DiscoverThe Tao Te Ching for Everyday LivingTao Te Ching Verse 78: Staying Humble
Tao Te Ching Verse 78: Staying Humble

Tao Te Ching Verse 78: Staying Humble

Update: 2021-03-19
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Tao Te Ching Verse 78

translated by The Tao of Rivenrock

There is nothing more flexible and yielding than water.
And yet there is nothing better for attacking the hard and rigid, there is nothing that can do
what it can do.
So it is that the rigid can be overcome by the flexible, and the haughty by the humble.
Yet even knowing this; still no one will put this into adequate practice.
For this reason it is said that the ones who accept the humiliation of the country are fit to be
its rulers.
Those who take the sins of the people onto themselves are able to act as King.
This is the paradox of truth!

Photo by Alex Smith on Unsplash

Our Venerable Teachers

Recently, I found myself reacting strongly to a large group of people, like not in a positive way, then transferring those frustrations to a smaller group.  

My typical pattern of reactions to large groups I can’t influence directly is this: the group adopts a position with which I disagree and I judge it as wrong.  Then the people in the group act, and since they’re wrong anyway, anything they do thereafter is of course amoral and despicable.  The judgement cycle continues.  Then when I see members of that group in day to day interactions, I reserve myself and withdraw my willingness to think anything about them that resembles compassion, contentment, or humility.  There are also the nasty thoughts I entertain at each step of the way, which only solidify my resolve to stay away from our three treasures when thinking about the group.

Lao Tzu says that the one who can take on the troubles of the world and who can tend to calamities for the sake of all beings is qualified to rule it.  

I don't want to rule anything - but I do want to contribute to our collective growth and well-being.  So I think that moving toward this ideal will have a similar result.

This time, I decided to break the pattern.  I decided to acknowledge my feelings and thoughts as it pertained to this and the smaller group.  I sat with my feelings.  I was as mindful as I could be at the time - in the midst of feeling them, I would catch myself indulging in them.  I knew I was indulging when I noticed judgements or fantasies about particular outcomes.  I just tried my best to allow the feelings to be there and I welcomed them.  And then, something wonderful happened.  I dropped my resistance to the feelings, and a flood of realizations gradually washed through me.  I began to understand why I was uncomfortable with the group.  Why I reacted the way I did.  And that led to other realizations that were tangential to the original issue!  Once realized, I had the opportunity to explore those ‘whys’ and look for false belief programs I had been running in the background.  I took the chance to undo them as best as I could, and after this work was complete, I knew a new freedom.

Without this larger group, I would not have released myself from some of my old ego-thought-feeling patterns.  Now, I still don’t have to agree with the group or its members, and can work toward changing it for the better.  But I can be grateful for it and ask for the willingness to extend my own compassion, contentment, and humility toward its members when I have the occasion to do so.  Different from enabling, sometimes compassion means denial.  Sometimes contentment means resistance.  Sometimes humility means setting and enforcing boundaries.  In any case, exercising the three treasures comes from a place of harmony, of love, not vindictive denial.

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Tao Te Ching Verse 78: Staying Humble

Tao Te Ching Verse 78: Staying Humble

Dan Casas-Murray