The Lightness of Being

Reflections on Chapter 26 of the Tao Te Ching:

Heaviness is the root of lightness.
Tranquility is the master of impulsivity.

The sage travels all day without
leaving her bags unattended.

Stays calm and unattached,
though she experiences magnificent things.

How can a master of Ten Thousand Things
be frivilous with her own person?

With lightness, one loses her root.
With impulsiveness, one loses her mastery.


I like the line about the sage traveling without leaving her bags unattended. All throughout these chapters, Lao Tzu talks a lot about staying present and keeping the opposite in mind. If you travel without leaving your bags unattended, it doesn’t mean that you are in fear. It’s more about being aware of the energy of things. It’s about keeping your awareness amidst all of the activity.

Lao Tzu frequently references being unattached to things throughout the text. When we are attached to things, we are living out of fear. If someone travels all day, they are doing many things – enjoying their life. The bags represent what is solid. The sage does not forget who he is.

Heaviness is the root of lightness. In Tai Chi, there is the principle of sinking. You sink your energy down, into the ground. But you are still light in your body. So there is always this dichotomous sense of heavy and light that is going on in the study of the Tao.  The sage’s bags are heavy because they are rooted in the Tao, but she is traveling all day so there is a lightness to her.

Tranquility is the master of inpulsivity. Tranquility is underneath everything, regardless of what you are doing or how you are responding. This goes back to our previous conversation where there is a light layer on top and underneath that is always the Tao. The Tao has a sense of fullness and serenity that comes with it.

In any moment that you are in, you can access that stillness inside of you. If you are riding in an elevator, you can just pause and feel your breath. There is a depth to that, a tranquility. There’s a heaviness to that. Yet, you can go about your day. The sage has the ability to travel all day, yet she never leaves her bags. She is always aware, always conscious.

So what is your practice? Are you able to grab little moments of peace throughout the day or do you forget your bags?  Please share your comments in the space below!

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  1. I love reading your posts Amy, they contribute to the peace in my day. It’s been a while since I’ve taken Tai Chi, however, I do remember that it’s all about balance and momentum; you sink your energy into the ground to keep you rooted which helps maintain balance. And you remain light and use the opponents momentum (the heaviness) against them. It’s a very feminine approach.

    And in art, the darkness or negative space actually defines the form or light space in the painting or drawing.

    Thank you for another great post.
    Julia Neiman recently posted…Laying The Foundation For SuccessMy Profile

  2. Pingback: 26 – Mastering Serenity

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