The ground of true religion is personal experience with the ineffable essence of existence in the form of grace, beauty, wonder–typically conveyed by an encounter with art, music, nature and/or the right kind of conversation with the right kind of people. This is religion without theology, doctrine, dogma, creeds, reason or logic, and is beyond being explained, defined, told, expressed, communicated…

This is conveyed by one my favorite Zen stories.

A Zen Master was crossing a bridge when a student accompanying him asked, “What is Zen?” Whereupon the Master picked him up and hurled him into the water, saying, “There! That is water! Drink it! Swim in it! Bathe in it! Or Drown! But do not talk about it! To talk about water is to not know water!”

So it is with religion and with the grounding experience of the ineffable.

For me, the Tao gets to the heart of religion because the Tao is remarkably devoid of theology, or explanation.

Tao is integrity.

Integrity is the alignment
of ourselves with ourselves
(our Original Nature)
and of ourselves with our circumstances.

When we live at odds with ourselves
for the sake of our circumstances,
we are out of alignment,
out of accord with the Tao.

When we live out of accord with our circumstances
for the sake of ourselves,
we are out of alignment,
out of accord with the Tao.

Integrity is the key
to being in position
to experience
in the time and place
(the here and now)
of our living.

When we lose our rhythm,
balance and harmony–
are off center,
out of tune,
living against the grain,
swimming across the current,
and our life isn’t ringing true–
we need to run an integrity check
to see where we are contriving,
outcomes and ends
by being who we are not,
and work to get ourselves back
in conjunction with ourselves
and our circumstances.

In so doing, we maintain the connections,
and live truthfully at one
with ourselves and our circumstances
“at the still point
of the turning world”
(T.S. Eliot).


A life lived at-one with itself
has no trouble knowing
when to say Yes and when to say No--
What to say Yes to
and what to say No to.
And that is the only knowing that matters.

We know what we need to know
in each situation as it arises
when we are living 
at-one with our life,
without an eye out for what's in it for us.

At-one with our life,
 what we do is automatic, spontaneous,
improvisational and spot-on
every time.

We have trouble with when to say Yes
and when to say No,
when we are trying to figure our way
to increasingly better outcomes forever.
What is our best move?
Hmm that's a tricky one...
Maybe this, maybe that...
How do we know
How can we be sure?
What to say yes to,
when to say no?
So, we just take our chances
and say what seems best to us
at the time,
which creates a new situation
with what to say yes to
and when to say no,
and one follows another,
until we end up at the bottom of some wall,
wondering where we went wrong,
and how to plot our best moves for sure
next time.


To know when to say Yes
and when to say No,
and be right about it,
we have to take ourselves
out of the game
of wrestling our best future
into existence,
and simply look and listen,
feel and sense,
what the situation is calling for,
what the situation needs,
and respond to that
out of the gifts, genius, virtues, etc.
that came with us from the womb,
and see where it goes.

Seeing where it goes
will lead us into another situation
where we follow the same process,
until it becomes clear that we are
on the beam,
on the path,
on the right track,
or off the beam,
away from the path,
in the trackless wasteland
of the wilderness.

At which time,
we have to stop forcing our way
and listen, look, sense, feel
deeper into the silence,
and wait for something to arise,
to occur to us,
to call our name--
and give ourselves to it service,
and see where it goes.

And so on,
like that.
Always living here and now
in light of what is happening
and what needs to be done about it,
without worrying about
how to use this moment
to our best advantage,
but trusting ourselves to be just fine
by looking, listening, sensing, feeling
and following spontaneously
the compelling urges
that guide our boat
on its path through the sea.

Published by jimwdollar

I'm retired, and still finding my way--but now, I don't have to pretend that I know what I'm doing. I retired after 40.5 years as a minister in the Presbyterian Church USA, serving churches in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina. I graduated from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, in Austin, Texas, and Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana. My wife, Judy, and I have three daughters and five granddaughters within about twenty minutes from where we live--and are enjoying our retirement as much as we have ever enjoyed anything.

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