Reflections on Chapter 28 of the Tao Te Ching:
To know one’s strength,
Be a valley beneath Heaven.
The eternal river returns again
to one’s childlike innocence.
Know your purity,
But stay open to your darkness.
Be a pattern for the world,
ancient virtue never failing,
Returns to a place
of unlimited perfection.
Know your glory,
But maintain humility.
Become a valley
The world’s valley –
Returns to the simplicity
of uncarved wood.
becomes useful tools.
Great leaders use the tools
without carving the wood.
This chapter is about flexibility.
In Tai Chi, we learn that you should never overextend. In Tai Chi, if you overextend yourself the other person is easily able to pull you off your center. Lao Tzu refers to this principle a lot. He talks about holding to your center and not overextending. It works on a physical sense, with martial arts, but it also works in the way that you live your life. How do you extend yourself?
It’s easy not to overextend yourself when you are not feeling very confident. We tend to hold it in during these times. But, in your moments of confidence, how are you being with yourself in your moments of excellence? That is the where people sometimes have more challenges. It feels good to be at the top of your game and we just want to keep it going.
I started doing yoga again recently. I just got this book called Light on Yoga. The book has all these postures and it has been years since I have really practiced yoga, so I decided to incorporate it into my morning routine. It was very interesting to read his little instructions with each pose. The pictures, by themselves, are phenomenal. It’s a huge book and he must list nearly every yoga pose in it. I thought that I would just start at the beginning and just do 2 or 3. The detail for each pose was quite amazing. When you are standing, you put your toes and your heels together, your knees are supposed to be lifted, your chin up. This is just standing up straight – the first posture! So I was doing this posture and I was aware of the weight distribution and trying to be aware of all these things. That is one of the things that I find so beautiful about the martial arts too. Yoga is kind of in that same vein. It is really about being as conscious about yourself as you can. It’s not about being perfect, because nobody is perfect at that! Nobody. But just continuously being as conscious as you can – a continuous state of consciousness.
This chapter, in particular, focuses on this. That is what he is talking about. It is not just about observing yourself when you have problems. You also need to be observing yourself when you have wins. We forget ourselves. My husband and I were having dinner in a restaurant and the TV was on near our table. We don’t normally watch the TVs there, but there was this countdown show for celebrated moments that went wrong. It was all about people who celebrated before it was the right time. They celebrated and then they lost, or they celebrated and then something happened that made them look silly. It was a funny show because it was just like what this chapter is talking about. You need to be always aware of the opposite that is there. It goes on both sides – when you feeling like you are losing, there is always potential there for you to win. When you are winning, there is always potential for there to be a loss. It’s really about that and being conscious of what you are bringing to the table with that.
So how do you overextend yourself sometimes? In what ways should you be extending yourself more? Please share your comments in the space below!
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