10 Life Lessons From The Taoist Master Lao Tzu (Taoism)
Lao Tzu, is a Chinese legendary and historicalfigure who is considered to be the founderof Taoism. Taoism is the philosophy that teachesus how to live in harmony with the world. The word, tao, itself means “the way”,the pattern and substance of everything thatexists. Tzu is also credited as the writerof Taoism’s most sacred text, Tao Te Ching. It is packed with his remarkable wisdom andmessages of peace, resilience, and livingcohesively that reminds us what really mattersin life. He is a central figure in Chineseculture, but his words can apply to peopleall over the world. So HERE ARE 10 IMPORTANTLESSONS THAT WE CAN LEARN FROM LAO TZU1. LOOK WITHIN AND YOU WILL FIND EVERYTHINGYOU NEEDLao Tzu says “Knowing others is intelligence;knowing yourself is true wisdom. Masteringothers is strength; mastering yourself istrue power”We live in a culture that’s geared towarddoing, succeeding, “crushing it”, makingmore weather its money or of ourselves. Theseactions, from the Taoist perspective are consideredyang and are based on outwards and externalmovement. The Chinese concept of yin and yangdescribes nature in dualities with two opposite,complementary, and interdependent forces. In other words, two halves balancing togetherthat make a whole. Yin and yang always flowsand changes with time. One aspect increasesas the other decreases, and this balance continuesas a pattern in nature. Just like nature,human life too is all about balance and tomaintain this balance we need to spend timecultivating our yin which is our inner experience. We need to slow down, reflect, and just enjoy“being” without having to do anything. Practices like meditation, qigong, and mindfulnesscan help us slow down, so that when we doneed to act, move in the world, and create,we have a deeper and more valuable reservoirof energy and balance to draw from. 2. BY LETTING GO, YOU BECOME FREEAccording to Lao Tzu “By letting it go itall gets done. The world is won by those wholet it go. But when you try and try. The worldis beyond the winning. ”Enlightenment means to lighten the burdenof life in this world and to lighten the darkeraspects of human character. But how then do we lighten ourselves? Howdo we lighten our burdens and lighten ourcharacters? The key is to examine our attachments,those things that we cling to in our mindsso strongly that we cause pain to ourselvesand others. This examination, this self-watching,can begin with understanding the three kindsof attachment: attachment to recognition,attachment to security, and attachment tocontrol. Relying on power to achieve whatyou want to achieve means you aren’t relyingon the Tao. It’s important to understandthat developing a stance of non-attachmentis not the same as being calloused or uncaring. In fact, losing your attachments makes youfreer to open your heart up wider. It is likebeing able to see the world from a higherperspective. Instead of only loving thoseto whom you are most attached – yourself,family, your religion, your political group,and your country – your heart can grow toembrace the whole world. To be content is to be happy with what youhave, and to be happy with what you have isto be rich. 3. Let go of your labels if you truly wantto know yourselfAccording to Lao Tzu’s teachings “He whodefines himself can’t know who he reallyis”Labels are what you call yourself in yourhead. They are tags that you attach to yourselfto describe the person you think you are. We have labels for ourselves such as a superdad, a successful businessman, a loser, agood for nothing and so on. We put ourselvesin boxes trying to define who we are. We doit to others, and we do it to ourselves. Whetherpositive or negative, what we whisper to ourselvesevery day has a great influence on our senseof self, and dictates the direction of ourthoughts and actions. The problem with labelingis we only see fragments which have been definedby your own experience and perspective ofthe outer world. Let’s say you or someone else may have givenyou a label you don’t want anything to dowith – maybe because it reminds you of pastmistakes you’ve made, or “flaws” you’retrying to coexist with. By not labeling yourself,you can flow freely from experience to experience,emotion to emotion, without being chaineddown to any one way of thinking. It’s so much easier to move on from a mistakewhen you don’t carry it along with you. 4. Pay no attention to evil and it will crumbleawayAs Lao Tzu teaches “Give evil nothing tooppose and it will disappear by itself”According to Taoism, we all have our personalspiritual planetary body which they call YuenSun. It takes in Pre-Heaven essences and processesit, pushing them into your soul, and the soulwill deliver it to your physical body here,giving you your potentials for your life inreality. A Taoist cultivates mainly aroundtwo things. One is to strengthen and repairthe bridge between the Yuen Sun and themselveshere in the physical world. By doing so, theycan live a better life and reach their fullpotential. The second part of Taoism cultivationis to conclude by giving back to the YuenSun for more to come in the future. Good isanything that flows with the way of the Tao,meaning the Yuen Sun’s flow to your body. Anything that helps and flow with what yourYuen Sun is doing or leading you toward isgood. Evil is the opposite, which is anything thatputs resistance to, stops, interfere, drag,or damage your flow from the Tao is evil. Good things help you to grow and empower you. Bad things will destroy you or break you upinto pieces and push you to death. Evil orgood is not always good or bad, we must seethe whole situation to determine is it goodor bad. Knowing what is evil to you is importantas a Taoist because you will then understandwhat is not good to do for yourself, and whatis going to harm you in the long run. If canlive your life purely and devote yourselfto the betterment of yourself and others aroundyou, evil cannot touch you. However, evilnever disappears, and you can’t ignore it. The best thing you can do is be stronger thanthe evil temptations around you, and you willbeat them. 5. KINDNESS AND COMPASSION FOR OTHERS WILLALWAYS WIN IN THE ENDTO QUOTE LAO TZU “Kindness in words createsconfidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love”There is a beautiful metaphor from the virtueof unconditional that we can learn from water. As a river flows across the land, it nurturesall living things that it comes across. Allthe plants and animals benefit from the waterof the river. Once it’s done its work, watermoves on without waiting for recognition orpraise. When one practices compassion they gain greatinsight into themselves. The Tao Teh Chingsays that the Sage puts others before himself,and by putting others before himself, he puthimself first. When one puts others beforethemselves, showing compassion to one andother, what they get out of it, isn’t justa deep insight into the nature of suffering,but also deep insight into their own nature. The practice of compassion helps to strengthenour relationships with others, it helps todeepen our connection to the world at large. It’s something that seems to be a sign ofweakness, but in fact is a sign of strength. 6. BE YOURSELF WITHOUT CARING WHAT OTHERSTHINKLAO TZU SAYS “Care about what other peoplethink and you will always be their prisoner”Nothing can be more time and energy wastingthan being overly concerned about what otherpeople think of us. There is nothing wrongin wanting others to like us or to think wellof us, but it should not be done at the expenseof our integrity. We have to get on with thetasks in life and take our own decisions basedon our highest thoughts, not the thoughtsgenerated through the filter of approval seeking,and people pleasing. If we take our own decisionbased on our highest intuitive thoughts andcertain people disapprove, we shouldn’treally pay that much attention to them. Ourbusiness to get on with the business of lifeis guided by our own consciousness, not bythe opinions of other people in our circle. When you are in accord with the Tao, you willdo your own job, and then stop. Leave othersopinions alone. Don’t go against the currentof the Tao. Instead, go with the flow of it. Accept yourself! Believe in yourself! Becauseif you did, you wouldn’t have to try toconvince others. Be content with yourself!Because if you were, you wouldn’t need others’approval. 7. WISDOM AND STRENGTH COME FROM REMAININGHUMBLEAS WE LEARS FROM LAO TZU “The wise man isone who, knows, what he does not know”There is a story in the “Lieh Tzu,” abook of Taoist parables written around thesame time as the “Te Tao Ching. ” It’sthe story of a pair of twins. They look thesame, talk the same, belong to the same family— but one is loved, trusted, and promotedby others while the other is not. He wearsnicer clothes, eats better food and livesin a nicer home. The successful twin treatsthe unsuccessful twin with undisguised arrogancebecause he falsely believes he has earnedhis success, saying, “Maybe there is justmore in me than there is in you. ” They bothmeet Master Tung-kuo, who says, “When yousay that one man has more in him than another,you mean only that they are not equally gifted. What I mean is something different from this. The unsuccessful twin has more worth thanluck, you have more luck than worth. Yoursuccess is not due to wisdom, nor is his failuredue to foolishness. Both are from heaven andnot from man, yet you are presumptuous becauseyou have more luck, while he is ashamed thoughhe has more worth. Neither of you perceivesthat things must be as they are”. The truthis that the great power of Tao can only beobtain with great love and great humility. One should always be impeccably humble becauseit’s the humility that guarantees greatvictories over oneself. It’s the basis ofthe correct achievements in the transformationof the soul! You should agree with Tao completely. If you do this only partially, this will resultin a dangerous breakdown because only completehumility is the cure for the disease calledpride. Sadness and anger are companions ofpride whereas Calm and joy are companionsof impeccable humility. 8. CHANGE IS INEVITABLE, SO EMBRACE IT, EVENIF IT SEEMS UNCOMFORTABLE. In the words of Lao Tzu “New beginningsare often disguised as painful endings. ”We resist and often resent the changes. Butchange is key to life, because, despite changebeing seemingly painful, it’s forever necessary. Most of us tend to settle in our comfort zone,we are afraid of change or something new. We tend to get used to the rut and routineand begin to love that as the sole optionavailable to us. A sort of mental complacencysets in and we don’t want to alter that. Maybebecause we no longer hope for better things,or maybe because we live in the belief thatevery ending is painful and doesn’t leadto something better. Every change is importantand every change is meaningful in and of itself. What seemed negative or painful in the beginningmay turn into something new; in a new beginning,in a new way, in a new direction, a new opportunity,a new life, or even a new you. Change oftenpaves the way for something better – and ifnot better, at least different. In difference,lies life’s momentum and progress. 9. LEARN TO FOLLOW FIRST IF YOU EVER WISHTO LEADAccording to Lao Tzu “If you want to governthe people, you must place yourself belowthem. If you want to lead the people, youmust learn how to follow them”To understand this let’s look at Lao Tzu’scomparison between rivers and seas and thehundreds of streams. Rivers and seas are morepowerful than streams. They are larger, deeperand stronger. Without water flowing in fromhundreds and thousands of streams, riversand seas wouldn’t be what they are. Rivers and seas can be powerful, because theyare ready to receive. Similarly, from the perspective of Tao leadership,a leader is more powerful than their people,but their power is derived from their people. They need their people to feed them both physicallyand metaphorically. Otherwise, they only havetheir own resources to draw from. Just like rivers and seas, a good leader mustbe ready to receive. . To receive water from streams, rivers andseas stoop low. To harness energy from their people, a leaderpositions lower as well, in order to receive. They pays attention and listen. A leader follows, before they are followed. 10. Always go with the flowIn our final piece of wisdom from Lao Tzu,we learn “When nothing is done, nothingis left undone”Wu Wei is a Chinese concept central to Taoismwhich is roughly translates to ‘action ofnon-action’ or ‘action without intent’. It says that rather than fighting againstthe conditions in our lives, we should allowthings to take their natural course. Whilemany of us wake into our day with multiple‘to-dos’ stacked on our list and a senseof urgency to get things done, it’s powerfulto consider that there is a natural orderin everything we do. If we tune in and followthe order, things get done effectively, efficientlyand without extra effort. If we go againstthe order, it takes extra time and energyto get things done and in some cases nothingwill get done, no matter how hard we try. Let us take writing for example. If you feeluninspired and tired, don’t force yourselfto write a perfect chapter. Instead, recognizethe direction of the nature and take careof yourself, maybe go for a walk. Then, whenyou feel inspired and motivated, take advantageand write with great ferocity and determination. This is what Wu Wei means – recognizing theforces of nature and acting accordingly. Somepeople intuitively interpret ‘non-doing’as something passive, laid back or lazy. Inthe eyes of Tao, there are often times foraction, but if no action is needed based onthe laws of nature, then doing anything maybe overdoing it. It’s all about realizingwhen our efforts are being useful and whenthey are being wasted. 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