The Empty Road
f. dennis williams
©2007 fredric dennis williams
About the Author
Very little is known about the author of The Empty Road, not because the author was a secretive person, but because he himself knew little. It is said that at the time and place of his birth the darkness was broken by the light of the Sun. On that day, too, the Moon emerged from darkness. Astrologers say these signs, combined with his birth in late December, foretell that he will be a follower of ancient tradition and a lover of universal order.
The author was born into a world engulfed in war. Historians say that inhumanity, cruelty, and endless destruction characterized the times. Yet not long after the author took his first steps and spoke his first words, war ceased and peace on earth began.
The author wrote this brief text in an age of rising superstition and moral confusion. The imperial authorities, whose power brought peace to all but the remotest parts of the known world, sought to educate people to accept uniform beliefs. The result was to stimulate disagreements while creating distrust of both teachers and the ruling authorities.
The author reveals an ancient path to the simpler and better world that has been right in front of us all the time.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Empty Road
Chapter One: The Universe
Chapter Two: Natural Law
Chapter Three: Learning
Chapter Four: Accepting
Chapter Five: Doing
Chapter Seven: Values
Chapter Eight: Leading
Traveling the Empty Road
What is the best way to find a good life? How can we find a sure path to happiness? What actions will lead to success? What must we do to be in harmony with others and with the universe?
Wouldn't it be nice to have a complete, absolute, sure-fire answer? We don't. We have clues saved, accumulated, and passed on for billions of years. Most of these are in the genetic code within our cells and are usually called instinct or intuition, while others have been assembled over the past several thousand years in written and spoken language.
When we turn to books and words for instruction, however, we may easily be led astray. Words ignore much of reality. Words are imprecise. Words can present an illusion—a lie, a fictitious story, an incorrect theory, an opinion, or a speculation—in ways identical to those words which accurately represent reality.
Truthful words carefully chosen may help us see the obvious: those observations agreed on by many people through the ages and contradicted by none. This is our closest approximation of universal truth. It is not reality, but it is the most accurate word-based picture of what is real.
The great writings of the world contain such truths—elements of the world about which they agree. Yet these writings are often in languages which most people cannot understand, and so they may easily be lost to us. Translations which attempt to retain the unique character of the original work take us one step further from reality—they are shadows of the original portraits. The effort to preserve what is unique—the particular expression—often loses what is both common and valuable: the essential truths.
Because each of us perceives reality from a different place and time, to gain a better understanding of the many facets of reality, we must find a way to see through others’ eyes. Only a great variety of views can disclose the reality which escapes our senses. Each of us may feel the sunlight, but only the observations of countless people over the centuries can give us a more accurate understanding of what the sun is and how it affects the earth. Some of this wider understanding is already built into our cells. Some is written down.
If we see through the eyes of countless ancestors, combining the visions of the greatest seers across the millennia, we may grasp the outline of the underlying reality which gives rise to our perceptions. This brings us to the root, the source, the origin of all. Only with the assistance of many people perceiving many things can we find clues to the essence of the universe.
To understand the universe—what is real and how its countless parts change and interact—is to be wise. To some extent, we are wise from the moment of our birth, for we carry within our cells the knowledge of countless generations of life going back far beyond recorded history, perhaps to the very dawn of life. Yet as we gain experience and education after birth, we may easily be distracted. We may ignore what our intuition knows. The influence of our life experiences, the beliefs passed on to us by our parents and other teachers; may lead us to ignore our instincts and intuition. We think we have increased our knowledge, but in doing so, we have abandoned our natural wisdom and become ignorant of reality.
To enhance our natural wisdom, we must learn from the greatest teachers. The highest wisdom is gained by combining our natural understanding with the knowledge and insights accumulated over thousands of years. This reinforcement and expansion of our natural wisdom allows us to recognize that what we have seen and done in our lives is very limited. What others may have taught us, based on their experience and beliefs, may be similarly limited. By enhancing our natural wisdom, we may see through the misleading lessons taught by our culture, our parents, our friends, and our teachers. The great classics are a vaccination against ignorance.
Yet we must rely on words to see through the eyes of others, and words are not reality. The world is filled with millions of books offering lessons which often seem inconsistent, incompatible, or simply false. Buried among books true and false, important and insignificant, the gems of essential truth are difficult to discover. Even though they are sometimes in plain sight, we are miss them because we are distracted by the great volume of material.
The greatest truth is like an uncut diamond in a boxcar of glass baubles. At first, it may appear to be no more than an ordinary rock—far less valuable than the sparkling piece of glass that enchants us. People set aside the classics, the greatest wisdom, and search instead for something new—some fashionable glass bauble. Because we are too busy collecting and admiring pieces of glass, we lack the patience to free the precious gem from the cloudy rock.
The raw diamonds of truth may seem obvious. People often think what is rare is valuable, but the most valuable things in the universe are abundant. Eons of experience have taught all living things that survival depends on finding food, water, partners for reproduction—all of which may, on occasion, be scarce. The lack of any of these will, in the long run, make us a broken link in the chain of life. We learn that scarcity sometimes is associated with value.
Yet the lesson of the ages is that what is of greatest value has always been readily available. If food, water, and sexual partners had not always been in abundant supply, we might not be alive today. We thrive because what is of the greatest value is abundant. The most valuable of all things is life—and it is everywhere. Next is air, and it surrounds us. Next is water—and it covers most of the planet. Next is food, and it, too, may be found everywhere. Then, perhaps, is a partner for reproduction—there are more than a billion you might choose.
So it is with truth: it is abundant, available, and easily recognized. It is also easily lost or discarded if we search for something rare. The truth that has survived and thrived through the ages is the key to all the power you will ever need to live the good life, to find happiness, success, and harmony. It is a secret that has been in plain view for thousands of years—long before anything was written down, long before translators and commentators and scholars lost the truth in endless discussions about obscure areas of disagreement.
The lessons of life are easy to understand and easy to practice. They require less effort, not more, than you already are making. If you are unwilling to take the time and effort to understand the wisdom of the ages, your ignorance may keep you from an easier, happier life. If you become absorbed in the many other distractions provided by the classics, then you may fail to understand or practice the wisdom that the classics teach. You will have no reason to abandon your current course and will be unable to do all that is necessary to achieve what you seek.
To learn the secrets of the universe, we need to separate truth from falsehood. Without such skill, word are wasted on us, for we will remain confused. The first truth that opens the door to all the rest of reality is a simple one: what you will do tomorrow is not decided. Who you will become is not certain. You may go in any direction: toward wisdom and harmony, toward wealth and love, toward poverty and disaster, toward ignorance and misery. The future is an empty road—undecided, open, awaiting your next step.
Traveling the Empty Road
At this very moment you are standing at the beginning of a road that could go in any direction. If you are looking backward, thinking about where you have been and where this may seem to be leading, you will believe your choices are very limited. This is an illusion. If you consider your current circumstances and think they prevent you from most options, this, too, is an illusion. If you think you know where you will be tomorrow, next week, next year, this is yet another illusion. These illusions can keep you from finding happiness, for if you believe they are real, you cannot go where you wish. You will feel the road is laid out for you and you must follow it.
The truth is, however, that while you must be where you are right now, you may go in any direction you choose. Until you take your next step, the future and your place in it are entirely uncertain and undecided. In fact, there is no road at all until you build it by the steps you take. This is the key to your prison. Once you realize you are free—bound only by the realities of the universe, not by your illusions about it—you find you have remarkable power to follow this road as you choose. The world of smoke, shadows, and mirrors dissolves in the light of day.
Once you recognize that the future is undecided, you might think this knowledge alone would be enough to give you a sense of release from bondage. It is rarely so easy, for we have spent a lifetime bound to the past by our ways of thinking about ourselves and about reality. We are used to dancing the same dance, regardless of our partner, even when the band is playing an entirely different tune. We dance to the music playing in our heads, unable to hear anything but our own thoughts.
The past is gone. Its place and time are lost forever. All that remains of the past are the words we use to hold on to its shadowy images. The past only exists in our heads. Let it go and it is gone completely. Focus your mind on its shadowy image and this shadow world will keep you from taking advantage of your freedom. You will drive ahead while looking intently into the rearview mirror. As a result, you will miss opportunities and run into barriers.
The people who focus their attention on the past live like sleepwalkers, moving in harmony only with the images in their heads, unable to see or hear anything else. In their minds they hear only the words they use to recreate the past. Their vision is filled with fragmentary pictures accumulated over their lifetime. Because they cannot see the future, they anticipate—often fear—a repetition of the past. Unable to open their eyes and ears, sleepwalkers convert experiences into words and people into images so they may more easily manipulate the dream world they live in.
Sleepwalkers often control much of the society, deciding who other people are and how they should interact with each other. We can join them traveling along the crowded highways around great urban centers. Their journey offers a kind of logic and continuity, but it is a guided tour with few choices. It is easy, comfortable, predictable, and popular, but it is very costly. It is not the empty road. It does not give you the life you seek, it leads you into a life where choices seem to make little difference.
The empty road may seem lonely, for we rarely cross paths with others who are awake and free. Yet we can see people better than ever before. Much of the world travels on without really knowing anyone, not even the people closest to them: their wives and children and friends.
On the empty road, we sometimes find people who are awake and free, and when we do, the connections are brilliant, beautiful, unpredictable, open, astonishing. Yet most people sacrifice freedom for security, give up opportunity to hold on to stability. Most people believe it is safer, and therefore better, to have reservations. Most people are alone in the middle of a crowd. The traveler on the empty road is always at home, no matter where he goes.
If you follow the empty road—if you see how the world works and choose your own unique path to happiness—you will find yourself free from the restrictions that dictate the lives of most people. You will quickly discover that traveling the empty road requires little work. It frees you to observe and pursue whatever interests you. It allows you to wander wherever your interests take you, resting and relaxing, enjoying the world and the people you meet. You are suddenly able to avoid what is difficult and free to do what is pleasurable.
Whether you are ready for this journey depends on you and your ability to unlearn. To some degree, this ability is an inevitable result of the way the universe works. The universe has brought you to this place and time, given you this opportunity to become a pioneer crossing a land with no marked highways. In this new and uncharted world, you will have no fixed opinions, behave well to everyone, accept whatever comes, and take no sides in squabbles. To thrive here, however, you must let go of the world behind you.
Because the empty road is invisible, it may seem wiser to follow fancy words, arguments, and opinions about how to live and what to do. It also may seem much easier to stay where we are, surrounded by the accumulated possessions and connections of a lifetime. Yet often we are not at ease where we are—we want to be somewhere else, doing something else. The empty road makes it easy to go there. Yet to begin our journey, we must first let go of many things which other people believe are essential to a good life. We may soon be surprised to learn that the trappings of the good life are only a trap.
Giving up what most people value—a job, property, knowledge, self-assurance, certainty and purpose—may seem impossible. Yet these are the things which prevent us from deciding each moment where we want to go next. The very things which most people consider wealth may easily become barriers to the empty road, obstacles to the freedom we need to go directly toward the happiness that will suit us best. Even our goals keep us from choosing moment by moment. To follow the empty road, we must be free to go and do as we wish—to pursue our goals or abandon them.
To go, we must be free to leave whenever we wish and free to travel in any direction at any time. Traveling without a plan or a map, others may think we are confused, blown about by the wind, unsure. We may seem to lack a reason for living. Yet this freedom makes us feel at home wherever we may travel. Freedom and flexibility make us easy to deal with, help us avoid conflict and competition, and keep us in touch with the universe. We are no longer puppets playing on a stage we didn’t choose. The strings have been broken.
In this new condition, many people will think you are unsuccessful and completely out of touch with the world as they see it. Some may think you are a space cadet, because you are following the easy and uncrowded path through life, where you can go anywhere, find happiness, and not bump into others.
It may seem easier to continue on the road we have followed in the past. Our familiar rut may seem comfortable and easy, but often this well-worn path is not carrying us to happiness or an easy life. We are driving into the future with our eyes open only to the past. We will have stopped steering in the belief that steering won't get us anywhere special.
Sometimes people attempt to follow the roads taken by others in the past, hoping to map out the future in advance so we don’t have to pay attention to reality. We march in lock step to the university, to graduate school, to the carefully pre-selected career. This, too, causes us to miss opportunities that can only occur if we go where we want, when we want.
Whether we travel through life as if our choices were forced on us by the past or follow in the steps of others—we cannot take advantage of the unlimited choices which are available to us at every moment. Because other people are unaware of their freedom to choose from an infinite variety of choices, we cannot easily join with them in doing the many things that freedom makes possible. For this reason, the freedom of other people—and their awareness of their freedom—is critical to our opportunities. What is possible for us depends on what others believe is possible for them.
Following the empty road, you will join the lover of knowledge described by Plato in Book VII of The Republic, in the parable of the cave and the line. Plato said most people are trapped, chained in a line where they see only the shadows of reality reflected on the wall of a cave. When the seeker of wisdom goes up into the sunlight and sees what is real, he understands the world of shadows, but finds it difficult to do what everyone chained in the line can do easily—distinguish among the illusions.
Once you see what is real, many people will believe you lack common sense—because what they call common sense may be based on appearances. Fragments, shadows, and the many specific things we have seen and experienced, blind us to the underlying unity and harmony of the universe. Once we see this unity, we are less absorbed by the details.
Rich in understanding and experience, we discover that we need very few possessions, yet we are wealthy because whatever we require is available when we need it. Those with many possessions, because they do not understand themselves or the universe, will always feel they need more. Unhappy and needy, they will never be truly wealthy, for money and possessions are not what they need to find well-being and lasting happiness.
Traveling the empty road requires us to first become aware of the universe. People will tell you that success requires you to be more focused. The more focused we are, the less we are able to see everything around us. If we focus on countless details and fail to see the underlying nature of the universe, we will feel as if we are lost in a maze. We will be confused and uncertain.
Only when we become aware of the unity and harmony of the whole universe—space and time together—can we be aware of the empty road. Until we are aware of the empty road, we do not know we are free to choose every moment and able to find the future that will exist only if we choose it.
If we want to choose the path of our life, we need to know where we are right now. Few people do. We tend to think of our location by looking at what is around us. Yet this is not reality, it is only a tiny fragment. We can’t choose our direction by looking at the furnishings in the room. We need to see much further. To know all of our options, to see the many ways we may choose from, we need to know what is happening everywhere.
Reality is the entire universe extending through all of time. We do not know its origin or its end. Though we may sense its vastness by simply being aware of space and time, it is far beyond our grasp physically or mentally,. Unless we know our place in space and time, we think the empty road is limited to the path we can see with our eyes.
If we think of reality as the physical universe, we think too narrowly. By including time, by remembering that everything that exists is constantly moving and changing, our understanding of reality is expanded. Reality includes the organization of matter and energy—from tiny particles to stars—and the continuing state of change.
If we are satisfied to remain ignorant, we will brush aside this awareness of the universe as something of no value. We may say that reality is something abstract, that we don’t need to pay attention to what is so vast or so small. We will spend our time thinking as we have thought in the past, finding more evidence to support our opinions, strengthening our beliefs. We will be proud of how much we know and will grow more certain of our opinions.
By ignoring everything else—including past and future—we make it easier to think about something far less. We can think about something that worries us, or be absorbed in some activity that distracts us from our worries. When we focus on any single thing we lose touch with most of reality. This is true if we focus on illusions like thoughts or beliefs or opinions. It is also true if we focus on something tangible and real and present, whether it is a speck of dust, a piece of furniture, a person, or a planet.
When we focus on one aspect of reality and neglect others, our minds create an illusion. Our head becomes filled with images that are incomplete and unchanging. Such illusions can never be the basis of understanding or wisdom. To understand reality, we must always be aware of the whole. Otherwise we are living in an imaginary world.
Knowledge of many details, without awareness of the whole, distorts our thinking. Instead of knowing the universe, instead of knowing reality, we build a world in our heads from the scraps of data we have collected. Our decisions will be consistent with this imaginary world, but not with the reality beyond.
All of us are almost entirely ignorant of the universe. The vastness of reality is far beyond our comprehension. Yet learning often makes our ignorance worse. Our fragmentary knowledge misleads us, for as we accumulate bits and pieces of data, we may begin to think we know much about the universe even though we still know virtually nothing.
To fill in the vast emptiness in our knowledge, we make up or adopt theories and explanations. Our limited knowledge is quickly overwhelmed and we are lost in a swamp of opinions and beliefs. We soon forget to distinguish between what we know and what we believe.
The vast universe and the tiniest particles are real, but both extremes elude our perception. We can’t see what we call molecules, atoms, sub-atomic particles, light waves—even though these may be the very essence of reality. We can't see the farthest stars and galaxies. We can't touch or taste or smell or feel or hear the infinitely large universe or its infinitesimally small particles. Because the universe and its component elements cannot be directly perceived, even as our knowledge accumulates we remain largely ignorant. We ignore the universe and its underlying forces because we can perceive neither the whole nor its invisible building blocks.
If our senses cannot overcome our ignorance of space and the material that composes the world, they are even more useless in knowing time. The past and future, even more than atoms and the universe, are beyond our reach. We cannot see them with our eyes, hear them with our ears, touch or taste or smell them. We are trapped in the present. Yet we believe that both past and future are part of the total reality.
These lessons in ignorance are the foundation of knowledge. It is the vastness of reality that we want to keep constantly in our awareness. Knowing that we are ignorant, knowing that our opinions and beliefs and even scientific proofs are based on the most minuscule evidence, opens our minds. If we are wise, it reminds us to close our mouths. The wise do not argue. If we are in awe of the vastness of the universe and sense how little we are and how little we know, we come to see our place in a reality that reaches to the extremes of the universe and includes everything past, present, and future.
Because reality is so vast and our ability to perceive so limited, seeking to grasp the entire universe of time and space with our minds is a fruitless endeavor. It cannot be done, so to seek to do it is sure to end unhappily. We will either feel we have failed at a task we believed should have been within our capabilities, or we will deceive ourselves by creating myths or theories in place of true knowledge. While it is our nature to learn and to increase our understanding, we must begin by learning that we are limited. We cannot comprehend the infinite details of time and space.
Because our senses perceive very little, we must use our many other abilities. We can’t see the infrared energy emitted in the dark by our warm bodies, we can’t feel x-rays, we can’t smell clouds. Because our senses are very limited—detecting only a tiny fragment of reality—we cannot rely on them to know what exists. Yet we can increase our awareness of the whole by using what awareness that does not rely on the senses. This awareness is sometimes called extra-sensory perception, but it might be more accurate to call it intuition—inner knowing. Intuition helps us gain awareness of the invisible, intangible, inaudible reality in which we are immersed.
To see everything clearly, we must begin by discarding the notion that objects or people or situations may be considered fixed and unchanging. Only by recognizing that the course of change affects every material thing can we begin to comprehend the great secrets of the whole universe and eternity.
The essence of the material universe must include both continuity and change. Our minds seek to break apart this unity. Time, space, and change are inseparable parts of one continuous whole. In a sense, time is simply an abstract measurement of endless change. Space and the universe cannot exist except in time, that is, except by being in motion—by changing.
To have just time or just space would be meaningless. Both change and continuity are, as far as we know, always (eternal) and everywhere (infinite). While our minds may focus on either the change or the continuity, to do so loses the truth of reality, which includes both at all times. Things are changing at every instant, yet the underlying substance, which combines matter and energy inseparably, remains.
Our conscious minds have difficulty seeing this unity because words cause us to fragment reality and to focus on its parts. We can talk of time or of space, but when we do, we have difficulty combining both into a single reality. I can think of a single person—of you—but I have difficulty including in this thought the constantly changing entity which is you at all times and in every situation. Yet that is the whole of your reality. You are, in some sense, fetus, infant, child, parents, ancestors, and your great-grandchildren yet unborn.
Our minds may be more comfortable with fragments we can easily grasp, with the ignorance we have been taught and have used in place of truth, with the shorthand for reality which limits our capacity for perceiving what is real. Nevertheless, we know that reality includes time and much that is beyond our ability to perceive here and now.
Looking at the universe and eternity—all space and all time—as one reality, we can become more aware of the underlying patterns. These natural laws are present at every instant and in every place, though they produce different results in differing situations. Universal patterns are impartial. They are not subject to whims or preferences. They apply uniformly to all situations, but no two situations are ever identical.
If we speak of laws which can be broken or which take sides, we have not properly defined natural or universal law. Laws that can be broken are not natural laws, but are partial and imperfect explanations of our experiences.
All things in time and space constitute a seamless whole. Even the voids—the emptiness believed to exist between sub-atomic particles or between the stars—are essential to the whole. Remove the emptiness, and everything would be changed completely.
The past, as we understand the term, is unchangeable. Once we have done something, taken a step, it cannot be undone. We cannot go backward in time and reverse the course of our journey. We have stepped in the river of time and the river has flowed on. We cannot step in the same place twice because it no longer exists. We've been there and done that.
Our memories of the past, particularly those which depend on our mind and on words used to describe, define, and recall the past, can and do change. The events remain, but our perspective changes as we ourselves change.
When we look at the universe, our minds may readily observe certain similarities. Our minds are overwhelmed with billions of stars—or billions of people—each existing in a unique space and each composed of similar atoms and molecules. We try to grasp what is beyond our reach by using words to summarize and simplify. We say "stars" or "space" or "universe." Yet each fragment of the universe is different, perfectly unique and unduplicated.
You are unique. No other person in the world is—or ever was—like you. Every atom in your body is unique—despite the similarities with other atoms in other places, they can never be the same. Every past experience in your existence, every interaction with other people and the universe is different from the experience of every other person in the world.
When our minds look for what is common, they jump too quickly to answers. They are impatient to end the journey of learning. We jump to conclusions, form opinions, generalize from limited experience, stereotype and prejudge. Our approach to reality is quick, simple, easy—but it prevents us from reaching our goal and realizing what reality is. The reality, however, is obvious: everything in the universe is unique and every moment in time is unique. Forgetting this, we are certain to misunderstand.
Because nothing is ever the same, the future can not be a repetition of the past. Only our lazy minds make it seem so.
Focusing on parts of reality—life or death, good or evil, doing or not doing—prevents us from being fully aware of and awake to the whole. We are asleep to both the universe and time, our minds completely absorbed in some tiny fragment as if it were the whole of reality. We are walking in our sleep, because we lack awareness of the whole of reality. We rely entirely on the few things that can be reached by our senses and accept only what is compatible with our beliefs. Our knowledge is false—a dream, not a clear vision.
To awaken we must let go of the fragments of reality and the bits and pieces of opinion and belief we have worked so hard to assemble into a story of who we are and where we are going.
The empty road—the silent, invisible, untouchable future—is the secret to peace, safety, prosperity and harmony. Free to work in harmony with each other and with the universe around us, we can go wherever we choose and create together whatever we agree to create, based on our knowledge of how the world works.
The future is open, right in front of our nose. Only distractions—the stories in our heads, the smells and sights and sounds around us—can keep us from being aware that we can begin our journey from this place in any direction we may choose. When more people know this to be true, when more people are aware of their freedom, our ability to work together in harmony and to seek happiness without interference from others will increase beyond our wildest dreams. When you know this is true, this truth will make you free.
The future, unlike the past, is not fixed and determined—though for the universe, natural laws limit how change can occur. The sun and earth and moon will continue in their orbits unless their momentum is disturbed by some other force. We, too, are bound by natural laws, but we have the power of our wills to change our direction. We may look in our rear-view mirrors and seek to follow a course consistent with our past, but we may also choose to change dramatically.
The road ahead is not yet built. We are at the edge of the universe and time, and until we choose our next step, we might go in any direction—no matter what we have done in the past. It is remarkably easy to forget this immense power. The road ahead of us is as empty as the universe. We have not chosen which way we will go until we take the step.
If we knew exactly how everything—including universe and time—worked, how much more easily we might live. How much easier it would be to choose our next step. We would know the obvious road to happiness—to our place in harmony with the universe.
Knowing how everything works would allow us to work in harmony with everything. Knowing the rules of the road would allow us to avoid collisions. We would be able to accomplish much more with much less effort. We would be able to do everything faster, better, and more easily. Even more important, we would know how to avoid unnecessary and unproductive work.
When we follow natural law, it guides us along an easy path which requires no plan, no thought, no effort. We can, following the rules of the road, put ourselves on automatic pilot. We need do nothing, for we will do whatever is required just as it becomes necessary and possible. We will find ourselves doing all we need to do by simply acting naturally. Even our errors will correct themselves automatically.
By following natural law, we can overcome the disadvantages that are a byproduct of miscommunications and the limitations of our reason. We can be freed from the artificial and inaccurate understanding of the universe sometimes created by words and pictures. We won’t be lost in the illusions that follow from false images.
To see the natural laws underlying everything, we must begin by being aware of all reality. We must reduce our attention to this unique moment in time and space and open our attention to include all the instants and places that are parts of the greater reality. We must let go of our stranglehold on the here and now to have a sense the whole.
This greater reality can be described as truly perfect, for any other perfection we describe must be fictional, theoretical, imaginary. As a result, when we think reality is imperfect, it is because we are not considering everything. We are forming an opinion based on a limited and often distorted picture, a fantasy, an illusion.
To see the underlying laws of reality, we must begin by accepting that the universe is perfect exactly as it is. Anything we imagine to be better is not, in fact, real. It is an illusion, a trick of our minds. Our imagined perfection lacks the most essential characteristic of reality: existence. Yet what exists at this moment is not the whole of perfection, for the perfection of the universe includes endless change. Perfection cannot be stagnant, for change is a constant and essential part of reality and thus of perfection.
So, because reality is in motion, our vision of a perfect world may be simply premature. The perfection we think about may be an image of some future time and place, perhaps a partial and imperfect image, but something that may eventually exist. Our discontent with the reality we are experiencing now may be due to some awareness of the future course of the universe. What seems to be lacking at this moment may come to exist as a consequence of the natural process of change. Reality never stops changing.
When we think that things should be different than they are at present, when we say that people should behave differently or societies should have different practices, unless we are talking about some vision of a possible future, we are confused. What exists is a consequence of countless and forgotten interactions going back to the dawn of time.
All that is here and now exists, but the thousand steps that led us here are gone. How did we become who we are? We arrived at this place on the road as a consequence of an infinite number of steps. We can never trace all the movements of all the particles, and the experience can never be repeated.
When everything is changing, it leaves no trail of evidence. We do not see God moving things about, any more than we see Da Vinci dabbing paint on the Mona Lisa. The painting—reality—remains. The evidence of the complex processes which brought it about have vanished.
What are the rules that guide the universe? Trying to put universal laws into words is risky. When we try to put natural laws into very precise language we may easily err, while our ability to apply the rules may be enhanced if we remember that we do not know anything certainly and absolutely. We seek to communicate about the laws only to help us become more aware of how the universe may work. This imperfect knowledge is the wisdom of the ages.
Remembering and being aware of the natural law is easiest if we can forget the many manmade laws, rules, beliefs, and opinions created on the basis of fragmentary knowledge. Natural law is deeply rooted in our being—in our genes. We can listen to it by following our intuition or instinct—by doing what we truly wish to do. If we are not too busy and not too trapped by our beliefs, opinions and thoughts, we may do what is in our hearts and our cells.
You already know the natural laws. They are in your cells. You don't need to learn them, to write them down, or to memorize them. When you are completely relaxed and following your instincts, you will follow the natural course without thinking about it.
We may remind ourselves of one rule that may help us act in harmony with the universe, if we observe that what is very little—nearly nothing at all—can easily penetrate what seems huge, solid, and impenetrable. Thus an X-ray can go through flesh, light can pass through glass, cosmic rays can penetrate trillions of miles of empty space and still pass through what seems solid.
The practical lesson is that we can avoid conflict and advance if we remain unencumbered. If we are large, we are more like to meet resistance.
What is gentle and flexible undermines what is hard and unyielding—water can erode the base of a stone statue. This lesson is the secret of avoiding injury as we encounter other parts of the universe. If we are flexible and do not meet force with force, force cannot be effective against us. Force cannot produce conflict or injury, because when it advances, we retreat. When it is strong, we use weakness. When it is large, we become small. Thus we may continue to our goals by stepping around or through what appears to be an obstacle.
When flowing water encounters a rock, it does not stop. It does not enter into conflict with the rock. It moves quickly around the rock and resumes its natural course. It yields and proceeds uninjured.
Force—dramatic action—aimed in one direction, easily backfires or boomerangs. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. When we push too hard against reality, reality pushes back and we go in a direction that may be the opposite of that we desired. We express love and are rejected.
Emptiness, on the other hand, attracts. We express indifference and are loved. Things go where there is room for them to go. When an object is hot, heat moves to what is cool. Everything flows away from obstacles. What is too full loses its contents to what is empty. Natural law seems to seek balance by taking from whatever has too much and giving to whatever is lacking.
Combining the attractive power of emptiness and the boomerang from the use of force, when we move things away from a point of balance they will be returned to the balance point in time by natural forces. The greatest works of man will, in a few millennia, crumble into dust if not maintained by constant effort. The knife we sharpen is, in time, used and made dull. The house we build falls to ruin. The ball we throw into the air returns to earth.
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Reversal and balance are natural laws which provide secret power to help us journey in any direction we choose along the empty road. To remain in balance ourselves, we must not push others. When we push others, they resist us and we find ourselves unbalanced.
When others push us, to keep our balance we push back, but this too causes us to become unbalanced. It is wiser to move aside, allowing others to lose their balance without affecting us. While we increase the power of others by withdrawing resistance to it, we reduce their power by removing the object they are directing it against. The result is that they become reluctant to use their power against us. This achieves reversal: the more power you give them, the less power they have.
If we want someone or something to have less, we should never take anything away, for this simply creates a vacuum to be filled later. It will be more effective to give more. We can break a habit most successfully by carrying it so far that it becomes very unpleasant. We can cure ourselves of love by overdoing it. We can cure ourselves of being alone by being alone to excess.
If we want someone to have more, give them less. Hunger creates appetite. If someone has too much and we give them more, they will resist. People distrust giving, expecting that they must someone repay the gift. By giving them too much, we create a natural desire to establish balance by getting rid of the excess. This lets natural laws, rather than our own limited power, achieve the results we seek.
When we push for a result using our actions -- when we try to take from someone, they resist and hold on more firmly. When we act to diminish someone's power, the natural response is that they struggle to hold on to power.
This law of reversal is a key to power and to easy progress. Our minds, seeing what seems to work for a short period of time -- seeing the advances made by force and effort, forget what consequences eventually follow as a result of the way things work. We see the ball thrown high into the air, and forget that it will return to earth. We forget that many short-term gains are, in the end, lost. The greatest effort may be wasted, for in the end it accomplishes nothing at all.
What goes up in its journey, struggling against the natural law of gravity, will be returned with no effort by the natural law. Thus not opposing the natural laws of the universe, not seeking to do what may appear to work quickly, conserves our energy. Knowing the natural forces and using our energy to work within the universal laws will achieve the goal without struggle.
Like water turning aside to avoid an obstacle, we are carried to our proper place in the order of things when we do not resist reality. Stopping to do battle with the rocks will not bring us quickly and easily to our goals. Yet unlike water, we have the power to direct our course—to use the forces around us to reach goals we choose for ourselves. We may not be able to swim against the current, but we can swim across it and we can swim with it to reach many points along the banks.
[ADDED] The greatness of reality comes from what it is and does. It is everything and does all that is done. Yet it does not do what people often associate with greatness. Reality does not think. It does not feel. It does not take sides. It does not seek to control. It does not own. It does not take credit for its achievements. It does not boast of its abilities. It has no goals and no direction. It achieves its greatness simply by being what it must be and doing what it does by its nature.
The universe is the model for all of us. Our greatness comes not from thinking, feeling, owning, controlling, desiring, seeking, or achieving. Our greatness comes from being uniquely who we are, doing what we alone do.
When we depart from the simple reality and natural laws which apply at all times and in every place, we court danger. What is real—the way things work—will have real consequences, even if we do not know or accept what is real. Reality will always reveal our errors, no matter what we believe.
Abandoning popular opinions and words used to simplify and categorize reality into something easier to deal with, but artificial—allows us to be aware of reality. Lacking such awareness, relying on fragments of knowledge, trusting to opinions about how things work, will cause us to stumble as if sleepwalking.
If we can be aware of the universe and the way everything goes, we can go easily wherever we choose to go. The empty road through space and time will open before us and the easy way to the good life, happiness, success, and harmony will be available without struggle, death, unhappiness, failure or conflict. Of course, that’s an opinion. You will learn for yourself by going.
Did time exist before objects? Did objects exist before time? Is the nature of reality today a predictable result of what existed yesterday? Will our future decisions be automatic results of our past life and an inevitable consequence of the direction we have been traveling? How can we know? We can only recognize that we do not know.
To approach the great questions often asked about life, we cannot study the fragments of life, for the fragments are too limited. What we did yesterday includes millions of tiny events, each one a unique event in the history of the universe. What should result from these events? Our reasoning minds cannot analyze such great quantities of data to make choices. Only through our intuition—our unfocused awareness of all of reality—can we choose wisely.
If we wish to better understand the dynamic which creates and drives the material world and may have preceded its creation, we will only endanger our understanding by referring to this dynamic as “God.” The underlying force cannot be described in material or sensory terms, so those who describe God, who seek to give a material existence to the immaterial, conclude their search by creating and worshipping a false idol.
Whatever preexisted all creation, if anything did, cannot be apprehended or portrayed by the senses. Whether something beyond our ken preceded everything is a matter of opinion or theory or faith. It is impossible to explain how existing things may have come from a state of non-existence. It appears to our limited minds that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed. Yet reality greatly exceeds the limits of mind.
If the search for the origins of the material world are difficult, we are equally dismayed when we seek to understand how things proceed, interact, and change through time. We cannot easily think of change and time in the abstract. We have difficulty enough recognizing the constant change that affects objects—people commonly act as if the world around them and the people they know are the same from one day to the next.
Knowing, understanding and achieving—if done in the way which works fastest, easiest, and best—require nearly no effort at all.
How does the universe act? It fills what is empty. The way to knowledge is to empty your mind of knowledge. If you do not know -- if you let go of what fills your mind now -- the natural pattern of the universe will automatically fill you with natural knowledge.
When we lose opinions, beliefs, and partial knowledge of the specks and fragments from our brief lives and limited memories, all the wisdom which comes from being empty and open to the universe is available to us. When we do not know what others have taught us or what we have come to believe on our own, our genetic memories and the wordless reality around and beyond us may easily penetrate into our open and empty mind. We learn as we did as infants, when we learned at an amazing rate.
To understand, we must let go of our confidence in our understanding. As soon as we accept that we do not understand, our ability to understand—our capacity and power to see and accept and act in harmony with reality—is greatly increased.
So, too, with activity. If we wish to achieve without great effort, we need to begin by doing much less. Our activity—our constant busyness, running about ceaselessly, trying to do many things—prevents us from achieving what might be done with very little effort.
To do what works best -- quickly and easily achieving all that can be achieved, we need first to stop doing all we are doing. We are too busy to do what will achieve results easily. To achieve more we must begin by doing much less. Then the natural laws will fill this inactivity with activity more natural and productive to us.
Letting go of knowledge, understanding, power, activity -- creating an empty space -- is the first step toward freedom, opportunity, wisdom and achievement.
When we have cleared our minds of cluttered thoughts, beliefs and opinions, when we stop focusing all our energies on trivia, we can become more aware of the entire universe. Then we may begin to realize the source of all that exists and underlies the constantly changing universe. The ability to be aware of the underlying essence -- the heart of the universe and time together -- is the greatest wisdom. We discover the universal laws -- the way all things exist and change -- by seeing what is common to all that exists and to all the changes that occur.
When we allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by bits of data, we are misled into taking what appear to be shortcuts. This is the path of many people, so it is a crowded road. We bump and jostle each other through alleys that someone or something has suggested will get us to our destination more quickly.
The direct route is invisible. The empty road doesn't exist. We can't find it by looking, by studying the past, by asking others, orvby reviewing what we learned in school. The more we know, the more data we absorb and process, the more easily we are misled. Our efforts lead us into blind alleys that look like shortcuts to happiness, success, peace, and a good life.
With an empty mind we can become open to the two extremes of reality which are most valuable to our learning. We can become aware of the totality -- the entire universe through all time -- and we can become aware of ourselves. Knowing yourself and knowing the totality of time and space is a combined knowledge far greater than can be accumulated in the form of bits and pieces of data, the distinctions of words, or the opinions of others or yourself.
If you can uncover your true self and the true reality of all that is and changes, and if you can accept that you are exactly as you are and change exactly as you change, and that the universe is exactly as it is and changes as it does, you will be wise.
Knowing these underlying realities, both you and the universe, you will also know that what is real is not what appears on the surface. The sun seems to circle the Earth, but it does not. The Moon appears to be dark at times and full at others, but this is an appearance rather than reality. What appears may be the opposite of what is in reality true: of us, of others, of everything.
Knowing reality requires an apprehension which does not rely on words. The power of words to share information is great, but it is also very limited. Words filter out much of reality to focus our attention. Words are a reflection of reality -- an appearance, an illusion, a way to aid our understanding, but also a potential barrier to seeing what is real -- just as the full moon helps us to understand the moon but also may mislead us as to its true nature.
Thus words can teach us about reality, but they are poor substitutes for intuition—for a realization that goes beyond the knowledge available from perception. Our fullest apprehension of all reality, knowing ourselves and the universe, requires us to use everything—from our memories to our genes to our five senses and beyond.
Because words are reflections of reality rather than reality, they are often used to interpret, generalize, theorize, or otherwise convert the parts of the universe from reality into opinions about reality. These opinions lead to conflict. Since they are incomplete, they offer an artificial and created image which always is less than reality. If we deal with words as if they were perfect representations of reality, we will err, because no representation can be more than an imperfect reflection.
While words used by philosophers, teachers, ministers, wise men, prophets, politicians are not reality, they can help us be aware of what perception fails to reveal. Remembering this truth, being always aware of it, we may avoid conflict arising from varying perceptions and opinions. Words can be the enemy of harmony if we do not awaken to their true nature—images in sound or light of a reality that is very different from the symbols. In battles over words, take no side, for the conflict will draw you away from both reality and harmony. The truth may be found within the arguments of opposing sides.
Knowing the true nature of words, look behind the words to see what is real and what works. See not the words, but see the people who are the embodiment, the manifestation of what works. In the real lives of real people—not in their words—we see how the awareness and acceptance of reality and change leads to harmony with others.
If we are reluctant to hold opinions—words which attempt to give us an understanding of reality but are a barrier to our open awareness—it will be easier to whatever works. If we are uncertain about how the world works—if we let go of our opinions and thoughts built entirely on words—the door is opened to using all of our natural power. Free of the prison of words, we may do whatever will take us along the road we choose to follow.
As we learn about reality—about the unity of time and space for which we have no word, though perhaps universe or One captures it as well as any—we learn how to live, exist, and change in harmony with all. The door to harmony is opened with the word accept. By accepting without reservation the world and all the changes that occur, by seeing that this reality is inevitable, we change our attitude. This changed attitude opens the door to a more complete awareness.
An attitude of conflict with reality greatly diminishes our power, for our mind is constantly rejecting part of the whole. It is like using a road map, but refusing to believe it is correct, or believing the map is correct, but becoming upset when we find a road is closed by an accident. Not accepting the world as it actually exists limits our ability to find the best road to happiness, peace, success, and contentment. Not accepting reality and the inevitability of change causes us to struggle constantly with the world and the people around us.
Rejecting reality, instead of proceeding along our own path to an easy and harmonious future, we constantly stop to do battle. We do not follow the lesson of water. When we meet something that blocks our way, we do not turn quickly and easily aside to continue our journey unhindered. We stop to do battle, often continuing the war in our minds long after the interaction is passed.
Because the whole, the One, the Universe, is all there is and all there will be or has been (including everything we call supernatural), it is the source of all harmony. If we are in harmony with another person, a group, a forest glen, a recliner along a sparkling pool, this can give us a sense of the feeling of happiness which accompanies even the smallest harmony. Harmony with the Universe gives us perfect and complete harmony. We are at home no matter where we go or what changes occur.
When we accept—when we willingly and gladly relinquish our habit of conflict with the elements of reality and change—we find harmony. Our thinking habits and those of others give us endless opportunity for conflict. Only by using our will, desire, and knowledge can we overcome our habit of conflict to open the door to happiness. If we desire happiness, if we abandon our opinions so we may know what is real and how things change, and if we choose to accept reality, we will find harmony. Only by the power of our will—by choice—can we create an attitude of acceptance.
Unhappiness, however, may never be banished entirely from our life. We will always be ignorant, to some degree, of reality and change. We will, from our ignorance and habits, desire what is not real and cannot, due to the nature of reality, become real. We will also make errors in understanding what is real—we will run into some rocks we do not see and we will turn aside to avoid some rocks which really don't block our way. We may want some changes to occur which cannot occur, and at times we may want things to stop changing, which they cannot do. Only a constant attitude of acceptance can save us from the unhappiness we cause ourselves—and allow us and others to reach an ever-increasing harmony.
Both the universe and you will alternate between activity and rest. At times everything will seem to be going as you wish. At other times nothing will seem to make progress. If you do not know that this is the pattern, you will at times accept everything and be happy and contented, and at other times you will feel unable to see the order and harmony. You will be angry and unhappy, in conflict with the world because you do not see how it must be. The power of communication and thought and intelligence causes us to alternate, like the universe, between extremes, returning to he balance point only to swing too far in the opposite direction. Accepting this part of the universal pattern will allow you to relax and be contented with the flow of change. When we accept the flow, we do not struggle against happiness or unhappiness. As a result, we move gently back toward the balance point and do not go so far beyond it.
To some extent, what we call unhappiness a natural and beneficial stimulus to the constant improvement of our lives. Properly directed, it leads us to seek to understand more and to increase our abilities. This opens the road to a future undreamed of by those who are contented. Of all knowledge, the most important is knowledge of yourself.
If you know yourself—your every facet and every behavior, your reality and its current manifestation—you will know more than those filled with knowledge from encyclopedias and schools. To know yourself is the first step to following the empty road.
With knowledge of yourself, aided by words but not depending on them, you have the essential knowledge required to create your own future—to follow your own path into a world which will suit you alone. Knowing other people, by comparison, is of little value. If you know who you are, you may more easily choose your next step. If you do not, you will still take steps, but these steps may not suit your unique nature.
Your ignorance about yourself causes you to choose unhappiness, often because you choose steps that seem to bring happiness to others. Because you are not someone else, your road to happiness is not someone else's road. The steps you choose might not suit others, but they will work perfectly for you.
If you know yourself, your power to control your actions and thoughts and beliefs will automatically increase. Because all knowledge is partial, your powers increase as your knowledge of yourself and your practice in self-control increases. Knowing yourself gives you the ability to control yourself. You will find that this is all the power or strength you need to do whatever you want.
Those who control others never have enough strength. The effort required is exhausting and to maintain control always calls for more and more activity and effort and strength. Controlling other people can never bring contentment or relaxation. Controlling yourself, however, does.
If you know yourself, you know what you truly need. Those who do not know themselves are easily manipulated by others. They acquire and accumulate what they do not truly need. They surrender their lives to gain what does not, due to their real nature, bring them happiness. Homes, cars, furs, friends, lovers, bank accounts, achievements—any of these may be a part of what one needs to feel happiness or contentment. Unless we know ourselves and our unique needs, however, we can easily be drawn into doing what we think, in our ignorance of ourselves, will carry us along the road to happiness. This is why so many people seek happiness in all the wrong places.
Know yourself, control yourself, and you will know which steps to take and be able to take them. If you are aware of what you need, you will find you have everything you require already, and you will see clearly how to have all that you will need in the future. This is true wealth. Others may possess far more or far less, but you will have all you need and want to live well.
Knowing and controlling yourself, you are able to be yourself and your desire to be somebody else will decline and disappear. You will change, develop, become as you naturally wish to be as a result of the things you meet with along your journey. You will travel along your own chosen path to happiness, free of the desire to be someone else or to live a life suited to another person—no matter how similar they may seem to you.
You will see what others do—the roads they follow in ignorance or awareness—but you will have an easy and pleasant life just being yourself and accepting who you are and how you are changing. Being and accepting yourself, you will have no desire to come into conflict with others. You will not compete to follow a road that does not suit you.
Accepting yourself and your unique nature, you will naturally seek your own happiness. You will do as you want to serve your own interests. To do otherwise would be unnatural. As your knowledge of everything advances—as you become aware of the totality of time and space—your interests and wishes will change. You will find greater and greater happiness and contentment as you grow to accept your nature and the nature of all. It is this accepting of ourselves and our need to fulfill our wants that provides the best guide to our course along the uncharted path to the future. Following it allows every person to avoid conflict while finding happiness. We rarely need to compete, for two people rarely have exactly the same needs at the same time.
Accepting death is part of our acceptance of the universe. Death is part of the pattern of life. Every living organism dies, but reproduction allows the organism to continue in a new form. Seeing the unity of everything—the pattern of all existence -- we see that both life and death are temporary states, opinions that characterize the interaction among atoms. Life is an organizing energy. When this energy is interrupted -- when the pattern of organization is broken -- the ability to organize following a specific set of instructions ceases. Neither the matter nor the energy are lost, but both return to the universe to become parts of other entities, some living, some not living.
Acceptance of this great universal dance allows us to accept living fully. Living requires no special effort -- as living beings we organize matter and energy into larger and larger units. While we are alive we are completely alive -- the atoms, molecules, cells, and organs are all living. We are without death. We are immortal.
Once the energy pattern is broken, life ends. All that existed before goes on, but in a new relationship to its surroundings. Dying needs no preparation -- it need not concern us while we are alive.
To live and to succeed, we don’t need tools and don’t need to be in conflict with our surroundings. We need only to be ourselves and to use the ability which comes to us naturally -- walking as we learn to walk, speaking, building -- doing whatever we gain the ability to do by our nature as living, organizing, learning creatures. The success we find on this path is that which suits us uniquely -- our success is not generic, it is genetic.
Your way -- your path along the empty road -- suits only you, your heritage and the person you have become, are becoming and will become as the result of your interaction with the world. If it does not suit you, it is in your power and your power alone to change course.
The path you will take never existed in the past -- you cannot follow the road or guidance of your parents, your friends, your neighbors, or those you may admire. You cannot follow the crowd and find the happiness and success which are designed to be uniquely yours. To find your way is easier than doing what you have been doing in an effort to become someone else, to do as you have been told or taught, to do as others choose.
Just as the way to know, understand, and achieve is to let go of knowledge, opinion and activity -- the way to find your own path is to stop running on the highway you are on.
It is stopping which allows you to go in a new direction. It is in repose – a relaxed and inactive state -- that one gains access to the unique knowledge of who you are and what the future allows. Only in a state of quiet repose can you be open to your intuitive powers -- and only these powers can guide you to happiness and success, the good life, and harmony with all.
Doing as little as necessary -- doing nothing but relaxing -- is the step which takes you along your unique road.
Acceptance of reality and change provides us with the attitude that leads us along a path to harmony. We avoid the rocks and flow easily down to the sea, bubbling merrily along over and around every obstacle, seeking our happiness in harmony with all.
The attitude of acceptance guides our attitude toward our encounters with the balance of reality. If we approach everything with an attitude of relaxed submission, giving each fragment of the universe what is properly due to it, we may act just as the universe acts. Acting in this manner makes perfection, creation, and achievement occur effortlessly.
To yield to each thing what is due to it allows us to be in harmony. If we encounter something or someone which would injure us or impede our journey to happiness, we do not submit to injury -- but we do what is natural. We avoid what would injure us. To yield does not mean to allow force to injure us. It does mean to acknowledge reality and to follow a course which allows us to proceed without being injured. Thus, withdrawal—turning aside from the rocks in our path—is submitting, yielding to their reality.
We cannot help but do. In a more complete understanding there is no such thing as doing or not doing. We are always in a process of interaction with our surroundings. To make our activity more useful—to allow us to proceed along our path to happiness at the pace which suits us best—we need to free up our schedule. If we are always busy, we lose the freedom to choose our path from moment to moment.
Our full schedule, our too full life, our too saturated senses, our overflowing knowledge of trivia, our wealth of possessions, our many friends, our duties—these are all barriers to what we need. Such fullness keeps us from perceiving—our senses are too busy. Such fullness keeps us from learning—we believe we already know. Such fullness keeps us from getting what we need—we are already too busy keeping, accumulating, and dusting the possessions we own. Our busy schedule of activities denies us the freedom we need to do what would be of greatest use.
Our lack of activity, perception, knowledge, and treasure creates the freedom and opportunity you need to travel our own road. Not planning, not being certain, not being committed to a course of action, not owning—these are the essential first steps to choosing the best action. Ignore the first step—fail to clear away the barriers, the activities and obligations which fill your future and you cannot act freely to be the person you are becoming. The person you were, guessing about a future which had not yet come, has committed you to choices that rob you of your opportunity for happiness.
Once our future is freed from the past—once we allow it to occur as it does and give ourselves the freedom to choose our steps one at a time, just as we wish—we will see which actions allow us to advance in harmony with the world and we will be free to take them.
The traveler along the empty road knows about strength, action, force, and appearances. All of these have the image of power. The great figures of history are often those who exhibited these facets: conquerors, warriors, kings who created those images we associate with power—pyramids and castles and jeweled crowns.
The traveler along the empty road knows about force and the images of power, but knows his own weakness and the limited effectiveness of force. He knows the value of inaction. He knows that yielding, withdrawing to avoid obstacles and conflict, contributes to harmony. He knows what is visible, but he also knows what is not visible but is real. Thus he controls himself, uses weakness and inaction, lets things and people proceed as they choose, accepts reality and the changes that come, and avoids conflict by following his own way in harmony with everything.
This course of action is a course of self-improvement. We change as time passes whether we accept the necessity of change or not. How we change is within our power. If we choose to take the steps required to know ourselves, if we use our knowledge of our true selves to control our actions, we may control how we change.
Yet our personal change is best achieved by using inaction and weakness. Forcing yourself to behave differently will create conflict and reversal. It will require great strength to maintain the change. It will be exhausting and produce a constant pressure to go back to your old way of living. Weakness, accepting and inaction are the easy road to change.
Growth, whether in people or in plants, requires softness, flexibility and yielding. The growing tree is weakest and most flexible, the dying tree is brittle and hard and inflexible. The growing tree yields to the sun, growing where the light is available, not seeking to grow into the darkest places.
To grow in happiness is to continue to learn about the universe and about yourself, to control yourself by being calm, quiet and inactive, by using your weakness and flexibility more than your certainty and firmness.
These qualities allow us to do all we may do. They allow us to travel about freely, to live easily, and to be useful and helpful to other people. Yet the key to achieving this state of harmony is to remember always the source of your well-being. Your needs, the conditions which permit this growth, must be fulfilled. Travel about freely, but take such actions as will assure you may continue to do so. The freedom you achieve by your inaction is lost if you neglect to maintain the environment which allowed it to arise. Be free, but do not forget reality or your freedom will cause you to be injured by the reality you ignored.
Knowing the world, knowing how to adapt easily to its conditions, knowing society and acting in harmony with other people, allows us to do what is easy and natural for us to do. Our lives become increasingly effortless.
Doing what requires little effort, moving naturally and withdrawing from conflict so you may continue toward your personal paradise will keep your energy and enthusiasm high. You’ll feel as if you always have power to spare, as if things came to you without working for them or thinking about them or pursuing them. Moving and doing what is natural for you, what requires no struggle, what you don’t have to make yourself do, allows you to do all you'll ever need to do.
While doing what comes naturally assures you a constant supply of energy to do what is natural, talking and taking sides in disputes exhausts your energy. Choosing sides, using your energy to force a victory, and entering into conflict will drain your power. Learn to work in natural harmony with others is all that is necessary to achieve more with less effort.
The way to find harmony with other people is to be constantly aware of the unity of all things. Doing so, you may be completely relaxed. Breathing easily, you will see clearly both what is visible and what is not apparent. Knowing reality, you will accept change without wishing things would never change. You will be increasingly free of both opinion and certainty, opening your mind to understanding.
You will do nothing that does not come easily and naturally. When you do act you will not expect a specific result or benefit. You will create and act without claiming credit or ownership. You will lead without ordering about by simply being an example of living naturally in harmony with all. This will benefit others and add to the harmony around you.
The person most able to achieve harmony and most beneficial to others is true to his own nature. He is himself. . He accepts that his life is a result of the encounters with other people and the universe which have brought him to this place and time.
The harmonious person, being himself, never competes to do what others do nor does he seek to become what others seek to become. Being inactive, quiet, in a state of repose, he has time and energy to contemplate deeply. He does not think casually and take the results of such casual thought seriously.
The harmonious person speaks little, but speaks the truth, knowing that words can increase harmony only if they are efforts to reflect accurately the truth. He speaks little because he knows little. He sees that talking exhausts the natural energy he will need to act effectively when action is required.
He helps everyone without playing favorites or taking sides. He gives each person what is deserved. The harmonious person responds to each situation in the way best suiting the specific time, place, and events. He does not follow moral instructions which are a barrier to behaving naturally and to achieving harmony in unique circumstances. Acting naturally at the instant when action is required, he does not need to think about the rules of conduct.
Methods and practices which people use to gain from others—deviousness, interfering, weapons, treasure, seeking to change people, being active, wanting more—create disorder that keeps people from the easy road. Being honest, direct, flexible, quiet, inactive, and accepting people as they are and as they change leads to harmony with others. People in harmony are free to find their own path.
Harmony with others is achieved by controlling yourself and never opposing the natural course of the people or the world around you. An attitude which allows other people to join you or leave you, so they might continue along their own road, keeps you free of conflict. Harmony with others is achieved by interacting with those who do not bring you conflict and disharmony. Move gently out of the way of those who have lives filled with conflict.
In moving to a harmonious relationship with others, avoid doing anything extreme. Being cautious, easy-going, patient, flexible, simple, and doing only what is required causes no disorder and provides an example for others seeking harmony. Extreme actions increase disorder, requiring time and many other actions to restore harmony. Such actions and their consequences may make it difficult for us to adopt easy solutions.
If everyone would act in accordance with the natural order of reality and the natural changes that are part of the order of things, conflict could be greatly reduced. Since this is not the case, our own harmony requires us to move gently toward others who behave in harmony with nature and to move gently away from those who do not. Accepting the nature of reality and seeing people exactly as they are, we acting in this way to avoid conflict. Avoid conflict and those who bring it to you, and you will naturally move away from trouble and toward harmony.
Some conflict with others may be unavoidable. Acting quickly when we sense disagreement allows us to yield to others what is due them—their right to be who they are, do what they wish, and believe as they do. It helps us avoid waste and unnecessary injury, and shows our lack of ambition and our lack of desire for victory at the expense of others.
If others initiate conflict, simply withdraw. If you do so quickly and quietly , no one can block your path to peace. Always seek to avoid injuring others, even those who would injure you. It is better to retreat and find peace than to stand fast and find conflict.
The easy road to avoid conflict is to take no side in a dispute. If you do not take a side—if you don’t have your own side, your own point of view—no one can dispute with you. Taking no side allows you to see clearly the reality behind the partial views which have produced the conflict. Taking a side—having an opinion—prevents us from open and unbiased acceptance of the entire reality. Those with strong opinions believe as they do because of their unique perception, education, and experience.
Having taken no side, having no point-of-view that distorts reality, we need take no action. Taking no action in a dispute leads most easily to the best outcome. Taking no position, we cannot be easily attacked. Attacking no one, we do not injure others and do not give rise to attacks in reprisal.
To avoid conflict it is best to use no weapons. To have weapons which are kept unused is better. Living so that weapons are unnecessary, so that protection from others is not needed, offers the easy path to safety and harmony.
Lawyers, mercenaries, police, soldiers—all these are the tools of those who seek conflict. Those choosing to follow the empty road have no use for such weapons. They know that weapons, even used in defense, injure others and have consequences which cause future conflict. Using weapons never achieves a restful harmony, for both loser and victor are drawn away from their own roads to happiness.
When conflict comes, do only what is required to allow you to continue along your own road. Win the battle by avoiding conflict and violence, while doing as little as possible. Victory through such means is the best protection against reprisals. Force backfires; energy directed against others boomerangs. If victory is achieved, do not claim it as victory. Even claiming victory causes others to seek to even the score.
In opportunities for conflict, doing the very least possible will achieve the greatest result. Never seek to do more or less than is necessary to allow you to proceed along your path to harmony and happiness. By remaining in harmony with the universe, its balance will aid you. Following the natural trends, rising or falling with the pendulum swings of reality, you avoid struggling and avoid injury as you move easily with the flow of events.
As we learn about ourselves and learn to control ourselves, as we discover the nature of the universe and the way everything changes, what pleasures do we seek? What do we value? What actions toward which goals will keep us in harmony with our unique needs and the world around us?
We discover what is truly of value to us by letting go of our values. Most of us have a package of ready-made values: words and slogans and rules for behavior. We may have learned these values from our parents or friends, from books or movies or advertising, from our education or religious training. Most of us have, without thinking about what is truly of value, accepted a collection of goals and priorities which may not suit us or the reality we live in.
xxxMuch of our training from birth relies on artificial and external rewards. We obtain praise or tangible benefits when we do what others wish. Rather than gaining solely from the natural consequences of our action, people intervene to reward what they believe to be good and to punish what they believe to be evil. This practice separates us from the natural reality of things.
We obtain jobs because we have a diploma, not because we have skills. Women who wear cosmetics attract men who might choose others if everyone relied entirely on their natural beauty.
As we learn to value what others consider valuable, we lose our awareness of what we prefer. Our minds lose the power to choose, and we find ourselves following roads that others have taught us to follow. We can’t listen to our hearts, because our heads are filled with the opinions of others. External rewards and popular beliefs keep us from doing what will bring us real and lasting pleasures and happiness.
People who believe they know what is best for us lack awareness. The stronger the opinions, the weaker the awareness. Believing you know what is best for someone else shows that you don’t see how different they are from you and you don’t realize how difficult it is to know what is best for another person.
The opinions of others often become obstacles to our clear awareness of reality. They keep us from seeing the real results of our actions and beliefs. We may do things because we have been taught that they are the right things to do—even though, in some cases, they are harmful. Others may persuade us to do things that will injure people, sometimes convincing us that our actions will in the long run be beneficial.
Immediate rewards, too, can be a cause of lasting unhappiness. We may take actions that are enjoyable but have harmful results that come later. Certain rewards may confuse us about the consequences of our actions. We may seek power and wealth even though these may not be beneficial to ourselves or others.
If other people give us their opinions about reality, we may easily be confused and misled from our own awareness. If they tell us a person is good or bad or perfectly suited to us or not at all suitable, we are might miss seeing the real person. We might also miss seeing what would suit us best.
The way to finding pleasures of lasting value is to let go of the values which others have told you to use in judging what is good or evil, and which others use in judging you and the world. Only if we are able to let go of these rewards and opinions, can we grasp easily the true values and true knowledge of reality which will replace them.
Until you have let go of such entrenched beliefs, you cannot grasp what is of greatest value and leads to pleasure without leading to injury. When we let go of the external rewards—degrees, honors, awards, love, friendship, praise, salaries, privileges—we become free to find real rewards: the pleasures that lead us to happiness. When we let go of opinions of other people, including our friends, lovers, teachers, students, neighbors, leaders, and families—we are able to see clearly who we are and our true place in the vast universe around us.
We can find the only love of value to us—love given to us without conditions. Love which comes to us automatically as a result of who we are and the world around us—love without conditions—allows us to be who we really are, to do what we really wish to do, and to change as we alone choose to change. It cannot be won or lost by acting in accordance with someone else’s views of how we should act. Such love is ours by nature. Love which is given to us in exchange for some action is an external reward, a payment to buy our behavior, not love.
If we do not value as wealth what others may tell us to value, we can find the only true wealth which is of value to us—wealth without waste. Wealth is well-being, welfare. Lacking such wealth, we are easily attracted to possessions we do not need and rarely use.
We hoard jewelry, furniture, homes, cars, food, books, and a thousand dust-collecting knickknacks and baubles. Our society becomes wasteful, as those who own its resources and products do not employ them well. We have offices that sit empty every night, cars used for an hour or two a day and left idle all the rest of the time, jewelry stored in vaults or kept in drawers or wall safes to be used only on rare occasions.
If our possessions require guards, and our hoarding of wealth that might better serve others in need produces conflict, we have sacrificed our well-being. Our opinions about what is good and the external rewards that flow from the mistaken opinions of others deceive us as to our true nature and the nature of reality. We have much, but lack what we most need. Feeling our lack, we seek to obtain more. Yet acquiring more will simply worsen our poverty and ignorance.
When we become more aware, we see that having more than we can use immediately creates work and tension. To keep too much—to hold more than we need—we must be constantly busy, active, struggling. Our greed for too much power over others and too many possessions creates an imbalance which causes disorder and disharmony. The world we live in, the disorder we feel around us, results from our efforts to gather and hoard what we do not need and what will not make us truly happy. Our ownership and our beliefs enslave us—we cannot walk away from either. Yet harmony requires having only what we truly need and use, and awareness allows us to see what we really need.
Wealth, true wealth, is having the right to use whatever we need to live pleasantly without preventing others from using whatever they need. What many people value as wealth—controlling, owning, hoarding possessions—may not be of great value. Sharing the treasures of the universe with all who act in harmony produces wealth without conflict and without waste.
Love and wealth flow from the way we are and the way the universe is. All we need to be happy exists and can be obtained easily, just by doing what works. The needs of our parents and grandparents and ancestors going back thousands of years were all filled by the universe—so we should expect no less.
Knowing more, we are able to gain more. Knowing ourselves, knowing what we truly need to be happy, knowing the universe, we find contentment. Being contented results when we recognize that we have all we truly need at this moment. We see that we have had what we needed in the past. We see that we are likely to have what we need in the future. This awareness brings us into harmony with reality.
Love, wealth, contentment—in forms that suit us uniquely—are of value because these are the things that bring us pleasure now and take us along the road to lasting happiness.
Those we may call leaders or think of as leaders—do people follow them naturally or because they feel they have no choice? Do these leaders allow people to be themselves, understand reality, and act as they wish? Do people choose a leader because they see an excellent example and wish to follow it?
Do supervisors, teachers, managers, husbands, parents, politicians, chief executives—our would-be superiors in any part of our life—live in accordance with their true nature and allow us to do the same? Do they protect us and others from injury? Do they allow us to become whatever we choose, or do they limit us, try to compel our behavior; make decisions for us?
Those who use rules to create an order they believe is better, or who use their power to gain money and possessions and more power, make us poor and needy and unruly. Soon they must turn to punishments to control us. They do not see that punishment is ineffective if people are not happy, rich, free, and contented. Force does not change people’s behavior if they have little to lose.
The best leader does not make rules. He does not dictate to us, does not force us to do or be anything, does not prevent us from living in accordance with our natural desires. When we follow the best leader, it seems as if we are able to do everything without being led.
The best leader often seems to be doing nothing at all, for doing what comes naturally and is in harmony with other people and the universe looks very much like doing nothing at all. The best leader never seems to be working very hard, never gives orders, never struggles, never interferes. The leader who works hard, gives orders, struggles and interferes, is a poor leader, in conflict with others and reality.
The best leader doesn't talk much. Talking exhausts energy. People often do not believe what they are told, for words can be used to deceive and to mislead, and people do not learn from words. The best leader simply does what works. Talk distracts us from learning by example: people need only to observe how the leader lives, acts or refrains from action, and what he achieves.
The best leader does not criticize the world, for to do so shows that the leader does not accept reality as it is, and does not accept the changes which occur naturally over time. Those who lecture us on harmony, faith, goodness, fidelity, values, patriotism, and love do not know that such lecturing is a sign that they themselves have lost touch with reality. Critics and lecturers are not the best leaders. They do not know themselves, us, the world, or the universe of time and space. Words are not the way.
Those who have an idea of how the world should be ordered may not be the best leaders. When we are critical of reality, we cannot be the best leaders because we are not in harmony with our surroundings. We are not increasing our awareness of what is, but are instead following an opinion of what should be. We believe that some unreality—an imagined alternate world based on our limited perception and knowledge and understanding—can or should be created by our actions. We believe that change should not occur as it will.
The world will change. Each moment everything in the universe changes in accord with natural laws. Accepting this as reality is the way to harmony. The best leader accepts reality, knowing that change is inevitable and seeking to know himself and the universe so he may follow a road which avoids conflict and unhappiness. He knows that he will always be in conflict if he doesn’t willingly accept the world as it is. He knows that he can change things very little. He knows he cannot lead people to peace unless he is at peace.
The leader does not seek to disturb the existing order. Actions which create conflict and disturb the existing order lead to reversals. When we push too hard, too fast, the universe pushes back—sometimes undoing our greatest efforts. The natural leader knows his limitations and abilities, and proceeds only along roads that do not create stress, conflict or unhappiness.
The best leader uses what others do not value; he does not compete for what others want. While others plan for the future and take dramatic action when difficulties arise, the best leader does now what requires little effort and these easy steps keep him from encountering future difficulties. By knowing himself and constantly learning more about himself and the universe, he achieves results without great effort. Being happy and free of conflict, he has no need to seek power or prestige. Never seeking more than comes naturally, he sets an example which others may easily follow.
Until you find such a leader, it is better not to follow. Unless you are such a leader, it is better not to lead. Only with such leadership can people be free to follow the empty road.