“Is detached from his self
And his self is preserved
Is this not because he is selfless?
Thereby his self is perfected”
When people are overly self-conscious, they defeat themselves on a daily basis. Obsessed with how they look and appear to others, they are constantly monitoring themselves in the hopes that their actions, words and deeds seem acceptable to others. But, in so doing, by clinging to a rigid version of themself, they damage themselves. A bird needs to move its wings to take off into the sky. So our innate nature needs to be flexible and dynamic if it is ever to fully realize itself.
So, excessive self-consciousness promotes insincerity, rigidity, stagnation, and anxiety – attributes that are seen in abundance in our artificial modern world.
The Sage is also conscious, and consistently monitors himself. So, what makes him different from our hapless friends above?
The Sage is conscious, but does not think his consciousness is limited to his body. He knows, like Heaven, that his consciousness pervades all things, and is not limited to one thing or another. Liberated from the delusion of separation from things, the sage blends his consciousness with all things, obliterating all the suffering and anxiety of a sense of consciousness that imprisons itself in a singular physical organism.
Consistently monitoring his thoughts, words, and actions, The Sage is uninterested in how he appears to the world. Having renounced attachment in favour of truth, he has no use for social conventions, which bind, mutilate, and truncate nature. He may appear to go along with them for the sake of convenience – but in his heart, he is always singing along to a different tune, following The Way of Heaven, instead of the way of profit.
He monitors his thoughts so that they are without delusion; he monitors his words so that they are economical, truthful, and appropriate; and, most of all, he monitors his actions, always making sure they are governed by truth and necessity, and not by desire.
Not damaging himself by limiting himself to externals, he preserves himself by nourishing the internal, for the internal is eternal. Only interested in living up to The Way, and not the counter-intuitive demands of society, he perfects himself every moment, attaining unity with nature, and overcoming all that opposes nature.