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Time and Eternity

Updated: Jun 17, 2020

By David Russell

I like this translation from the Tao, by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English, because it presents the eternal and the time-bound as two choices, equally valid. The other translations I’ve read emphasize the timeless as superior, and the “true” source of wisdom. Perhaps this is so, but I think we have bodies for a reason. It is only through our bodies that we return to the eternal. I don’t believe that enlightenment, whatever that is, means withdrawal from the world of form. I think it means being fully present in the world of form as it surrounds us, right now.

I know that all forms are temporary, ephemeral, no matter how solid and unchanging they seem. I know that to cling to form creates suffering. Bodies age, languages evolve, cultures shift. Even the mountains, even the climate are not fixed. But I love and celebrate form while I am encased in it. I love my body, my wife and children, my dog, my house. I cherish a perfectly made spinach omelet, a beautiful poem, even the roar and scream of heavy metal, sometimes. I laugh, I weep, I am moved, I am joyous. I love that I can float in the eternal and also swim in the waters of form. I suspect they are not truly separate. Only our minds, perhaps, make them so.

From Tao The Ching of Lao Tsu, translated by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English


The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.

The named is the mother of ten thousand things.

Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.

Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.

These two spring from the same source but differ in name;

this appears as darkness.

Darkness within darkness.

The gate to all mystery.

Participants’ reflections:

  • I am enjoying family and being in my body. I am serious about my body and my calling, but also playful and enjoy life in the embodied sense.

  • Grateful to be here. Thanks. I'm thinking of the word “timelessness”. How connected I am to my body and life. I am living out my life, this is my legacy. My qualities, my defects that I exhibit in life. Hopefully the good outweighs the bad. Thinking of what my obituary will look like, that I was loving in the world.

  • I heard the words “manifestation vs mystery”. In the meditation, I went in between mystery (the ephemeral space) and manifestation with its noise and reality. During the meditation, I drew squiggles with my left hand, it was freeing.

  • Today is my birthday. During the meditation, I saw an image of being surrounded by light beings, and then I saw darkness and mystery, moving into it. Quite a birthday gift.

  • I felt a little jazzed today before leading, and then I was self-critical about sharing what I'd written. I imagined an argument between two angelic beings, and I caught myself. It’s interesting to watch the overdrive of my mind.

  • This journey is a process of letting go, and of trusting. I can pick myself apart. It accentuates who wants to get in control in my mind.

  • My meditation today was on gratitude. I saw every teacher in my life, both the good and bad. I've learned something from every one of them.

  • Thank you for creating a safe platform to grow in. We teach what we need to learn the most.

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