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)
How Do You Do It?
As I was reading through today’s chapter, it seemed to be the culmination of what we have been talking about for the last few days. We have been building, building, to this climax. It is as if my friend, who I talked with yesterday, had said to me, “So, how do you do it?”
And, I would simply shake my head. How do you do it? How do you put into practice doing without doing? It would help to begin with forgetting everything you think you know. Knowing you don’t know.
Lao Tzu opens today’s chapter with “Express yourself completely. Then keep quiet.” And, returning to my analogy from yesterday, about stepping into a stream of water, stirring up all the mud, and then waiting until the mud settles and the water is clear, expressing yourself completely doesn’t mean stomping around in the water until you get your need to express yourself, your need to do something, completely out of your system.
Oh, it might be tempting to think that would be helpful. But, Lao Tzu goes on to to tell us exactly what he means by expressing ourselves completely. And, the emphasis is on knowing when to keep quiet.
Our problem isn’t that we haven’t yet expressed ourselves completely. We expressed ourselves completely enough with that first step into the stream of water. Now, it is time to keep quiet. Our problem is we don’t stop there. We keep trudging on. Stomping through the water. Making our way less clear with each haphazard step.
That is why Lao Tzu tells us to be like the forces of nature. We have left behind doing things nature’s way. Nature is content. And, we aren’t.
“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.” What does this mean? It means, nature knows when enough is enough. How to express itself completely, and then keep quiet. Yes, the wind blows, but it knows when to cease. Yes, the rain falls, but it knows when to stop. The clouds, however present they are, will pass; and the sun, which was there all along, will shine through.
Yesterday, Lao Tzu said the only way to become your true self is to be lived by the Tao.
To be at one with the Tao, you have to open yourself to the Tao. Then, you can embody it completely. To be at one with insight, you have to open yourself to insight. Then, you can use it completely.
“How do you do it?” Can you just keep quiet? Seriously, you have expressed yourself completely, already. Stop stomping around in the already stirred up water. Stop, look, listen, wait for it.
Being in the present moment means being ready for whatever life will bring you. And, that includes loss. You need to be able to accept that. Standing still, and waiting, opens yourself to loss. Like we were saying yesterday, be incomplete, be less. You need to accept and be at one with loss completely, to become more, whole, your true self.
I am not suggesting I am some paragon of virtue when it comes to these things. I don’t claim the title of Master for myself. But, I do know what it means to open myself to loss. I have experienced loss many times before. In fact, I am experiencing loss right at this present moment. I am not going to share my own personal business on here, because it is just that, personal. But, I can say, the only way to get through it is to accept it completely; to be so at one with it, that it can do its complete work in you. And, when the clouds do finally pass, the sun will shine through.
When you open yourself to the Tao, in this way, you can then trust your natural responses. Being like nature, doing what will come naturally to you, because you kept quiet, you were still, you waited for it. The right action to take will arise all by itself. It will happen spontaneously and intuitively. Everything will fall into place. Order will emerge, if we will only let it.