The Ten Thousand Things

The Tao Te Ching, an ancient Chinese text that represents the philosophical and spiritual basis for Taoism and is regarded as a strong influence of Buddhism, speaks often of the “ten thousand things.”  The meaning of this phrase is elusive by nature. The “ten thousand things” can represent many things: the boundless multiplicity of all beings and forms that exist in the universe; the interconnectedness of these beings and forms; all that we choose to name and give thought to that is outside of and apart from the Self.

I find each of these ways of conceiving of the “ten thousand things” to be useful.  I do believe everything in this universe is connected in a way that we don’t understand.  I believe there is an unknowable energy that binds us all to each other. And I also believe that it is easy to forget all of this and become distracted by our own thoughts, anxieties, doubts, and fears.    

I often feel pulled in a half dozen directions at once. There are some days when I feel like I work very hard and I barely get anything done.  There are some nights when I lie in bed for hours, unable to slow the churn of my mind long enough to drift off to sleep.

This is one manifestation of the “ten thousand things.” They are the doubts that prohibit me from staying grounded in my body.  They are the fears that sever my connection to the joys of living in the mystery and sanctity of this beautiful space and time that I find myself in. There is so much to notice. There is so much to be present for.   

But I am not my thoughts. I am not my fears. They will rise and fall, and I will remain.