William Martin is the founder of The Still Point Center for Zen Practice in Chico. His wife, Nancy, is its director. Together they have drawn on years of counseling to offer "The Caregiver's Tao Te Ching: Compassionate Caring For Your Loved Ones and Yourself" ($14 in paperback from New World Library). The Martins are scheduled to talk about their work tonight at 7:00 p.m. at Lyon Books in Chico.
The ancient "Tao Te Ching" of Lao Tzu reflects on the mysterious Tao in 81 short chapters. Its message, say the Martins, is deceptively simple: "You are, by nature, an expression of the Tao, and its wisdom and power are part of your true nature. Let go of the stories to the contrary and live in wonder and appreciation." The "stories" come from what the Martins call "the conditioned mind."
For caregivers, the conditioned mind is always asking "Am I doing this right?" It tends to tell and not listen; it tries to problem-solve rather than accept. By contrast, the Martins have adapted the chapters of Lao Tzu to present what they call the "Tao mind" in short poems and brief commentary. "If we believe in our conditioned mind," they write in Chapter 30, "there is never a time when we can stop doing. / There is always more to do. // If we trust our Tao mind, / times to stop and rest appear like rainbows, / surprising us in the cloudy sky. / Pay attention to these times."
The book eloquently encourages "compassion, simplicity, and patience," but the paradox of the Tao is that it is indifferent even to these labels. So the Martins have interpreted the Tao though Buddhist eyes.
The authors know first hand the challenges of care giving. "We may look ahead to some task we fear we won't be able to do. From a distance the task seems like a cliff edge. . . . As we keep going, we find that we reach that cliff without noticing. We are doing what naturally unfolds, and suddenly here is the task we had dreaded. Now that it is here, there is no question that we will be able to keep going. What appeared too difficult is now just what needs to be done."