Appalachian Trail — Arriving at Harpers Ferry

In Chapter 16 of the Tao te Ching, Lao tsu discusses the Master (a hypothetical Taoist leader), other leaders, and followers.

Here is my suggestion: Think of these individuals as elements inside yourself. You are the Master, other leaders, and followers, young and old — they are all inside of you. The pathway to seeing this is through meditation.

Lao tsu writes (chapter 17):

“When the Master governs, the people

are hardly aware that he exists.

Next best is the leader who is loved.

Next, one who is feared.

The worst is one who is despised.

If you don’t trust the people

You make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.

When his work is done,

the people say, ‘Amazing;

we did it all by ourselves!”


I hike with the ghosts of soldiers. I think about the American Civil War and my memories of the Vietnam War.


Each night, I sleep in a hammock under a tarp.


It is fall — winter comes.

Lao tsu writes:

“If you don’t trust the people

You make them untrustworthy.”

I say: You can trust yourself by forgetting your self.


Lao tsu says:

“The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.”


Many decades ago, I did a meditation exercise where I visualized meeting an older version of myself and asking for advice. I spoke with an older me while walking in the woods.

Try this yourself. Imagine walking through the woods and talking with an older, wiser version of yourself.


I watch the sunset — Many decades have gone by and I have become the one I hoped to speak with when I was young.


I cook supper.


Lao tsu writes:

“When his work is done,

the people say, ‘Amazing;

we did it all by ourselves!'”

Join me — we are hiking.

I walk up the mountain.

You tell me about your problems. I listen closely.

We reach a switch-back — turn left. The trail grows steeper.

There is no need anymore for talking.

While cooking supper, I walk down the trail to see the sunset — then look at my tarp. Afterward, there is much time for meditation.

I hike in the morning chill and watch the sunrise over the ridge. The sun brings warmth.

I watch the leaves fall.

Decades ago, I returned from the Vietnam War. I did the visualization exercise and sought advice from the older version of myself. He recommended meditation.


Today I meditate and see my younger self seeking advice. I embrace my younger self and smile.

I do not say anything. There is no need for words.

I embrace you. If you cry, I will cry also but there is no need for tears. You can laugh.

Lao tsu writes:

“The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.

When his work is done,

the people say, “Amazing;

we did it all by ourselves!”


I am at the train station in Harpers Ferry — the hike is over.


In the train station, I look at an exhibit about John Brown. He led a raid in Harpers Ferry in 1859. He and 18 men seized the Federal arsenal with the goal of establishing a center for run-away slaves with the weapons. He was surrounded and captured by federal troops.

John Brown was tried and hung. This event polarized America and the Civil War began two years later. The Civil War was the most horrendous event in American history.

Slavery, Civil War, and wars during each generation – so much suffering. People tell me about child abuse, marital abuse, PTSD, rape, workplace stress, money problems, health problems, psychosis, depression, anxiety, basic mental and spiritual problems — and the things you told me while we are hiking.

Breathing in — be aware of the breathing in.
Breathing out — be aware of the breathing out.

When thoughts emerge, return your awareness to the breath.

By doing this, you let these thoughts go and, over time, develop the skills required for tranquility.

I catch the train in Harpers Ferry — it’s time to go home.

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