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Diane Dreher's Tao Leadership Blog

Regaining the Sense of Oneness

Yin and yang, sea and sky--the beautiful beach at Villa Maria Del Mar in Santa Cruz

The Tao Te Ching tells us:

 

In ages past, people followed the One.

The heavens were bright and clear,

The earth was in balance,

The spirits rejoiced,

The valleys were filled with life,

The ten thousand things flourished,

The leaders were wise,

And people lived in harmony.

All this came from oneness.

                        Tao, Chapter 39

 

This message of oneness echoes throughout the Tao Te Ching, which portrays the earth and sky, darkness and light, yin and yang, our lives and all that we know as part of the larger whole. The sense of oneness is intrinsic to the human condition, appearing in religious traditions throughout the ages (Van Cappellen, & Saroglou, 2012). Our ancestors felt a deep sense of oneness as they gazed in wonder at the stars, shining symbols of aspiration high above them.

 

Have you felt a sense of wonder when you looked at the stars, watched the ocean waves rushing in to shore, or responded to a radiant sunset, symphony, or remarkable work of art? Then you have experienced awe. Psychologists have discovered how the beauty of nature, music, poetry, and art can bring us this transcendent feeling. In what Abraham Maslow (1971) called a "peak experience," this feeling takes us beyond ourselves into an expansive sense of oneness with all creation, changing our lives in profound and meaningful ways (Keltner, & Haidt, 2003).

 

Research has shown that experiencing awe can bring us greater hope. It can improve our health, transform our perception of ourselves and our world, and increase our generosity, trust, and connection to community (Piff et al, 2015).

 

One way to experience greater awe is by appreciating beauty and excellence, one of the character strengths common to humankind (Peterson & Seligman, 2004).

 

Ask yourself where and when you feel this transcendent sense of joy and oneness.

Is it in appreciating the beauty of nature, music, or the work of your favorite artist?

 

You can experience awe more often, experiencing greater hope and connection to the world around you, by pausing to appreciate the daily beauty in your life.

 

References

 

Keltner, D. & Haidt, J. (2003). Approaching awe, a moral, spiritual, and aesthetic emotion. Cognition and Emotion, 17, 297-314; Piff, P. K., Dietze, P., Feinberg, M., Stancato, D. M, & Keltner, D. (2015). Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108, 883-899.

 

Maslow, A. H. (1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York, NY: Viking Books.

 

Peterson, C., & Seligman, M.E.P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

 

Piff, P. K., Dietze, P., Feinberg, M., Stancato, D. M, & Keltner, D. (2015). Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108, 883-899; Rudd, M., Vohs, K. D., & Aaker, J. (2012). Awe expands people's perception of time, alters decision making, and enhances well-being. Psychological Science, 23, 1130-1136.

 

Van Cappellen, P., & Saroglou, V. (2012). Awe activates religious and spiritual feelings and behavioral intentions. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 4, 223-236.

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Restoring Our Vitality

The Tao Te Ching tells us:

 

The Tao is the one.

From the one come yin and yang,

Sunlight and shadow,

From these two creative energy,

From energy ten thousand things

The forms of all creation.

                   (Tao, Chapter 42)

 

The Tao Te Ching affirms the power of creative energy, but these days, under the shadows of Covid-19, many of us are feeling emotionally exhausted. Some have called this pandemic fatigue. How can we bring more light and creative energy into our lives? Research has revealed three ways to increase our joy, energy, and vitality.

 

Get Regular Exercise: Research has shown that regular exercise builds vitality and helps relieve feelings of helplessness and depression (Rethorst & Trivedi, 2010).  Choose an exercise practice that works for you.

  • If you already have an exercise practice you enjoy—running, hiking, dancing, working out, tai chi, yoga, or something else—commit to doing this exercise at least three times a week to increase your vitality and stamina. Check out online exercise classes or exercise outdoors, following public health guidelines.
  • If you don't have a regular exercise practice, just walking around your neighborhood is a good way to begin. Just mask up and begin walking. As the Tao reminds us, "the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" (Tao, Chapter 64).

 

Share Positive Events with Others: Research has also revealed that we can increase our vitality by sharing our goals and positive experiences with others (Niemiec, 2018). You can do this virtually by phone call or Zoom link:

  • Spend time with a friend sharing your goals, challenges, and progress.
  • Join a group to work on a cause you believe in.
  • Work with a coach or counselor to overcome roadblocks and develop greater vitality.

 

Spend Time in Nature: Research has shown that just being out in nature can raise our mood, lift our spirits, and increase our vitality (Ryan, Weinstein, et al, 2010).  How can you spend more time in nature?

  • If you enjoy hiking, backpacking, or camping, plan to do this more often, checking out possibilities and observing public health guidelines.
  • If you'd rather stay close to home, mask up and take a walk around your neighborhood or in a nearby park.
  • If you'd rather stay even closer to home, you can spend time gardening, growing flowers or vegetables in your yard or apartment balcony, watching them grow, and enjoying the harvests.

Whatever way you choose, cultivating your relationship with nature world can help restore your vitality and build your hope.

 

I wish you joy on the path.

 

References

 

Rethorst, C. D.& Trivedi, M. H. (2010). Evidence-based recommendation for the prescription of exercise for major depressive disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 19, 204-212.

 

Niemiec, R. M. (2018). Character strengths interventions: A field guide for practitioners. Boston, MA: Hogrefe Publishing. Discussion on pages 129-130

 

Ryan, R. M., Weinstein, N., Bernstein, J., Brown, K. W., Mistretta, L., & Gagne, M. (2010). Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30, 159-16; Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrated framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 15, 169-182.

 

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