The secret of caring for life

One of my favorite books is Chuang Tzu (Basic Writings), beautifully translated by Burton Watson. In it there is a short story (the book is full of such delightful stories) about Cook Ting and Lord Wen-hui. I am enclosing it below.
I read this years ago, when I just started on my spiritual path, and I am still referring to it (and other elements embodying the Tao) from time to time. This particular story, I find, indeed includes, as it title pertains, the secret of caring for life. When I look back at my life, whenever I encountered difficulties and did not take the path described below, I suffered. When I remembered to go this path I suffered significantly less. I can elaborate more but first lets hear it directly from the master:

Chung TzuCook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. As every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee — zip! zoop! He slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music.

“Ah, this is marvelous!” said Lord Wen-hui. “Imagine skill reaching such heights!”

Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, “What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now — now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and following things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.

“A good cook changes his knife once a year — because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month — because he hacks. I’ve had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I’ve cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there’s plenty of room — more than enough for the blade to play about it. That’s why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone.

“However, whenever I come to a complicated place, I size up the difficulties, tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I’m doing, work very slowly, and move the knife with the greatest subtlety, until — flop! the whole thing comes apart like a clod of earth crumbling to the ground. I stand there holding the knife and look all around me, completely satisfied and reluctant to move on, and then I wipe off the knife and put it away.”

“Excellent!” said Lord Wen-hui. “I have heard the words of Cook Ting and learned how to care for life!”

Born into an envelope

What makes one person very wealthy, while another, though working his a$$ off, less fortunate? What makes one person, who hardly exercises and eats poorly, live long, while another, who is active and watches his diet, perish at a younger age? We are all born into an envelope, into a range within which we can realize our dormant potential.
It’s a personal envelope, and its actually more than a single envelope. There is one envelope for wealth, another for wealth, a third for fame, and yet another for interpersonal relationships. In fact, there are as many envelopes as there are different potentials to be realized. In each area of our life there is a peak we can obtain if we work at it. We don’t know where the peak is, but it exists all the same. Nor is the path always clear, but it’s there to be discovered.
Some believe the envelope we are born into is a result of our karma from previous lives; some don’t believe in karma but acknowledge there is a limit to the personal potential, and yet others attribute it to a combination of luck and how much one pushes herself.
I like the concept of the envelopes. Maybe it’s the organizational element of my character that finds it rational; maybe it’s a realization stemming from walking my own spiritual path, and maybe it’s because it just makes sense.
At any rate, I find that a person that doesn’t reach the maximum they can within their envelope, lives a life of frustration. There is a sense of something amiss, a state that can lead to confusion. If this is happening to you, create a list of different areas of your life and meditate on each. Some areas may jump out. These are the ones you want to focus your energy on. Good luck!
Girl on Tracks

Why can’t you…

A friend recently asked me why can’t I be more like… why can’t I behave a little different… why do I do what I do the way I do it.
I tried to explain that his perspective is different than mine simply because we are different; that if I behave a little more like what he suggested, I would be him, not me. I am not saying we should not change, or that we should not explore different perspectives. What I am saying is that when we expect other people to change its because we want them to be a little more like us. This made me more aware of my own expectations of other people as well as my disappointments. Ultimately we have two choices – expect someone to change and get disappointed, or expect nothing. That lead us to two additional choices – remain friends with that person or part ways. It’s really that simple. Or at least this is my perspective…

About Love and Hate

When kids play and then fight, and one tells another “I hate you!,” leaving the game in anger, he or she will probably come back five minutes later, pick up the game where they left it off, and move on as if nothing had happened. Furthermore, ten minutes later they may tell each other they love each other “the most in the world…”

When adults tell each other “I hate you” it’s usually long term.

Where along the way did we lose the ability to let go, forget and move on?