The journey of a thousand miles.

I have a tattoo that wraps around my left ankle that is a quote from Lao Tzu. I was inspired by a book I read called “Body Type” by Ina Saltz. The entire book features tattoos that are words, and often they are in meaningful fonts.

Like any self-respecting tattooed person, I was on the quest to get another tattoo after reading that. But what? What words would be worthwhile to get permanently marked on my body? What do I need to remember that much? What would be helpful to others?

I found something that answered those questions in the quote “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.” I’d always heard it as “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” but when you are going to get something permanent, you might as well make sure of the exact wording. When I looked it up, I found this alternate translation. I like “… beneath ones’ feet” much better.

Both quotes help to remind us to not look at the goal. Just get started. There is another Chinese saying that is like this. “The best time to plant a tree is a hundred years ago. The second best time is today.” Both refer to starting. You have to dream, but then you have to make those dreams real. And making dreams real is composed of a lot of tiny steps. When you first start it feels impossible, that you will never get there. Just keep going. Just keep taking tiny steps. The quote also reminds us to break up a big, difficult project up into manageable parts. Do a little here, and a little there, and you’ll get there.

But we all know that just starting is the hardest part. This is why I like the alternate translation so much better. The start is right now, right where you are. Here’s the secret – just thinking about it, you have already begun.

That is worth savoring. You want to write? Many people would say then just write. That is easier to say than do, because you want to make it perfect. You won’t. It won’t be perfect. It will be really ugly and clunky and dull at the beginning. But then you write more, and it gets easier, and clearer, and better. This applies to anything creative, not just writing.

But you still have to start.

I had a problem getting started. Sometimes the problem was stopping a bad habit and starting a better one. I know I’m not alone in this. Sometimes the inertia was too great. Sometimes I couldn’t achieve enough escape velocity to get going.

These words inspire me, and I hope they do the same to you. Just thinking about it, you’ve already started. You’ve already taken the first step.

A change of perspective.

A change of perspective will do you good. Try out different things. Eat at different restaurants. Sit in a different chair. Read a different kind of book.

It is important to have different perspectives. However you see reality isn’t THE reality. It is just your take on it. You will see things from the limitations of your sense organs. Your eyes are different from mine – you might see blues a little better. I might be shorter than you and catch a different angle. Together, if we explain how we see what we are looking at, we will both gain a better understanding of what we see.

Just because someone else sees something differently doesn’t mean that they are wrong and you are right. You are both right, for yourselves. You both have made your decision based on the information that you have. You can both make a more informed decision if you widen your information by sharing.

Don’t be like a small child. The terrible twos are partly called that because children will call out “NO” vehemently when told to do something. They are asserting their independence. They are saying that they are not puppets or pets. They can’t be told what to do. They have their own agendas, and they want to make sure that they are listened to. This is an important phase of growth, but it is important to grow out of too. Don’t say “no” to someone else’s take on something just because it isn’t the way you see it. They might have a piece of the puzzle you are missing.

We are all in this together. Life isn’t about being right and wrong. It is about sharing and listening to each other. It is about dialogue instead of debate. It is about love instead of judgment.

We are all flowers in a garden. Each of us is different on purpose. If we all were the same kind of flower the garden would be very boring. Variety is indeed the spice of life.

We are all instruments in an orchestra. If we were all the same instrument, the song would sound very dull. Be the piccolo or the trombone or the bassoon or the bass drum. Be who you were made to be, and be it to the best of your ability. And in the meantime, learn to appreciate the other instruments for their contribution to the song.

Being jealous of someone else’s success is a waste of your time. The fact that they are successful does not mean that you can’t be successful too. They are successful at being themselves. You are different. Be yourself. Being jealous of someone else is childlike. They haven’t taken away your toy.

I know people who are jealous of people for losing weight. The fact that another person has made the time to exercise and worked up the discipline to eat well does not take away from your ability to do the same. The more time you spend getting mad at another person’s success, the less time you are spending on creating your own. Perhaps you can learn something from the other person’s story that might encourage you. Perhaps you might learn a new way of thinking that will make it easier for you to get healthy.

This all applies to religion as well.

I saw a t-shirt at a New Age shop in Boone, NC with this quote. “There are many paths up the mountain, but at the top, the same bright moon.” I can’t remember the author, and my web search just results in “Asian saying”. I don’t think it matters who said it so much as that it was said. I know plenty of fundamental Christians will freak out over this saying, using the “Jesus is the way…” quote, but they forget that Jesus was all about love, and certainly not about telling everybody off. They also forget that the apostle Paul tells us that in Christ there is no East or West, or male or female or Jew or Gentile, and that Paul himself adapted to the language and customs of whoever he was with.

I like this quote because it seems so simple and so honest. Our goal is God. Keep moving upwards. The closer you get to the top, the more people you are going to see from different faith traditions because the mountain is getting smaller as it goes up. Why do you care how they got there? Are you jealous? Is it “your” God? Or are you concerned for them? Are you afraid that their way might get them lost? Are you so sure of your way? If your way leads you to judge them, then you have a pretty good clue that you are close to falling off the mountain.

There are no shortcuts to success or happiness or enlightenment. They all require an odd balance of hard work and of letting go. I wish you peace on your journey.