Can You Quit the Drama?

cc image by daz smith on Flickr

cc image by daz smith on Flickr

Reflections on Chapter 36 of the Tao Te Ching:

If something has expanded,
it will soon contract.
If something has been weakened,
it was once overly strong.
If something was thrown away,
it was surely once admired too much.
If something is to be received,
it must first be given.

This is the wisdom of obscurity.
The soft and weak
will overcome the strong and forceful.

Small fish stay deep and survive.
A country thrives
when its weapons are not displayed.

Everything is duality.

Everything is it’s opposite. In this chapter, Lao Tzu refers to excess. If something is overly strong, it is weakened. If something has been thrown away, it has been admired too much.

It’s like a good song on the radio.

You listen to it and you listen to it and you listen to it and you eventually just don’t like anymore. Sometimes I think of this when I see new couples. If they are really intense, I worry for them because if they are really intense it may end just as quickly.

It has been said many times in many ways throughout the Tao Te Ching about this. You don’t want to go so far that you lose that energy. You can’t help it sometimes. Sometimes that is just how things are. There is nothing you can do about it. Just notice when you feel that energy getting away on you. It can be good or it can be bad, but when you feel that really intense energy about something, just know that it is going to come back the other way. The more intense it is, the more likely it is going to come back the other way.

What this is really teaching us is to avoid the drama.

Avoid the drama. The really intense things come back to bite you. They are exciting, but I think overall they are just not as healthy for you as an experience.  The drama is fun. It is fun to have something wild and crazy happening! It is all good. It is all just what it is, but it is just important to remember that it won’t last long like that. It will burn itself out.

It is just the nature of how that stuff works.

One of the things that I thought about when I was working with this chapter is consumerism. In the U.S., we just have so many things. We just have so much stuff. Look at how much trash we have! That is how it is reflected back. You buy so many things and you have so many things and so much of it ends up in the trash heap.

It is just loads of trash.

I was putting out the recycling the other day and it was getting full. I was thinking, “How is it possible that we are getting rid of this much paper and stuff in such a short amount of time?” I think if we had to have a trash pile next to our house of all the trash that we’ve made, we might be a little better about it. We might not be as insistent of having things packaged the way that they are. Sometimes I will buy something at the store and it has a plastic wrapper inside of a sealed plastic thing inside of another sealed plastic thing inside of a cardboard box. What?!

Do we really need this much paper or plastic?

Some of the stuff that is coming out these days is kinda nice because it seems like they are trying to save money and it actually ends up being better for the environment too. Who needs all that packaging? We don’t need all that packaging? Individually wrapped cheese slices… who needs individually wrapped cheese slices?

Maybe we can think of ways to wrap our food that is more friendly? Or just not wrap it? When I eat a meal at a restaurant or something, I use lots of napkins. I don’t like eating without my napkins. So I guess I am a waster too. I could use cloth.

Laundry is another issue. How many times do you wash something. A napkin, sure. But how many times do you wear your clothes before washing them? My husband has helped me to learn this one because he does the laundry and hates it when I just throw stuff in there.

OK, so enough of my green rant.

I could go on for decades. It is just so sad. I was reading a post the other day and I don’t have the link or anything, but it was this city that was abandoned in the 1920s in Turkey or Greece or somewhere. A whole city. This photo was taken of this city and there was this huge cathedral. I was looking at it and thinking that someone could live there. It was so beautiful and completely empty. No one has lived there since the 1920s. I can only imagine what happened there that no one would want to live there.

So I’ve gotten off on quite the tangent, but I will bring it back. I especially like the last line of this chapter…

A country thrives when its weapons are not displayed.

With all of the passion and drama created by war, it is very alluring. I was watching something the other day on television and it was like watching a train wreck. It was a show about some big dramatic political thing and I found myself getting all charged up about it. My fist was getting all excited and I was like, “Yeah!” That act was like displaying my weapons. That action will be the downfall of a country. When I was reading The School of Sun Tzu, one of the beautiful things that really stuck out to me was how this beautiful country had managed to change their entire philosophy from total raging wars to peace. Granted, it was a long time ago, but it gave me hope. We speak of world peace like it is just a pipe dream, like it could never happen.

I think it can.

I think that it is like the recycling. You just change your habits. You stop buying the crap that is covered in four layers of plastic and the food that has chemical crap on it and you stop getting all excited about war. I saw this great quote the other day on a post in the Tricycle blog by Mother Teresa.

 “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”

That is an excellent article that really fits what I am talking about here, so I highly suggest that you read it.

So what do you think? What are your thoughts on this chapter? Please add your comments below. We love to talk about this stuff with you!




  1. I’m thrilled to find your blog. I’ve been meditating on the Tao since the age of 33, it brings me great peace. Your stuff about plastic is really a sore point for me, I personally can’t stand my own waste.. and now I”m trying to invent something that will reduce plastic to a totally non toxic compound. But the theme of everything you wrote about excess is really awesome. I was actually meditating on that subject this morning so finding this writing was awesome.. I now have work to do reading your past blog postings and want to say keep up the great spiritual writing.. it’s awesome. tao peace out.. ; 0

    • How fun, Phyllis! Glad you like it. I like it too! lol… No, seriously, it has been really fun to write these posts. The Tao has always felt like home to me too. Each chapter speaks to me and tells me things that somehow I always knew, but that I remember to be so very important. I see his principles everywhere in life and it amazes me so much that such an ancient book could be still so relevant today! Enjoy!

  2. This is a hard one for me, Amy. Yes, I can see the never-ending flow from strong to weak, from rich to poor, from conqueror to conquered. History ebbs and flows – civilizations always crumble, new ones arise.

    But to be a small fish only to survive? That’s hard. I want to do more than survive. I enjoy the drama. I admire people whose lives flash brilliantly, even if they burn out faster. Isn’t it about more than survival? Isn’t it about taking the risk of being different, perhaps being wrong. Not with weapons though. There at least I’m in agreement.

    Love the way you’re making me think.
    Alan Miles recently posted…Planning the blogMy Profile

    • Thanks, Alan. Yes, I think that I also have a hard time with the concept of not being flashy people. I am flashy people by nature, being a Leo! lol… I don’t think that it is really saying that we should not be that, it is just saying that this type of energy is quick flashing energy and not deep and sustaining. We live in a fast-paced world so we are used to things being this way and any time that we are asked to be other than what we are used to it is uncomfortable. Examine it. Play with being invisible and see what it feels like to get things done while not having the excitement that goes with it.

  3. Oh, so true! Nothing is permanent and drama is not necessary in life. I just love your posts. They are so powerful!
    Michele Bergh recently posted…A Great Leader’s CourageMy Profile

  4. Thanks for another great post, Amy. I saw this more a cautionary note on balance. So often we neglect to recognize peace in striving for more. Comfort comes more from appreciating than it does from acquiring. Just my take on it.
    Nanette Levin recently posted…Humility helps with marketing strategiesMy Profile

  5. I love that, Nanette. When I first started this blog, my vision for it was for people to see that anyone can make up their own interpretation. Like a painting, the interpretations are not the same for everyone! I envisioned people adding their own interpretations and possibly their own ways of perceiving what the lines should say. These lines are my interpretation. There are thousands of books out there on the Tao Te Ching, each a separate version of what that particular translator thought it meant. I was going to just quote my favorite ones, but then none of the lines really fit my interpretation – probably because they weren’t mine! lol… So I started writing my own.

    Thank you for opening that door for people!

  6. I think that last line about thriving when your weapons aren’t shown should be taught from kindergarten forward. Maybe we would be less ready to jump forward. I am watching my own language to obliterate “I’d like to slap him for that” or “I could just beat her for that” etc. The weapons in my words are, for me, just as harmful.

    Kayakoy, Greece is where that cathedral is. 😀
    Arwen recently posted…Sticks, Guns & KnivesMy Profile

    • P.S. LOL Just saw the post title for my blog today show up on that comment. Now isn’t that synchronicity.
      Arwen recently posted…Sticks, Guns & KnivesMy Profile

      • Oh hilarious. Yes, it is so much a part of how we live, isn’t it? My husband was watching something on TV last night and I just didn’t even want to watch it. It was so violent. This book is having quite the effect on my life. Thanks for the visit, Stephanie. I will have to go and see what you wrote today. I love your stuff!

  7. Hi Amy,
    So true, I totally resonate with the Tao Te Ching.

    The whole intensity with couples, I see it to. Since everything is energy, that intensity will sure enough turn into drama.

    I am still bummed about the amount of unsolicited mail I get. I am on the do not mail list, but the local businesses just feel like sending people stuff they didn’t ask for is a good idea. I may just keep a recycling can next to my mailbox so I can through all those grocery store mailers in there.
    Justin Mazza recently posted…Everything is Energy – Why People are Predictable and Cognitive DissonanceMy Profile

    • That is what I do, Justin. I just grab my mail and start tossing. I always stand over the recycle bin as I gather my mail. Come to think of it, I am on the do not mail list as well yet I get tons of crap anyways. I wonder why that is? I live in a rather remote area so perhaps it doesn’t apply to the backwoods sort of businesses. lol… Just kidding.

      As for the couples, yes. I only know because I have been there. When I met my husband, I realized that it was the solid and steady sweetness that I wanted in my life and not the drama. He has done wonders with me in terms of mellowing my dramatic side and I love him dearly for it.

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