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Common Themes

From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2009 3:48 pm

We've discussed all 81 verses of the Tao Te Ching. We can be open now to discussing anything we want about Seeing and the Tao. What themes do you find that are common to the Tao Te Ching and Headless Seeing? Threads might be a good word for it as well, since the themes of the TTC are interspersed throughout the text. Someone even compared its structure to the Internet.

We could also talk about other related subjects. What are the symbols that run through the TTC. How do they relate to Seeing? What has the TTC meant to you? What have we missed in the discussion so far?

Let's open it up for anything topic on the Tao and Seeing. Please feel free to start a new topic on anything you want to discuss about this.

From: Steve Palmer
Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2009

Hi Jim and All

I thought you may appreciate this short video.




From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2009

Thanks for the link, Steve. I did enjoy the video. I followed the comments back quite a few weeks too. That wasn't as much fun, but it was informative. There were a couple of Christian fundamentalists making repeated comments about how Zen is Satan's doing. The very nature of their beliefs seems to drive them to butt in to so many discussions that aren't about Christianity at all. I used to think Christianity motivated people to have great fear that others are going to hell, and that this motivated them to speak up to save others from eternal damnation. When I read the comments on this short Zen video, it's clear that they are motivated more by fear that they could be wrong. They show no love for anyone. They actually curse the people they are writing to, the people they think they are trying to enlighten. I don't know how prevalent this kind of attitude is. They probably show up to make comments on Zen and other 'spiritualities' in greater proportion than their real numbers would indicate. They really do seem driven to this kind of aggressive behavior. It's a shame for them.

About Zen -- Several authors have written that Zen is an outgrowth of Chinese Taoism much more than of Indian Buddhism, that the Zen in Zen Buddhism is the Taoist contribution. Others I've known who have practiced Buddhism have said that there's a lot of Zen in Buddhism too. It doesn't matter too much. We know Zen has a Chinese origin with roots in the Tao Te Ching. I like that Douglas gave On Having No Head the subtitle Zen and the Rediscovery of the Obvious. It's much easier for me to relate headless seeing, as I've taken it anyway, to Zen and Tao than to anything out of India or the West.


From: Steve Palmer
Posted: Thu Jul 02, 2009

Hi Jim and All

RE: Christianity and religion in general.
Douglas said something like it's a case of the worst containing the best, hidden within it.
From reading and speaking to those who knew Douglas for decades it seem the early Chinese Chan ( Zen ) masters with their emphasis on seeing or vision spoke to his quest,
along with some of Ramana Maharshi's teachings.
From the west Meister Eckhart and De Caussade seemed to be his favourites.

Presently the most clear Christian teacher I enjoy is
Brother David Steindl-Rast. Who shows how Gratitude transcends any one Way or Path ( www.gratefulness.org and many recent enjoyable you tube clips )

On Mysticism

On Gratitude

Gratitude is found in both Douglas's teaching and
as contentment in The Tao Te Ching and seems to be a sign of maturity.
A beautiful state of mind which acknowledges our interdependence or interbeing.

Since reading and listening to Hitchens,Dawkins,Dennett and Harris I can still be grateful for beautiful churches , sacred music, insightful christians etc but the mumbo jumbo factor which you mention, in the comments about the video, seem so obviously primative, tribal and ignorant( literally ignoring how life is) .

RE: The video, It did mention The Tao and the distinctions did seem to blur a little with water images etc and some of the commentary.

I suppose my own bottom line, at present,
what ever keeps you open ,
whatever fosters a sense of gratitude and interbeing,
whatever lets you know , you can't know it all, we are limited creatures,
Whatever helps you up when you fall down,
whetever helps you to sink deeper into the life you happen to live,
is the way to go.

One of the few christian teachings that sticks in my mind is
" Forgive them for they know not what they ( or me or we ) do"
Which seems similar to the Buddha saying" ignorance is the foundation of all suffering".
Or Lao Tzu opposite statement " He who knows self is awakened "

Just to finish.
A Taoist friend online recommended I look at Martin Williams four modern versions of The Tao Te Ching for
parents, couples, old age and the path and practice.
If your interested in a modern translation and adaptions, he is creative with the text.

in gratitude for the shared journey : ))


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Fri Jul 03, 2009

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the links on gratitude. They had a Taoist flavor for me too. I liked that he included gratitude for civliization as well as for nature. Gratitude seems natural. It come up on its own. I suppose it can be cultivated, but I'm not sure how that would work. I've always felt grateful and lucky and blessed to have met Douglas and to have taken to the Headless Way. I feel that I was led to this path, meant for it. I don't know how that works either, but I'm sure it does.

I'm glad you mentioned William Martin. I have his A Path and a Practice. He lives in Chico, California. He has a Taoist meditation center there. I had even thought it might be a good place to retire.

In the introduction to his book, he describes the path of the Tao as:

The Path of Direct Experience
The Path of the Present Moment
The Path of Opposites
The Path of Acceptance
A Universal Path
The Path of Our True Nature
The Path of Letting Go
The Path of Flexibility
An Effortless Path
A Meditative Path
The Path of the Next Step

These all sound like description of the Headless Way to me.

The Path of Direct Experience == the experiments
The Path of the Present Moment == living the vision revealed by the experiments
The Path of Opposites == the two sides of the tube
The Path of Acceptance == nothing here to shut out the world
A Universal Path == everyone can see this, everyone has seen it
The Path of Our True Nature == restores our wholeness
The Path of Letting Go == watching the old view fall away
The Path of Flexibility == so many ways of coming home
An Effortless Path == so plain to see
A Meditative Path == "meditation for the marketplace"
The Path of the Next Step == "there only one thing to do"

I have been thinking of the Tao of Seeing as a path of reversal (of attention) and return (home). This would have to involve the opposites, the polarities, the two views we see in the Tube and in the other experiments. I'll open a new topic on the subject. We have written about it quite a bit over the last 21 months.

All for now,

From: Steve Palmer
Posted: Fri Jul 03, 2009

Hi Jim and All

Seeing the headless view in Martin William's list was an enjoyable read.
Thank's for that.

Re: cultivating gratitude:
Like seeing it's a noticing,
just look and there's the openess, the exchange of face's etc.
Just look and you've happened !
and there is always something to be grateful for we normally,
like headlessness,
take for granted.
Like the next breath !

I'd like to read your "reversal and return" take
on the Tao of seeing.
Is the inward receptive,female or yin and
the outward active, male and yang.
Though in the yin and yang sign
there is no complete yin or complete yang.
You need both ends of the tube.


From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Fri Jul 03, 2009

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the suggestions on cultivating gratitude. You way is very Taoist. Just notice and gratitude happens on its own. It's a bit like See and see what happens. Very wu wei and very Douglas.

Yin and yang refer to all the opposites. As you say, they never appear alone. The Tao Te Ching and the headless experiments are full of word pairs that fit the same category. I'll see how many I can come up with. I like what's said below about yin/yang being a way of describing what we see. They are two ways of looking at what we see.


from Wikipedia:

Yin yang are opposing
Yin yang describe opposing qualities in phenomena. For instance, winter is yin to summer's yang over the course of a year, and femininity is yin to masculinity's yang in human relationships. It is impossible to talk about yin or yang without some reference to the opposite.

Yin yang are rooted together
Since yin and yang are created together in a single movement, they are bound together as parts of a mutual whole. A race with only men or only women would disappear in a single generation, but men and women together create new generations that allow the race they mutually create (and mutually come from) to survive.The interaction of the two gives birth to things.

Yin yang transform each other
Like an undertow in the ocean, every advance is complemented by a retreat, and every rise transforms into a fall. Thus, a seed will sprout from the earth and grow upwards towards the sky - an intrinsically yang movement. Then when it reaches its full height, it will begin to weaken, and eventually will fall back to the earth in decay - an intrinsically yin movement. Yin always contains the potential for yang, and yang for yin.

Yin yang are balanced
Yin-yang is a dynamic equilibrium. Because they arise together they are always equal: if one disappears, the other must disappear as well, leaving emptiness. This is rarely immediately apparent, though, because yang elements are clear and obvious while yin elements are hidden and subtle.

Yin yang is not an actual substance or force, the way it might be conceived of in western terms. Instead, it is a universal way of describing the interactions and interrelations of the natural forces that do occur in the world. It applies as well to social constructions - e.g. value judgements like good and evil, rich and poor, honor and dishonor - yet it is often used in those contexts as a warning, since by its principles extreme good will turn to evil, extreme wealth to poverty, extreme honor to dishonor.

Yin is black, female, receptive, yielding, negative, and nurturing. It is associated with night, valleys, rivers, streams, water, metal, and earth.

Yang is white, male, active, dominating, positive, and initiating/creating. Yang is associated with day, mountains, hills, fire, wood, and air.

From: simon
Posted: Sat Jul 04, 2009

Hi All,
Jim, I love the links
The Path of Direct Experience == the experiments
The Path of the Present Moment == living the vision revealed by the experiments
The Path of Opposites == the two sides of the tube
The Path of Acceptance == nothing here to shut out the world

Quite what I find here, too.
Steve, the gratitude link is excellent, and represents what christianity means to me... after the "singing nun" we have a "seeing monk"!
The 'urgency & anger' that comes under a religious excuse is rather tiring (to include the reference about fundamentalists) - I can't help thinking that if the way was really practised, there would be more peace and quiet, gratitude and acceptance, in the heart and presence of the 'practitioner' and so no need to shout, condemn and curse...
Just back after a week at a film festival, greatly enjoyed a Malaysian film "Gubra" by Yasmin Ahmad which touches on forgiveness;
best to all

From: Steve Palmer
Posted: Sat Jul 04, 2009

Hi Jim and All

I liked the spinning Yin and Yang sign.

RE: " Yin and yang refer to all the opposites."

That seems to be the art of life.
To surf the sea of samsara's opposites, yin and yang,
and keep your sense of balance.
at least to be able to get back on the surf board,
(to keep up the analogy )
when you fall off the board !

Equanimity, creative and appropriate action seems to be the fruits of
The Tao, Seeing, Zen and other forms of Buddhism.

In my own life, I had been too busy, till a bad back, last week, made me take a break.
The bodies sense of balance had been lost.
The backpain or body was at first talking to me
and then shouting at me " Take a break "
Unfortunately i didn't listen early enough.
I'm listening now !

You have to Open to what life brings,
the opposites,
and Seeing ,The Tao, gratitude, creativity etc
help me keep things in perspective,
have a sense of equanimity
or the old fashioned term surrender,
accept and creatively work with " What Is "
The outer life wedded to the inner capacitie for all.

Life is forever creative and the way of balance seems to be to flow with it rather than to stagnate and fix on an ignorant view,
or wake up to the stagnation and ignorance when you notice or see it.
or else the sea of samsara will really hit you with it's big waves.

I know i'm rambling a bit Jim
but it helps to sort it all out by writting it down.
Chris's advice to Cathy on the other board
just to write it down "straight up "
and see what comes out,
is pretty spontaneous.
As long as it's a search for openess or love I think that's a valid way to write.
Wu Wei ?



From: jimclatfelter
Posted: Sat Jul 04, 2009

Hi Steve and Simon,

I'm glad you're back, Simon. I love film festivals. We have a few where I live. They are always fun and informative. There's usually Q&A afterwards with the director and sometimes the actors. Maybe 'Gubra' will come out on DVD. I'll keep an eye out for that title. It's not on Amazon yet.

Steve, you remind me that Balance is an important part of Reversal and Return in both the Tao and Headless Seeing. Do you remember the song Both Sides Now? My Seeing is balanced when I am aware of both the near side and the far side. But it's okay to be more aware of one side than the other and then more aware of the other side. It's like the spinning yin-yang. It isn't a static balance. Douglas called it a ding-dong. I think he even used that expression in writing somewhere. It would be fun to find it. Douglas was so down-to-earth! That's probably just one kind of balance. I imagine we can think of several more.


Full book catalogue
Headless on Youtube

Click here for workshops with Richard Lang

Click here for information on online hangouts
Click here fora free e-course
Click here for our online shop
Click here to get the free Headless iPhone app
Click here for downloadable videos of Douglas Harding
Click here for the Latest News
Click here to Donate