The Tao Te Ching: Verse Seventy-Eight

Nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water
Yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong
This is because nothing can replace it

That the weak overcomes the strong
And the soft overcomes the hard
Everybody in the world knows
But cannot put into practice

Therefore sages say:
The one who accepts the humiliation of the state
Is called its master
The one who accepts the misfortune of the state
Becomes king of the world
The truth seems like the opposite

                                                                     Lao Tzu

Highlighting the characteristics of water was among the favorite analogies used by Lao Tzu to share his insights. I envision him sitting by a lake or river quietly meditating and gaining inspiration from the wonders of nature all around him. Water is such a paradox, nothing in the world is softer or weaker than water; yet nothing is better at overcoming the hard and strong.

This poetic description sounds like our human spirit, doesn’t it? We are so vulnerable to internal and external thoughts and opinions yet, when the going gets tough…So what is the lesson being shared in verse seventy eight? I believe it is to fully embrace our innate fluid nature.

When we are infants our bodies are composed of over seventy percent water. We are saturated with adaptability, resilience and the ability to flow in a different direction as we navigate obstacles. As we grow and age four very distinct things occur. Our bodies begin to wear out, slow down, cool off and dry up! Adult bodies are composed of only fifty percent water. Our internal well is literally running dry. Must this age specific dehydration process take its toll on our Spirits too? You know the answer.

Life is meant to present us with the challenges and obstacles that will reflect where we need to do our personal (Soul’s) work.  This is an unsettling and frustrating process that triggers our darker side. Nothing will dry you up quicker than anger followed by all the

other negative emotions that sap our benevolent natures. Most would advise to avoid the people, issues and events that would trigger those responses. I am going to suggest that you not deny any part of your nature but move closer to those emotions and vexations of the Spirit.

Find the fortitude to sit quietly and reflect on those things and people that relentlessly drain you of your vital fluid self. Accept don’t deny and please try to avoid justifying. Just float with who you are and make friends with yourself. Touch that essential goodness within and gently decide to shift course.

You can choose to envision your life as something to overcome or you can replenish your Spirit by adjusting your perspective. Observe nature. Floods, fires and other natural disasters can scar and destroy yet; they are also essential for survival and providing opportunities for new growth. Impermanence is at the core of our existence. You can choose to lose vital life force raging against change and lamenting over the past or you can be a phoenix and rise up. Overcome. Find your equanimity and say supple.




One thought on “The Tao Te Ching: Verse Seventy-Eight

  1. This is appropo for the holiday season. Sitting quietly and reflecting is so worthwhile especially at the end of the year. Advice about accepting instead of denying and justifying will promote growth and progress. I love the concept of gently deciding to shift course and adjusting your perspective. Impermanence in the physcial relm is reality…the choice to have an open heart and mind. I love the word “supple” so much better than flexible!

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