ToV 7 – paradox of selfless fulfilment

The Master stays behind,
that is why she is always ahead.

Because she has let go of herself,
she is perfectly fulfilled.

It’s a tricky business, selflessness. Because it isn’t being a doormat, there’s a power in it, in it’s own way.

Brian Eno once said the one thing sex, drugs, and religion all have in common is surrender (I’ve mentioned this tidbit before). Things get messy when we surrender to the wrong things and a spiritual path sometimes (wrongly) looks like an overly humble, unquestioning, everybody else first, martyring sort of thing. That sort of shit ain’t healthy!

The Master stays behind because she’s not in a hurry, she knows the longer road, her priorities are different, she’s not fighting for the same stuff. Letting go of all that grasping and grabbing actually get you more of what you really need.

A little Sufi poem helps explain this little paradox (ah yes, more with the paradox!)

Before, as was my habit, self I claimed.
True Self I did not see, although I heard it named.
Being self-confined, true Self I did not merit,
Until, leaving self behind, I did Self inherit.

The more I let go of my petty, controlling idea (and often a very rational and just idea) of exactly how things should be, and what I should be doing, the better things actually go. There is something else, it’s not nothing, it’s a very decided something, but it comes from a willingness to let myself be empty and make room for it first.

It’s the letting go of self, that finds true Self, that fulfils you in enduring and sustaining ways.

A spiritual path isn’t a surrender to being a bottom-of-the-barrel nobody, it’s finding the no-self that is real-self.

In a quotation hat-trick, I’ll leave you with Chuang Tzu (Thomas Merton translation):

The man of Tao
Remains unknown
Perfect virtue
Produces nothing
Is ‘True-Self.’
And the greatest man
Is Nobody.

Get it? That’s okay, it kinda hurts your head if you think about it.

2 thoughts on “ToV 7 – paradox of selfless fulfilment

  1. As a bit of an aside, I get to practice being a nobody (or is that a Nobody) with this little project.

    My stats are crap, very few people are reading these posts, there’s a smattering of comments, not my usual delicious divergent conversations. Nothing like the lively action of my 100 day project last year.

    …plus, at the rate I’m posting it’s going to take me well over a year to touch on all 81 chapters.

    But you know what, today, writing this piece, I realize I don’t care. It feels right doing this, and if it puts a little bit of stillness and grounding and maybe-spirituality-isn’t-so-flaky-and-actually-connects-to-real-life-iness out there on the interwebs. It’s all good.

    Being this kind of nobody feels like the somebody I want to be.


  2. I’ve never been happier and I think it’s because I’ve come to a point that I find it easier to let go. I’m not so worked up about how people see me, losing relationships, what the future will hold, etc. I used to tie myself up in knots about everything.

    It’s not to say that I don’t invest emotionally in relationships, or let myself go health-wise, or not care about those around me. I work at keeping my relationship between myself and my partner, not because I’m afraid to lose him, but because it’s part of a whole picture of keeping healthy myself. I still enjoy seeing my healthier image in the mirror when I’m in dance class. I still blush at compliments that I look younger than my age. I’m still engaged as a mom – doing things for my kids even though they are old enough not to need me.

    No it’s an attitude switch for me. And it seems the more I let go, the more life offers gifts to me. That too is a paradox.

    It’s too bad more people aren’t taking advantage of reading your missives and reflections on the Tao te ching, Valerie. I’m finding your writing very insightful and it actually makes this mysterious book more accessible and personally meaningful.

    So, many thanks.


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