From Lao Tzu:
“empty the mind and fill the belly,
weaken the ambitions, and strengthen the bones.”
What happens when we have a lot of stress? We tend to have a lot on our minds, don’t we? We tend to excessively think, over and over again, whatever it is we are fixated on. We become somewhat neurotic and accumulate more and more thoughts that we become hoarders. This overwhelms our reality and can distract us from what is before us. Physiologically, the body beautiful has an inner intelligence that helps compensate for the overburdened mind. People tend to eat more when stressed. The act of eating helps to divert some of the energy from the brain towards the gut. It literally helps to calm the mind by filling the belly. By eating we take the energy we would use to “digest” our thoughts and use it to digest our food. This helps to create some balance between the mind and body. Problems arise when we do not allow our minds to take a break and continue to feed it with more “unnecessities” and the body, being the obedient servant that it is, compensates by “hoarding” the excess energy that it can no longer process resulting in your average fat ass. On the other end of the spectrum, we may be too distracted and consciously disconnect ourselves from our bodies and exhibit symptoms of anorexia. So, in other words, a distracted mind can lead to either situation of over and under filling of the belly. The metaphor here is that in Taoism, the belly is the foundation of our life force, our Qi, and a cluttered mind can deplete our vitality.
What happens when one is ambitious? On the surface, one would want to do everything and conquer all, all at the same time. This can also be viewed as satisfying the “wants” of our senses more than the “needs” of them. Lao Tzu may have been referring more towards the tendency to succumb to our excessive desires and becoming enslaved to those temptations. Our bones give us structure and foundation and it is our will that strengthens them. Physiologically, the bones are stimulated through movement and movement is an act of will. Osteoporosis is a metaphor for the weakening of the will. The will weakens when we allow ourselves to become slaves to the senses; when all we look for is pleasure and run away from the unpleasantness; the desire for the “cures” and “quick-fixes” rather than the more profound healing and enlightenment that is hidden underneath all of our ambitions.
Clear the mind and pay attention to the vitality that which is Life.
Free the mind of the senses and see the Freedom that which is the Will.
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