On Knowing And Mastering Yourself

Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.

If you realize that you have enough,
you are truly rich.
If you stay in the center
and embrace death with your whole heart,
you will endure forever.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 33, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

I don’t know about the rest of you, I want true wisdom and true power. The intelligence required, only to know others; and the strength required, only to master others; is nothing compared to knowing and mastering myself.

But what does Lao Tzu mean by knowing and mastering myself? The knowing comes in realizing that I have enough. I have no need to compare or compete with others. I have enough. Coming to realize that, will make me truly rich. That is knowing, but what is mastering?

Mastering myself is staying in the center of the circle and embracing death with my whole heart. We have talked recently about staying in the center of the circle, but this embracing death thing, that is a tough one. How do I embrace death with my whole heart? I begin with mastering my fear of it. Remember, fear is just a phantom. It isn’t based in reality. It is something we conjure with our minds because we are thinking of preserving ourselves. We fear death for a variety of reasons. Fear of the unknown. Fear that we won’t be there for our loved ones. Fear of prolonged pain and suffering. Perhaps, you can think of others. But, they all need to be mastered.

Mastering our fear of death, and then embracing death as a natural part of the cycle of life, is key to a life that will endure forever. For that is how we really need to come to understand how the Tao operates in our Universe. Embrace it. We live on and on and on.

2 thoughts on “On Knowing And Mastering Yourself”

  1. What I have struggled with in this verse is that “mastering myself” always seems to be about controlling my actions which is in large part at odds with the essential teaching of being in the flow.

    How do I master myself and let go?

    1. Excellent question! I would suggest you first let go of the notion that it is about controlling your actions. You are correct, that is at odds with the essential teaching of being in the flow. So, don’t even try to control your actions. Second, let go of the concept of mastering yourself, as if it was something you could ever achieve through doing something. That isn’t the art of becoming. The art of becoming, or letting it be, should be your practice. But, be forewarned: This can’t be done in a day, a week, a month, a year, etc…. It is a process which will take you a lifetime. We don’t really ever “arrive.” We simply become more and more as we continue this practice throughout our lives. So, to conclude: The more you let go of fear, of everything that you fear, and even embrace it, the more you will come to understanding.

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