• Gregory Sporleder

Part 3

Updated: May 4, 2018

The great Mystery

To explain the next principle I’ll use the first line of the text.....

“The Tao that can be spoken is not the true Tao.”

~ #1 From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao

Lao Tzu’s little book attempts to describe what he himself deems indescribable. His secret: bypass description, head straight toward experience.

Experience over intellect.

The power of the Tao is in the surrendering and then trusting yourself to indulge fully in this mystery. This was revolutionary to me. Up to that point, I felt like my whole life was about struggling to SOLVE life. All the schools I ever attended were all about solving problems. Why do adults burden children with so many problems? My whole childhood seemed like one big problem I could never really solve. Being dyslexic I had a terrible time with reading, calculating, memorizing, equations, and worst of all: testing. If it wasn’t for art classes, I wouldn’t have made it out of high school. In college my dyslexia couldn’t be hidden or cheated away any more, and my lack of reading, writing and testing skills got me kicked out. Reading and writing was something I could not solve. These days it’s different, kids are finally being allowed to learn in ways that fit their minds. Back when I was young, people like me suffered greatly by being led to believe we were dumb.

This idea of surrendering, trusting and indulging in this mystery to fully “grasp” life was interesting, because, it seemed clear to me, that the only way to surrender, to trust and indulge would be to use my creativity. As a dyslexic I had plenty.

I had a Dorothy and her ruby slippers moment. I realized the answer to my biggest problem in life was within me. I didn’t need to struggle with solutions, all I needed to do was click my heels three times and repeat, “There’s no place like my creativity, there’s no place like my creativity, there’s no place my creativity,” and my problem was solved.

Life isn’t a test, it’s a mystery.

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious.”

~ Albert Einstein (famous dyslexic)

This simple belief caused a cosmic shift in my thought process, freeing me from a lifetime of anxiety and shame.

It was in Atlanta that I bought my first journal. I decided to start the journey to overcome my biggest fear: writing. On the cover I taped my hero Michael Jordon.

I wrote what I wanted without a care in the world. I taped postcards and newspaper clippings and different things to keep me inspired and encouraged. It worked. I haven’t stopped, in fact, I wrote in my journal this morning.

“the journey of a thousand miles

starts beneath your feet.”

~ #64 From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao

Of all the gifts the Tao has given me, it’s this one in particular I am most grateful for.

The three Treasures

“I have just three things to teach:

simplicity, patience, compassion.

These three are your greatest treasures.

Simple in actions and in thoughts,

you return to the source of being.

Patient with both friends and enemies,

you accord with the way things are.

Compassionate toward yourself,

you reconcile all beings in the world.”

~ #67 From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao

As I prepared for Andersonville these three treasures became the foundation of Dick Potter. Realizing how simple his thoughts and life had to be as he struggled to survive with men all around him dying. And the patience he must have possessed has he got weaker and weaker. His action toward the soldiers showed his compassion. Playing a character that is a starving prisoner of war, that is eventually attacked and murdered was a blessing in bringing the three treasures to life in a very deep and empathetic way.

Which leads perfectly into explaining another of the Taoist principles: Just as in nature, the Tao and Taoists always take the natural, simplest, way to the solution.

“The Master allows things to happen.

She shapes events as they come.

She steps out of the way

and lets the Tao speak for itself.”

~ From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao

To actually not have to starve, or be a prisoner, but simply imagine, believe, commit and act, Lucky me.

Wei wu wei

The next element is called Wei wu wei, which means: doing, not-doing. Essentially that the doer vanishes into the action, becomes the feat. The idea being: let go of all ego, self-consciousness, and fully become the endeavor. The dancer becomes the dance, the athlete becomes the game, the painting paints itself. I took this as a direct wink to me because it’s the definition of acting. Yet, this principle helped me to see something new pertaining to my craft and that was that negative thoughts, bitching and moaning, which a lot of actors do, can be considered as a form of negative egotism. The point, that if you stray from the purpose, wether you’re thinking about fame or future, or, that this part sucks, they’ll never cast me, the script is dumb, you’re straying from the purpose. I’ve never had a “big head” but I’d done my fair share of bitching and moaning and the Wei wu Wei helped me to see that straying is straying, always pursue the objective. I’m no Danial Day Lewis but once they glued on that facial hair and set that wig, using this Wei wu Wei principle, I did my best to fully embody Dick Potter. The deeper I committed the more I could relax into the character.

“Less and less do you need to force things,

Until finally you arrive at non-action.

When nothing is done,

Nothing is left undone.”

~ #48 From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao

Returning / Centered

~ From #52

In the beginning was the Tao.

All things issue from it;

All things return to it.

~ From #40

Return is the movement of the Tao.

Yielding is the way of the Tao.

~ From #37

The Tao never does anything,

Yet through it all things are done.

If powerful men and women

Could center themselves in it,

The whole world would be transformed.

~ From #35

She who is centered in the Tao

Can go where she wishes, without danger

~ From #32

If powerful men and women

Could remain centered in the Tao,

All things would be in harmony.

~ From #33

If you stay in the center

And embrace death with your whole heart,

You will endure forever.

~From #5

“Hold on to the center”

~ From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao

Taking off my costume and make up I would return to myself. Leaving the prison set I’d return to the hotel. When it was time to sleep I would return to bed. And this is where my meditation was born, I was so excited to be alive I was having trouble getting to sleep.

Laying awake one night, praying for sleep, I remembered a college acting class where Suzuki’s “Zen mind, beginners mind” was required reading and meditation was taught. At the time I was too young and rambunctious to take “sitting still” and thinking of “nothing” seriously. It seemed utterly ridiculous then, and yet I never forgot the method, clear and energize your mind while focusing on your breath. I thought it might help. I used the clearing idea, but, once the thoughts were gone and my mind relaxed, thoughts of nature and my running would creep in and they were so beautiful that I didn’t want to kick them out. My critical mind would say, “Meditators sit when they meditate, keep your mind clear, you’re not doing it right. You can’t lay down and meditate.” The Tao answered;

“Must you value what others value,

Avoid what others avoid?

How ridiculous.”

~ From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao

Once I simply allowed the experience to happen, it was amazing. My imagination began to guide the meditation, it was about the beauty, the calm, the serenity. No pressure, no goal, just a path and nature and off I'd run, all the way to sleep. Since then it’s how I go to sleep every night.


© 2018 Gregory Sporleder