The Battle That is Lost Before It Begins

Reflections on Chapter 57 of the Tao Te Ching:

Bamboo raft at the Ulong river near Yangshuo, Guanxi province, China

Bamboo raft at the Ulong river near Yangshuo, Guanxi province, China

Be straightforward when leading people,
but be surprising in battle.
Do not interfere in the world
and things will take care of themselves.

How do I know this?

By this –

As the world gets more restrictive,
the people become poorer.
As the weapons get sharper,
the people become more troubled.
As the people get more skilled,
things get more complicated.
As more rules are created,
there are more criminals to break them.

Therefore, the sage says:

Do nothing
and the people will naturally
transform themselves.

Prefer quiet
and the people will naturally
settle themselves.

Do not meddle
and the people will naturally

Do not desire
and the people will naturally
return to simplicity.


The natural way is to flow properly.

If you keep that in mind, you don’t need to do as much to make things happen. Things happen of their own accord. If you are in a conflict with someone, in a battle, the element of surprise is good because it wakes people up.

Generally, it is best not to disturb people. Disruptions agitate people and inhibit them from what they are naturally going to do. In a situation when you are in a battle or you are having problems with somebody, disruption is good because you want people to shift their thinking. What he is ultimately saying is that people have the ability to manage themselves and make things right if you let things flow as they naturally would.

We are so far from natural sometimes
that it is hard to even know what natural is.

For example, when you are healing from a cold or something, a common tendency is to pop a pill or drink some cough syrup. It has been known for some time that the antibacterial stuff that is out there is really a detriment in the bigger picture. The germs are getting stronger because of our anti-germ warfare. You are fighting against your body in that circumstance, an energetic battle. This is a sure sign of losing. It has been said in multiple chapters that a stronger way to deal with things is to trust in your strength, trust in your ability to move forward in the way that is best for you. This applies to health as well.

That is, assuming you are listening…

If you are just rambling along and not paying attention the clues that your body and your life gives to you, you won’t notice. There are subtle clues everywhere, but you have to pay attention to them. You have to put your awareness there.

People are sensitive.

As the weapons get sharper, people grow more troubled but they don’t even realize it. Our natural state is a state of sensitivity.  We understand things we don’t even realize that we have experienced or sensed, but we do. Around 93% of communication is non-verbal. You hold yourself and be in the world in a way that communicates your thoughts and actions in every moment of every day.  This is the natural way that you respond to the world. Are you winning or losing in your response?

When weapons are sharpened,
it is a battle that is lost before it is even begun.

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  1. Lovely post Amy. It’s taken me a long time in my own life to hear what the sage meant. I don’t know how many times in the years prior that I’ve been told this by different Reiki Masters or others on the spiritual path… now I get it and I try to practice it as much as I possibly can. It’s not always been easy for me. I like to fix things and help people. But now I understand their lessons are their lessons to be learned not mine. I’m becoming more aware of all this. What a beautiful world we would live in if we all awakened, listened more and acted from that place of knowing what we had to do or why certain things were happening in the first place. Loved your post. xo
    Suzanne McRae recently posted…Gratitude: The healing that I am seeing happening with my son!My Profile

    • Oh, Suzanne. You are so clearly on your path! We ALL try and control other people’s lives, especially mothers! (If I am not being judgmental here! lol…) All we can ever do is just put one foot in front of another and keep moving forward. It is my belief that being AWARE is a very important step in any improvements you can make, perhaps the most important step.

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