In an increasingly integrated world it is interesting to see the growing popularity of all things Eastern in our Canadian society. Yoga is not just yoga anymore. It’s Ashtanga (or it’s Western variant , “power yoga”), Hatha, and Bikram (“hot yoga”). Martial arts is more than just Bruce Lee or David Carradine’s Kung Fu. Today our kids could be taking karate, judo, tae kwon do, and we might just as easily be registered in a tai chi class.
Examples of Eastern influence can also be seen in mainstream psychology . Mindfulness and its Western advocates such as Jon Kabat-Zinn and Zindel Segal have brought Buddhist and Yoga concepts to a new audience in North America. Research has shown it effective in the treatment of depression and substance abuse.
Eastern wisdom is also having an impact on self-help (or “self-development”) as our society grows increasingly disillusioned with materialism as the path to fulfillment. One author in particular has embraced Eastern wisdom in a big way: Wayne Dyer. Dr. Dyer is a best-selling author of over 30 books that stretch back to his 1976 book Your Erroneous Zones. His latest book, Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life, is a translation of the classic text the Tao Te Ching, or the Great Way, and includes 81 verses of The Tao, compiled from research of ten respected translations. According to Chinese tradition, The Tao Te Ching was written around the 6th century BC by Lao-Tzu, a record-keeper of the Zhou Dynasty court.
The exploration of these 81 verses has some interesting applications for those struggling with the paradoxical nature of addiction.
Verse 1 – Living the Mystery
As Dr. Dyer states in the first verse of his book, “paradoxical thinking is embedded in Eastern concepts such as yin and yang or the feminine and the masculine, and where things are comfortably described as both this and that.” When we encounter something we do not understand, we in the West are uneasy with merely allowing the mystery to unfold over time. We want the answer and we want it now!
Part of the first verse of the Tao Te Ching reads:
“Ever desireless, one can see the mystery;
ever desiring, one sees only the manifestations.
And the mystery itself is the doorway
to all understanding.”
Dr. Dyer sums up this verse by suggesting that “letting go of trying to see the mystery will actually allow us to see.” Paradoxical thinking allows us to flow between wanting and allowing that is more in tune with our physical world. For example, a woman may want to have a child but at some point nature takes over and little is asked of the expectant mother except to allow the process to continue to fruition. While pregnancy may bring many changes, the miracle of birth occurs independently of our desire for understanding how or why it happens.
On the Continuum of Wanting and Allowing: The Serenity Prayer
By reading the Serenity Prayer, one cannot help but see the parallels between the 1st verse of the Tao:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
According to the AA Grapevine, Bill Wilson, founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, was heard to remark, upon first seeing the prayer, “Never had we seen so much A.A. in so few words.” Essentially, Niebuhr is suggesting, as does verse 1 of the Tao, that we distinguish between wanting and allowing and not only understand it, but live by it.