Finding Peace + Simplicity Through Lao-Tzu’s Four Cardinal Virtues
Finding peace and living simply is something that so many of us strive to achieve, yet it forever eludes us thanks to the competitive and stressful world we find ourselves in on a daily basis.
Modern society breeds ego, competitiveness and power which results in creating over-complicated and cluttered minds. The key to finding simplicity and peace in our life is to find a way to simplifying the mind.
Something I personally do to keep my mind simplified and myself balanced is to remind myself from time to time of Lao-Tzu’s Four Cardinal Virtues – or the four things that a person should strive to become in order to live a simple yet deeply peaceful existence.
These four virtues reconnect us to our original nature, dharma or purpose in life. They inspire a shift in consciousness, encouraging us to go from a ‘me’ mentality to a ‘we mentality’. They gently remind us to live with flexibility and flow, trusting in the process, so that we can then live our life in a constant state of LOVE.
Ultimately, living the four virtues puts us on the path of inner peace and brings us into alignment and unity with the greater creative life force that governs all.
Keep your eyes open so that you do not miss the opportunity of being a saviour. Do not walk by, unconscious of the small insect that struggles in the water and is in danger of drowning. Get a little stick and remove it from the water, dry its little wings and experience the magnificence of having saved a life and the happiness of having done it for and in the name of the Almighty. The earthworm lost on the hard and dry street, who cannot dig her hole, take her and put her in the middle of the grass. – Albert Schweitzer
The First Cardinal Virtue: Reverence for All Life
When being interviewed on a radio station the host asked Mother Teresa “What can I do for you? How much money do you need? Can we build a new home?” Mother Teresa said there is one thing you can do for me “Get up at 4am tomorrow morning and go onto the streets of Philadelphia and find someone that thinks they are alone – then spend some time with them convincing them that they are not alone”.
Isn’t that just beautiful. It shows that the best way we can help other beings is by ‘seeing them’ and being willing to get out and do the work that so few are willing to do.
Sure, money will buy warmth, food and medicine – but it can never buy a person’s sense of worth.
Live with an unconditional love and respect for all beings in creation. This includes making a conscious effort to love and respect yourself, as well as to remove all judgments and criticisms. When we live from reverence for ALL life, great and small, animal kingdom and humanity, we surrender our need to control. We live in peace with each other and our world. We do not live in judgement but allow other life to ‘just be’.
Unconditional love contains the lack of desire or need to control and manipulate. When you make this virtue one of your manta’s you will naturally be led to serve, and you will get great joy out of making other people/beings feel good.
We must also remember that reverence doesn't stop with each other, we must also show reverence for all animals, plants and the entire planet. Read over on my blog Making Daily Choices That Are Kind To Animals
A challenge for you:
Today is a good day to give. Give away something that really means the world to you. In a society where ‘more’ is our mantra – we need to take moments where we remind ourselves what giving truly means. My challenge to you today is to give something away. You only use 20% of your stuff – so giveaway 80% of it. THEN go to that pile of the 20% that remains and choose something that you really love – then give it away.
The Second Cardinal Virtue: Natural Sincerity
This virtue manifests itself as honesty, simplicity, and trust in the process; and it’s summed up by the popular reminder to be true and authentic to yourself. Using an excuse to explain why your life isn’t working at the level you prefer isn’t being true to yourself. When you’re completely honest and sincere, excuses don’t even enter into the picture.
Be yourself and be proud of your story. Allow yourself to be seen for who you are, lumps included! Be true to your words. Live without material attachments. And don’t feel the need to wear a mask because you are afraid of what the world will think of what is underneath. Most importantly be honest with others, people can sense flakiness and insincerity, so only say and do things that you genuinely mean.
A good definition of sincerity or integrity is “wholeness of character”. It’s about living a life where our words and actions match up, and where those words and actions are driven by the intention to do the right thing. It’s about being the same person in all circumstances and not faking it or wearing masks.
How does sincerity look in the everyday moments? Here are just a few examples:
- If there are good things you can do, then don’t just say you’re going to do them. Do them! Actions speak louder than words.
- If someone has offended or upset you, don’t hide your true feelings and pretend everything is OK. Be honest with them and make an attempt to reconcile. By being honest it shows you respect the other person and yourself – it also helps to diffuse any resentment or anger that tends to whirl around the body when things are left unresolved.
- If you have messed up or made mistakes, then own up to it – don’t cover it up. Own your actions and words.
- Don’t pretend that you never make mistakes, or that you are better than you are. Be real. To obtain a deep sense of peace within you want to build authentic relationships. The only way to build authentic relationships is organically – by you being YOU.
- If you live a life of sincerity and of integrity, then you will discover that people will trust you which will result in you living a life with purpose.
A few challenges for you:
CHALLENGE ONE: Are your words and actions matching up? Are there areas of your life where you lack sincerity? Write it down, become accountable for your actions and then get quiet and ask for guidance on how you can be more authentic.
CHALLENGE TWO: Think of someone with whom you have been insincere. It’s likely that you’re not that interested in them or what they have to offer you, so you have handled the relationship with insincerity in order to appear a decent person, whilst inside knowing that you haven’t much time for them. Now it’s time to try to understand them better so you don’t have to be insincere any more. It’s time to take on a ‘we’ mentality instead of a ‘me mentality’. Initiate a decent conversation, show some genuine interest in them and act kindly towards them. You will quickly discover that everyone has something of value to offer – you just need to look and switch your perspective.
CHALLENGE THREE – THE 7-DAY CHALLENGE: Every day for a week, determine that you are going to be real. No pretence, no dishonesty, no insincerity. Just the real you. Go out into the world and seek out new people to connect with, people you would not normally associate with. Allow yourself to be open and real so that you can get a deeper understanding of humanity and the essence of ‘all being’.
The Third Cardinal Virtue: Gentleness
This virtue personifies one of my all-time favourite mantras “When you have the choice to be right or to be kind, always pick kind.” This virtue manifests as kindness, consideration for others, and sensitivity to spiritual truth. Gentleness means accepting life and people as they are, rather than insisting that they be as you are. As you practice living this way, blame disappears, and you enjoy a peaceful world.
How does gentleness look in the everyday moments? Here are just a few examples:
- Letting others speak without interrupting the conversation with your thoughts/opinion.
- Walk with humility. When you feel your ego’s need to tell someone ‘how good you are’ or talk about ‘a success you had’, take a moment to breathe and stop yourself from saying anything. It will be hard at first, as you will just want to shout it out, but refrain and then wait for the shift in inner transformation.
- Stop looking for reasons to be offended. I am currently watching The Block and Ink Master and since bringing my awareness to this virtue I have noticed how much ‘we as humans’ feel like we are entitled to things and as a result we find things to be constantly offended at. Wayne Dyer talks about this often, he says on any given day we find hundreds of reasons to be offended. And how true. Our minds are constantly swirling with things like – he didn’t call, that person is strange, I am unappreciated, I am more deserving, that is unfair and so forth. No matter whom you are, you never know the full story or reasons behind anything outside of yourself – therefore it gives you no reason to be offended.
- Just trust in the process. Our ego’s see ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’, however the truth is that we are all connected to the one source and we all come from the same thing, therefore to judge something as bad is to also judge ‘the creator or source’ as bad. Trust that there is a rhyme and reason behind everything, and just accept that sometimes your human mind does not have the capacity to understand ‘the why’. Simply just ‘be’ and live in a state of acceptance for all things.
The Fourth Cardinal Virtue: Supportiveness
This virtue manifests in your life as service to others without any expectation of reward. Once again, this is when you extend yourself in a spirit of giving, helping, or loving. As you consider the many excuses that have dominated your life, look carefully at them—you’ll see that they’re all focused on the ego. I can’t do this. I’m too busy or too scared. I’m unworthy. No one will help me. I’m too old. I’m too tired. Now imagine shifting your attention off yourself and asking the universal mind ‘How may I serve?’ When you do so, the message you’re sending is - I’m not thinking about myself and what I can or can’t have. Your attention is on making someone else feel better.
Our world is riddled with ‘a me mentality’. There are many people out there who only ever associate with people who can do something for them in return. Actually, we have probably all been guilty of it from time to time.
How does supportiveness look in the everyday moments? Here are just a few examples:
- Give without expecting. Especially give to those who you know will never be able to pay you back. Seek them out and make an effort to do something nice for them.
- Give quietly. Many people give and then tell everyone about it. Others give for no other reason than to win acknowledgement from others. Try giving without telling anyone about it or making a big fuss.
- Smile. It is such a simple act, yet it can really make the biggest difference in somebody’s day. A smile conveys ‘I see you. I accept you. You are wonderful’. At first it may be scary smiling at someone out of fear that they may not smile back, and yes you get the odd grumble bum who won’t smile back, however 98% of people always smile back. Don’t smile to receive smiles but smile to let someone know ‘you see and value them’, it is such a small act that has the power to make a profound impact.
These four virtues are not a religion or dogma, but attributes of one’s true nature. By living these virtues, you will live a quieter and peaceful life, and you will develop an appreciation for all living things.
The way forward is to live with a constant state of awareness, keeping these virtues at the forefront of your mind. Living in this manner, you will find that you become free from judgement, envy, and regret. Instead of living from a place of fear – you will move into a place of love.