Soul Food

This week’s lectio divina comes from the Dao De Jing, a wisdom text of Daoism, an ancient tradition in China which focuses on living in harmony with the Way. The oldest known version was written down in the fourth century BCE. The words are attributed to Lao Zi, possibly a contemporary of Confucious, and a court philosopher. A text of images and ideas, the Daode Jing arises out of an oral tradition, with additions and alterations occurring over several centuries. There are many translations available, this version is by Ursula K. Le Guin,

She calls the text refreshing to the soul, a drink of pure water from a deep spring.

Remember to find a quiet place to read the text aloud, slowly and attentively.  Take time to reflect on the words that resonate, consider writing your response in a journal to help deepen your understanding.

Chapter 2 of the Daode Jing:  Soul Food

Everybody on earth knowing
that beauty is beautiful
makes ugliness.

Everybody knowing
that goodness is good
makes wickedness.

For being and non-being
arise together;
hard and easy
complete each other;
long and short
shape each other;
high and low
depend on each other;
note and voice
make the music together;
before and after
follow each other.

That’s why the wise soul
does without doing
teaches without talking.

The things of this world
exist, they are;
you can’t refuse them.

To bear and not to own;
to act and not lay claim;
to do the work and let it go;
for just letting it go
is what makes it stay.

Returning to the root

This Monday’s meditation is Ursula Le Guin’s translation of Chapter 16 from the Tao Te Ching.   Her interpretation of the Tao Te Ching’s ancient wisdom is the one I return to again and again.  This chapter fits the moodiness of November as the northern earth sinks homeward in anticipation of winter.  I like the notion that peace comes from taking the long view and in taking the long view, we can open our hearts.

Be completely empty.
Be perfectly serene.
The ten thousand things arise together;
in their arising is their return.
Now they flower,
and flowering
sink homeward,
returning to the root.

The return to the root
is peace.
Peace: to accept what must be,
to know what endures.
In that knowledge is wisdom.
Without it, ruin, disorder.

To know what endures
is to be openhearted,
magnanimous,
regal,
blessed,
following the Tao,
the way that endures forever.
The body comes to its ending,
but there is nothing to fear.