chapter 12: but am I hungry?

by kye on July 30, 2010

In the last chapter we were focused on the kind of comings and goings which allow us to fulfill our own particular kind of being. This chapter makes it clear that not all comings and goings do this. Some can actually take us away from ourselves.

There’s an easy way to tell the difference: I can notice what sustains my energies, and what dissipates them.

If I allow myself to be taken away by this and that so that I lose myself in the process, this dissipates my energy. But if I come back to my belly, I can come back to myself.

What does it mean to come back to my belly?

The simple answer is that instead of eating just for the flavor of it (or out of habit), I am noticing whether I’m actually hungry right now. But the answer goes deeper than that.

If I eat a fantastically delicious slice of chocolate cake right now, will it replenish my energy? …Or, what about this canteloupe, on this hot summer day? Flavors can be wonderful, but if the flavor of something overrides my ability to sense whether this particular food will replenish me and sustain me, the flavor has taken me away from something crucial.

Music is nice: but if the music functions to still an anxiety, keeping me from experiencing something inside that’s maybe not quite comfortable, I can lose track of valuable information about myself and my situation.

Any entertainment, and anything money can buy, can distract me from my own inner promptings.

It goes deeper still though: my belly is the center of my power when I am moving. If I stay with my belly, I’m staying in my power. My belly is also the open space at my center, where I am free for new possibilites, and am open to comings and goings in such a way that I remain precisely connected with my own nature and the universe.

too many sights
and the inner eye goes blind

too much music
and the inner ear goes deaf

too many flavors
and taste becomes jaded

hunting and chasing about
makes one mad with excitement

precious commodities
hinder one’s natural sense of rightness

the sage is guided by his belly
rather than those outer pulls
leaving those, to stay with
that which is within

— Kye Nelson: translation and commentary on Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching

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©2010 Kye Nelson

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