Those Who Know, Do Not Speak

 Reflections on Chapter 56 of the Tao Te Ching:

Forest Lights

Forest Lights


Those who know, do not speak.
Those who speak, do not know.

Close your mouth.
Shut the gates.
Be soft.
Untangle your knots.
Soften your brilliance.
Become one with the dust.

This is the profound union.

No one can get close to you,
yet they cannot be distant either.
No one can help or harm you.
No one can honor or disgrace you.

Thus you achieve the highest state of humankind.

Silence is golden.

These first two lines are some of the most quoted lines of the Tao Te Ching. There is a reason people say that silence is golden. When you are holding that space of silence, you are fully receptive and this is so valuable.  If you have been reading these chapters long enough,  you know that Lao Tzu repeats certain principles.

One principle that is repeated is to take the lower ground. Be yin.

Allow that yin or receptive aspect of yourself to play a bigger part in your life. I have been playing with my meditation practice lately, playing with different aspects of awareness as I am writing the Awareness Series.  When you are in the silence, it changes everything. When you are present, aware and receptive, you are so much more potent.

Multitasking is the bane of our modern busy life.

I’ve got a busy job. It can get very busy at work, so I am playing with NOT multi-tasking to see if this helps me not to feel so busy. When I am in a meeting, it is usually on the phone so I multitask. I am practicing to just be very present on the calls and be still. Although it seems like I am getting less done, I am able to perceive so much more when I am not busy and distracted. I am able to take things in and have things stick in my mind.

I am more potent when I don’t multitask.

I have found that I have more ability to get things done correctly when I am not multitasking. I wonder how much time is wasted in lost productivity because you did something wrong? I don’t think that is counted in productivity reports at big companies, but I think it should be. Repeating tasks instead of just paying attention in the first place is a huge time suck. That is not even to mention the stress that your body goes through when you live in that state.

We are all learning, putting one foot in front of the other, exploring, growing.

We all learn different things at different times, so being receptive to others is about paying attention to where they are at so that you can be more present to them. You can hear what they are really saying. There is so much more to what someone is saying than their words. If you are only listening to their words, you are missing so many nuances.

Bring yourself back when you forget to pay attention to people.

I was reading an article on meditation the other day, and they were saying that meditation is not about getting it right . That is not the goal. The goal is to bring yourself back. I’ve been playing with this app called Mindfulness Bell. It is a really cool app. You set a timer for any period of time and you can set it to ring a certain number of times randomly throughout that time period. At first, I was thinking when the bell rings that I should be keeping track of whether I am being mindful or not. Then I decided to just let the bell be my reminder to be aware.

There is a totally different mindset between those two things.

The first way of tracking my progress has a punishment feel to it. I am either doing it right or wrong. The second one just is about bringing you back gently each time. That is my plan now. It is a reminder bell to be present. If I can do this more often during my typical day, I think it will be much better.

We must stop outputting data all the time.

The American culture is so based on production. So many distractions! We busy ourselves. Someone mentioned on Facebook the other day about being sick of hearing how everyone is just so busy. It got me thinking, “Why am I so busy all the time?” I am always saying that, “I am so busy”.

I think we are so busy because
we just keep upping the ante on how much we can get done.

It is overwhelming. In the quest to get more things done, there is less sleep, less meditation, less enjoying nature. There is less of all that stuff that gives your brain a chance to disengage – to be receptive instead of productive. It is so important to give yourself the space for down time. I am working on this. Perhaps you will join me in making today less busy than yesterday.

We would love to hear from you! Please add a comment below and say hello. Tell us your thoughts on this chapter.


  1. I’m certainly guilty of multi-tasking, and agree with you, Amy, it’s not a productive behavior. Although not necessarily related to the Tao and this chapter, I’ve recently adopted a practice of focusing on a single priority each day. This might be promotion one day, product development another,writing the next, a particular business issue, client project – whatever it is I decide ahead of time where I’ll put my primary focus, go to sleep knowing this and wake up charged with ideas to make it so. This has reduced my penchant for trying to do too many things, lessened stress and resulted in much more meaningful accomplishments at the end of the day. Of course, I’m scheduling rewards too – when deserved.
    Nanette Levin recently posted…Marketing concepts made easy with eleven tips for getting great print media exposureMy Profile

    • That is a great idea, Nanette! I might borrow that one. Then at least you get one major thing accomplished each day. Sounds like a good plan.

  2. Lovely post Amy. I struggle with being quiet, doing less and quietening my mind. I’m a do-er… when I know I need to start turning that around a bit at a time. Thank you for all the wonderful insights. This week I started a 20 minute practice of listening to chanting with my eyes closed… until I learn the words/sounds than I’ll be more actively participating… and I also started doing yoga/stretching for 15-20 minutes. It’s a small way to begin quietening my mind and busy life. I feel so good when I do this.
    Blessings! xo
    Suzanne McRae recently posted…“Gentle Touch, Powerful Healing – Bowen Therapy”My Profile

    • Thanks, Suzanne. You are so inspiring to me as well with the stories of your son. Clearly, you see value in good health and awareness since you are getting bodywork done and all of that. Give yourself credit. I love chanting! My husband and I have gone to several Kirtan concerts, if you can call them that, and they were so wonderful. Music is such a great way to get in touch with our spirit. A friend of mine just signed up for yoga and I have been tempted to join her, but also not wanting to overextend so the jury is still out on that one but it has been speaking to me lately so I am considering a home practice perhaps to get myself back into stretching.

  3. What a great post Amy. I’m moving in the direction that Nanette has taken. I used to be able to multitask really well, but those days are long gone.

    Being silent and being still are two great practices. My spiritual teacher used to say that the body allows illness in to force us to be still when we aren’t creating that space for ourself. And he was a big supporter of being silent.

    I’ve spent hours being conflicted in business about what to call myself since I’m not an authority or an expert on anything. Those first two lines: “Those who know, do not speak. Those who speak, do not know” speak to that issue. The second line is about ego and I’ve never wanted an ego driven business. Of course you can’t build an information business without sharing so it’s a fine line to walk. I started calling myself a change agent because really, it’s my heart’s desire to help at-risk youth change their lives and I’ve spent my career doing that.

    Thank you for this lovely reminder and the great tips.
    Julia Neiman recently posted…SO YOU WANT TO GO ONLINE WITH A BUSINESSMy Profile

    • I love the change agent idea, Julia. Yes. I think that the “not speaking” part is a challenge for most bloggers! lol… I think that it is clear that you are out there to help at-risk youth change their lives. You are consistent and it is a part of everything you do. Being clear like that is so great because it helps the right people to find you.

  4. I am so bad about multi-tasking. It was a habit I picked up working full time and holding my own business full time. Now, as I care for family members, and work to grow my business, I find I am taking more time just to be. I loved the “bring yourself back gently” part of this article, because that is so important. Thank you for sharing.
    Mary Muse recently posted…Get The Tools You NeedMy Profile

    • Thanks, Mary! Welcome! I think being a parent and a business owner is a challenging road. There is a lot to do in either role but when you have both, you have some fine balancing to do. You are not alone in struggling with multitasking! lol… When the list of to-dos is high, the last natural thing to do is to take some time to be still, but it is so important to do that. I hope you will experiment with working on just one task at a time. It is quite revealing!

  5. Amy, I think I see the point of the first 2 lines of this poem, but I am struck by a different viewpoint. I come from a history of silence, my own and some of my ancestors, for a variety of reasons (depression, dysfunction, shyness, introversion). I have developed my listening skills well in my healing, intuition and teaching practices. I am in a phase of finding and strengthening my voice. NOT being silent is one of my tools for “bringing myself back gently” (love your phrasing with this!) at this time. Thank you for another thoughtful post, Amy.
    Janet recently posted…EasyMy Profile

    • I can totally understand that, Janet, even though I am the last person to be quiet! lol… I love that you are finding your voice. It is all about balance. Thanks for speaking up! 🙂

  6. Hi Amy, great post!
    I’m much better now at disengaging and having more time for myself. I think that when we become aware that we are working too much and doing too much things and not stopping for a single moment we can change the way we’re doing things! Thanks for the post,

  7. This is awesome. I realized this weekend that when I talk a lot, I’m not grounded…I’m really scattered so this post is hitting home with me. I feel so much more grounded and focused in the silence than a lot of chatter. I also feel more centered when I avoid multitasking. Great reminders and reinforcements – thank you.
    Michele Bergh recently posted…Stuck? An Invocation to BeginMy Profile

    • That is great, Michele. You always seem so grounded to me! With your new project for 2013, you are certainly working on the “no multitasking” issue. It is inspiring.

  8. Oh, Amy! I don’t know if I can quit multi-tasking…so many of those conference calls are just mudane and repetitive information…a waste of my time but I’m required to be on them. I will try…I agree with what you said but I hate wasting time…there is not enough of it. I love that SILENCE IS GOLDEN and BE YIN. And I’m going to download the app. I will try! I really will! 🙂

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