The Fish Stinks From the Head

As every good fisherman or educated shopper knows, in buying fresh fish one looks to the eye for clarity and checks it for smell as well. For when the fish starts to go bad, it stinks from the head.
In the I Ching, Hexagram 37 "Clan" (or Family) it teaches that all Clans must have a superior person at their center if they are to prosper and succeed. This holds true for any community, business or nation.
It is easy to apply this to my country or the company I worked for. The question was, how did this apply to me? Hexagram 37 would teach that in order to improve the family, company, nation or world community, we must begin by improving ourselves.
The last couple of years have severely affected my daily spiritual discipline. It has been a struggle to practice my meditation or follow through on other Taoist exercises. I have "blamed" this on the difficulty brought about by family events.
Addictions, unexpected pregnancy, deaths, health issues, all seemed to attack my sense of peace and filled my mind with excessive negative energy.
In Taoism, when our life force, or Chi, is flowing throughout unimpeded, we are strong and at peace. We are in balance between the negative and positive influences within our lives. We are taught that there are "thieves" that will rob us of our balance. The Tao Te Ching states, "The five colors blind the eye. The five sounds deafen the ear. The five flavors dull the taste. Too much thinking weakens the mind. Desires wither the heart." Excess emotional indulgence or too much sensory input will rob us of our Chi.
All Taoists know that "The mind leads and the Chi follows." It is central to Taoist alchemical meditation. We realize the power of the mind to effect the body. The thought of eating a lemon may make the mouth pucker, the thought of a lover make the heart race, a thought of some tradegy makes the stomach tighten.
The Buddha once taught a feeble and elderly man, "Housefather, thus should you train yourself; Though my body is sick, my mind shall not be sick. Thus, housefather, must you train yourself."
In focusing my mind on the ailments of the family about me, the company that downsized, the death of my Mother, my mind has become sick with depression and anxiety. Taoism would have our lives expressed as Feng-liu, a term ressembling a flowing with the wind undisturbed and unencumbered.
The Zen patriarch Seng-ts'an said, "The wise person does not strive; the ignorant man ties himself up..if you work on your mind with your mind, how can you avoid immense confusion?" Oh! How often I have stopped to think, worry and fret about the difficulties in my life. Trying to figure out the hows and whys. Building regrets and blame and anger!
In my many years of observing the workings of the mind, I'm reminded of a story in the stories of Chuang Tzu. There is a story of a ferrymen taking a boat across the gulf of Goblet Deep with the ease of a spirit. When asked about the difficulty in learning to ferry, the ferryman states that a good swimmer would learn quickly and that a diver would almost already know how to ferry without ever seeing one. It was explained that this was so because a good swimmer forgets about the water and the diver regards the watery depths as something he has encountered many times, hence his heart is untroubled and he is at ease wherever the ferry goes. The story ends with, he who competes for a tile displays all of his skill. For a buckle he gets nervous, for gold he is flusterred. His skill is the same, but there is something that distracts him and causes him to focus on externals. Whoever focuses on externals will be clumsy inside.
I witnessed this firsthand many years ago when my wife and I would play pool at the local pub. With two quarters we would enter the game and hold the table all night. When it was a "game" we played well. If playing for a beer, or for money, my skill would dissipate and the table would be soon given over to the opponent.
The stinking fish in this case is me! The Buddha has said that we are what we think. All that we are arises from our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. There is a Taoist saying, to the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.
It is time for me to withdraw the mind from focus on the external and return to the stillness cultivated from within.
Fresh fish, anyone?


RedKooga said…
I forget who said it but I like this, "The mind is a great servant but a terrible master."

I find I need something to keep my mind in check. Like Ulysees having himself tied to the mast of his boat to prevent the calls of the Sirens driving him to throw himself into oblivion, I am in danger unless I bind myself against the whims of the mind.

What works for me best is to have a set of things I say I have to do, and to swear to do them unless I have a very good reason not to. I can't rely on my faith, reason, emotion, or support from others to inspire me anywhere near as much as simple bloody minded (heh) determination.

Just a thought.
Tim said…
A truer thought has not been thought of!!!!! It's true. I have a Zen friend who reminds me that one has to "just sit". Life great! SIT. Life sucks! Sit. Nothing happening! Sit. Sit through it all and everything. I know this to be true,,,,,