The Path of Nowhere
I took a morning walk through the Botanical Gardens in Singapore with the hopes of getting a good sunrise shot or at least take advantage of the morning light to best showcase this beautiful place in my photos. I happened to chance upon this path at the swan lake. It made me realized that there is always choices in the moment. To reach the other side, I can take the path, swim across the lake or thread across the bushes. I picked the road. It is interesting why we always take the path of least resistance. It is logical and it feels natural but maybe taking a swim would have given me a more exciting experience and an unexpected outcome. I might look stupid or crazy if I swim across the lake but the world is moved forward by crazy people who didn’t take the path of least resistance. I guess everyone looks crazy in the beginning for attempting new things and ideas.
For now I am just contented on taking the scene in and breathe.
The word nowhere is a fabulous word—it can be broken down into now-here. There is really nowhere we can go but here, in the now, in this place where we are. We are always looking for the next place, the next situation or the next moment. Our minds are there and we think we are there but the body stays put here. A loud sound, a physical threat or a push is enough to bring us back into the moment and remind us that we are here—we always are.
“Words are but symbols for the relations of things to one another and to us; nowhere do they touch upon absolute truth.”
Words are created so that we could understand each other but words can also cause much misunderstanding, depending on how much you know the intention. It all boils down to your own experience but in some ways we are always misunderstood to some degree. Words are like signposts—they point you there but they don’t show you what that where is. When a finger points at the moon, it is not about the finger, it is about the moon if you can see it. The finger says nothing about the moon. Yet words are still important because we all need a sign, a guidance to point us to the truth, in this way, words are absolutely beautiful.
I have studied and read many texts about the nature of our existence and one such book is the Tao Te Ching and it is considered to be among the most profound philosophical texts ever written on the nature of human existence. It was written by Lao Tzu more than 5000 years ago and it paved the way of the Tao—the pathless path. It is incredible that such an enlightened sage existed so long before our time and yet throughout the centuries, people are getting more and more unconscious. The wars, the rebellions and the attack on each other as humanity has proved that the ego has a strong hold on the majority of us. I do not claim to have the utmost understanding of this powerful ancient text but I am truly intrigued by it, more so than any other teachings so far.
The Tao is so profound that it is very difficult for me to use words to describe it. It is more of an experience. It is formless.
“The Tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.”
Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching.
What can be applied to our stressful modern way of living from the Tao is to understand the nature of our influences. To say it simply is to realize that if we try to find ourselves in the external world, we will always be following in the footsteps of another and trying our best to emulate others. When you find yourself in others, it is inevitable that you would lose your way. It is not your path. All of us are looking for success and yet nobody can truly define success; following and trying to be successful like another is never going to be a fulfilling path. This is call a dream within a dream—when you reach the point of success borrowed from another, there will be more to achieve and that point of having achieved success will go further and further away. At the end of the day, having all the worth of the world that you deem as success still doesn’t allow you to be you.
There is really nowhere we can go but here, in the now, in this place where we are.
The Tao suggest that there is no goal to reach, no success to achieve. You have already arrived—the goal is here now, the journey is all there is. That is why it is called the pathless path. The Tao means the way. It is akin to the path of a bird. As humans we have footsteps to follow; the flight of a bird leaves no traces, it goes anywhere it wants and can’t be followed. Life is like that—formless and free. It is ever-changing, shifting, creating the meaning in the moment. To have a fixed path is to be dead; you have already decided, what more is there to experience? Logic, reasoning, thinking creates a boundary that boxes you in; life cannot function the way it is meant to be when cornered.
Thinking is like words, it is far from the truth. Thinking is like dreaming. Dreaming is thinking with images. Thinking is dreaming with words. They don’t tell you anything that is happening in the now—which is the only truth there is.
I have embraced the pathless path for some time now. What happens, happens. It is the only truth there is and no amount of thinking can change it. Thinking will only burn up precious energy that you can use in better ways like creating, loving and living. The mind has its benefits. It can be use to solve problems and everyday mundane stuff. To be enlightened is to have the ability to switch it off at will; to be able to use it like a tool that it is, just like any pen, brushes or saw. It can write, it can paint and it can slice and dice but you are not the tool, you use the tool.
I hope that you too can embark on the journey from the path to nowhere to the path of now-here. When the flowers blossom within you, you will find the liberation that you have always been searching for.