Approximately 2,500 years ago, Lao-tzu wrote the Tao Te Ching’s 81 verses, which many regard as profound guidance on how to live one’s life in harmony with nature. Conscious Divorce Attorney and Coach, Michael Cotugno has interpreted the Tao Te Ching in the hopes of assisting readers in realizing a healing, peaceful, and ultimately enlightening experience of divorce or separation.

Third Verse of the Tao Te Ching:

Putting a value on status
will create contentiousness.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.
By not displaying what is desirable, you will
cause the people’s hearts to remain undisturbed.
The sage governs
by emptying minds and hearts,
by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.
Practice not doing…
When action is pure and selfless,
everything settles into its own perfect place.

Author’s Commentary:

Many marriages fail, at least in part, because couples overvalue status. Keeping up with the Joneses is such a prevalent notion that it’s become a household term.

Our egos have us so convinced that the only way we can prove to others (and ourselves) that we have any value is to accumulate more and more possessions. It’s the whoever dies with the most stuff wins mentality.

Many couples fall victim to this mentality, using credit cards, second, and even third mortgages to finance this unsustainable mindset. They buy stuff so they can momentarily forget about their problems and appear to others to be doing well, and more importantly, doing even better than their friends and neighbors.

Instead of recognizing our inherent value as Divine Beings, we literally buy into the false proposition that the more stuff we have, the better we become. Even worse, we believe that if can acquire enough stuff, maybe someday we can actually be happy, but until then, we have to work our butts off to make the payments on the credit cards and three mortgages on the house that’s no longer worth what we owe on it, and by the way, is likely to be much larger than we would need if it wasn’t for all the crap we keep buying.

Doesn’t anyone else think it’s a little silly that we have a multibillion dollar industry built around our need to store all the stuff we have that won’t fit where we live?

There’s certainly nothing wrong with having some possessions of high quality, but too much comes at the expense of our happiness and freedom. Fortunately there is a shift going on where more and more people are realizing that their higher purpose is not to accumulate as many possessions as possible.

In Japan, for instance, there’s a large social movement that is questioning the necessity of ownership in general, denouncing consumerism as the final stage in our socioeconomic evolution.

I’m not condemning capitalism, although I personally believe its days are numbered, at least in its current form. What I am suggesting is that if more people spent a little more time cultivating happiness within themselves and saw their spouses (and themselves) as the Divine Beings of Love that we all truly are, we wouldn’t need to buy so much stuff to try and fill the perceived void inside us that results from believing the lie that our value as human beings has anything to do with how much stuff we have.

By seeing life as a competition, couples get themselves into undesirable and unsustainable situations, which helps to explain why financial issues are the number one stated cause of divorce in the U.S.

If we each begin to live more simply and within our means, we will have more time to spend on what really matters most to us and not be slaves to our debt. By breaking the cycle of wanting more and more, you can become a wonderful example to your friends and neighbors of how to live a meaningful, sustainable life filled with joy and loving.

When a couple separates and establishes two separate households, expenses inevitably increase, which adds to the frustration and stress over finances that likely caused, or added to, the breakdown of the marriage. This presents a fantastic opportunity to begin living a simpler lifestyle and begin to de-clutter your life.

As Thoreau so eloquently stated, “Simplify, simplify, simplify,” to which Emerson cleverly remarked, “One simplify would have sufficed.”

Happiness comes from within. The wise person sets an example by bringing their inner joy to all their endeavors, instead of foolishly seeking joy in the acquisition of more stuff.

By spending more of your time being in service to others you will find that you receive far greater joy from selfless action than you ever could from the accumulation of material items.

Your divorce can be a wonderful opportunity to make an effort to re-prioritize your life. Donate all that stuff you have boxed up anyway.

Life’s biggest challenges are merely opportunities for learning, healing, and growth.

By failing to take advantage of an opportunity, life has a way of bringing it back around, typically with more intensity. Take the time to heal now, it’s really the only time you have. The future only exists in your imagination.

Find ways to live more simply and sustainably. Contemplate the question, “What don’t I have to do?”

Volunteer your time doing something you’ve always wished you had the time to do. Once you cut out the things you really don’t have to do, you’ll find you have plenty of time to be of service to others, which is ironically where the greatest possibilities lie for your own growth, healing, and joy.

Accept your current situation, no matter how much you might like for it to be different. True change can only come from within, but requires the energy you would otherwise be wasting fighting with reality. Things are as they are. There’s no use in denying that. If you want things to change, do the inner work necessary to bring the change about on the inside so that it can then be reflected on the outside.

You can blame your spouse for your unhappiness and hope that a new partner will be better. You can even change jobs, move to a better neighborhood… whatever you think will make you happier, but the same problems will just keep coming back into your life until you take responsibility and heal the underlying issues within yourself. By doing so, you’ll begin attracting new experiences into your life that are free from the old, unpleasant patterns.

Try surrendering to what is, which does not require that you do anything. By surrender, I do not mean giving up and resigning yourself to a life of misery. I mean letting go of your resistance to how things are, so you can free up your energy to empower yourself to bring about positive change.

Love & Light Ahead!

Michael C. Cotugno, Esq.
Conscious Divorce Attorney & Coach
M.A. in Spiritual Psychology