Learning Life’s Lessons

cc image by Wim Vandenbussche on Flickr

cc image by Wim Vandenbussche on Flickr

Reflections on Chapter 27 of the Tao Te Ching:

Good travelers leave no tracks.
Good speakers make no flaws.
Good counters use no calculators.
Good doors have no locks and cannot be opened.
Well made knots cannot be loosened.

The sage takes care of everyone
and rejects no one.

She takes care of all things
and abandons nothing.

This is the secret path to awareness.

A good woman is a bad woman’s teacher.
A bad woman is a good woman’s lesson.

If one does not respect their teacher
or love their lessons,

confusion results –
no matter how clever one is.

This is the vital secret.


I find that the lessons that are most disruptive and difficult for me to describe are the ones that I need the most. Isn’t it that way with everything in life? I had a hard time writing about this chapter.

I think that everyone that disturbs you in some way or another is your teacher. That doesn’t mean that you  are a bad person.  When you are having trouble understanding something, observing others is helpful.  Talking to people about it is also helpful. This mentoring helps you to get to a place of openness and willingness to learn.

On the other hand, when you feel like you are at the top of your game, that is a time for you to be helpful of others. People who are leaders have unique challenges. If someone is really smart, for example, their challenge is not to find more information. Their challenge is to deal with the people who do not understand the topic as well. Most likely, when you are really good at something you will attract “students”, people who want to learn what you know. How are you teaching them? What is your relationship to your own inner teacher?

I taught elementary school for a stint in my earlier days. I wasn’t very good at it. I had an expectation that children should want to learn and I resisted helping them along with the typical things they responded to like stickers and charts. I was angry about it. They should just want to learn for learning’s sake! I remember once, sitting in the Vice Principal’s office after a particularly grueling day of disorder and chaos in my classroom and she told me to just “use stickers” with them. She said that they respond very well to stickers and I was so indignant about it. It wasn’t long after that when I gave up teaching elementary school altogether. It is a black mark in my life. I felt that I had failed…failed myself and failed them. I thought that I had failed to help them love learning, which is what I set out to do in pursuing a teaching career. To this day, it still remains as one of those lessons that haunts me. I think what I failed to realize then is that I just needed to love the learning myself. If I could have perhaps just modeled my love for learning, some of it may have rubbed off on them. Learning is so important.  If I could only keep a small handful of skills in my life, I would definitely put “learning” on my list of skills.

Are you the teacher or the student? Sometimes you are the teacher and you are looking for someone to teach you something. Well, that’s probably not going to happen. If you are looking around and feeling frustrated because no one understands you, I think it’s time for you to see where your lessons are. What are people trying to say to you? Communication is a two-way street and how can you learn from the people around you? I know that this is something that I need to get better at. I have all this knowledge, but I sometimes fall short in taking the lessons from the people around me. Maybe that is why I had trouble writing this lesson. I definitely needed to learn something from those precious children. I probably needed to listen to them more and pay attention to what they needed from me. As a parent, I can definitely see that is what is needed from my daughter. As she went through elementary school, the teachers most dear were the ones who paid attention to what she needed. Perhaps I just need to just accept being a student of this big life lesson and let it teach me. I need to stay open to what the world can teach me!


  1. I felt like you were speaking directly to me. I started my career as a special ed teacher and learned so many valuable lessons from my students and learned some things about myself in the process including that I didn’t like teaching in a classroom setting because real learning doesn’t happen there.

    My coach is fond of repeating something he heard, “when the teacher is ready, the student will appear.” I think that’s probably true.

    And to my way of thinking you didn’t fail those students, you learned the lesson they were there to teach you.
    Julia Neiman recently posted…Action: The Key To SuccessMy Profile

  2. Oh, thanks Julia. I got a little shiver when I read that last sentence. Yes, they definitely were teaching me something! This was a difficult post to write. So glad you felt connected to it.

  3. Wow, I agree. Powerful post. This must have been difficult to write for you. But very raw and real.
    Nell recently posted…Can Women Really Do Whatever They Want?My Profile

    • Thanks for the visit, Nell! Yes, I think that this was my hardest one. That teaching experience has always been one of my biggest regrets. Could I have done better? Is there anything else that I could have done? I think that time has helped me to heal it, but it is a big one. Thanks for the visit. I will check out your blog!

  4. Pingback: 27 – Big Lessons

  5. So true! We all teach, we all learn. It’s our choice to resist or to allow – both are the human nature of things.
    Ronda recently posted…I’m SwitzerlandMy Profile

    • I love this chapter, Ronda. It was funny. My first impression when I read it just now was that I loved the chapter, then when I read my commentary I struggled with it at the time. I laughed. Isn’t that how things go? One day we struggle, the next day we are fine. Life is full of cycles and certainly one of them is the cycle of teaching and learning. So true.

  6. the big leesons i learned on my journey was that just when i thought i knew it all
    had everything sorted ,something came up ,and made me realise how little i really knew,and how far i had yet to travel ,
    for me one of the big pitfalls is to get overconfident,think i know more that i actually do,
    the lessons for me ,have brought me back down to earth with a bang ,which of course is exactly what i need ,

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