"The Tao leader
Lives fully in every moment"
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14
Most of us love beginnings and endings, starting new projects and celebrating their completion. But this month, after planting tomatoes, my vegetable garden is in the long middle season. The fruits of summer will come later, and the most abundant harvests only after summer has passed. Now progress is so slow nothing seems to be happening.
Sustaining hope in the middle season can be challenging when we're highly motivated, intent on reaching our goals. But patience with process is essential for maintaining our peace of mind. For we spend most of our lives in the time known in classical epics as in medias res—in the middle of things—between the excitement of new beginnings and the fulfillment of conclusions. Our projects, careers, and relationships all have long middle seasons. In time, enthusiasm for new projects can diminish, the glamorous new career can become daily routine, and courtship settles down into daily life with the one we love.
If we focus too much on future goals, we can miss the present—the vital gift of this day. At my university, I hear students talk about getting all their required classes "out of the way." But graduating seniors often say they wished they'd spent more time enjoying college because these years went by so quickly.
When you find your mind racing ahead of you, you can cultivate greater patience and hope in the middle season by slowing down, taking a deep breath, and bringing yourself back to the present moment.
- Are you in the middle season with a project, career, educational process, or relationship?
- Have you been rushing, impatient, trying to push things?
- If so, take time to reframe the process: focusing not so much on getting this moment over with as experiencing what it has to offer.
- Take a deep breath and remind yourself:
"The Tao leader
Lives fully in every moment."
Then look for the gift in the present moment. Enjoy the process.
An earlier version of this lesson was published in Dreher, D. E. (2002). Inner gardening: A seasonal path to inner peace. New York, NY: HarperCollins Quill.