All that I am doing is allowing the Heavenly within me to match up with the Heavenly in the world – this is probably why people mistake my art for the work of the spirits!
– Woodcarver Qing from the Zhuangzi
This story from the Daoist work called the Zhuangzi, illustrates one way to describe being in the “flow.” We have all felt it. A glimpse of it here or a moment of it there. Being in the flow can be described as that moment when you feel challenged but confident, uncertain but knowledgeable, motivated but perfectly at peace.
Woodcarver Qing describes this as “allowing the Heavenly within me to match up with the Heavenly in the world” or, in other words, letting the idea of being a part of something bigger than yourself motivate and comfort as you go about your work in the world.
You don’t have to be a Daoist to let this impact you. You don’t have to be Christian, Muslim, or Hindu to let this idea of the “Heavenly” provide you with guidance. It is simply the act of believing that you are part of something greater than yourself. If you are an atheist you can look at it like this. The way you live your life will directly or indirectly impact the life of somebody else; your actions have consequences not only for people but all of nature. With each decision you make you are participating in the ongoing creation of the world we live in, the ongoing evolution of humankind. Each of us is free to choose how we want to engage in the process.
Of course this is also true of those who claim some sort of theistic belief system as well. We are all in this thing together whether or not we get along, agree, or even acknowledge it.
To let the “Heavenly within me to match up with the Heavenly in the world” is to allow oneself to see how you are part of the bigger picture of humanity, to see how the way you live your life impacts those beyond you, and then to live into that truth with a heart of love for others as well as grace for yourself.
Another Daoist work called the Laozi explains it this way:
The way of Heaven
Excels in overcoming, though it does not contend;
In responding, though it does not speak;
In spontaneously attracting, though it does not summon;
In planning for the future, though it is always relaxed.
The Net of Heaven covers all;
Although its mesh is wide, nothing ever slips through.
This poem beautifully illustrates the paradox of the Heavenly way, and really the paradox of how we all want to live. It describes the paradox of being in the flow; to think of others without thinking, to be perfectly attuned to your environment without paying attention, to try without trying.
This is the point of religious ritual and practice in my opinion. You give an offering on Sunday, not so that you can go to heaven with God or so that some being “out there” loves you more; but rather you give on Sunday to develop a habit of giving, to get to the point where you give without expectation of receiving anything back, freedom to give.
You sing and worship together not to stroke the ego of the “man in the clouds” but to quite literally experience being a part of something bigger than yourself, to literally be breathing in unison with those around you, to feel in rhythm with the person next to you.
You take communion not because that specific piece of bread or sip of wine is special but because all bread and all wine are sacred when you they are taken with others. At the table we all come for the same reason, we all need this earth to produce food for us to eat and drink to quench our thirst. It is the equalizer, it paints a picture of this “thing” we call life that we are all participating in together.
Grace and mercy ⇒ peace and love.