Three Ways to Greet and Defeat Hard Situations, Inspired by the Tao Te Ching

Read that quote up there in the pic from the Tao Te Ching (ch. 43). It talks about how the softest things in the world (like water) can overcome the hardest things in the world (like rock). We talk a little about that in The Nobody Bible. It’s in the Book of Lao Tzu.

If you’re looking for concrete (get it?) examples of what Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching are talking about, think about the Grand Canyon. The Colorado River carved its way along rock for millions of years and…wouldn’t ya know it? A hole formed! Wind blows trees over. Ghosts pass through walls! (Do you believe in ghosts? If not, ignore that last example).

Anyway, as you move along through your days, weeks, months, and millenia (do you believe in reincarnation? If not, ignore that last example) here are three ways to follow that great advice from the Tao Te Ching:

  1. When you meet a person with an angry affect, don’t react to their anger…engage them with kindness. This one comes with an asterisk. If you can avoid angry people, try to avoid them. But if you have to engage with them (at work, at the checkout line, at an anger management meeting), then do so with kindness on your face. That’s right. If someone is really trying to grind your gears, keep a slight smile on your face. Not a smug smile, but a true smile. Make your eyes soft. As best as you can, keep calm inside. Let them have their moment. Then, offer to be helpful. Wish them well. This takes practice. But the more you do it, the easier it is to remember: Their anger is usually not about you. And sometimes it’s not even about them. It’s about a difficult life they’ve had, filled with things out of their control. It’s about a bad day they’re experiencing because someone else was mean to them. Try to be the one bright spot!
  2. If you feel stuck, take a break. Then try again. Ever have writer’s block? I have. A lot. I’ve also had math block, tax block, and all kinds of other blocks. It’s a brick wall. How do I get through it? Breakfast. A walk. A moment of meditation. When you come up against an obstacle like that in your life, don’t wrestle with it (I tried wrestling with a brick wall once…I lost). It’s not a sign of weakness to step away from a block and re-approach it later with a new attitude. A new start. Sometimes the way to defeat difficulty is with space, time, and perspective.
  3. If you feel the urge to rush into something, and your gut says otherwise, hold back. See that part of the quote up there that talks about doing nothing (with a purpose)? There is great, great power in that. In Taoism, that sentiment is wu wei. Think before you speak. Look before you leap. Hold off. Consider: is this action I’m about to take or this thing I’m about to say really necessary? Take the action that matters in the moment, and keep your energy close. Don’t bang your head against that wall we talked about in #2 up there. Instead, seek a path around it. See if you can gingerly step over it. Heck, meditate in front of it! Just don’t keep rushing headlong into it.

How do you live out this wisdom from the Tao Te Ching? What do you do to meet, greet, or defeat the difficulties in your life?


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