He who stands on tiptoe
doesn’t stand firm.
He who rushes ahead
doesn’t go far.
He who tries to shine
dims his own light.
He who defines himself
can’t know who he really is.
He who has power over others
can’t empower himself.
He who clings to his work
will create nothing that endures.
If you want to accord with the Tao,
just do your job, then let go.
(Tao Te Ching, chapte 24, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
On Letting Go
In yesterday’s chapter, Lao Tzu used the forces of nature to show us how to express ourselves completely, opening ourselves up completely to the Tao, to insight, and to loss. I think it is opening ourselves up to loss which we resist the most. But, it is only by opening ourselves up completely, that we can accept all that we are, and all that we will become, as we allow the Tao to do its work in us. When we do this, we can trust our natural responses, and everything will fall into place.
Today’s chapter is a contrast to yesterday’s. Lao Tzu pictures the many ways we resist. When we just can’t give everything up.
We know these things are true: You will never stand firm, if you insist on standing on tiptoe. You won’t go far, if you rush ahead. You will only dim your own light, if you try to shine. You will never know who you really are, if you insist on defining your own self. You will never empower yourself by exerting power over others. And, nothing which you do will endure, if you cling to your work. Yes, we know these things are true; yet we won’t let go.
We hold on to our illusion of power. Still clinging to some vestige of control over our own lives. And, because of this, we aren’t in accord with the Tao. For, there is one way to be in accord with the Tao, and one way, only. That is, do your job, and then let go.
It really is quite simple. But, we insist on making it hard. I, too, have clung to my work. I, too, have been unwilling to let go. And, happiness eluded me. But, my friends, there is a better way. Whatever your work is, do it, without complaint. Complaining about our work is one of the myriad ways we cling to it. Just, do your work. And, then, let it go. I can’t make it any plainer.
I have many friends who have expressed how difficult it is for them to give up things they believe it is in their nature to do, or be. How can we trust our natural responses, when our natural responses are not in accord with the Tao? This is why it is so important to first give yourself up completely. Go ahead, express yourself completely. All the partialness, all the crookedness, all the emptiness. Let yourself be who you are. Open yourself up. You have to give up everything, and die, to be reborn. Then, you will be able to trust your natural responses. It will be amazing what you will become. Everything, truly everything, will fall into place.