TAO TE CHING 60

sweet

Govern a big country

Like you fry small fish

Use The Way

To oversee All Below Heaven

And its dark spirits

Will lose their power

Not only will they lose their power

But their power will no longer harm people

Not only will their power no longer harm people

But The Sage will also not harm people

Truly, when neither spirit nor sage

Cause distress or harm

They return together in Integrity

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TAO TE CHING TEACHINGS: Minimum for Maximum

sword

“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.

TAO TE CHING TEACHINGS: Living in Stability

desolate

“The best places to live are level.”

This is also usually  translated as ‘the best place to live is the earth.’ Or ‘Where the Way dwells becomes good ground.’ Either way, it is not a literal teaching. Many Taoists favored living in difficult mountains and terrain that were anything but level! So what does this phrase mean?

In Taoist alchemy, Earth represents our centre, which, like the earth, should be stable and balanced. It becomes our internal crucible. A large portion of alchemy consists of generating and preserving energy or chi. If our centre is not stable, then as soon as we are upset, or our emotions arise, then our energy flies off. It is like pouring water into a cracked bowl – not matter how much we keep filling it up, energy will just keep leaking out of it. If we want to stop that energy from leaking, we must nurture our stability as much as possible.

What is stability? Stability is a harmonious state of inner strength. Remaining calm and placid at all times, we take precautions to prevent anything that could destabilize us. As Ancestor Lu taught:

“When you do not get confused,

Your nature naturally stabilizes;

When your nature naturally stabilizes

Energy naturally returns;

When energy naturally returns

The elixir spontaneously crystallizes

This is what we meant by living in stability

TAO TE CHING 45

fine-chinese-paintings-recirc-1

Great perfection seems imperfect

Yet its use is never exhausted

Great fullness seems empty

Yet its use is without bounds

Truth and justice at their best

Seem crooked and wrong

Skill and intelligence at their best

Seem clumsy and stupid

Eloquence at its best

Seems stammering and tongue-tied

Restless activity overcomes cold

Motionless tranquillity overcomes heat

Become still

Tranquil

Impeccable

And all Below Heaven

Will be as it should