Not Just Empty Phrases

If you want to become whole,
let yourself be partial.
If you want to become straight,
let yourself be crooked.
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up.

The Master, by residing in the Tao,
sets an example for all beings.
Because he doesn’t display himself,
people can see his light.
Because he has nothing to prove,
people can trust his words.
Because he doesn’t know who he is,
people recognize themselves in him.
Because he has no goal in mind,
everything he does succeeds.

When the ancient Masters said,
‘If you want to be given everything,
give everything up,”
they weren’t using empty phrases.
Only in being lived by the Tao
can you be truly yourself.

-Lao Tzu-
(Tao Te Ching, chapter 22, translation by Stephen Mitchell)

The problem in today’s chapter is in what we want to become. Lao Tzu tells us, over and over again, no matter what it is we want to become, we are going to have to learn, first, to be content with what we already are. Let yourself be what you already are. Stop trying to become something else. Content yourself with being. Let the Tao take care of the becoming.

The Master is our example. Did the Master start out as the Master? No way. The Master started out the same way we all do. The Master, no doubt, had ambitions too. The Master wanted to become something else entirely from what he was. But, what sets the Master apart is that he learned to reside in the Tao. He contented himself with being lived by the Tao. And the Master realized something along the way. He, like all the ancient Masters, realized that it is only in giving everything up that you gain everything.

The Tao is what brings balance and harmony in our Universe; and, in our lives, if we will only let it. I think we are afraid to just be ourselves. To truly be ourselves. I know I have been. And those fears still bother me. It is scary to be different. To be alone. But what is perhaps even scarier is that we aren’t really all that different, or that alone. We are all much more alike than we are different. That is why we compare and compete with others. We fear both our sameness and our differences.

Still, what we are, and what we will become, is something we need to leave to the Tao. This is the only path to wholeness. The only way to truly be, and become, yourself.

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