Wayne Dyer, in his most recent book, Excuses Begone, writes of Lao Tzu’s four cardinal virtues – the virtues one must adhere to during life. Dyer reminds us that Lao Tzu, considered the founder of Taoism, said that being in alignment with these virtues is our original nature. If we consciously act according to these virtues, it will bring us closer to our natural state of health and happiness.
The first virtue:
To revere all of life.
Our culture has gotten away from this virtue, obviously, as we chop down trees, farm animals in “factories,” farm vegetables and other crops unsustainably, over-fish and pollute the oceans, destroy ecosystems, etc. We do all of this with no apology and no remorse because we have not been taught, necessarily, to revere all of life. We have been taught to revere human life, and we have been taught that human life is more important than any other life form on the planet.
We are wrong. We must begin living in such a way that we revere all of life once again. Every action, thought, and communication should be in alignment with this first cardinal virtue.
The second cardinal virtue:
To live with natural sincerity.
Now this would seem to be something that our society has taught us – live with integrity, be sincere. Perhaps parents do try to teach just this. Parents also teach the importance of appearances, however, and the media, the famous, the politicians, all have deftly mastered the art of appearing sincere when perhaps they have another agenda altogether.
I believe that if we each work to live with natural sincerity, we will create more harmonious families, cities, nations, and world. If we can truly be ourselves, sincerely, this world will evolve faster.
The third cardinal virtue:
To practice gentleness.
Let your thoughts, words, and actions be gentle. Be gentle with yourself. The individual is his or her own worst critic, and guilt and shame are self-imposed more than other-imposed. Be gentle with yourself! Be gentle with all creatures. Be gentle with other human beings. Be gentle on the earth. Stop creating pollution in all forms: waste, noise, chemical, air, water. We can walk gently on this earth, but it will take a strong intention. With gentleness comes peace.
The fourth cardinal virtue:
To be in service to others.
This, too, is something that is honored in our society, but not something that we enact frequently. We are all so busy that we forget that a life of purpose is one of service. To stay in alignment, Dyer frequently uses the phrase: “How can I serve?” When you are depressed or unsure of yourself, think of that phrase. How can I serve? In a tense situation or a crisis, ask to be guided to the path of the highest good. Try to surrender to the greatest wisdom, the noblest actions, the clearest guidance that you receive. For we are always receiving spiritual guidance – we just have to tune in and listen.
These four phrases seem simple, perhaps, but they will be life-changing if you actually follow them. Dyer goes into his own analyses in his book, and I recommend reading it, but it seemed worth a brief post here to remind us that life can be simple when we have our priorities right. Lao Tzu taught this more than two thousand years ago. We have strayed, but hopefully we are moving back into this place of harmony.
I think these virtues can be summed up best in Lao Tzu’s own words: “If everyone’s heart was full of love, how could misfortune arise?” (Tao 35).
Be sincere. Be gentle. Revere and serve all of life.
Best of luck to you! I’ll be trying right along with you.
Dyer, Wayne. Excuses Begone. CA: Hay House, 2008. Audiobook.
Freke, Timothy. tao book and card pack. NY: stewart, tabori & chang, 2002.