The struggle is real some days. And it is not a struggle like, oh life is so complex, or problems are unmanageable, but damn, somedays it feels like it.
Have you ever been in a situation where everything is seemingly just fine, yet you find yourself full of anxiety, unsure of how you will be able to complete what’s ahead of you? I feel that today, I can not get my mind to take smaller bites. It wants to eat the world today. My mind is screaming that I must accomplish all the things today.
This is a chronic addict mindset that I have dealt with the majority of my life. When I was a kid, I thought I had to eat all the food when any food presented to me. Then it became every workout I had to do, all the working out a human could do, every muscle group, every machine, for multiple hours at multiple gyms and locations.
Then it turned into alcohol; one beer, one shot was never enough. I was thinking about my 5th shot before you even knew we were drinking. I wanted to consume the world.
This mindset destroyed my life, my body, my relationships, and my mind for many years. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy believes this kind of thinking results from a broken feedback loop in the brain of an addict that never receives a shut-off signal once the original itch was scratched.
I see it now as a recovering addict and a person who has read the Tao every day as an unmanageable life. Step 1 in the 12 steps of AA says We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.
Powerlessness in this regard does not just mean alcohol, but for me, it means everything outside of myself. I have no power over people, places, and things. I lose every time I believe I do. So I accept my powerlessness over those things and give up my control; thus, I can start to work towards manageability in my life again.
In Chapter 63 of the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu says something similar:
“Therefore, sages regard things as difficult
So they never encounter difficulties all through life.TTC 63 (Lin)
I had a hard time understanding this line of the Te Ching for a while until I saw it in the context of the rest of chapter 63 and applied it in terms of my unmanageability and powerlessness.
Chapter 63 also says,
Act without action
Manage without meddling
Taste without tasting
Great, small, many, few
Respond to hatred with virtue.TTC 63 (Lin)
Manage without meddling, act without action, tasting without tasting. All these lines are saying is—experience, people, places, and things, without holding them to your will or expectations. Let them all be. They will do as they do, just like alcohol did as it did when I drank it. I couldn’t control the way it affected me, I could only control whether I engaged with it or not, so I no longer engage.
Now the manageability part comes in the next part. Remember, I said my brain was acting wild today and wanted to eat the world like it does when it is in a sick way. Chapter 63 also has the remedy for this, and it is something we use in AA as well.
“Plan difficult tasks through the simplest tasks
Achieve large tasks through the smallest tasks
The difficult tasks of the world
Must be handled through the simple tasks
The large tasks of the world
Must be handled through the small tasks
Therefore, sages never attempt great deeds
All through life
thus they can achieve greatness.”TTC 63 (Lin)
You know what would be a great task if I never drank again, until the day I died, and I can imagine myself living a long time. That would be a great task, but if I look at it like that, then I am on my way to a drink; I am trying to eat the world all in one moment, in one thought.
But if I say, I am not going to drink today, or hell, I won’t drink at this moment, well then I am doing a great task in a small way.
Someday’s I have to live moment to moment. I did not think I would be able to get this blog done. Kids out of school, summertime in full swing, trying to find time for myself to read the entire Tao Te Ching, find something meaningful, and then put it into a readable format seemed unmanageable today.
But I did it. I did it one word at a time. One chapter of the Tao. One paragraph, one quiet moment, and guess what the unmanageable became manageable. The great became simple. And I became a Sage master of the Universe. Haha.
We can do anything in this life by:
- Becoming Clear on what we want to accomplish
- Moment by moment effort in the direction of our goal
- Gratitude for the opportunity to go for our dreams
- Forgiveness and grace for our own shortcomings.
Thats it, it’s done.
Oh, this is also known as chunking in my training as a Peak Performance coach; we are taught to either chunk goals up or down depending on the size and difficulty of achieving said goal.
For instance: Writing a 400 page Science fiction novel, let’s shoot for 500-1000 words a day. This is chunking down.
On the opposite end, Brushing your teeth: let’s brush all our teeth for 1 minute twice a day- this is chunking up.
Anyway, just sharing how to conquer the world, I hope you all feel more manageable; I know I feel like a more sane person than when I started, so thank you for allowing me this space.