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.

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Teachings From The Tao Te Ching: Speaking Truly

Tiger

“Too much talking

Brings about ruin

Better to abide by

The Middle way”

Excessive talking is ruinous, because words cannot express The Way – thus, an inordinate attachment to them misdirects us from The Tao, which, when it speaks, speaks only silently. Speech is inherently deceptive. It enables us to create truths about ourselves that simply don’t exist. How often do you say things in a conversation that are absolutely meaningless to you, but which you say anyway to abide by the rigid preconceptions inherent in social intercourse? How often do your heart and your words completely co-exist? If many of us were asked to speak only when we had something truly meaningful to say, we would either find ourselves mostly silent, or be wrestling with an attempt to express an infinite fund of knowledge we know we can never put into words.

So, one along The Way should speak only when they have something purposeful to say, avoiding meaningless dialogue, words spoken only to pass the time, or fill up space. Words spoken without meaning are tremendous insults – it is throwing shit on the perfect body of silence. A wasteful expenditure of energy, no worse than eating when you’re not hungry, having sex out of habit instead of love, buying what you don’t need, or spending time actively pursuing things you know cause harm to everyone involved.

Abiding by The Middle Way, The Sage speaks when he needs to, does what he needs to, and then stops once he’s fulfilled his purpose. Then he rests, and conserves his energy through keeping his mind empty, so that he will be fully prepared for the next time The Way calls upon him to act or teach.