The Tao Te Ching for Everyday Living

Tao Te Ching Verse 9: Allowing Perfection

November 24, 2019 Dan Casas-Murray Season 1 Episode 9
The Tao Te Ching for Everyday Living
Tao Te Ching Verse 9: Allowing Perfection
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Tao Te Ching Verse 9

It is better to leave a vessel unfilled, than to attempt to carry it when it is full. If you keep feeling a point that has been sharpened, the point cannot long preserve its sharpness.

When gold and jade fill the hall, their possessor cannot keep them safe. When wealth and honors lead to arrogance, this brings its evil on itself. When the work is done, and one's name is becoming distinguished, to withdraw into obscurity is the way of Heaven.

Photo by Karina Vorozheeva on Unsplash

Taking things too far

Lao Tzu is wonderfully clear in this verse - it’s easy to understand that a knife that’s been sharpened too much loses its edge.  Or that a vessel that is at capacity is overflowing.  

So why is it so hard for me to see that I already have enough?  Why do I need to keep getting more and more to feel accomplished in life?

I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I’ve felt that it’s never enough - and I’ve actually thought, “yeah, I like this - this means I’m driven!  Let me keep this feeling and I’ll always be achieving!”

That’s one way to keep myself motivated.  But motivated for what?  The relentless and persistent chase for more, for the next level, for what I thought was fulfillment in my younger years.  Only it turned out that the more I chased the money, the business, the prestige - the farther away I got from actual fulfillment.

My ego had tricked me into thinking that the only way I could get fulfillment and purpose was to set goals, accomplish things, and accumulate stuff.  

It took me many years of pain before I realized that fulfillment was not a byproduct of success, like money can be.  Rather, fulfillment and purpose are the feelings I have when I know I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to do at the time I’m doing it.

So it seems that my ego is what tells me it’s never enough.  My ego is the thing that money & possessions seem to satisfy.  Only they don’t because the ego always wants more validation.  For the ego, it’s never enough.  

My higher self, on the other hand, is the thing that experiences fulfillment and purpose.  And the feelings of fulfillment and purpose are not by-products of anything.  They happen in real time, just like the needle of a compass points north.   It doesn’t say, oh, if I do this, then I’ll be able to point the way.  It just points north when I use it (when I’m in the northern hemisphere, that is.  Fun fact, the needle points to magnetic south in the southern hemisphere!).

So if I’m present and doing what I’m supposed to - and I know it - then I can feel like it’s enough.  I can then stop when the blade is honed and not dull the knife.  I can be happy when my work is done and enjoy it for what it is.

So how do I take action towards eliminating ego and feeling content with what is?  There’s not really a direct way, Lao Tzu tells us.  There is only looking in the opposite direction and moving toward that.  

Letting go of wanting emotional security by concentrating on the internal things rather than external things is one of the ways, and that’s what the next part is about.

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