Two Sides of a Coin

cc image by gadl on Flickr

cc image by gadl on Flickr

Reflections on Chapter 3 of the Tao Te Ching:


Placing one woman above another
encourages competition.

Collecting rare things causes theft.
Openly displaying valuable possessions
causes desire and disturbs the mind.

The sage eases people’s hearts
by reinforcing one’s true center,

Weakening ambition
And strengthening character.

The sage encourages people to live simply
without desire and to support each other.

By practicing non-action and non-doing,
All will be at peace.

The Tao Te Ching makes it very clear that all opposites are inherent within each other. I like to think of it as the other side of the coin. You can’t have a coin without it.

In the third chapter, Lao Tsu sheds light on what happens when one puts too much energy into the positive side and forgets about the negative side. It comes up in ugly, yet human and normal, ways. When you exalt a man, it inspires jealousy. When you show off beautiful things, it inspires thievery. One of the things that is so beautiful about the Tao Te Ching is that it so gently helps us to see our imperfections and love them. Not only can we learn to love our own foibles, but we can learn to see the beauty in each other’s imperfections as well.

I mentioned in the last essay how I was listening to Byron Katie’s Loving What Is. Her husband is Stephen Mitchell, who created an “English version” of the Tao Te Ching. Clearly, Katie (as everyone calls her) and Stephen Mitchell have a great understanding of the principles of Tao. Katie suggests that we should love how people are right now, as is. We should embrace and welcome the challenges that bring us greater understanding. I agree.

Last weekend, I was deep cleaning my bedroom. It hadn’t been done for way too long, so it was really dusty. For some reason, I had been storing paperwork in my bedroom (a HUGE feng shui mistake! 🙂  ) and so I ended up going through that as well. In the files were many of my old papers from many years ago. It was like looking at a snapshot of my life. There were also photos, which capture so much in feelings and memories. I would like to say that it was sweet and nostalgic, but what really happened is I felt very ugly all weekend. I was deep in the muck of my experience and I was not liking it. I was judging myself poorly and creating realities of my experience that ended up being very wrong. What was interesting about it was that I had Byron Katie’s advice playing through my mind the whole time. I was very grateful that she was there.

In the midst of this internal turmoil, I had decided that two of my closest people had wronged me severely. I was absolutely certain that they both were doing things that were hurting me and it made me very upset.  But I knew that this cathartic work of cleansing my bedroom of these memories was a big part of this whole thing, so I moved right through it. Over the next few days, both relationships made a significant shift on  the issues that had been plaguing me all weekend. Inside of all that ugliness was more beauty than I had before I started. Like my messy imperfect room, my relationships were messy and imperfect. Then I cleaned the room and the relationships cleaned up as well.  This is the beauty of Tao.


  1. Kimberly Jewell

    thanks for making room for me to love you.

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  5. I like how you see it as the opposite sides of the same coin. I got caught up in the idea of clearing the mind, and what that brings up for me. It frightens me a little. And at the same time, it got me really wondering about a lot of things that I think I can’t do for some reason. I hold onto old ideas and the new ones are ready to help me breathe and live.

    Very interesting stuff, this Tao!
    Liesl Garner recently posted…Thoughts on Thinking, the Empty Mind and Not-DoingMy Profile

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