“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