True perfection seems imperfect,
yet it is perfectly itself.
True fullness seems empty,
yet it is fully present.
True straightness seems crooked.
True wisdom seems foolish.
True eloquence seems to stutter.
The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself.
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 45, translation by Stephen Mitchell)
Yesterday, we were talking about looking for fulfillment and happiness in all the wrong places. Those places that are outside of ourselves. When all that we need to have happy and full lives, we already have inside of ourselves.
Today, Lao Tzu warns us that things aren’t what they seem. We can’t trust the way that we perceive things. Why? Because we have suffered through years of programming. And, because of that programming, our minds are biased to look at things in a skewed way. Everything that we see with our eyes, or hear with our ears, even our sense of smell, taste, and touch, have been conditioned. Over the years, your mind has formed preconceptions about everything that your senses are going to bring in touch with your mind.
That actually is a very useful thing. A lot of the time. It helps you in countless ways. Still, it can be a problem for us. And, it often is. We often see only what we want or expect to see. Only being able to see what we want or expect to see, might sound quite agreeable to us. But there is a downside. The reality is something different. And that means our judgment has been compromised.
Lao Tzu tells us that true perfection seems imperfect. Remember, we are talking about looking inside ourselves. We are so conditioned to compare and compete with others, we are measuring ourselves against some other measure of perfection. But that isn’t how to measure your own perfection. Look closer at it. Not at others. Do you see it? It is perfectly itself.
Do you feel like you are running on empty? I know, I feel that way sometimes, too. Okay, a lot of the time. But, what we need is a change in perspective. Perhaps, it is time to take a break. Go outside. Breathe in the fresh air. Take a walk around the block. Or, go for a run in the park. Just take five or ten minutes to change your scenery. That may be as simple as closing your eyes and taking a deep breath, or two, or three. Set aside whatever project you are trying so hard to get accomplished, and give it a rest. I know I make frequent trips outside for a change in scenery. And after a bit, I come back in, renewed and refreshed. That seemingly empty well has everything you need in this present moment. It only seems empty. Change the way you look at it. Then you’ll see.
We have been so conditioned to measure what is real, up against the standard of the illusion that true straightness will seem crooked. True wisdom will seem foolish. And true eloquence will seem to stutter. This is why we need to remember, always remember, that things are not what they seem to be.
Take a page from the Master’s handbook. When things happen, she doesn’t get all bent out of shape. She doesn’t resist. She simply allows things to happen as they happen. And then, she shapes events as they come. Molding them and using them in whatever way she can best work with them. Remember what Lao Tzu has been saying all along. Practice not-doing doing. Sometimes, a lot of the time, when our senses are screaming at us the loudest to do something, the best course of action is to do nothing. To do as the Master does. To step out of the way and let the Tao speak for itself.
Now, what does that mean? Stepping out of the way and letting the Tao speak for itself? Often we choose to interfere. To get in the way. But you have a power greater, inside of you, than anything you are going to encounter on the outside of yourself. It is the Tao inside of you. Let it do the talking. Let it do the acting. Go with its flow, and you will find that effortless action working through you.