30 Days of Meditating on the Tao Te Ching
In 2013 I couldn’t sit still to meditate.
In January I had some difficult health issues following an accident. By March I broke up with my boyfriend of nearly two years amidst talks of engagement and kids. Over the summer I learned a dear friend was being abused by her partner, who I also considered (past tense) my friend.
Then someone I love died of a drug overdose. Actually, he died by choking on his own vomit, which I learned is common in overdoses. I found it hard to breathe for months.
During all this, my apartment had a disgusting infestation of mice. My roommate and close friend took a last minute dream job in Ethiopia and I missed her. And I ended up moving twice before September.
Lastly, on Thanksgiving I learned that a beautiful friend I hadn’t spoken to in months suffered an aggressive relapse of breast cancer and died at the age of 46.
Through the year, I knew meditation would help but I simply couldn’t sit. I was overwhelmed and terrified of facing my emotions. Instead of slowing down, I sped up. I biked 20 miles at a time, ran until I couldn’t walk up a flight of stairs, and stayed in the biostatistics lab working until they closed at night. I wondered when I’d stop.
I’m not sure why or how, but at some point late in autumn I wandered into a bookstore and picked up Stephen Mitchell’s translation of Tao Te Ching. Almost every sentence spoke to me. I read the book through once and realized I had found some help, a life-line of sorts. I thought,
What if I meditated on a different passage of the Tao each day for one month?
I went through the book a second time and wrote down 30 passages that felt especially poignant, then I meditated on one each day. The words gave me something to focus on other than my pain. They gave me a frame through which to see and understand my experiences, and connect to something deeper through or even with great sadness.
Below are the passages I used, I hope you find this 30-day meditation as helpful as I did.
30 Days of Meditating on the Tao Te Ching
Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go. (ch 2)
and everything will fall into place. (ch 3)
Hold onto the center. (ch 5)
[The Tao] is always present in you.
You can use it any way you want. (ch 6)
When you are content to simply be yourself
and don’t compare or compete,
everybody will respect you. (ch 8)
Can you deal with the most vital matters
by letting events take their course? (ch 10)
We shape clay into a pot,
but it is the emptiness inside
that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house,
but it’s the inner space
that makes it livable.
We work with being,
but not-being is what we use. (ch 11)
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself? (ch 15)
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see. (ch 21)
If you open yourself to loss,
you are one with loss
and you can accept it completely.
Open yourself to the Tao
then trust your natural responses
and everything will fall into place. (ch 23)
Know the personal
yet keep to the impersonal. (ch 28)
The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the center of the circle. (ch 29)
All things end in the Tao
as rivers flow into the sea. (ch 32)
If you stay in the center
and embrace death with your whole heart,
you will endure forever. (ch 33)
Let your workings remain a mystery
just show people the results. (ch 36)
Be content with what you have
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you. (ch 44)
She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself. (ch 45)
The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind
no resistances in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death,
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work. (ch 50)
Knowing how to yield is a strength.
Use your own light
and return to the source of light. (ch 52)
Whoever embraces the Tao
will not slip away.
Her name will be held in honor
from generation to generation. (ch 54)
Be like the Tao,
It gives itself up continually.
That is why it endures. (ch 56)
Confront the difficult
while it is still easy;
accomplish the great task
by a series of small acts. (ch 63)
Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He simply reminds people
of who they have always been. (ch 64)
Compassion towards yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world. (ch 67)
When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield. (ch 69)
If you want to know me,
look inside your heart. (ch 70)
If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to.
If you aren’t afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can’t achieve. (ch 74)
Act for the people’s benefit.
Trust them; leave them alone. (ch 75)
Failure is an opportunity.
If you blame someone else,
there is no end to the blame. (ch 79)
If a country is governed wisely,
its inhabitants will be content.
And even though the next country is so close
that people can hear its roosters crowing and its dogs barking,
they are content to die of old age
without ever having gone to see it. (ch 80)
Hari Om Tat Sat (it is so).