Reflections on Chapter 39 of the Tao Te Ching:
Sages have achieved oneness
since ancient times.
Sky is in harmony with Tao
and becomes pure.
Earth is in harmony with Tao
and becomes tranquil.
Spirits are in harmony with Tao
and become inspired.
Valleys are in harmony with Tao
and become replenished.
The Ten Thousand Things
are in harmony with Tao and live fully.
are in harmony with Tao and become pure action.
If sky were not pure, it might split open.
If earth were not tranquil, it might crumble.
If spirits were not inspired, they might dissolve.
If valleys were not replenished, they may be exhausted.
If the Ten Thousand Things did not live fully,
they might become extinct.
If leaders do not have purity in action, they may fall.
Therefore, the basis for honor is humility.
Sages take the low position.
For this reason, true leaders refer to themselves as alone, not worthy
because this is the root of humility.
The highest position requires no praise.
The highest position does not wish to sparkle like a gem,
But rather to be humble like a stone.
The elements are a fabulous role model for our lives.
Lao Tzu is talking here about the sage taking the low position. This is the natural way. Nature takes the low postion. You look at a tree and it is not saying, “Look at me, look at me! I am so accomplished!” A tree is not all bragging up on themselves. Squirrels don’t do anything either. They just do their thing and steal our nuts for the birds.
That is what he is alluding to here – the natural way.
Mankind has language. We have been able to speak and, in many ways, that has allowed us to evolve and do really amazing things. But on so many levels that has given us a lot of fluff. We have too many words. We make meaning out of nothing. It is unnecessary. Silence is golden, as they say!
It is like we talked about in Chapter 32 (The Road is Paved with the Stuff We Don’t Need), this chapter is talking about the natural pattern of things. When it is unnatural, we sense that. The way of humankind can be dangerous. We have had quite a scare with a lot of things. Icecaps are melting. We have done some really awful things to the planet like make plastics and global warming. Neither of these is natural.
I was thinking about shampoo just this morning. I was thinking about the plastic bottle and how it was only invented a little bit ago in the bigger picture. Every time I buy a new bottle of shampoo, I buy more plastic. That is a lot of plastic over my lifetime! They are starting to make more bio-friendly plastics, but that is a rather new development. This is a typical example of what I am talking about here. All this plastic is not good for the planet.
True leaders refer to themselves as not worthy.
So many people these days pump themselves up and make themselves out to look really great. We are naturally wary about this, as evidenced in the comment flurry Julia Neiman experienced the other day on her blog. Although I am certain that Julia did not mean to imply that people should be false in any way, people were upset because they have seen so much of people carrying on with false bravado in today’s business environment and it touched a nerve. We are so attuned to it. There is something inherently unnatural about this false front. When someone is really great, they don’t have a need to display it. The tendency is most likely to hide it a bit. It is certainly an interesting dynamic. I love the concept of leadership and how this little book gives us such beautiful guidance for leading each other and getting along.
We really need to live fully in this lifetime.
I don’t care what your belief system is, all humankind has a desire somewhere inside of them to fulfill the destiny of greatness. A great potter making great pots, a bookkeeper that loves to have his financial records all lined up beautifully. Everyone has their thing. What he is saying in this chapter is that if you are not living fully, there is a piece of you that is dying. Any day that goes by that you are not living into your true potential is a mini-death.
In the U.S. culture, many have really strayed from our true nature. Some cultures support following your true path better than others. This is something that we are evolving into.
Being happy and fulfilled is so important.
People may always be suffering in some way. Perhaps that is part of the human condition, to have suffering. But I think the closer that you can come to your own fulfillment, the better.
When you meet someone that is really living out their truth, they are vibrant. They have this great aliveness to them. It’s inspiring! Nature is also inspiring. Nature’s job is to fulfill its destiny. It doesn’t have this stature thing. A tree doesn’t need to be the greatest tree. They don’t care. They don’t have this inspiration to be the greatest something. It just is itself. We can learn a lot from that. We can learn a lot from absorbing that, from feeling that in our bones. One of the things that I just love about the Tao is that it continually refers back to nature. Nature teaches us so much!
I am enough.
I am me and I am OK just to be me and I don’t have to be anything. I can just be. Lao Tzu keeps coming back to this in the chapters. This is a theme that he keeps coming back to, again and again. No action is necessary. Nothing needs to be done. If you allow nature to take its course, it will go in the direction of fulfillment. It’s just the natural pathway. You don’t have to force anything to be anything.
Yet we try and force things all the time. We force ourselves to stay in a situation that is not good for us. It seems like we are talking about non-action here, but we are not. Following your path is letting your body be your guide. Your body is your barometer in this lifetime. Let your body indicate to you what is right and what is wrong and which way to go. Just move in the direction you are guided to go. There is no big thing that you need to accomplish. You just move forward.
Just one little piece at a time.
Just today. What is it that you are guided to be doing today? When you are doing the right thing, it feels like something has come off your chest. You can breathe easier when the burden of obligation is released. That is what it feels like. You just move forward. It is all really beautiful.
What are your thoughts? I would love for you to share what these beautiful lines mean to you. This essay is just my interpretation, my thoughts. Do you want to share any of your own? Please feel free to do that. If you are shy or don’t want to, that is OK. Just tell us what you think about it all in the comments below or you can share this post using the buttons at the top sidebar!