Monday, July 31, 2017

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 29

Efforts to interfere with the natural rhythm of the universe
Will not succeed

I am a control addict in recovery, or at least making progress. I long ago realized that I can’t control anything outside myself – the weather, kittens, how other people drive, and so on. Not only did I discover that is it a relief to abandon futile efforts to control what I can’t control, but even better, I came to appreciate the innate beauty and rhythm and perfection of the world left pristine.

The world is a sacred vessel
That cannot be controlled
If you tamper with it you will destroy it
If you grasp it you will lose it 

The parallels to our world environmental crises are obvious, but it applies just as well to our inner environment. The self help industry is about creating healthier, happier egos. And that’s fine. My own 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place blog and book were part of that effort. And certainly a happy ego is better than a miserable one.

But that ego self is what blocks our awareness of our true nature as a sacred vessel of universal light and love. That doesn’t make the ego bad. It just recognizes the ego as limited and limiting. The ego doesn’t so much destroy our true nature as much as it prevents our experience of it, an ephemeral experience that cannot be held static, but must be allowed to flow from moment to moment.

In that sense, the last two lines above can also be interpreted as:

Your attempt to tamper will fail
Your attempt to grasp will miss

When we allow ourselves and our world to move freely, the natural movement of yin yang swirls in perfect balance.

So sometimes things are ahead, sometimes behind
Sometimes gentle, sometimes forceful
Sometimes strong, sometimes weak
Sometimes up, sometimes down

Therefore the sage avoids extremes, excess, and extravagance

The middle road is the way of no way, not directing, not controlling, not judging, not dominating. It is the way of allowing, flowing, being present, responding appropriately, being in harmony. It manifests as kindness, simplicity, humility, joy, compassion, gratitude, peace.

This closing quote says it all. And I can attest from personal experience that it is absolutely true. When I am not at peace, then I can be sure that I am trying to control something I can’t control, that I’m wanting reality to be something other than what it is. My efforts will fail, and in the process I will lose my awareness of the beauty and sacred perfection of, well, everything.

For peace of mind, resign as general manager of the universe. ~Larry Eisenberg


  1. There is a saying that someone told me a long time ago that seems to follow your ideas from this post. "Let go and let God." This phrase can be complex or extremely simple to understand.

    1. You have said in five words the whole point of this chapter, in fact the whole point of the Tao Te Ching! Our whole lives are about learning to let go. Thanks, Betty!

  2. I had that problem, but I tell/told myself that some things I was "expected" to do as a responsible adult and they were no such thing. Ego, but ego fooling you.

    1. Yes, that ego can be a trickster! Thanks for stopping by, CW.

  3. Galen, I have found that trying to control what is absolutely out of your sphere of control leads to nothing but worry and anxiety. What good does that do anyone? I like what Betty said - "Let go and let God." Saying this to myself repeatedly has brought much peace and healing.

    1. I agree, Martha. Betty's comment sums it up best. This could have been my post on this chapter:

      Tao Te Ching -- Chapter 29

      Let go and let God.

  4. I think expectations are loving sibblings of control. Even if we don't control a situation, we get caught up with wanting circumstances (and people) to be a certain way. If we just gave up our expectations to life, life would seem so much freer and peaceful.

    Looking forward to reading more on how we break through our egos:) unless you've written some previous posts on the topic? Thanks Galen!

    1. I agree, Vishnu, that expectations, like efforts to control, are ways that we try to hold onto or direct the natural movement of energy. The first chapter of the Tao Te Ching says that "Ever desireless, one can see the mystery. Every desiring, one can see the manifestations." Our desires and expectations trap us in the world of the ten thousand things.

      How to break through our egos? I like to think that much of what I write is about that, beginning with the 10 Steps blog and book. Many of the 10 Steps, especially Step 3 about giving up the illusion of control, and Step 6 about not judging, loosen our ego's domination of how we see ourselves and the world.

      A Course in Miracles shifts us from a fear based life to a joy based life largely by moving us out of a separate ego identity into a unified sacred identity.

      In this blog, the example of martial arts practice gives us a model of yielding our ego insistence in order to be aware of present circumstances and respond appropriately. And that is rooted in the ego free philosophy of the Tao Te Ching.

      But I think what you are asking for is specific practices or techniques for loosening the ego's hold. One of the things I like about the Tao Te Ching is that it not only offers a philosophical entry into mystery, but also gives a lot of practical advice. I try to highlight that in my posts on specific chapters. But you have caught my attention with your suggestion, and I'm going to cull through chapters and posts to see if I can extract a list of specific practices. After all, if we can't actually apply this in our daily lives, it isn't much use, is it?!

      So thank you for focusing my attention on this. I look forward to continuing this conversation!! Stay tuned....

  5. This aligns with the principle of moderation in all things. I like the underlinging concepts of this one. This coinsides with our belief to live our lives in harmony with one another and principles of light. The attributes of kindness, simplicity, humility, joy, compassion, gratitude and peace that you mentioned is something I seek after. Our Savior is our greatest example of it all. Blessings and hugs!

    1. Principles of light--I like that! These attributes are universally recognized, I think, in all faith traditions as naturally manifesting in a surrendered spirit. Thanks for commenting, LeAnn.


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