Reflections on Chapter 33 of the Tao Te Ching:
Knowing others is wisdom.
Knowing yourself is enlightenment.
Mastering others is force.
Mastering yourself is strength.
is to understand wealth.
If you persist, you will always find a way.
There is something about the act of really paying close attention that makes you capable of really understanding other people. Do you ever notice how when you try to explain something to someone and they are distracted, they get it all wrong? But when they stop and look at you and really listen, they have their eyes on you – something is different and they really get it?
That is the value of paying attention.
We are so busy all the time, running around, doing this and that. We are so busy that we don’t really pay attention to each other. I think it is so important. You also should be paying attention to yourself! That is the part in the chapter where he says that knowing yourself is enlightenment. Really, that’s the big game!
How well can you know yourself?
What I have noticed, with my own personal development is that once I start paying attention to my own issues, start noticing them, then it is easier to change them. If there is an issue I need to resolve, I can resolve it if I pay attention to it. But if I am not paying attention, I can’t. That is really important.
Another important point in this chapter is the topic of control.
How many of us have ever had someone who tried to convince us to do something that is not really our thing, but they want us to do it? It isn’t really our thing, but they want it to be our thing. It is kind of annoying, but I think we all do it to some degree. I know I do. I have done it in my parenting. I try not to, but I do.
It is very noticeable when someone is trying to control you.
There are two common ways that people deal with control issues. They may fold. They may just give in to the controller. I know I have had times in my life when I have done that. I have just given in and let someone else make the decisions. It’s not me. Of course, because that other person is controlling me.
The other way that people sometimes deal with control is to rebel. They do the opposite, just because they don’t like being controlled. On the surface, rebellion seems to work but what it often does is force people into doing the opposite of what is expected of them, which still may not be a choice of integrity. When faced with a controlling person, I think it is important to consider what it is that YOU want to do. Rebelling may seem like it is what you want to do. But, is that just reactionary or is it really what you want? Search for an answer and let your body tell you what is true.
If you are mastering yourself and your focus is on yourself, that is strength.
Mastering yourself is strength, mastering others is force. It’s not about other people. It’s about you. It’s about your strength, it’s about your development. It’s not about other people. As much as it might seem like it, because people are just irritating or they are doing something that you feel is just wrong. It’s not about them. It’s about you. It’s about mastering yourself and mastering what it is that you are good at. What is it that is upsetting you about the situation when you are wanting to control things? What is it about the situation that you want to control? What is it about that? What is it about you that can’t handle that? Why is it bothering you that it is like that?
With my daughter, I sometimes get really frustrated.
I tell her something. I keep telling her and telling her and no results. It feels like she doesn’t listen. In those scenarios, the situation really doesn’t have any interest to her. I think it should, but it doesn’t. I have tried in many ways to help it interest her, but it just doesn’t.
Parenting is tricky.
For example, I am trying to force my daughter to really want to help with the housecleaning. She really doesn’t care about the housework! I think that she should. It is the role that parents play, to guide their children, right? Parenting is a big area of control for many adults. When you are in a situation where you are trying to force someone to do something, you can feel it in your body. For me, it’s a grasping feeling. If you just pay attention, you can feel it.
That is what it means to pay attention to yourself, to your own patterns. It’s a frustration wall. When you hit that wall, pay attention to that. Pay attention to those frustration walls. For several years, I was really getting upset with things with my daughter. It was troublesome. I didn’t like it. She didn’t like it. I’ve really worked on that. It really bothered me and I know it bothered her. Ultimately, I knew that it was about me. I knew that I was trying to force things to be a certain way. You just don’t get anywhere with force. In Tai Chi, if you push someone with a lot of force you are very easy to throw you off. It is just how it is – the natural pattern of things.
Learning to master yourself is a form of enlightenment. It is a life-long quest. You may never achieve it, but you just keep putting one foot in front of another and eventually you will get better and better. Don’t worry about the outcome. Just focus on today.
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