DiscoverThe Tao Te Ching for Everyday LivingTao Te Ching Verse 66: Leading from Behind
Tao Te Ching Verse 66: Leading from Behind

Tao Te Ching Verse 66: Leading from Behind

Update: 2020-12-25
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Tao Te Ching Verse 66

translated by Dwight Goddard

The reason rivers and seas are called the kings of the valley is because they keep below them.

Therefore the wise ones desiring to be above their people must in their demeanors keep below them; wishing to benefit their people, they must ever keep themselves out of sight.

The wise dwell above, yet the people do not feel the burden; they are the leaders and the people suffer no harm. Therefore the world rejoices to exalt them and never wearies of them.

Because they will not quarrel with anyone, no one can quarrel with them.

Photo by Janusz Maniak on Unsplash

Serving and Leading Ourselves

In meditation, I have tried to force myself to be present.  This works poorly for me, especially when I’m agitated.  Sometimes, I’m all focus focus focus, and I end up trying too hard and then I’m focusing on focusing, and then a thought creeps in, and then I’m all noooo that’s not how you do it, then I try to focus harder.  At the end of the session, I just give up and tell myself I’ll try again.

Sometimes, I’ll tell myself that no, I’m not going to eat this.  Or entertain thoughts of grandiosity.  Or argue with others.  I say no Dan, we’re better than that.  Stop it.  And while I may be able to control my physical behavior, I end up agitating myself and holding things in because even though I haven’t done the thing I didn’t want to do, I’m still wanting to do it.  

Probably more so, since I told myself no.  So what’s the deal here?  I thought that following Tao I would be able to control this stuff.

At this point, I can ask myself - which ruler am I being right now?  Am I the despot, the dictator who is ruling with fear and punishment?  Or am I being the Sage that leads from behind?  Well, let’s have a look: I tell myself no, and I mean it, we’re not going to do this, think this, feel this.  And then I say for good measure, if we do, think, or feel this, you won’t be worthy, you’ll be weak and a failure.  And then if I avoid doing it, I feel all proud, like yeah, I made that happen.  Or if I don’t avoid doing it, I punish me with the same feelings with which I threatened myself.  Does this sound familiar?  I think this is a natural thing for us to go through...until we can become aware of and begin practicing the way of the Sage.

As the Sage, I am the gentle, weak force of gravity that gives myself a choice - and I side-step that exhausting battle completely.  I lead from behind, gently guiding me, giving me the choice.  Most of the time, I end up not doing the thing, being ok with the feelings, or suffering no consequence of idle thoughts I’ve given no power.  When I’m aware, of course.

There are also times when I just can’t be willing.  But if it’s really really important for me to not do stuff, I have yet another tool I can use!  Yes, I can ask the Tao to help me be willing.  It’s OK to be vulnerable, remember?  It’s ok to ask the universe for help.  Actually, I’ve found this to be a great thing to practice.  If I’m open and patient, I gradually do become willing.  All I need is a little trust, a little patience, and then a little gratitude.  And of course compassion with me in case I don’t get it right the first, second, or 50th time.  The Tao provides.  Like every time.  All I need to do is to keep walking on the Path.

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Tao Te Ching Verse 66: Leading from Behind

Tao Te Ching Verse 66: Leading from Behind

Dan Casas-Murray