If you want to shrink something,
you must first allow it to expand.
If you want to get rid of something,
you must first allow it to flourish.
If you want to take something,
you must first allow it to be given.
This is called the subtle perception
of the way things are.
The soft overcomes the hard.
The slow overcomes the fast.
Let your workings remain a mystery.
Just show people the results.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 36, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday, Lao Tzu used the example of someone who is centered in the Tao, one who perceives the universal harmony, even amid great pain, because she has found peace in her heart. Because of this, this person, can go where she wishes, without danger. I offered reason to be skeptical of this bold claim. After all, the Tao isn’t something which can be perceived with our senses. How can we perceive it? Lao Tzu explained that it is to be perceived by looking for it within our own hearts. Once you start using it, you will find it is inexhaustible.
Today, we are still talking about this subtle perception of the way things are. Today, he returns to talking about it in terms of yin and yang. Showing how the Tao is manifest in our world. Our minds are not reliable in understanding these things. But, if we will look in our hearts, we will know, intuitively and spontaneously, the truth of these things.
How difficult we make things, when we try and control, when we interfere with the natural order, when we won’t simply let things take their own course. When we want to shrink something, can we be content with allowing it to expand? When we want to get rid of something, can we be content with allowing it to flourish? When we want to take something, can we be content with allowing it to be given? It isn’t just a matter of patience; though we do need to be patient. It is a matter of trusting the Tao. Trusting what we know in our hearts to be true.
We don’t really understand why these things are the way they are. It is a mystery. But, we know that the soft overcomes that which is hard, and the slow overcomes that which is fast.
Just like the workings of the Tao are a mystery, we must be content with letting our own workings remain a mystery. Being centered in the Tao, and remaining centered, when it seems that everything and everyone is trying to pull us out of the center of the circle, to do something, anything, is not easy. Your loved ones will speak all manner of evil about you. They won’t like how detached you are, how disinterested, and your seeming indifference to their pain and suffering.
They don’t understand that expansion always precedes contraction, the way of yin and yang. So, when they see evil expanding, they can’t see that contraction will follow, naturally. They will insist we forcibly try to contract it. “Let it run its course? Let it flourish, it will go away all by itself?” This kind of thinking cannot be allowed.
But if we will be content to let yin and yang be yin and yang, if we will let the way things are be the way things are, people will see the results.