Polishing the Mirror

cc image by Chi King on Flickr

cc image by Chi King on Flickr

Reflections on Chapter 10 of the Tao Te Ching:

Carrying your spirit
and your animal nature within,
can you keep them as one?

Can you nurture your life energy
to achieve the softness of a newborn?

Can you polish the mirror
of your deepest reflections
until you are without flaws?

Can you care lovingly
for your kingdom
while remaining unknown?

Can you stay receptive
to the life and death of all beings?

Can you remain innocent
in the light of pure awareness?

The sage nourishes and develops all things,
yet makes no claims;
Leads, yet does not control.

This is the profound mystery of Tao.


I think one of the biggest disservices we have done for ourselves is to not think of our mistakes as gifts.

There’s no other way to learn.

If you can’t look at your mistakes and your failures and really look them in the face, how are you ever going to move past them? So many times, we want to just hide our failings under the rug. I am no exception! I am sure that I have times when I am not willing to face things. It is human nature for that to be hidden from us. It’s hidden from us a lot of times. It’s hard for us sometimes to see our own mistakes. The key is to search them out. Not in a way that says, “I’m awful”, but more like “OK, how can I learn from this?” Look at it and ask, “How can I learn from this?” and just keep moving forward. Just move forward – it’s fine, it’s great! Mistakes? Great! I made a mistake – awesome! Now I have a tool! You gave me a criticism? – great! OK, now I have something that I get to learn! It’s very cool. This is how we develop ourselves. This is how we grow and change and move forward – through these lessons.

In Chapter 10, that is how I see “polishing the mirror”. Looking at ourselves, some deep looking. Look at “Where are my weaknesses? Where are the areas that I am weak?” Notice how that shows up in your life. The way that our weaknesses show up is in how we judge other people. If I am judging someone else, I need to ask myself what is it about this quality that I need to grow from? If I am judging someone for how they look or behave, for example, I should look at how I am presenting myself. If I turn that around in Byron Katie fashion, and I look at how I am presenting myself, I can look at what ways I am looking or behaving that need to be worked on? It may not be in exactly the same way, but something is there. In some way, I am upset with myself for how I look or behave and I am transferring it to that other person. It is really not about them. They are a mirror of myself. There is something about that for you to learn, for yourself, when you discover it. A little gem of understanding becomes available. Once you figure it out, you won’t have that issue with that person anymore. It gets released as you recognize it in yourself and start to work on it.

One of the principles that shows up in the Tao Te Ching, again and again, is how you be in the world – how you carry yourself. If you are wanting to follow the path of the sage, then you will need to really look at yourself. If you do find yourself in a position where you find you are judging someone, great! It’s a great thing because it’s a moment of consciousness. A moment of consciousness is always a great thing and we are happy that we have them. We ask ourselves, “What can I get from that?”

We have constant opportunities for learning just by observing ourselves. I think we are just a learning species. We are designed to learn. I think that is why we have this arrogance about the human intelligence, as opposed to animals and plants. We are very intelligent beings, and we have this potential to learn and why NOT? Why not learn about how we can develop and grow and help ourselves and help other people by being better people? That’s primarily what we are talking about here…how to be better people. We are better people by really looking deeply at ourselves and seeing what it is that we need to do to be more kind and to improve our treatment of others.

 Read Chapter 10 of the Tao Te Ching


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  4. This is lovely. I was just reflecting yesterday about how being a mother gives me so many opportunities to smooth my rough edges, and learn to be a better person. Seeing myself mirrored in my kids shows me where I still need to grow in order to help them grow.
    Liesl Garner recently posted…Pot. Kettle. Black.My Profile

    • So true, Liesl. Me too. We love our children so much that I think it has helped me to love myself more in the process.

  5. Hi Amy,

    Yes, polishing the mirror is a good practice and what we see in it as imperfections are invitations to upset or opportunity, as we choose. Part of the Mystery…

    Chapter 10 is posted on my site now. It’s a piece of shoe leather, practically incomprehensible, but as I reflected in chapter 9, what the hell- I’m just glad to be alive… 😉



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  8. What a great chapter about self reflection! It can be so rewarding…the deeper I look…the more “polishing” I need to do. It’s not easy or comfortable at times to see myself for what I am/was. Reminds me of a verse to a song I wrote:
    “These all are cycles of life
    they they too will come to pass
    embrace the Love and feel the light
    experience the gift be free at last.”

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