The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step

TaoTe Ching

3 Lessons from the Taoist Philosophy of Water

March 3, 2018
 

“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ~Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee is well-known for his comment about water, which described the essence of his personal journey toward self-actualization. He was not alone in this realization, however, for in the 2600 year-old classic text, The Tao Te Ching, the qualities of water were elucidated in the poetry of Lao-Tzu.

In Tao Te Ching number eight, water, as it relates to our world, is described as such:

“The supreme goodness is like water.
It benefits all things without contention.
In dwelling, it stays grounded.
In being, it flows to depths.
In expression, it is honest.
In confrontation, it stays gentle.
In governance, it does not control.
In action, it aligns to timing.
It is content with its nature and therefore cannot be faulted.”
~Lao-Tzo, The Tao Te Ching

In a recent TED talk, Raymond Tang talks about the hectic and overwhelming nature of our technologically connected society, and how even in the presence of such chaos, one can find fulfillment by relating to the simple and elemental forces of nature.

He discusses the nature of water, drawing out three useful lessons that have been known to the Chinese for millennia.

The first lesson is about humility, and he notes the lowly, yet supportive nature of water as a life-giving force.

“If we think about water flowing in a river, it is always staying low. It helps all the plants grow and keeps all the animals alive. It doesn’t actually draw any attention to itself, nor does it need any reward or recognition. It is humble. But without water’s humble contribution, life as we know it may not exist.”

Secondly, he draws out the lesson of harmony, and how water always achieves it’s aim effortlessly in spite of any obstacles along its path.

“If we think about water flowing towards a rock, it will just flow around it. It doesn’t get upset, it doesn’t get angry, it doesn’t get agitated. In fact, it doesn’t feel much at all. When faced with an obstacle, somehow water finds a solution, without force, without conflict.”

The third lesson regards openness and our tendency to resist change along the path of life.

“Water is open to change. Depending on the temperature, it can be a liquid, solid or gas. Depending on the medium it’s in, it can be a teapot, a cup or a flower vase. In fact, it’s water’s ability to adapt and change and remain flexible that made it so enduring through the ages, despite all the changes in the environment.”

Relating these three lessons to the modern pursuits of business and education, he explains how the lessons offer us a perspective on life that allows for greater fulfillment in everything we choose to take on.

Watch the inspiring full talk, here:

Read more articles by Dylan Charles.

About the Author

Dylan Charles is the editor of Waking Times and co-host of Redesigning Reality, both dedicated to ideas of personal transformation, societal awakening, and planetary renewal. His personal journey is deeply inspired by shamanic plant medicines and the arts of Kung Fu, Qi Gong and Yoga. After seven years of living in Costa Rica, he now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and enjoys spending time with family. He has written hundreds of articles, reaching and inspiring millions of people around the world.

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Yield and overcome

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Tao & Zen


Lao Tzu: Book Of The Way, Tao Te Ching (Audiobook)

10:43 – Book begins (nice intro though)


The ten thousand things rise and fall

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Empty yourself of everything.
Let the mind become still.
The ten thousand things rise and fall
while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish
and then return to the Source.
Returning to the Source is stillness,
which is the way of Nature.

~Lao Tsu
Tao Te Ching, Verse 16


See simplicity in the complicated

“See simplicity in the complicated.”
~Lao Tsu

A tree that is unbending is easily broken

 “A man is born gentle and weak.
At his death he is hard and stiff.
Green plants are tender and filled with sap.
At their death they are withered and dry.

Therefore the stiff and unbending
is the disciple of death.
The gentle and yielding
is the disciple of life.
A tree that is unbending is easily broken.
The hard and strong will fall.
The soft and weak will overcome.”
~Lao Tsu
Tao Te Ching

The sage has no mind of his own

The sage has no mind of his own.
He is aware of the needs of others.
He is good to people who are good.
He is also good to people who are not good.
Because Virtue is goodness. Has faith in people who are faithful.
And also in people who are not faithful.
Because Virtue is faithfulness.The sage is shy and humble –
to the world he seems confusing.
Others look to him and listen.
He behaves like a little child.

~ Lao Tzu ~
Tao Te Ching, Chapter 49