3rd Verse – Practice Not Doing


Putting a value on status
will create contentiousness.
If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.
By not displaying what is desirable, you will
cause the people’s hearts to remain undisturbed.

The sage governs
by emptying minds and hearts,
by weakening ambitions and strengthening bones.

Practice not doing…
When action is pure and selfless,
everything settles into its own perfect place.

This 3rd verse of the Tao Te Ching says that we shouldn’t “try” to be happy, content, peaceful, loving or whatever quality we are grasping for. That is “doing”. Instead as the verse says, we should “practice not doing” by just being what we innately already are.

Putting our personal value on the possessions we do or don’t have, focusing on maintaining a particular status in society and trying to compete with our neighbors is “doing” or to say it another way…trying to be something that we are not. If instead we are acting in accordance with our true nature, being who we really are and following the path of our true purpose, “everything settles into its own perfect place”.

How often in our society do we get the chance to “not do”? We are always doing. We are always going for that next thing or circumstance that we believe will give us the quality of life that we want. The truth is that, unlike what all of the advertising tells us, we don’t need any of that. What we really want is already inside us.

This does not mean that we should not have ambitions and seek possessions that we want. The key is to not give our power to those ambitions and possessions to define who we are. We should not value those things more than we value ourselves or our fellow human beings.

Tao of Dogs

Dogs are perfect examples of creatures that embody the practice of “not doing”. They are never trying to be something they are not. They are not focused on being cooler, wealthier or trying to get a bigger dog house. They are consistently their raw and true selves.

Dogs also do not put any of those kinds of expectations on the humans that they share their lives with. They don’t care what kind of car they are riding in as long as the windows work an they can put their nose in the wind.

They don’t care what we look like, what we know or who we hang out with. As long as we give them love and take care of them, they will love us unconditionally.


A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” – Hugh Downs

So if happiness is what you want, don’t try to be happy; that is doing. Instead look inside yourself under all of the layers of identification with possessions and ambitions of what you think will make you happy. See that happiness is already yours. Just be it.

Do you get your personal value from who you truly are or from your possessions and status in society? Deep down what really makes you happy?