Children have always been my teachers. One of the very first powerful teachings they offer in the days and weeks after they are born is how to meet the world with an open heart. Laozi tells us that “if you want to see the richness of virtue, just look at the newborn baby.” Being so close to the source, they are wide open. They have not yet placed any limits on who they are. When we see the world through their eyes, we can experience life in a refreshing way. Babies have no concept of beauty or ugly, fat or thin, big or small, me or you. They simply can’t overlook “The Big Picture” because they are utterly immersed in it. Such is their utmost harmony. And this sheer wonder is contagious, triggering awe in anyone who comes in contact with them.
The other day, I watched a 3-month-old baby on a crowded subway light up the car with her smiles, giving them away for free to whoever came along, and one by one, each of those passengers could not help but stop and take a moment out of their busy day, and smile back. It was like they were drawn into her. This baby smile is a constant miracle to me. Just when exhausted parents cannot imagine the 24/7 job of caring for an infant going on another day, their baby smiles—a big wide open toothless smile, as if the nervous system is designed to melt our hearts.
The infant, like Nature herself, does not take things personally. Her innocence invites all-comers, because she does not yet have a concept of being separate, her spirit is whole. Imagine if we could practice virtue this way: to meet someone and not underestimate them, not take what they say personally, not limit the conversation to personal agendas. We meet others on a physical level in the space of our lives. We meet their mind, their intellect and memories, their personal narrative in time. But when we meet someone whole-heartedly, we meet them in spirit, which is whole, and not limited by space or time.
Being all-inclusive is something deeply familiar to each of us because we were all born this way. We have all had the experience of being whole, but it lies buried deep beneath the layers of our personal story. When we meet someone in spirit, we meet in the vast open un-namable place that exists in each of us before labels and diagnoses, before judgments, before shame and greed and we discover that we are, deep down, “pluripotential,” like the stem cells we have carried nestled inside us from before we were born. These pluripotential cells vibrate when we come home to this old familiar place of our original being. It feels safe and sound, yet totally open and Natural and we cannot help but smile, spontaneously, (ziran) because at our core, we are Nature. Take a moment right now to look for that secret smile in someone near you. This is our shared experience of a common origin. Meeting the world like this, we step out of the way and allow the great healer to heal, allow the great teacher to teach, allow the great mother to mother. It’s so simple and yet in our busy everyday life, it’s so easily overlooked.
As we begin this New Year, let us not underestimate the healing power of the whole amidst the ever-changing tangle of the parts, for as they say, the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts. Let us greet each person the way a 3-month-old does in body-space, in mind-time and in spirit-wholeness. For when we meet another with all our heart, we meet our true self and receive the limitless power of love to heal.
 Ziran-自然 – an important term in Daoism, meaning natural, nature, spontaneous, just so.
– Dr. Stephen Cowan, MD