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Diane Dreher's Tao of Inner Peace Blog

Healing the Hurry Sickness

Even in this Covid pandemic, many of us find ourselves rushing through our days, trying to work remotely, care for our families, and take care of all the household tasks. Juggling too many commitments, we find ourselves tired and frustrated at the end of the day.


Meditation teacher Eknath Easwaran called this frantic pace "the hurry sickness." And it's become a way of life for too many Americans. Constant hurry compromises our health, makes us less effective, and robs us of joy in our days.


All this constant rushing produces chronic stress. Our bodies tense up, preparing for fight or flight, producing tight, sore muscles and back pain. Our glands churn out adrenaline and corticosteroids, which shut down our digestive and immune systems, increase inflammation, undermine our ability to think clearly, and block our sense of compassion. And all this chronic rushing undermines our relationships, making us ignore the people around us.


The hurry sickness can even be fatal. At a street corner three blocks from my house I saw piles of flowers and hand-written notes, a memorial to one of my neighbors, a single father with a young daughter. One afternoon, he was standing on the sidewalk beside his bike, waiting for the light to change. Suddenly, in a few moments of careless hurry, a driver in a gray SUV came racing down the street, passed a line of cars on the right, and jumped the curb. Careening onto the sidewalk, the car killed our neighbor, leaving his little girl all alone.


Have you been caught up in "the hurry sickness" lately? If so, for your own good and the good of those around you, take a moment now to rediscover the place of peace deep within you.


  • Close your eyes
  • Take a deep breath and slowly release it.
  • Feel your feet on the ground, as you
  • Breathe in peace, and
  • Breathe out compassion
  • For yourself, your neighbors, and our world.
  • Then gently open your eyes.


I wish you peace on the path




For more information on curing "the hurry sickness" with meditation, see Easwaran, Eknath. Passage Meditation. Tomales, CA: Nilgiri Press, 2008 or check out the website www.bmcm.org.


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The Empty Space

The Tao Te Ching tells us:


Thirty spokes meet at the wheel's axis

The center space makes the wheel useful.

Form clay into a cup;

The center space gives it purpose.

Frame doors and windows for a house;

The openings make the house useful.

Therefore, purpose comes from what is there

Because of what is not there.


                              Tao Te Ching, Chapter 11


In one of my favorite passages, the Tao Te Ching reminds us of the essential power of the empty space, what the Japanese call yohaku. In these days of Covid, stress, and confusion, connecting with the empty space can open our hearts to a deep source of peace.


In an old Buddhist legend, a young man came to a teacher seeking enlightenment. He introduced himself, reciting his list of accomplishments while the master poured tea. As the man talked on, the master continued to pour until the tea spilled over the sides of the cup.


"Stop!" said the young man. "Can't you see what you're doing?"

The old master smiled, eyes twinkling as he replied, "You cannot fill a cup that is already full."


The young man was full of himself, full of ego. To learn anything new, he would have to empty his cup.


Likewise, in this challenging time, to remain centered and aware, to learn, grow, and flourish, we must empty ourselves of preconceptions and expectations, suspend judgement, rumination, and resentments, clearing away the clutter of our minds. This is the vital lesson of yohaku, the Japanese term for the "white space," the background in an ink painting, which adds balance to the whole.


An expression of yin, the "empty space" so much a part of the Tao, yohaku is the space of contemplation, insight, and creativity.


What about you?


Take a mindful moment now

To close your eyes,

Take a slow, deep breath and slowly release it.

Then ask yourself,

"Do I have enough space in my days?"


Looking beyond all the surface clutter, anxiety, and confusion, ask yourself:


"Where do I find my yohaku?"


I wish you joy in this process of discovery



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Keeping the Flame Alive

Deep within each of us is the flame of our own uniqueness.  Renaissance philosophers saw this as a spark of the eternal flame, the divine light of inspiration. It leads us to make our own creative contribution to the world—from writing poetry, composing music, creating visual art, and making scientific discoveries to coming up with new insights, new solutions to life's challenges. We all have that source of inspiration.


Yet as many of us have experienced in this dark season of the Covid pandemic, divisive politics, racial injustice, and economic uncertainty, difficult external conditions can snuff out the flame. We can feel like victims of circumstance, with no control of our lives. This combination of external threats can not only destroy our creative vision but make us doubt our sanity.


Yet as the Buddha realized, when painful conditions arise, suffering is optional. The power of mindful awareness can reignite the flame, transforming oppressive circumstances with the light of inner liberation. With this inner light, this power of choice, we can create new possibilities for ourselves and our world. Viktor Frankl discovered the power of choice in a Nazi concentration camp, surviving to inspire millions with his book, Man's Search for Meaning. Nelson Mandela emerged from 27 years in prison with a vision of the new South Africa. And today, I'm grateful for the millions of brave men and women--doctors, scientists, concerned citizens, and essential workers--who are healing the sick, liberating the oppressed, and feeding our nation in these challenging times.  


Like these and centuries of other creative men and women, we are each keepers of the flame, the sacred source of our inspiration. Who knows the power and possibilities that lie within you?



Take a moment now to connect with this source. Focusing on your heart, ask yourself:


  • What in my life snuffs out the flame? These are situations to avoid, transform, or transcend.
  • What ignites and strengthens the flame? For many people it is contemplation, beauty, play, time spent in nature.
  • Focus on your heart, feeling the flame burn brightly as you visualize what nurtures you.
  • Feel this creative energy warm your heart, healing, nurturing, inspiring, flowing through your body and out your fingertips, preparing you to make your own creative contribution to the world.


I wish you joy in the process.

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