If you play a game where scrap pieces of glass are at stake, you will play skillfully. If your expensive belt buckle is at stake, you'll start to get clumsy. If it's your money that's at stake, you'll fumble. It's not that you've lost your skill. It's because you are so flustered by things happening outside that you've lost your calmness inside. Lose your stillness and you will fail in everything you do.
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Travel is such a wonderful experience! Especially when you forget you are traveling. Then you will enjoy whatever you see and do. Those who look into themselves when they travel will not think about what they see. In fact, there is no distinction between the viewer and the seen. You experience everything with the totality of yourself, so that every blade of grass, every mountain, every lake is alive and is a part of you. When there is no division between you and what is other, this is the ultimate experience of traveling.
In infancy, our blood is strong and our energy is plentiful. Mind and body, thought and action are one. Everything we do is in harmony with the natural order. The infant is not affected by things that happen around him. Virtue and ethics cannot restrain his will. Naked and free of social conventions, he follows the natural path of the heart.
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When two things occur successively we call them cause and effect if we believe one event made the other one happen. If we think one event is the response to the other, we call it a reaction. If we feel that the two incidents are not related, we call it a mere coincidence. If we think someone deserved what happened, we call it retribution or reward, depending on whether the event was negative or positive for the recipient. If we cannot find a reason for the two events' occurring simultaneously or in close proximity, we call it an accident. Therefore, how we explain coincidences depends on how we see the world. Is everything connected, so that events create resonances like ripples across a net? Or do things merely co-occur and we give meaning to these co-occurrences based on our belief system? Lieh-tzu's answer: It's all in how you think.
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In youth, our blood rises and becomes volatile. Desire, worry, and anxiety increase. External circumstances now direct the rise and fall of emotions. Will and intention become constrained by social conventions. Competition, conflict, and scheming are the norm in interactions with people. The approval and disapproval of others become important, and the honest and sincere expression of thoughts and feelings is lost.
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When we are rich and famous and powerful, we do not want to die. On the other hand, if we are miserable and suffering, we want to die and leave it all. But can joy or misery last forever? There is a saying, "All celebrations must end sometime." Any wish to live forever or die immediately is often a whim of the moment. How do we know that, although we are happy now, we may not be sad the next day, or sad now but may be happy soon? Given that good and ill, fortune and misfortune come in their own way, we should not cling to life or embrace death. Life and death will come of their own. Why be greedy about life and afraid of death?
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Let your eyes see what they see, not what others want you to see. Let your ears hear what they naturally hear, not what others want you to hear. Let your mouth speak your mind freely and not be constrained by other people's approval or disapproval. Let your mind think what it wants to think and not let other people's demands dictate your thoughts. If your senses and your mind are not allowed to do what they want to do naturally, you are denying them their rights. When you cannot think, sense, feel, or act freely, then your body and mind are injured. Break these oppressions, and you will cultivate life.
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People use the words "beginning" and "end" to describe the start and end of things. However, "beginning" is really the event of coming together when energy gathers, and "end" is simply the dissolution of that energy. That which came together can easily dissolve if conditions become unfavorable. That which has dissolved may come together again if circumstances are appropriate. Therefore, who is to say that there is a beginning and an end?
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There was a man whose only son died of a sudden illness. He did not mourn for his son, nor was he sad about it. His friends were curious about his behavior, so they asked him, "Your only son is dead. You should be heartbroken. Why do you act as if nothing had happened?" The man replied, "Before my son came, I had no son. I was certainly not heartbroken back then. Now I have no son. Why should I be heartbroken now?
The ancients said that for persons who cultivated body and mind, and who are virtuous and honorable, death is an experience of liberation, a long-awaited rest from a lifetime of labors. Death helps the unscrupulous person to put an end to the misery of desire. Death, then, for everyone is a kind of homecoming. That is why the ancient sages speak of a dying person as a person who is 'going home.
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I became aware that there was no barrier between what was inside and what was outside. My body was illuminated by a bright light. I heard with my eyes and saw with my ears. I used my nose as mouth and my mouth as nose. I experienced the world with the totality of my senses as my spirit gathered and my form dissolved. There was no distinction between muscles and bones. My body stopped being heavy and I felt like a floating leaf. Without knowing it, I was being carried by the wind. Drifting here and there, I did not know whether I rode on the wind or the wind rode on me.
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