If one wishes to shrink it
One must first expand it
If one wishes to weaken it
One must first strengthen it
If one wishes to discard it
One must first promote it
If one wishes to seize it
One must first give it
This is called subtle clarity
The soft and weak overcomes the tough and strong
Fish cannot leave the depths
The sharp instruments of the state
Cannot be shown to the people
How do you achieve a balanced perspective on life that can facilitate a joyful, peaceful mind? Be open to all that life serves up. Resist trying to avoid experiences that you may prejudge as difficult or painful. Have the courage to walk the difficult Path and resist the seeking the easy way out.
In Verse Thirty-Six, Lao Tzu appears to be stating the obvious in suggesting that you cannot fully know strength unless you have experienced being weak or you cannot fully know freedom unless you have been held captive. It is easy to acknowledge the truth of this axiom intellectually; but that means you are grasping this concept with your mind and not your heart.
Being open to all that life serves up takes a lot of faith and courage. It means living with your heart readily accessible to feel all the joy or all the sadness associated with an event. Easily said but not easily done. We reflexively close our hearts in anticipation of fear, disappointment or pain; but that is more limiting than protective.
The challenging times offer us more than we realize at first. The ability to expand our hearts and be compassionate to others as we broaden the depth of our common experiences, the awareness to appreciate the highs in life even more; and the choice to let go of extremes and embrace the Middle Way. To attain this state of mind is a process and it takes work. It requires the strength to live life as it comes and the discipline to practice silence daily so that you will have all the spiritual tools necessary to get the job done.