22nd Verse – Flexibility

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The flexible are preserved unbroken.
The bent become straight.
The empty are filled.
The exhausted become renewed.
The poor are enriched.
The rich are confounded.

Therefore the sage embraces the one.
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.

The old saying that the flexible are preserved unbroken is surely right!
If you have truly attained wholeness,
everything will flock to you.

In athletics, there is a focus on the flexibility of the body. Flexible muscles allow the body to move without injury under the stress of activity. Tense and inflexible muscles lead to pulled muscles, damaged ligaments or other injuries.

In engineering, there is a focus on designing buildings to flex under pressure from natural occurrences like wind and earthquakes. A rigid, unmovable structure is more likely to crumble under the stress.

In the automotive world, there is a focus on designing vehicles with a body that is built to flex under the jarring impacts from the road surface. The more flexible it is the more pounding it can take. A stiff frame leads to an uncomfortable ride for the passengers inside and can lead to damage to the vehicle.

Trees that are inflexible will break under the pressure from high winds. Whereas trees that can flex with the wind are more likely to hold up against the stress. Palm trees are a wonderful example. They can flex all the way to the ground without breaking and so they can survive under hurricane winds that would crush less flexible varieties.

We can see the need for flexibility in nature and in the world that surrounds us. Can we also see the need to be flexible in our own minds? This verse is attempting to convey the importance of flexibility of the mind.

The troubles in our lives can act like those hurricane winds pushing against us trying to knock us down. If we try and remain stiff and unforgiving, we can be broken or knocked down. If instead we flex under the pressure by being open to different views, different ways of life, or different means to an end we can move with life instead of fighting against it.

Trust in the Tao and be open to what life presents to you. Do this and everything that you truly need “will flock to you”.


21st Verse – See What is Within

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The greatest virtue is to follow the Tao
and the Tao alone.

The Tao is elusive and intangible.
Although formless and intangible,
it gives rise to form.
Although vague and elusive,
it gives rise to shapes.
Although dark and obscure,
it is the spirit, the essence,
the life breath of all things.

Throughout the ages, its name has been preserved
in order to recall the beginnings of all things.
How do I know the way of all things at the beginning?
I look inside myself and see what is within me.

In this verse, once again Lao-tzu refers to the Tao as the underlying energy or source of all things. It can’t be seen or touched yet it is a part of everything that we see and feel; including ourselves.

The last two lines of this verse are important and profound.

How do I know the way of all things at the beginning?
I look inside myself and see what is within me.

Memorize and recite them to yourself whenever you feel less-than or not good enough. Let these lines remind you that the energy that causes flowers to bloom, mountains to form and the planets to rotate around the sun is the same energy that is inside of you. You are the Universe and the Universe is you. With that knowledge how could you ever be less-than or not good enough?

The energy that is within you has the same beauty as the sunrise, the same power as a tsunami, the same brilliance as Einstein and the same grace as a soaring bird. How can you know this to be true? Look inside yourself and see what is within.