I sit here, in this chair in which I place myself to write to you, the world, about what I, Matthew Whiteside, have found on my journey through a text said to be written 2500 + years ago by an extremely wise Sage. On this day, I feel as though I have nothing to write in the form of cutting truth towards understanding the Tao Te Ching any better than a person that picked it up for the first time.
I find it fascinating that I have read this damn book every day for almost two months. I was amazed because I used to be a person that found it difficult to make it out of bed every day. Not being able to make it out of bed consistently to reading and writing about a book of wisdom to live one’s life feels so astonishing to me.
Who have I become?
I care about paying my bills on time. I care about taking care of the people around me. I care about other’s happiness besides my own. I don’t give up after a failure, and I follow through on my word to myself and others.
I keep my word.
I need a second to reflect on that sentence…
My God, I have become an adult, and I barely recognized it while it was happening. But, having studied the Tao Te Ching now for a little while, I realize the transformation the Spirit has undergone.
How did I come about this transformation of Spirit? I had to completely lose it to find it. I give all the credit in the world to a recovery program from alcohol for where I am today. I know that without it, I would not be sitting here writing this blog post. I would not be studying the Tao Te Ching. I would not have people in my life that care deeply for me and that I care about beyond words. I would not have found fulfillment beyond this world’s material manifestations.
I am thankful as hell today for my recovery program, and it reminds me of chapter 3 of the Tao Te Ching.
“Do not glorify the achievers
So the people will not squabble
Do not treasure goods that are hard to obtain
So the people will not become thieves
Do not show the desired things
So their hearts will not be confused.
Thus the governance of the Sage:
Empties their hearts
Fills their bellies
Weakens their ambitions
Strengthens their bones
Let the people have no cunning and no greed
So those who scheme will not dare to meddle
Act without contrivanceTTC 3 (Lin)
And nothing will be beyond control.”
When I was drinking myself to death every day, my life was full of comparisons and judgments. I had to be better than other people, and when I wasn’t, I had to drink until I could deal with that fact. I didn’t sleep or eat when I needed to. I actually didn’t listen to my internal guidance at all. I shut off all the ways in which God, or the Tao, or whatever you want to call it, was speaking to me and instead focused on all the shit outside of me that I had no control over.
I desired everything outside of me to make me feel the way I thought I was supposed to feel, and in that constant trying to attain something on the outside that already existed on the inside, I became a hollowed-out shell of myself. I didn’t know who I was or what I was anymore.
All I ever felt was ashamed, and the only thing that kept the shame at bay was drinking until drinking no longer worked, and all I felt was ashamed for what I had become.
But, this chapter speaks to the simplicity of what we must do to recover from this seemingly hopeless state. Instead of focusing on what is outside of us, the Sage feeds and nurtures our basic needs.
The Sage removes the outside world of temptations and focuses on right here, right now. I was saved at this moment, the eternal moment.
The more I go back to the simplicity of that state, the more I realize how everything else will be taken care of if I first take care of myself.
There are many sick people in the world, and I realized today that my job is not to heal any of them. My only job is to get myself healthy enough as to not become sick in their presence.
I realized today that being powerless over things outside of me is not a curse or some relegation to a weak life; I genuinely see what life is. Alcohol is out of my control because it makes me feel a certain way, and when it doesn’t do what I want, I am broken.
We have to only see that every feeling we ever wish to feel, every reality we ever want to experience, is in no single thing or place outside of us. Everything we have ever experienced is inside of us.
Even you, reading this now, is not happening on your phone or computer screen. These words are happening inside of you right now. No matter what we do, everything we do happens inside us because we are the source of all that is.
When I got sober, I realized this life isn’t about what I couldn’t do or the unfairness of the way things were but instead about the beautiful expression of what was happening inside me. When I finally came to peace with what was happening in me, the stuff outside of me began to change and became a gift instead of a curse.
So, if you are struggling with anything right now that feels outside of your control.
- First, Realize that it is out of your control.
- Second, realize how you want to feel is not dependent on the outside world but on your inner world.
- Third, take a nap, eat a sandwich and talk to someone that loves you.
Watch as what you see is out of your control be transformed into the empowering catalyst of your own incredible life.