Living The Tao: A Spiritual Podcast
Episode 003: You Are The Tao
You Are the Tao: Episode 003
In this episode, Taoist Master Mikel Steenrod reveals that you are already the thing that you are pursuing, and the Four spheres of power: Social, martial, Qi, and Tao. Plus tips on the powerful practice of invocation.
Living the Tao, a Spiritual Podcast explores how ancient wisdom, a practical perspective, and deep truth can empower you to live your best life.
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Taoist Topics Covered
4 Ascendant Spheres
Episode three, “You are the Tao.” Welcome to Living the Tao, a spiritual podcast that explores how ancient wisdom, a practical perspective and deep truth can empower you to live your best life. In this episode, Taoist Master Mikel Steenrod reveals that you are already the thing that you are pursuing. And the four spheres of power: social, martial, qi and Tao. Plus tips on the powerful practice of invocation. *** Another key aspect of Taoism is that you are the Tao. That's why enlightenment is possible. We like to think of this huge separation, but the separation isn't huge. You are the thing that you are pursuing. You already have it. And that's where you end up with all these strange sayings in Taoism. The reason that they have those strange sayings is because of this simple factor here: you are the Tao. So you are a small container of it, apart from the great flow of it, for a period of time, and that's it. And if you talk about the issue of oneness or anything like that, you're simply restoring that knowledge that you have that there. And by restoring knowledge, I'm not talking about us talking. Us talking creates the potential for action. It creates the potential for your "ness" to move by restoring the knowledge. I mean, your "ness" has moved into the position so it can understand and use that for choice. If you don't do that, then you might as well read the book, or one of the many manuals that have been written. And that's fine. It's just not practice. That's why you'll always go back, "Well, it's the practice, it's the thing that you do." The reason for it is this simple model here. Now, for the most part, if you get through these three things and these two layers right here, you'll create for yourself what I call the Ben Franklin Taoist situation: healthy, wealthy and wise. Now, the 4 Ascendant of the 4 Ascendant Spheres, isn't a mystery element. And again, the name is not designed to invoke mystery. If it was designed to invoke mystery, it would say something like, "The divine dragon eggs descended from the mountain, the blah blah blah school." And you do get that. But what we have are the four spheres, which is the social, the sphere of chi, the sphere of martial, and the sphere of the Tao. These are spheres of power and basically the rule of spheres is this, "While a superior sphere..." So the higher the number, the more superior it is, "...Can destroy or override the power of any preceding sphere, it (that capability) does not give you power in that sphere.” So martial, actually, this should be flipped around. I was starting to draw the 4 component model of qi gong. So let's flip that around... Martial Qi. No matter what we do within society or what group we try to establish, or rule system we try to establish, as history has shown us many, many times, Martial can always destroy it. It doesn't matter. All you need is Genghis Khan and a spear, a bow and arrow and a sword, or the modern equivalent of it. Does not matter what is accomplished socially. It can be overturned by Martial. Qi can overturn Martial. It is just poorly understood nowadays. The very reason that chi gung developed in the way it did, are the way we have chi gung now, is that many of the things that truly power chi gung practice have been removed from practice and set aside so that it could not be easily or universally used. When it is fully used, it is vastly more powerful than anything that can occur within the martial sphere. And that is something to keep in mind. But for the most part, within the current structure of the mind is difficult to achieve. The spiritual can destroy any of these preceding things. But the thing to keep in mind is that there are limitations. Having great power within the Tao does not give you any power within the social. Not at all. It simply gives you the power to destroy it. Not to change it Not to have power within it. Not to do any of those things. And it's the same thing with Martial and Social. And in fact, when Martial tries to have power in Social, you always end up with these really inefficient, really decrepit governmental systems, really bad social systems that pop up. The reason Martial can't have any power in Social. It's just the rules. Now, can it destroy it? Yes? Can it override it? Yes? Or can it have any power in it? No. Any time you try to mix it, it ends up with something that's just ineffective. In the same thing for any of these other things here (diagram reference to 3 Level Method) The reason that this is important is these six practices can give you power in the areas, really, that make you healthier, make you happy. It gives you some health, it will give you some wealth, because you'll gain expertise within the social. The fact is that our most successful people know positive power extremely well. Wealthy people who make their wealth know it. They write about it all the time. They write about it as being a foundation of their practice. It's not a mystery. It's well known. It's ground in as a behavior that is essential for success in the things that you pursue. And hygiene also helps in there. You know, if you want health, well, you know, have some calm and some positive power. I can actually start pulling out studies that show you, very deliberately that that changes your health. Straight out. The more negative you are, the more likely you are to have disease. The less likely you are to live a long time. Probably the less likely are you want to live a long time. And wise, if you have some of these things (practices), you can watch the world, and from there comes wisdom. You can see the flow of things and talk to other people about it. And they will wonder how you have mastered such great things. Say, I just look at stuff and that's the way it goes. And so as you look at stuff, you can tell people about things. And so they regard you as being wise. That's why I say that the first two levels (spheres) will pretty much give you everything that you want. If you want to pursue wealth and use that, because it is a foundation of society. That's not forget that. As we start going into the other three, we can sit back, "Well, you know, that doesn't provide you with blah blah blah." Yeah, it's well known that that doesn't provide you. Just take a look. It has nothing to do with the sphere of Tao. So wealth and Tao, those are independent things. It has to do with the sphere of social. So if you have goals that are in the social, you need to make sure you're working goals that are in the social. Different sets of practices. And so as we deal with these, we can really sit back and go, well, you know, I'm spending a huge amount of time doing these things here, but I'm not really spending any time over here that's why I have a deficit in these areas. Now, Martial we're just kind of setting aside for now. But it's a factor that should be considered. Because the reason exists, for example, the clan, consider three things absolutely essential... that you engage in trade. So issues of wealth. That you maintain the standing capacity to use force, because otherwise people will take away the things that you get from trade. And lastly that you have spiritual development, because otherwise you will simply erupt in your own warfare and destroy yourself. And so those are major factors. The other thing is, let's say, we take these two things here, and we look at, once a human do during the day, whether the three basic human acts you only do three things, you manage your relationships, you manage your resources, and you engage in personal development. If you're shy of even one of these things, you will be unhappy, because you are not doing the things that a human does. Now you can do more or less or different ways of the same thing, but you have to handle those three things. Now sometimes it'll be easier to do one or the other, but you kind of need those things. So if you have these skills here, these start to become easy. And you might sit back and go, "Well, you know, that Tao thing is great, and it's given me a lot, but I like it just fine here," and I'm perfectly fine with that. Most of the unhappiness we have human wide is the failure to address really basic human need in these areas (the managements). We're not talking about I mean, you could go about and just give people food and water, so they're not really worried in shelter and about resources, but then you'll just leave them with problems in relationships. And in fact, giving them the stuff might in fact create the problem in the relationship. And the issue of personal development. I've been in plenty of situations that I deliberately set up for myself, where I had nothing to do but train for years at a time. That's actually what I spent large amounts of my 20s doing. And let me tell you, after a certain amount of time engaged in personal development, you want to do something else. Doesn't matter who you are, you're just sitting there going, "Man, I got six more months of this." Let me tell you, if you're living in a closet or meditating in a closet for three months, you start sitting there going, “Maybe i'll go out tonight and go drinking.” And really there's no, there's no greater illustration of those three demands upon you as you go through. They have to be addressed in some way, because there are a lot of different ways we can go here. Invocation --it's current equivalent, and what it's often treated as--is prayer. However, what are you praying to? Yourself? You are theTao. That's the nature of invocation. So make sure to set up a picture of yourself with some candles, offer it something you really enjoy, and then get to it. With invocation, this is really one of those areas that a lot of times, mystery is assigned, but as you start to understand it. And, you know, there have been even times where I've sat back and kind of been tempted to add some mysterious things to it, because it's so simple. It's like, oh, yeah, well, it's hugely effective, but it's kind of boring. So I'm going to just add stuff to it. Invocation, this is a foundational element. This is where you are actually laying the groundwork for your relationship, with the Tao. For those of you that are on the more monkly pathway, it is essential because it points you out to the lineage. Probably the only major differentiation in practice is your choice of goals --between a monk and a non monk-- is your choice of goals, and whether or not you have a lineage affiliation. And we've discussed lineage before, but basically in a nutshell, assuming linear time, remember, Taoists think that time is nonlinear, buy we'll start off with a linear time model. Ah, what happens is that, as the line of practice spans through history, it is believed by Buddhist by Taoists, maybe by Hindus, that if you affiliate yourself with a lineage, it becomes easier to pursue enlightenment, because you gain the momentum of force of prior practitioners through time to assist you in doing something. In non linear time, this is really easy to think about, because all those practitioners, at every single moment in their lives, still exist, as does the future. So the people that come after you are already there doing the things that they're going to do. It's freaky to think about, because the first misinterpretation of this is that that means that everything is fixed. It's not fixed. Everything, in fact, is in a state of change. It just doesn't occur relative to time. So don't think about that. But basically what that means is that you get to hang out with everybody that is hanging out, or has come before. To do that, you have to get yourself into a position where you get invited to the party. That's basically it. So you're going to go to the not hammering the foot party. You got your party book, and it's like, yeah, like what those guys are doing (flips through imaginary book). Oh, that was the wrong one. You walk up to the door and they go, "What's the password?" "Yeah, get out of here." So, basically, a lineage is composed of a cycle of holders, the cycle of holders, are magnification points of the lineage. Anybody can become a holder. Now, this depends on the lineage. So I can't talk for Buddhist lineages. And such. Or even most Taoist lineages. The Soons (clan) use a very old system. And it's basically believed that once you are fully affiliated with the lineage and capable of embodying or representing any portion of the teachings, you become a magnification point of it. And there can be more than one. And also, you don't need to become a lineage holder to become enlightened. It's a different thing. Enlightened people may or may not participate in that aspect of the lineage. Lineage holders, for the 4 Ascendants contain multiple pathways to the same place. They're essential, ...See, I'm talking about myself in the third person...
They're essential because they allow different types of people to achieve the same goal. That's the function of a lineage holder. Some people have an inherent capacity to absorb multiple pathways. I am one of those people. It's very easy for me to do about fifty years of training in three years. It was freakish, but it was easy. Now that's what a holder is. They hold that information. So that's why lineage holders have the formal title. Within 4 Ascendant it's a Keeper of the Gate of Man and Heaven. (Master Steenrod misspoke here. The generalized title is "Keeper") That's specifically what their job is in the cycle of things. Now, affiliation with a lineage generally occurs through a holder, a currently existing holder. And by using the invocations, and basically, at some point, what I say is that "Maybe you should pay attention to this person," and that creates an affiliation with the lineage. And so I'll do that, some magical stuff, I'll sacrifice your chicken, and I'll dance around a little bit, I'll drive backwards in a VW bug, and then you'll be affiliated with the lineage. Actually, most of it's your work, and just association, and then gradually becoming recognized. The big. So that's kind of the background theory. The big reason to progress within the lineage is all holders.... So if you're at the holder level, have access to the knowledge of all other holders. That's precisely why the lineage is believed to exist. And the lineage has some power behind it. And so you gain, for Buddhists, who gain the karmic value of all those who came before and are empowered, that's what the Buddhist empowerment ceremonies are for, to achieve those ends. So it's easier, and that's the big function behind it. It just gets easier. *** We hope you're enjoying this episode of Living the Tao, a spiritual podcast. If you're looking for more resources on Taoism, please visit thetaoismforthemodernworld.com. Now back to the program. *** Invocation is usually the repetition of a phrase or an act over a period of time. It sounds like a lot of things can be an invocation. Yes, that is true. One of the first invocations to start with is the invocation of gratitude. Now, what you really have to do to get lineage affiliation is you have to get out of the nursery. The karmic nursery that's your first objective. And won't go over that in just a minute. But the invocation of gratitude is basically like when you're dealing with a little kid and you give them something, unless they've been taught to say thank you, they don't say thank you. Do they? Not at all. In fact, they're not grateful for anything. They simply assume that it is their right within the domain of humans to have all such things delivered unto them. Invocation of gratitude is you dealing with yourself. As you're basically saying... I am grateful for blah blah blah. I'm grateful for my chair. I'm grateful for the ability to sit here. I am grateful for my ability to interact with all of you. I'm grateful that you showed up. Now, gratitude and thankfulness are two different things. There are a lot of things I am not thankful, but I am grateful for. I'm grateful for the challenges that I have faced. I'm grateful even for the things that I have failed to do or lost, because they created new pathways for me that I was able to use. However, I didn't like any of that. So keep that in mind. I'm not really very thankful for that. It's like, yeah, I'm really thankful for you repeatedly kicking me in the head. I'm grateful for having the opportunity to overcome your kicks to my head. I'm grateful for different stuff like that. And this changes the way you interact, both with yourself and your environment. It really does. It's not a fictional change. It is a deliberate and steady change forward. And the only way to find that is by going through the gratitudes. And initially, you might sit there, well, how can I possibly go through gratitudes for blah blah blah amount of time? So what times have I given everybody? Fifteen minutes to start with. Initially, when you hear that it's like, wow. How can I be grateful for fifteen minutes? Let me ask you something. How can you not be grateful for fifteen minutes? And as you go, farther and farther, you increase your gratitude periods. In fact, if you want to become a specialist, there's a specific specialty of Taoism called an invoker. And what you do is, you practice invocations. You practice them over and over again. And in fact, people can pay you to do those invocations. So they come on up and is like, I would like you to be grateful for me for two days. And then you just start going through, and you run gratitudes for that person in the attempt to sway their karma, because they didn't want to do it themselves. You can pay somebody else's karmic debt. You have to be cautious when you do it, is that there are three levels of blessing. At the third level of blessing, you are intruding in the flow of things on behalf of somebody else. The vast majority of people that would market that or sell that, even in old temple practice, can't do it. So basically, they'll go through the ritual of the invocation and such, but they don't have the karma to pull it off, but taking on somebody else's karma.... You have to be careful of such a thing, because you're really dealing with, like, the fundamental flow of things then. So you can end up royally screwed, to put it in Taoist terms. So you had to be careful of such a thing. Yes, you can do it. So by invocation of gratitude, really sets you up into a position of dealing with yourself and realizing where you are in the balance of your life. In part, if you're sitting there and you're going, I really just can't be grateful for this situation here, or this thing that's going on there, or that. The thing you have to ask yourself is, "why is that in your life?" Why do you have something in your life you can't be grateful for? Now I'm not saying thankful for, why do you have that thing there? Why are you wasting your precious days on such a thing? And ultimately, the reason that mind of clarity becomes vastly more difficult is that when we jump up in that stage, is that you have to address the limitation of your time, meaning that if you're building a life that is based around knowledge of you not dying, ah, you're not going to live very well. You have to sit back and simply accept you have this much time. It is spent one way or the other. And I need to create a life strategy that allows me to take that into consideration. And one thing, and you don't start off with this, but one thing that ultimately you end up with past mind of clarity, is an intimate knowledge of your own death. You feel it tick along, and you get comfortable. Once you get to that point, it becomes almost impossible to threaten you. It becomes impossible to take things away from you. All sorts of things become impossible because you just sit back and go, "Well, that's going to happen anyways." And you have a simple acceptance of it as you go along. Acceptance really initially... We sit back and we go-- and I can tell you, personally, I don't know about yourselves, I had a huge resistance to it because I thought it was the acceptance of defeat. And as my... Soon pointed out to me, my primary teacher, you're the most stubborn person I've ever trained in my life. And that's quite a statement from him, across various warriors, across all these things, is like, you know, there was even a Monty Python reference. You're that guy in Monty python where, you know, they cut off his legs, it cut off his arms, and he's just a head, you're still fighting. And which was great in some ways, but it was also horrible in other ways. And the reason for that is because that basic element of I was unwilling to accept acceptance, because I thought it was a weakness, and then eventually rolled around to, well, you know, I just have to accept this. And once I did that, I found out it was a massive strength, which is one of the reasons probably that I spent so much time harping on the nature of acceptance. It's really easy to jam yourself up with the thought of it being weakness. Really easy, because it's an illusion of the social mind. And only when you get to the point that you sit back and go, 'My god, that's just tremendously powerful." I can change all sorts of things, now that I've accepted this. It's, its own strange power. So invocation of gratitude, basically, you start off, you work short periods, about fifteen minutes. You just sit there and work it for a period of time and build out. And it's really very strange as to the power that it has, both in changing you and releasing you from your own history and moving you actually more into acceptance. It also instantly starts to create positive frame, because you start sitting back going, "Oh yeah, yeah. I guess there are all those things that I can be grateful for," and you just keep working your way through. As an interesting side note, people enjoy being around you more. And it's a simple practice. Anybody can do it. And if you're looking a lot of times, when we go through the first two layers of those six components, we can sit back and go, well, I want something small and concrete that I can do, which is perfectly reasonable. To certain part, though... So if you're working with positive power, how do you concretely do that? Well, you just do it, and you start accomplishing more and more of it. The other element is that the invocations are good because they're easy. Meaning that there are small, controlled events that you can do and that have real results to them. And so it's very useful for that reason. Now, the other standard starting invocation is the invocation of insight. Believe it or not, you will have insight if you have some of the, you need a little bit of the other parts. You can have insight just by asking for it. Remember, you're the Tao. So you just ask for it's like, I would like more insight. I would like an insight into blah blah blah. But put in fifteen minutes and so. And you can just let that free flow too. You just say, here, I would like insights into the way that the universe is built. I would like insights into blah bluh blah blah blah. But be careful of what you ask for an insight into, because you will likely get it, and then you'll go, "I would like an insight into why I wanted that insight," because now I don't want it so much. I'm grateful for having had it. But.... The last common invocation that's taught here is an inheritance from the "Buffy, the Vampire Slayer" days. It's called the invocation of repulsion. And this is one that we haven't really gone over, so we'll go over it as it is, because it'll verge over into our general area for the karmic models. The invocation of repulsion is a repulsion of evil, and that's really what it is. Without a huge amount of explanation, what I would say to you is that all you really have to do is do the repetition and see what happens. And the first, well let's do something that's easily done. So remember, for this one, actually, this one is actually quite commonly practiced in China in different forms. But basically let's say you have a doorway, and you want to make sure that no bad people pass through your doorway. What you do is you basically go, "No bad people will pass through this doorway." No bad people will pass through the doorway. No bad people will pass through the doorway. No bad people will pass through the doorway. No bad people will pass through the doorway. 4 hours later, No bad people will pass it. Well, this is actually one of the standard things that an invoker is paid for. Yes, the invoker says it for four hours, and that's what you're paying the guy for. You're paying him for extremely refined and extremely experienced invocation of the same thing, which does make a serious difference. So as you progress to your gratitudes, the gratitudes you have will be much more powerful than the gratitude you start off with. Like anything else. Reps. But basic.... So if you want to engage this ah, if you think about it, if you can invoke insight, why can't you invoke repulsion? You're dealing with other things that are within the Tao, that are also made up of the Tao. Basically, what you're saying is, you're putting the note up, say, and don't pass through this doorway. Now, can they pass through that doorway? Might they go on some place else? More than likely. Ah, if you put it in really, really big letters that flash neon at them when they come up, more and more likely. If it says, hey, if you walk through this door, I want to zap you with electricity. Ah, more and more likely. So the bigger your words, the stronger it is, the more repulsive effect that you have. This is a traditional element for both Taoist and Chinese culture. So if you want to enter into the traditional element, you can very easily do this. And this will have a strange effect. Just as gratitude and insight does. *** Thank you.
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