Simplicity, patience, compassion

One of my favorite passages from Tao te Ching is: 

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

(Translation by Stephen Mitchell, 1995) 

This passage is such an incredible guide, as is the whole of that remarkable, ancient book. These words constantly return me to the lessons they teach, which are both straightforward and difficult to practice continuously.  

Simplicity is something I do attempt to practice, and it has helped me control my desires and work on my dreams without being let down when they don’t work out exactly the way I want them to. 

Patience is probably my strongest attribute: after all, I am a 7th grade teacher! I have learned to be more patient with my dreams, understanding that I must continue to put in the work as they grow and come true.  

I have worked on being compassionate with myself. I used to have a lot of negative self-talk. This came from a period when I was unreliable and irresponsible. It has been a long time since I was like that, but the negative thoughts were powerful, because they were once necessary. Since I have changed, I have worked on replacing them with positive words, and it has helped me to stay on track and learn lessons without beating myself up.  

Simplicity, patience, compassion: three powerful words that taken together form a path for a healthy life.


I’ve reached another milestone on my publishing journey!

Four-hundred books! (That felt good to write out.)

Strangely, I have to force myself to celebrate this accomplishment. Part of the problem is that my publishing dreams have been so huge since I was a child, that it is hard for any reality to measure up.

What I’ve been doing is imagining them stacked up in forty piles of ten. Picturing this gives a geometry, a mass to what it means to have this many books out in the public.

This has been followed by, I think, a better visualization: 400 people actually owning and reading my book. That was what the dream was always about, if I strip away fantasies of amazing stardom and best-selling status.

People reading my words. What I have always wanted. What I am finally achieving.

Need a copy? Buy yours here: Tao of Thoreau – just 2.99 Kindle and 4.99 paperback.

Teacher Talk Tuesday

One of the pitfalls of being a teacher or any kind of educator is forgetting that the humans we’re teaching are still kids.  

There are so many reasons that happens. All the pressure that is brought on teachers and administrators to demand more of our students, to push them, and often pull them, to improvement and success. The danger of looking of students as a data point that must be moved up levels. The emphasis on test scores. 

Then there’s just running a classroom. When you have 24 kids in front of you, it’s not easy to judge on the fly what is just a minor behavior and what is something that needs to be addressed as a discipline issue. But not every issue has equal weight or needs the same level of response.  

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Losing Control

From my book Tao of Thoreau. Order it from the sidebar!

This is good advice for me at the beginning of the school year. Staying calm and remembering that all of these stresses are indeed transient is difficult right now. I am trying to remember that obstacles are also opportunities and frustrations are lessons. I can let them bog me down or believe these challenges will make me grow.

Tao of Fractals

Fractals fascinate me. Not the math, though I’m sure it’s great, but the patterns. If you don’t know what I mean, check out . Zoom in as much as you want, and you will see repeating, incredibly similar patterns. It’s the similarity that intrigues me: no two structures are quite the same even though they are very alike. 

The Tao Te Ching talks about the earth as a place where “creatures flourish together, endlessly repeating, endlessly renewed.” I think this is an essential understanding of the nature of existence. There is a conservation of form. Humans have an enormous amount of things in common, but physically, intellectually, emotionally, there is enormous variation. 

When patterns work Nature replicates them. Its genius is that it is a pattern, not a mold. Though there are masses of humans, we are not mass produced. We follow the blueprint, but the differences are manifold.

I like to take ideas like this and apply them to my life. Notice my repeated patterns. Observe what is the same, and also the variations. I learn about myself from my own behavior and work, and like Nature, I can choose to repeat what successful and discard what is unsustainable.  

****Interested in philosophy and Taoism? Check out my book Tao of Thoreau. ****

From Tao of Thoreau

This is the first entry in my book. You will see that the left side has a quote from Thoreau, and the right hand side explains the connection of his ideas to Taoism. It also talks of a Seeker, a person looking to live a meaningful, balanced and creative life.


I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. 

I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow out of life, to live so sturdily as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it. Or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it. 


Thoreau begins his quest by radically simplifying his world. Moving to a cabin in the woods enables him to identify distractions and illusions. Being alone helps him strip his life down to find out what is important and true in the hopes of discovering a path that has meaning and value. 

Realistically, most of us cannot separate from society. Still, Thoreau teaches the Seeker to identify parts of life that drain our energy, hold us back, and trip us up. 

This is what he means by fronting “the essential facts of life.” What is truly important? What desires are part of my path, and which pull me away from it?  Thoreau and Taoism propose a radical freedom from distracting and destructive thinking, mindsets and actions.   

I would love to hear what you think about these ideas! Leave a comment.

Avoid the Beginning of Evil

When I decided to launch this website, Henry David Thoreau had a talk with me. He reminded me of a time he had three pieces of limestone on his desk, and became “terrified” when he realized he had to dust them every day, so he “threw them out the window in disgust.” 

His punch line was: “It’s best to avoid the beginning of evil.” 

Thoreau is showing his sense of humor with some hyperbole, but his point is strong: consider the new objects and projects that you take on carefully, and think about the amount of work involved in maintaining them. 

Metaphorically, Thoreau’s limestone represents any task or duty that demands our attention and work. As I say in Tao of Thoreau, when we start something new, we need to be “ready to bring the energy and focus required.” I thought about this a lot as I designed 

I’m launching this site at the end of the school year, which can be a stressful and exhausting time. For this blog to succeed, I need to produce and post content so people who like it will keep coming back. I need to find creative ways to promote it so that it grows. This is a lot of work; moreover, it is work that I will have to sustain for a long time for this site to become successful.  

Then I realized something, so I said this back to Thoreau: “The limestone was decoration. You didn’t want to waste your time on something you didn’t have to. Writing is something I want to do. And with a website, other people can read my work, which has always been my goal.” 

I didn’t see Lao-Tzu there until he said, “That’s right.” I looked at him, and he spoke in that calm voice, echoing with centuries of wisdom: “Do you work and step back. The only path to serenity.”

Thoreau didn’t have anything to say to that, so I guess I have avoided the beginning of evil.