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Diane Dreher's Tao of Inner Peace Blog

Natural or Normal?

Winter Sunset--14 January 2005 of an amazing sunset. Photograph by Andrew Crouthamel. Wikimedia Commons.

The Tao Te Ching tells us:


When you know nature as part of yourself,

You will act in harmony.

When you find yourself part of nature,

You will live in harmony."  


Tao Te Ching, Chapter 13


Growing up in the Far East, I learned to love contemplative time, finding a private place beneath a flowering hibiscus bush or climbing a flame tree to watch the changing panorama of the sky.


Sometimes we're all so busy now we rarely notice the sky at all. Yet with its glorious clouds and colors, it is nature's dynamic fresco right above our heads.


In today's industrialized society, contemplative time in nature can be perceived as deviant behavior. One summer, after graduation, my husband and I took two students, Mike and Kelly, out to dinner to celebrate their accomplishments and Mike's departure for medical school. After dinner, we walked across the parking lot to a nearby field to watch the sunset. The clouds changed colors, streaks of pink turning to gray as the sky gradually became a deeper blue and the first few stars appeared.


Then our reverie was broken by a uniformed security guard.  "You can't be here," he said. "You're loitering and that's against the law."


Loitering? Apparently standing in a field watching the sunset is suspicious behavior in a culture where compulsive action and consumerism have become the norm. Our behavior seemed natural enough to me, but to avoid being arrested, we headed back to the car.


Natural and normal are two different things. What is normal in our fast-paced consumer culture may not be natural, may not be healthy or harmonious according to the wisdom of Tao.


You might pause to ask what is natural for you.


  • When do you "find yourself part of nature?"
  • How can you find greater harmony in your life today?




Some information in this lesson appeared earlier in Dreher, D. (1996). The Tao of Personal Leadership. New York, NY: HarperCollins.


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