Tao Te Ching
Roughly translated as The Book of the Way, Tao Te Ching emphasizes living as one with the Tao. Free from "self absorption which is in disharmony with the universal process," the Master "is available to all people and doesn't reject anyone." Written sometime in the 4th century B.C. by the enigmatic Lao-tzu, Tao Te Ching is the foundational text for Taoism, and I enjoy its poetic and symmetrical qualities.
Here are some of my favorite verses (lessons?). But first...
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The Master leads
by emptying people's minds
and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.
and everything will fall into place.
Don't try too hard. Let it come naturally.
In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don't try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.
In other words, common sense.
We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We work with being,
but non-being is what we use.
Reminds me of inversion.
Express yourself completely,
then keep quiet.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.
Perfectionism = never getting started.
If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
If you let restlessness move you,
you lose touch with who you are.
Stay grounded in oneself.
If you want to take something,
you must first allow allow it to be given.
The soft overcomes the hard.
The slow overcomes the fast.
Let your innner workings remain a mystery.
Just show people the results.
Two themes here: slow and steady wins the race, and results-oriented mentality.
"What stands in the way becomes the way" (Meditations). Nobody cares about one's process – just show the results.
If you look to others for fulfillment,
you will never truly be fulfilled.
If your happiness depends on money,
you will never be happy with yourself.
Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.
More common sense.
Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.
Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.
Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He remains as calm
at the end as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.
More advice to let events unfold naturally. Napoleon famously waited weeks before opening his letters. Often, many matters were already solved and did not require his attention – only the truly important remained. Napoleon was eventually outmaneuvered, lost his empire, and died in exile, so observe this habit with caution.
Men are born soft and supple;
dead, they are stiff and hard.
Plants are born tender and pliant;
dead, they are brittle and dry.
Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.
The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.
Stay flexible and moist my friends.