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Living With The Tao Te Ching : Verse 5

The Tao doesn't take sides; it gives birth to both good and evil. The Master doesn't take sides; she welcomes both saints and sinners.

The Tao is like a bellows: it is empty yet infinitely capable. The more you use it, the more it produces; the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

Hold on to the centre.


What Is It All About

This verse speaks to me about balance. The middle path.

The Tao is that middle path where everything is accepted as a part of the larger whole. Good requires evil in order for it to exist, and to judge one as better or worse is to do a disservice to the perfect balance that allows the Universe to be as it is. We do not need to tolerate wrongdoing, or be passive about taking action against something we feel strongly about, but in order to take appropriate action we need to come from a balanced perspective.

When we find ourselves approving one thing and disapproving another, then we risk losing that balanced perspective. We begin to develop a story that condones and condemns the opposite side to our beliefs, and before long we are at war - first with ourselves, and then eventually at war with reality, and the world.

When we argue with reality then we experience stress and the vast array of it's subtle manifestations (anger, sadness, frustration, apathy, impatience). The Tao accepts reality as it is. It doesn't seek to change it or want it to be any other way. It welcomes it all. When we begin to question our stressful thoughts and realise that they are often just our ego's judgements on how reality is presenting itself to us, we start to see that reality was just there all along, waiting patiently for us to drop our story about it. Reality is much kinder than the brutal thoughts and stories that we continually tell ourselves. It doesn't judge or compare, it simply is what it is. Our minds and our thoughts are where the judgement appears.

The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces;

This section of Verse 5 reminds us of that very point. Reality (The Tao) is always there. It is the real world experienced without our stories and our thoughts about it. It is infinite, and yes the more you use it or return to it, the more it is there for you and the more it offers you.

the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

The Tao is something you feel inside. It is an inner understanding, a knowing, a sense of something bigger than ourselves, a guiding invisible force. Even attempting to put it into words here is in some ways not only impossible but also missing the point of it. And yet in the paradoxical world that we do live in where good and evil, happy and sad must co-exist for the other to be available, the unspeakable must be spoken, the unwritten written, the inexplicable explained.

Hold on to the centre.

In the centre of the wheel there is less commotion. Hanging on to the outer edges is a long and turbulent path. In the middle, the hub, it is the shortest and calmest route. A preference for neither up or down, left or right means the journey itself is joyous. The centre is balanced, always. It doesn't matter where you are, where you end up, or the quality of the terrain - it is always where it is, regardless.


How To Practically Apply Verse 5 In Ordinary Life

I believe this verse is teaching us to try and remain with a balanced perspective as often as we can. We tend to swing between opposites of feelings and emotions. We can go from love to hate very quickly, depending on how a situation or person suits our personal needs and preferences. We judge everything, from the weather, to an object, a person, a colour - all based on our ego's story of what SHOULD or SHOULD NOT be happening.

It is no wonder we are often exhausted when we are constantly battered about inside our own minds by our ever-changing thoughts, feelings and emotions.

We need to try be less extreme. We need to try and see both sides of the story, or even attempt to see through the story entirely. To do this we need to be aware of the times when we are projecting a judgement onto reality. Reality isn't personal; our thinking makes it so. The weather isn't raining to ruin your day, the weather is the weather, it's not good or bad, it just is. Our thoughts and our story make it right or wrong, good or bad, which in turn will make us either happy or sad.

The best moment for awareness is the exact moment that we feel stress in one form or another. When we feel angry, sad, impatient or tense then there is a good chance that we have some thought and judgement that is fighting reality. If we can notice it, maybe even articulate it, then we can perhaps move away from the inner war that is starting up, and meet that thought with some kindness and non-judgement, which will allow it to pass much quicker, and therefore return us to a state of balance and harmony.

If we can catch these stressful feelings even one time per day more than we would have normally done then we are truly contributing to create a more balanced and happier life for ourself. We can only do this work as and when it comes up, one thought, one judgement at a time. We cannot undo a lifetime of habitual thinking and judgements in one day, and so we make gentle but steady progress with ourselves by trusting that whatever shows up is there to help us regain our balance and perspective.

Suddenly our thoughts and our minds aren't quite so scary. On the contrary, they are the gift of ourselves to ourselves, constantly offering us the opportunity to return to balance. We feel a stressful thought and we investigate it with love and kindness, and when we realise that it was just a misplaced judgement we find ourselves freer, lighter and happier.

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