Tao Te Ching Verse 51
translated by Tien Cong Tran
The Way gives birth [to all things]; Virtue nourishes; matter shapes; environment
Therefore all things without exception revere the Way and honor Virtue, although
they are not commanded, but left to do so naturally.
Hence, the Way gives birth; Virtue nurses, grows, fosters, shelters, comforts,
nourishes, and guards.
It gives birth but does not claim as its own; it does but does not claim its doing; it
grows but does not claim to be master.
This is called hidden Virtue.
photo of Herb Alpert
Appreciating without needing to possess
Are there things in your life that you feel would bring you happiness if only you owned them? Could it be a new car? What about a dwelling place? Would you be happy if you owned a new kitchen knife set? A new phone? A new computer? What would these things actually do for you? Could it be possible to feel happiness just by appreciating them without needing to own them?
Now let’s think about people. When you see a person to whom you are attracted, what is your reaction? Do you immediately want to be intimate with that person? Do you start thinking of what a relationship with that person might be like? Do you start thinking how you could make that person happy? Do you initiate a conversation sometimes with the intention of waiting to see if an opportunity develops? What could it look like if we were to internally acknowledge if that person was attractive and just...appreciate that we can appreciate that attractiveness? Can we be happy with just the moment without needing to do anything about it, either mentally or physically?
Finally, let’s think about our own spiritual status. Are we at one point in our growth, trying to get to another? Are we trying to grow actively? Do we want to get to a place where we are masters of the Tao, or just get good at going with the flow? Isn’t this like wanting to possess the Tao in a way? What would it look like if we were content to play our parts, to participate in our lives in the way the Tao orchestrates, not worrying about if we’re spiritual enough? What if we could be ok with our current state of spiritual awareness instead of wanting to get better? Do we need to possess our spiritual growth, or can we merely appreciate it when we notice a change in our perceptions? Just like appreciating a beautiful object or attractive person, we can appreciate the gifts of the Tao and being in Harmony with the Tao. Let’s remember though that we do not need to force it. Yes, there are things we can practice, but we can do those things without an endstate in mind. We can do those things much like a key in a lock makes a new discovery possible when the door is opened for us.
So yes, we can practice emulating the Tao by exercising respect, honesty, kindness, and service to others. That’s all from a desire to move into harmony with the Tao. We can also, as this verse states, allow the gifts and the power of the Tao to enter us freely without its needing to possess us. So we can complete the circle by freely giving respect, freely being honest, freely offering kindness, and freely performing service to others - with no strings, no if I do this then I’ll get that, no expectation of return for any of it. For if we can do this, we are then truly imitating the greatest thing and no-thing we can.