I’m still in pain, limited to the walls of my own room with no energy to step outside and go for a simple drive. However, with this time to be still, I’ve had a lot of time for reflection and reading, paired with tons of praying and studying.
Disclaimer: I’ve been prescribed even more medication for my headaches, so please excuse me if this may seem a bit jumbled and out of place. But here is what I’ve come to realize and hope to use in my own development moving forward.
What can we learn from the Taoists about achieving inner peace (an ideal that we often link with fantasy and fiction)?
We are all about work hard to play hard, being proactive, unlocking your full potential, achieving social status. That often goes hand in hand with stretching ourselves beyond our capacities. This doesn’t mean that accomplishments are evil. A certain degree of accomplishment is necessary for survival and lies at the basis of civilization. But there are alternative ways to live our life, ways that are less burdened, but less glamorous too.
Don’t stand on your tip toes
In current culture, we’re likely to over-stretch ourselves in order to achieve our goals. Oftentimes, we rush, exaggerate our achievements, lie, boast about our abilities, and even push too hard. The problem with this behavior is that we often lack the foundation to do what we want to do, which results in a very unstable position, like standing on your tip toes.
Those who stand on tiptoes do not stand firmly
Those who rush ahead don’t get very far.
Those who try to outshine others dim their own light.
Those who call themselves righteous cant know how wrong they are.
Those who boast of their accomplishments diminish the things they have done. Lao Tzu
So its better that we don’t rush into tasks, don’t buy things that we can’t afford, don’t lie about our abilities, and don’t show ourselves off all the time. Because, if we do, we put ourselves in an extremely vulnerable and stressful position. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t go out and accomplish things. It’s just that we do so in a manner that is sustainable, stable, a manner within our true capacities.
Let softness overcome the hard
It could be beneficial to realize that softness is a way to overcome the greatest of tasks. Like water, if we repeat acts of softness repeatedly, eventually the hard will be overcome. If we put emphasis on small tasks and efforts, these eventually add up to one big enterprise. This is the power of discipline. Within discipline, come the virtue of patience, which is also an act of softness, in which we simply accept the slowness of a natural process. Another factor is the willingness to let go, so that God can manifest the will. An example is in planting a tree; we cannot will the tree into growth, nor force the tree to absorb and grow. We can only water it and allow its natural process to take place. Being soft also means being flexible. People that are too hard and brittle cannot adapt to new situations easily and are often subdued to external circumstances.
Our society expects us to be useful. A society where we are more appreciated when we are more intelligent, diligent, good looking, etc. Being useless doesn’t give us any respect and is even seen as a vice. Uselessness is actually very useful. Uselessness essentially leads to preservation. We often see that when we don’t possess many desirable traits, we’re often saved from a lot of trouble. So, don’t sweat over not being very gifted. Instead, be happy because those gifted individuals are often the ones who get most exploited.
Chinese philosophy Taoism believes that striving for external things is the same as striving for an illusion. Wealth doesn’t buy happiness, and it certainly doesn’t buy inner peace. On the contrary, being invoked by possessions can result in anxiety. Any kind of grasping towards externals, and tightly holding onto them is spiritually unnatural. Unfortunately, current society revolves completely around this idea of possessions. Perhaps, this can be the main reason why poor mental health has risen, leading to more use in antidepressants, with a rise in drugs and alcohol use.
A healthier way of living would be to let go and enjoy the flow of life, because then you may see that many things will come with less effort, and satisfaction doesn’t rely on materialistic possessions. The act of ‘holding on’ often blinds us to the many possibilities that life presents and the things that already are. Therefore, it can’t harm us to lay down our shield for a while and just experience what life has in store for us, instead of constantly striving for a conceptual future. Could it be that possibly we are standing in the way of our own blessings by simply trying too hard
Jeremy Dodson is a Track & Field Olympian who struggles with the idea of perfection, hoping to break the barrier we place on ourselves so that genuine living can take place for everyone.