“A house filled with gold and jewels

No one is able to protect”

Having more things does not mean having more happiness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. It just means we have more things to worry about and accept responsibility for. Poor people don’t need security guards or CCTV cameras, because no one can steal what you do not have. No one can take emptiness away from you. It is your private treasure forever.

But the story has been played out over and over again throughout history. Blessed with an extraordinary amount of wealth, one’s life becomes mired with paranoia and distrust. People only come to you to seek out emoluments – no one cares about the hidden wealth of your character. Knowing of your prosperity, every thief and bandit will want to rob from you. Even if you have people to guard it, it will not prevent you from worrying about it. Thus:

A bank full of gold

Is a mind full of worries

A house full of riches

Is a heart full of woe

A belly filled with desire

Is a life filled with trouble

A chest full of treasure

Is a soul bereft of any

Don’t treasure wealth

Treasure integrity

And you will be as rich

As the Buddhas themselves



Those who know do not speak

Those who speak do not know

Seal your openings

Shut your gates

Temper your sharpness

Unravel your tangles

Blend your light

With the dust of the world

This is called The Secret of Identity

The Hidden Union

The Mystery of Sameness

It cannot be attained

Yet its love is always with us

It cannot be possessed

Yet is never distant

It cannot be owned

Yet greatly enriches

It cannot be gained

And yet is never lost

It offers no benefits

Yet always exalts us

It cannot be gained

Yet always humbles us

Thus it is the treasure

Of All Below Heaven

Poem: Conversations with Hope


Hope sees me

Lying on the floor

Mind in ashes

Heart in tatters

She gets her broom

And sweeps me up

Not quite intact

But a little closer

To being whole

“It doesn’t have to be

Like this,” she says

Guiding me

To look into


“This is your playpen

None of it is closed to you.

No amount of sorrow or grief

Can keep it from you”

But I may need

A little more time, Hope

To incubate in your mercy

This soul is feeling fragmented

And his heart is more than thirsty

So please forgive

My wayward melancholy

My eternal delusion

And my insistent folly

Once a heart’s

Been let out of its cage

You never can never

Put it back in

TAO TE CHING TEACHINGS: Minimum for Maximum


“Pounding and hammering it –

You won’t preserve it long!”

Carrying on in the same vein, Lao Tzu continues to warn us against the perils of over-doing things. In this context, Lao Tzu uses the metaphor of refining or sharpening a blade. Continually trying to refine and perfect it, trying to make it ever sharper, even once it’s reached its peak level of sharpness, we damage what we are striving to perfect.

If we interfere and meddle with things constantly, we do not give them an opportunity to develop by themselves. If you over-water a plant, you’re likely to drown it in its pot. If you constantly poke and scratch a healing wound, you prevent it from being able to heal.

So, in working, do what you need to do and no more. Give time for your actions to resonate, so you can proceed according to the consequences they beget. It’s like speaking. If you start saying one thing while you’re already in the process of saying another, you will stammer, and people will not hear your message clearly. If you strike another note before letting the first one ring, you’ll end up with dissonance.

The notion that doing more always gets you more is incorrect. Doing things in the right way, to the right degree, at the right time is what makes the difference. If you do lots, but it is all wrong, then you will just be sowing difficulties. If do what is right, but to an extreme degree, you produce a response that may be opposite to the one you intended.

It is like stroking a cat. Cats want to be stroked. But you have to stroke them in the right way, to the right degree, and at the right time. If you stroke a cat too often, it is likely to scratch you. Make a habit of it, and the cat may even avoid you completely. But if you a stroke a cat well, but only a little, it will be clamouring for your attention to receive more of the affection it has tasted.

Using the absolute minimum of energy to reach the maximum effect – this is the way of the Taoist.



Embody Integrity’s fullness

And you’ll be like a newborn child

Wasps, scorpions and snakes

Will not sting it

Ferocious animals will not seize it

Birds of prey will not maul it

Its bones are flexible

Its muscles tender

Yet its grasp is strong

It has not yet experienced

The union of male and female

Yet it flourishes to perfection

Its life-force at its zenith!

It wails all day

Without getting hoarse

Harmony at its zenith!

To know harmony is to know the changeless

And to know the changeless is called Illumination

Prolonging life is auspicious

Using your mind

To govern your chi

Is the definition of strength

Beings climax in power

Then decay

This is called Not-Tao

Not-Tao soon ends



“Attached to over-doing it?

Better not do it at all!”

It is better to do nothing than to do something wrong. This is why mastering restraint is one of the most important things a Taoist can ever learn.

Restraint is all about prevention and self-control. It is about not doing something we would otherwise very much like to do. If you feel angry or frustrated, and would like to express your anger and frustration through violence, then you know beforehand that such an action would have bad consequences. If you hit someone, there will be pain. Causing another being pain engenders bitterness, resentment, enmity, and fear. It could even lead to a life-long feud that just grows ever more dangerous and complex. Your life would be so much simpler if you had just not done it!

You desire to eat or drink something that you know is unhealthy. You know that it will make you sick, and that consuming it on a regular basis will fuck up your health and make functioning easily much more difficult. But, if you go ahead anyway, letting your desires govern you instead of your wisdom, then you are knowingly permitting danger and disharmony to become a part of your life, developing asthma, diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, and any number of related health problems. Once again, you save yourself so much pain and interference, simply by not doing something!

So restraint is non-action. Not acting unnecessarily, only acting when it is essential to act, we keep our lives simple, and avoid amassing chaos and complexity. Over-doing things always invites destruction. The original Chinese here uses the metaphor of filling a vessel beyond its capacity. If you blow up a balloon beyond its capacity to stretch, it will burst. If you fill a pool beyond its capacity, it will flood. If you fill a belly beyond its capacity, you will get fat and sick. If you act beyond your capacity, you will wear yourself out. If you have sex beyond your capacity, you will drain your vital force.

If we follow the way of balance and restraint, we fill things to their capacity, and then no more, if indeed we must fill them at all. Making sure things do not transgress their limits, how much benefit we gain by simply not doing stupid things!



What is well-planted

Cannot be uprooted

That which is concealed within

Can never be taken away

The worship and sacrifice

Of succeeding generations

Will never cease to take place

Practice it through your being

And integrity becomes reality

Practice it through your family

And integrity overflows!

Practice it through your community

And integrity endures

Practices it through your country

And integrity abounds

Practice it throughout all below Heaven

And Integrity becomes universal


Contemplate self through self

Family through family

Community through community

Country through country

The world through the world