nature do the rest.
Great things begin as small things.
This is the way to becoming a Foolish Student of the Tao.
Chapter Nine: Know Others by Knowing Yourself
To help others deeply, we must shape it from our purpose.
To find our purpose, we must know ourselves.
To know ourselves, we must know our desires.
When we know our desires, we can know the desires of others.
When we know the desires of others, we can help them.
Therefore, when we know ourselves, we can know others.
Chapter Sixteen: Be In and Of the World
Do not withdraw.
Be in the world.
Be of the world.
Get into the mix of things and dare.
Work without expectation of reward or notice.
Move in next door to poverty.
Sleep in the bed beside the dying man.
Be the infant cooing in her mother’s arms.
Connect to all your desires.
Laugh readily at how ridiculous you are.
Be aware and conscious.
Chapter Nineteen: Have This Inside That
As we enter the darker woods of our past and our desires and our future:
Be the willow tree with soft and supple branches that flow with the wind
And deep and winding roots that spread out like a spill on a concrete floor.
Have a beginner’s mind inside an old man’s soul.
Be the deep, fresh snow that falls easily through the air
And buckles the strongest roof.
Have a lover’s heart inside a warrior’s breast.
Be the cook of a small fish
Turning it so it cooks both sides
But not turning it so often that it breaks apart.
Have an artist’s touch inside a king’s hand.
Chapter Twenty-six: Participate Joyfully in the Sorrows of the World
A Foolish Student of the Tao participates joyfully in the sorrows of the world.
This is the ninth invitation to consider.
To participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world is to step into all of life:
To be the eagle overhead and the serpent low to the ground,
To be a dragon.
To participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world
Is to live in and of the world, not apart,
Is to give not money but self.
Chapter Twenty-eight: The Wisdom and the Power
The wisdom of the Tao is this: all things happen in their time.
We are best able to accept this wisdom when we are available, present and empty.
We are best able to embody this wisdom when we are simple, patient and compassionate.
The power of the Tao is this: what happens to one happens to all.
We are best able to accept this power when we are simple, patient and compassionate.
We are best able to embody this power when we love our fate, embrace our desires,
And participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world.
The wisdom is in the natural movement of life.
It is the wisdom of the universe.
The power is in the natural unity of life.
It is the power of the universe.
(c) 2019, by Timothy M. Anstett
“THE TAO OF LAUGHTER AND DESIRE IS THE LIFE-CHANGING BOOK FOR PEOPLE WHO DESPERATELY WANT TO DISCOVER THEIR DESTINY USING THE AGES-OLD WISDOM OF THE TAO. IN 81 TERSE CHAPTERS, TIM ANSTETT OUTLINES A PATH FOR CONNECTING YOUR DESIRE TO YOUR DESTINY, WHILE ENABLING BOTH LAUGHTER AND SORROW AS HIGHLY VALUED PARTNERS IN YOUR LIFE. ANSTETT’S CAREFULLY CRAFTED OUTLINE OF A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY OPEN TO ALL SEEKERS WILL HELP YOU REALIZE YOUR DESTINY BY WALKING IN THE ARMS OF NATURE ON A PATH THAT AWAKENS YOUR MIND, CONNECTS YOU TO THE UNIVERSE AND GRASPS THE ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS OF YOUR LIFE. YOU NEED ONLY DARE TO EMBARK ON THE PATH.”
- Ric Gudell, Executive Director, Illinois Manufacturing Foundation
Handling Life’s Challenges with the Tao Te Ching
The Old Fool’s smile falls gently away. “You’re talking about Te, then,” he says. “You’re asking how you can call on the power, virtue and integrity of the Way to help you through the worst of times.”
When the wise student of the Tao Te Ching learns that Te has been translated variously into English as power, virtue or integrity, she instantly chooses one as the appropriate word and explains how the other two embody it.
When the average student of the Tao learns this, he calls it one of the three, then later another of them and, most often, he doesn’t think of it at all.
When the foolish student of the Tao learns this, she laughs out loud and says it must be all three. She says power without virtue or integrity is brutality, that virtue without integrity or power is sanctimony, and that integrity without power or virtue is an empty promise.
And she laughs again.
Because of this laughter, we know it is Te.
“All spiritual practices fail at the most important moments of life,” says the Student. Gesturing wildly, he doesn’t hide his agitation. “Good Christian people who survive mass shootings kill themselves ten years later. Church-going war veterans massacre their spouses and children after returning home. Muslim rape victims cry uncontrollably every time they’re touched. And nobody really helps them.
“Psychiatry hands out anti-depressants and anxiety blockers. They offer twelve weeks of Cognitive Behavior and Prolonged Exposure Therapies. Rapid Eye Movement. Sleeping pills. Relatives tell you to get over it, accept it, make yourself busy. Friends call it a test. Neighbors look away. And priests kneel down with you, monks bow, rabbis read Hebrew, imams set a hand on their shoulder, a Gantry requests a donation first. I suspect they’re all Gantrys.” He sighs audibly. “And none of them help one iota,” he says. “You’re still in pain. You’re still dying.”
“Because you have to be,” says the Old Fool very softly. “It isn’t your test. It’s your life.”
The Student turns his head away, lips curling in disgust.
Te is in the third chakra between belly and chest,
Right where the rib cage separates,
Between the desire for safety and the desire to be loved,
Between the sorrows of fear and sadness.
This Manipur a Chakra is the city of jewels,
Mobilized when we assert our place in the world,
The source of will, pleasure, power and transformation,
And is the core of our identity.
It is yellow. It is fire.
It is the power, the virtue and the integrity of Te.
(c) 2019, by Timothy M. Anstett
Whether you are the pagan King of Persia
Or a bartender in Queens,
You perform Honorable Work
When you are in accord with the Wisdom and the Power of the Tao.
Do not call it Honorable Work.
Give no name to it.
Do not strive to perform it, though it occurs naturally from you.
Do not seek honor for doing it, though you receive recognitions beyond others.
Whether you are making a million dollars a day
Or fifty dollars a week,
Honorable Work is something that comes without bidding, without trying, without doing.
Honorable Work stands on the edge of a honed knife’s blade, ready to fall either way.
Honorable Work is already inside you. It’s your job to let it come out.
Calling your work honorable admits you can also do dishonorable work
So, don’t call your work honorable.
Striving to perform honorable work admits one isn’t always performing honorably
So, don’t strive.
Seeking honor for your work exposes you to opposite claims
So, don’t seek.
To be called honorable is to be handicapped by expectation
So, don’t expect.
To force any action is to defy the natural way things happen.
To seek honor for doing one’s work is to pursue ghosts who can turn hungry without warning.
Hold without clinging.
Speak without pontificating.
Act without concern for results.
Invite without demanding.
Advise without imposing.
The person doing Honorable Work is allegiant to how things happen.
She watches and waits. She doesn’t force things.
This is why she does her job and then leaves.
She can’t spill her energy uselessly.
She can’t waste her thoughts on what might happen, what could happen, what should happen.
She is committed only to what is happening.
This makes her complete. She has time and emotions for the rest of her life.
It allows her to be available when she is needed.
It allows her to be focused on the task at hand, to be present.
It allows her to be empty of all else.
(c) 2019, Timothy M. Anstett