DiscoverThe Tao Te Ching for Everyday LivingTao Te Ching Verse 72: Reflecting
Tao Te Ching Verse 72: Reflecting

Tao Te Ching Verse 72: Reflecting

Update: 2021-02-05
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Tao Te Ching Verse 72

translated by Charles Johnston

When the people fear not what should be feared, then what is most to be feared descends upon them.
Beware of thinking your dwelling too narrow; beware of resentment over your lot.
I resent not my lot, therefore I find no cause for resentment in it.
Hence the Saint knows herself and does not make herself conspicuous; she exercises
restraint and does not glorify herself.
This is why she shuns the one and follows the other.

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Being Happy with What We've Got

Advancement, physical, emotional, or spiritual, does come from a desire to want to be better.  But the desire must be short lived - for me, it’s the act of thinking hmm, maybe I’ll grow a plant so I can have tomatoes.  I must then stop wanting to plant it and actually take the necessary actions to grow it.  So I think being happy with what I’ve got means that it’s OK to push forward and grow - that just seems to be loving myself as Lao Tzu puts it; but the moment I resent where I’m at by feeling envy over others’ stuff - well, that’s where I’m exalting myself, which is what he warns against.

I think I can apply this to my own spiritual growth.  Sometimes I’m all, man, it would be so cool if I could use the force.  I wouldn’t have to get up off the couch - I could levitate the cup, get the water, and have it float on over.  Or in other matters, I sometimes think, ‘bro I want to be so enlightened bro, like I could trip out anytime I wanted, I could like float around and not have to worry about normal stuff, you know?’  

When I say I want to sit there for hours without thinking about anything, or be able to create situations just by thinking about them, or any other number of neat-o byproducts of spiritual growth which in some circles are call achievements, I am actually blocking my own progress.  And how?  I take my mind off of chopping wood and carrying water and think about how warm that fire’s going to be and how awesome that tea will taste.  When I start thinking about these things, I slow in my chopping and carrying; I distract myself from the task at hand and diminish my productivity, so that I might not have enough wood to make that sick fire that gets hot enough to make that tasty tea.  Metaphors aside, when I start concentrating on so-called spiritual accomplishments, I stop doing the things that will get me there in the first place - practicing desireless concentration on dissolving the bondage of self.  At least that’s my take on it, for now.

But I think the main point is this:  keeping in mind that what I think, say, and do reflects right back at me, whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ I would do well to practice contentment with my life, life situation, and goals.  I can certainly have goals, yes - but I must be careful to still enjoy and be grateful for what I do have.  Otherwise, that magical universal mirror will prevent me from getting what I want in the first place.  I can always be open, willing, and available to receive things that will allow me to grow economically, socially, and spiritually. I can also always be appreciative of what’s right in front of me right now.

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Tao Te Ching Verse 72: Reflecting

Tao Te Ching Verse 72: Reflecting

Dan Casas-Murray