Learning from Lao Tzu

Learning from Lao Tzu

I went to a landscape photography workshop day last Saturday down in East Sussex. I set off well-armed with two downloaded maps from Google and Bing, garlanded with my own hieroglyphics which convinced me that I knew the route.  Thankfully I had my satnav as well which came in useful when I got lost near Brighton!

It was a good day and the weather stayed fine.  Mind you it was windy on top of those white cliffs, not to mention scary with no fence between solid ground and mid air.  I came back having learned a lot but feeling exhausted, and thinking mournfully that maybe landscape photography wasn’t for me after all, with all that walking up hills and lugging equipment around.  I feel better now though and the photographs are looking quite good.

Even so I still keep going through the stages of grumbling to myself about all these exercises I have to do and how impossible it is to find two points isolated in a frame which are separate from each other and in a neutral background.  Whoever wrote these exercises didn’t realise that I live opposite a Common where you can’t see the wood for the trees, plus the weather is cold and windy and anyone interesting is staying indoors.

I think I’m going through the chrysalis stage not knowing quite how to burst out of the cocoon and what I want to become when I do.  I know I’m not on my own, because there has been a continuing theme about stumbling blocks on the discussion threads. With southliving (a Course colleague) in mind, my thoughts turned to China because that’s where he lives at the moment.

Many years ago a colleague of mine gave me the I-Ching to read and, a couple of years ago, one of my sons  gave me a Christmas present of “Change your thoughts change your life – Living the Wisdom of the Tao”, (Dr Wayne W Dyer, 2007).  The idea of the book was to read a verse a day and be open to what happens. I have to confess that I didn’t exactly follow it through to the end but one of the verses has always stayed with me.

Chapter III Verse 10: “Do that which consists in taking no action, and order will prevail.” The basic principle of Taoism, that order results from inaction, while disorder results from action.  I think that can sometimes apply, especially in moments of confusion, uncertainty or trying to absorb new learning.

In 2005 I decided that I wanted to do a sponsored trek on the Great Wall of China to raise money for the Charity I’m involved with. Around the same time I had also been asked if I could run a training day at the University.  I had to say no because of the trek but I was relieved as well because I have a fear of public speaking which manifests itself as anxiety about my incipient stammer.

I started to train regularly for the trek, going to the gym and walking with the aim of building-up my strength and endurance. To begin with I walked along the canal from Woking to West Byfleet, which is about 3 miles, and then walked back.  I was doing quite well until, one day, a stone flew at me from out of nowhere and hit me on the arm, causing a very large, painful bruise.  It must have been thrown from the other side because there was only me and the canal around at the time.  I was lucky because it could have hit me on the head. I finished my walk but the incident unnerved me and that, combined with my realization that I probably wasn’t going to have enough physical endurance to undertake the trek, led me to drop out.

I didn’t feel good about it despite joining our fund-raising group where we organised a golf day which brought in a nice sum for the Charity.   There was no longer a reason not to run the training day at the University and I decided to meet the challenge and get some help along the way from an NLP practitioner.  I won’t go into that now, although it was fascinating in itself,  but one of the things that I came out with, from doing something called a timeline, was to find myself saying, “Well, it isn’t exactly a life or death situation is it!”   I just hadn’t realised that that was my core belief about public speaking of any kind.    I subsequently ran the training day.  It seemed to go well and I quite enjoyed it because my interest and enthusiasm for the topic stayed as energy instead of turning into fear.

Strangely enough I did actually go to China, on a tour with my husband,  in 2007 and, yes, I walked on the Great Wall.  It was a wonderful experience and I felt as if I could have walked on and on.

I’m beginning to think that I’m rambling too much around the topic now, but the point I’m wanting to make to myself is that it can be good to let go of self-assumptions and performance anxieties and just stay with the moment.  I only had a small camera when I went to China so the technical quality isn’t that great, but here are my lessons to myself:-

Sometimes it’s just good to go with the flow:-


and fly high,


so that you can follow your dream,


feel the energy and come out fighting,


Maybe one day I’ll go back to China and walk the wall again and even do this


Not me I hasten to add, although it could be, couldn’t it! Well – at least there’s a wall there, unlike the white cliffs in East Sussex.

I feel refreshed now and can get back to looking at the relationship between points.

1st April 2011


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