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Work to Serve and Teach
by Alannah Fitzgerald

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Snowcapped Mountain

Reclaiming Our Spiritual Sovereignty

What is sovereignty? What is spiritual sovereignty and what bearing does it have in our personal life? If you will, let’s explore some accepted definition[s] of the word sovereignty, in its various aspects.


 Definitions from Oxford Languages & Cornell Law School both speak of sovereignty as supreme power or authority;  the authority of a state to govern itself or another state. “national sovereignty”.


In light of personal sovereignty, implications are "self-ownership, also known as sovereignty of the individual or individual sovereignty. It encompasses the idea of property in one’s own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity and be the exclusive controller of one’s own body and life."


What is self-sovereignty in relation to our spiritual nature? “It is a journey that starts with the first step of recognizing that a new path is available to you. Then it is a process of learning to find the right balance, a wholesome balance where nothing has power or influence over you and yet you are able to maintain your position in the center of it all.”

-The Brahma Kumaris


Within our Taoist tradition, we cultivate ourselves to achieve [ever-changing] personal balance and subtle integration of our whole being, encompassing our body, mind, emotions and spirit. We are strongly encouraged and guided to become a good king or queen of our own kingdom [our own life]. We can practice sovereignty within our own life through mindful awareness, attentively watching the movement of the mind from a point of stillness. Achieving this state of stillness can be as simple as breathing deeply and consciously, as if breathing a thin stream of delicate, smooth silk. This enlivening process can gradually bring our attention into this ever-present, eternal moment of pure awareness. 


Therein, we become wholly aware of our self-responsibility [the ability to respond]. As our continuously cultivated awareness strengthens and grows, we recognize personal responsibility for our every thought, our every word, our every emotion and our every action. As such, we learn to be good governors of our own lives. If, for example, someone speaks to us in a loud, angry voice, projecting their disgruntled emotions upon us, we can choose to respond with a calm, clear mind, quickly realizing their projection is a result of their own internal state of being.They themselves are solely responsible for themselves, just as we are for ourselves. In this way, our kingdom becomes peaceful, creative, joyful and free of self-induced suffering.


Mindful of our breath, attentive to the unoccupied, aware mind… being present in this very moment, breath by breath and moment by moment, we can enjoy happiness that spontaneously arises from deep within when we choose to nurture a calm, clear mind that holds nothing in it. Simply clear, egoless awareness.


In closing I'd like to share a quote from Dane Rudhyar, composer, painter, philosopher, poet and author. “May the power of the creative NOW illumine our every moment with significance! Indeed, there is beauty and meaning in every moment…”

Sunrise over lake
As Above So Below 
As Below So Above


Many of us are familiar with the old axiom, "As above so below, as below so above." We could interchange this to be, As inside ourselves, so outside ourselves.


With the approaching Chinese Lunar New Year hailing the beginning of spring, I invite you to pause and reflect on how our inner spiritual life corresponds with our outer earthly life. How does our physical life environment harmonize with our spiritual focus and practices? Honest reflections of each dimension can move us to examine ourselves more deeply. If we are open to it, this can propel us to look at the impact of the people we surround ourselves with and make beneficial and meaningful changes as needed. As Grand Master Ni, Yo San has taught, "Love having friends but be selective." 


In clearing out our physical space, we can harmonize our mental, emotional and spiritual life as well. I have been assisting a friend in going through and sorting personal belongings that he has not looked at in many years. He unearthed many forgotten treasures and has been able to release a massive amount of possessions that he no longer has any need for. He reports an amazing new freedom and liberation in going through this process.


Our consciousness is manifested in our personal world in every moment. We can all become positive, conscious co-creators of our growth and awakenings, leading us to a more cherished life. May each day be your Masterpiece!

Soul Portal

New Year's Resolutions 2024

 To Do is To Be

For many of us, the New Year represents a fresh beginning, accompanied by a deep resolve to improve some aspect or aspects of our lives and setting into motion a trajectory towards a goal we set our sights upon. 
While this is always a noble intention, so many of us who implement a positive path, gradually find our initial intention begins to subside.
However, if we have a very strong reason WHY we wish to achieve our goal(s), this can give us strength when we are less inclined to stick with it. Perhaps it will help some of us to write down our WHY so we can revisit it when we need strength to be disciplined and consistent with our intention(s).
A simple example could be to practice eating mindfully. Your WHY may be to enhance and strengthen your digestion, etc.
What might this look like, you might ask? To begin with, you may wish to serve your food as if serving the master. Then sit quietly at the table, draw the Tai Chi symbol over your food, express gratitude for the positive energy from this food and lastly, chew well, with no distractions from TV, computer or your phone. Be attentive as your nourishment becomes you.
Numerous times throughout the year, I find it highly beneficial to remember words of wisdom from Master Ni that says, "To know is to do, and to do is to be."
Wishing everyone a happy New Year and much success in this Year of the Dragon 2024!

 I Ching, Commentary to Chieh, Hexagram 60, by Hua-Ching Ni

Gratitude and Humility

gratitude humility

Be Willing to Learn from Others

When we work together, we can see our own life in relation to others. We are reminded that what we see in others, we may well find within ourselves.


Just as the ocean lies low to receive all rivers, so may we remember to feel humility when learning from others, and gratitude for the opportunities to learn and grow as we work together to serve and teach.


To conclude, I'm reminded of Grandmaster Ni, Yo San's 7th (of his 10 Guidelines) - "Love being knowledgeable and virtuous, but do not think you are perfect."

Work to Serve and Teach

The Grand Canyon

The Tao Serves Us and in Return, We Serve the Tao 

How wonderous and magical is the Tao. It serves us unfailingly every moment of our lives, yet never asks for acknowledgement, never takes credit, always takes the lowest position, yet is supreme within all. The Tao serves all things in the universe and sets an excellent example for everything. It makes me ask, how can we uplift our own lives through serving the Tao? How can we serve as Heaven serves?

I'd like to share a personal experience to illuminate this question. Just a few short years ago, I was temporarily residing at my brother's house to have his assistance with a personal project. However, it seemed I was helping him more than he was helping me. While simply sweeping and mopping his [huge] kitchen floor, I became acutely aware of a growing feeling of resentment and anger towards him; here I was, helping him but I was beginning to see he was not helping me, as promised. This state of mind and being felt terrible. I had to do something about this.

It so happened, a few days later, while reading a commentary found in the I-Ching, The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth, a particular sentence stood out, as a light in the darkness. It read, "Every worldly deed, whether for self or for others, is dedicated as an offering to the Subtle Realm". That was just the wisdom I needed, and thusly inspired, I began applying it to the many daily tasks at hand. Consequently, a profound shift of my heart and mind, infused the outward expression with joy, selflessness, timelessness and amazement! I suddenly realized it did not matter what my brother was doing; I could just be myself. This was truly a profound revelation; how simple and easy it was! "We serve the Tao as the Tao serves us!" 

Hence, as we go about our days and evenings, may we all continue to find ways we can give back for the many blessings we receive, for the boundless wisdom and teachings of our spiritual and familial ancestors."The highest offering is the performance of every activity in every aspect of life with respect and reverence."- Ni, Hua Ching

Footnote: Being that we are celebrating and respectfully honoring our ancestors, the ninth day of this ninth lunar month of October, I'd like to especially remember Master Ni's mother, Encourager of the Great Harmony, who, by virtue of how she lived, selflessly served her family and her spiritual students.

Qi Gong in the park

When We Help Others, We Are Also Helping Ourselves

Aug 14, 2023


In this beautiful tradition of the Integral Way, we learn through various  practices that we, as human beings, are a blending of heavenly and earthly  energies. Just as Yin and Yang beget each other to create a balanced, 

harmonious whole, so it is through helping others, we are also, by natural law,  helping ourselves. On the other hand, when we help ourselves, we are helping  others.


When we create balance and harmony within our own lives, does this not radiate out and contribute to the benefit of others? Through strengthening our own lives we are more able to help others.


As many women and mothers know, giving, nurturing and serving others are qualities endowed by nature, yet do we [men and women] take time to nurture, to be kind and caring toward our own lives? Sometimes, all it requires is to give ourselves permission, to fill our own cup, as it were, to then return to serving others with a full and selfless heart.


We are moving into a new paradigm where we are creating a new world together, to remember our oneness with one another, with nature, with the cosmos. It is no longer a seeming matter of benefiting only ourselves, but enlarging our 

beingness, expressing our uniqueness, our gifts and talents, as we come forward in service.


In conclusion, I'd like to share a lovely quote from Master Ni.


"Sincerity , purity of heart and good deeds can lift an ordinary life to the divine realm".

- Ni, Hua Ching

Mountains in Clouds

Enriching Our Life Through Virtuous                      Service To Others
​                by Alannah Fitzgerald

Stepping Stones

Enriching Our Life Through

Virtuous Service To Others
​by Alannah Fitzgerald

As students of the Integral Way, we learn the tradition of virtue, of selflessly serving others. Naturally, one might ask, "Why? Where-in lies the value of selflessly serving others?"

I'll begin with citing a short quote.

Master Ni often expounds upon the importance of cultivating chi [energy]. He says, "In Taoist cultivation we wish everyone would achieve spiritual purity, high mental quality and emotional independence. But without natural chi, everything is empty and nothing can truly be realized. Also, without virtuous fulfillment, what is the value of your specially cultivated chi? In any practice, virtue is the basis and the cultivation of chi is next."

If virtue is, as he states, 'the basis in any practice', we may pause to wonder, what is virtue in the sense of 'virtuous fulfillment'? 

There is a difference between true virtue and the common definition of virtue. True virtue is intimately connected to the Tao, the Subtle Origin. It is something we do spontaneously as an expression of our true being, whereas perhaps our ordinary understanding of virtue is often performed from the idea of some sort of good behavior, deserving appreciation from others. Merit is nevertheless earned in this instance; however, it stems from a different aspect of ourselves, a different motive. There are, of course, various other qualities attributed to virtue, but we'll go with this definition.

The question, then, is how do we cultivate and achieve virtuous fulfillment? For each of us, the expression will most likely look different, but I find the heart of the matter remains the same - do good for the sake of doing good. Serving others selflessly, without asking anything in return, can allow our heart and spirit to flourish, to be nourished with a richness we cannot imagine, but can only experience directly.

We can be effective in virtuous fulfillment when opportunities naturally present themselves and we are willing to step up and give our best. There is no need to artificially create these opportunities; they will and do, present themselves naturally. Then, sharing our time and effort can be a way of cultivating virtue.

An example might be, we see an elderly person who dropped something, and our natural response is to pick it up for them, and return it to them with a warm smile. In this way, our virtuous fulfillment stems from our selfless, spiritual heart.

As a final word of encouragement, I'd love to share with you something I shall always remember. Towards the end of a retreat [some years ago], bidding all of us farewell, Master Ni said, "Be good and do good" in his ever simple, inimitable style.

Do you have a personal story you'd like to share, inspiring others towards virtuous service and teaching? How would you like to serve and teach at the College of Tao? We invite you to contact Alannah at:

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