Express yourself completely.
Then keep quiet.
Be like the forces of nature:
When it blows, there is only wind.
When it rains, there is only rain.
When the clouds pass, the sun shines through.
If you open yourself to the Tao,
you are at one with the Tao,
and you can embody it completely.
If you open yourself to insight,
you are at one with insight
and you can use it completely.
If you open yourself to loss,
you are at one with loss
and you can accept it completely.
Open yourself to the Tao.
Then trust your natural responses;
and everything will fall into place.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 23, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday, we talked about letting ourselves be what we are; and then, letting ourselves be lived by the Tao. What are we before we let ourselves be lived by the Tao? Partial, crooked, and empty. And we aren’t content to be that. We want to become whole, straight, and full. But the only way to truly be ourselves, the whole, straight and full selves that we can become, is to be lived by the Tao. And, we talked about how letting is the perfect balance of yin and yang. It isn’t just passive. It is active, too. The passive or yin aspect of letting is much easier to understand than the active or yang aspect. But in today’s chapter, I think Lao Tzu explains the active element of letting.
How do we actively let ourselves be partial, crooked, and empty? By expressing ourselves completely. That is yang. But, of course, yin follows it. After you have expressed yourself completely, then, keep quiet.
Lao Tzu tells us to be like the forces of nature. Watch how they express themselves completely and then, keep quiet. When it blows, there is only wind. When it rains, there is only rain. Neither the wind, nor the rain suffer from any existential crisis about what they are and what is to become of them. When the wind blows, it just blows until its done. The same is true of rain. Be like the forces of nature. That is how to express yourself completely.
The keeping quiet is when the clouds pass and the sun shines through. The sun, here, is a metaphor for the Tao. Where has the sun been all along, while the sky was full of clouds, and the wind was blowing, and the rain was falling? It was there all along, just beyond the clouds. The clouds are us, expressing ourselves completely. Once they have completed their work they pass. And all is quiet. The sun shines through.
That is opening yourself to the Tao. Those clouds passing and letting the sun shine through. That is being one with the Tao, being lived by the Tao. You embody it completely.
I know, I know, talking about the weather seems a strange way to talk about embodying the Tao. But Lao Tzu is merely using something with which we are all familiar to make his point. What he is talking about, as he has said before, is the practice of knowing not knowing and doing not doing.
Knowing that you don’t know is opening yourself to insight. When you think you know, you close yourself to insight. But when you open yourself to insight you are at one with it, and you can use it completely.
The doing not doing means opening yourself to loss. We talked about this yesterday. Letting yourself die. That is the only way to be reborn. We have to be willing to give everything up, in order to be given everything that the Tao has to offer us. To open yourself to loss is to be at one with loss; and, that means accepting it completely.
That word, completely, sure does appear a lot in today’s chapter. We need to express ourselves completely. We need to embody the Tao completely. We need to use the insight we gain completely. And, we need to accept loss completely. That is what it means to open yourself to the Tao, and to be lived by it.
But if we will do it, we will then be able to trust our natural responses. That would be what flows out of the core of our being, spontaneously and intuitively. That is when the emergent order will become manifest. And, everything will fall into place.