Taking time out gives us the chance to really choose how we want to live our lives.
How we want to 'be'.
I had the chance to read so much on my year out, and undergo so many different developmental processes.
But without doubt, the most effective teacher, the guru that resonated with me most, has been the chinese sage Lao Tzu.
His magnum opus, the Tao Te Ching, was written 500 years BC. It is a sacred pathway to getting to our true selves, mother nature, the universe and the Tao...
As a member of the star wars generation, I see clearly that Lao was powerfully aware of and connected to the force.
I love one story about Confucius and Lao Tzu - both Chinese philosophers around that time. Confucius had heard of a great and wise man, and travelled to seek his thoughts and advice on the subject of etiquette. However, on learning that Confucius was concerned with such a trifling matter as correct social behaviours, Lao Tzu spurned him and refused to talk.
He was a man after my own heart. What progress would we make if everyone in this world concerned themselves with how best to care for their neighbour, rather than how best to address them?
Lao Tzu was a great sage, and the Tao Te Ching is a guide for being such a sage. Lao Tzu was a man who believed that the Tao was the sole aspect of the universe, that we are all joined, all one, all abundant, all a part of the same energetic forcefield.
2500 years later, quantum physics is proving that this is true.
There are 81 verses of the Tao Te Ching to take in... And over 85 different translations... So how to choose the best one?
Well, I struggled for most of the year with one translation or another. And I drew wisdom from each of them.
One in particular stood out - a translation by Stephen Mitchell. it filled me with the peace of god, and made me more aware of the complex majesty of mother nature than I had been since I was a little boy. I loved nature as a child.
But still there were verses that I couldn't decipher and relate to my life.
Then I was in my local mall one day, quietly muttering to myself about the local kids hanging around cursing, fighting and bullying (very un-Tao of me to complain like that), and I came across a new book by Dr Wayne Dyer called Change your thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. I read the back of it and saw it was a guide on how to apply the Tao to our hectic western existences. Just what I needed, you would have thought.
But my reaction was again very un-Tao. I sneered at it, and with my nose in the air dismissed it as beneath me - an already confirmed scholar of the Tao!!! I retreated to Starbucks and struggled uncomprehendingly through another badly translated verse...
A few weeks later, having made no progress in my pursuit of Taoist ecstasy, I passed the same bookshop and saw Dyer's book peaking out at me again. And this time I nearly bought it, but for some reason I didn't have any money on me.
I returned to the shop the next day, but they had sold out!
Finally, I was breakfasting in New York a few weeks later with a girlfriend / goddess of mine, who came straight out and told me to read this book immediately.
I finally sought it out and bought it, and it has proved a pivotal investment.
I started to read the book as my plane left for a month long trip to Peru, where I was going on a retreat called the magical earth, to generally commune with nature, diet various plants and live peacefully for a while.
I consumed the book piece by piece over the next 3 weeks or so, and it was just beautiful. It has finally infused my life with the Tao. My every action has been affected by reading this book. It has simplified everything. It has reduced my desires, my attachments, my possessions, my whole life. It has increased my appreciation, my presence, my concentration, my love, my awareness of the environment and mother nature.
And I was able to consume each and every word while lazing on the banks of the amazon river, the greatest source of life on our planet, and walking through the peruvian jungle. Under the cover of the greenest of canopies, accompanied by torrential downpours, beating sunlight, equatorial temperatures, dazzling birds of paradise and monkeys playing and chattering. I was eclipsed by the complex majesty of the Tao, manifesting and evolving as our magical earth right before my eyes.
More than anything Dr Dyer's book has completed my belief that there is a greater force at work, caring for each of us, and if left to do its work unfettered, this force will see each of us through. The Tao always carries the day. There are no accidents and no coincidences - everything happens for a reason. The dots will all connect in good time for us to sit back and survey our life and our contribution and say 'I am pleased with what I have been'.
I finished the book as my plane touched back down at Heathrow 3 and a bit weeks after take off.
And therein lies the greatest message - the Tao held the book back until just the right moment.
And Dr Dyer's interpretation of this work is just... seminal. He even chose the translation by Stephen Mitchell that I liked as one of his recommended translations.
And I am finally living the wisdom of the Tao.
Thank you Wayne Dyer, and thank you Lao Tzu.