One who understands others has knowledge; one who understands himself has wisdom.
Mastering others requires force; mastering the self needs strength.
If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.
One who gives himself to his position surely lives long.
One who gives himself to the Tao surely lives forever.
In our contemporary world, an educated person is generally thought of as someone with several diplomas who's in a position to intelligently discuss all manner of topics, particularly in the academic field. In addition to amassing scholastic credits, highly learned people often understand and reach out to help others. In fact, they seem to possess the ability to effectively "read" other people. These individuals' power and status tends to increase in proportion to the number of men and women they oversee, such as with the president of a university, a CEO of a business or a general of an army.
In this 33rd verse of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu is asking you to change the way you look at these twin ideas of knowledge and power. You're invited to evaluate your level of self-mastery by turning your gaze inward and seeing the world and your place in it, in a new light. A Tao-oriented life focuses on understanding yourself, rather than on the thinking and behaviors of others. You shift from the acquisition of information and the pursuit of status symbols to understanding and mastering yourself in any and all situations. Power over others is replaced with an inner strength that empowers you to behave from a wisdom that is inherently the Tao.
As you modify your thinking, your world will undergo pleasantly dramatic changes. For example, as you realize that you are responsible for your reactions in any given moment, others will cease to have any power or control over you. Rather than worrying, Why is that person behaving that way and making me feel so upset? You can see the situation as an invitation to explore yourself from a new attitude of self-mastery. Your inward exploration allows you to permit the flow of inner responses, examining them with tolerance directed toward yourself. By seeking your stream of thoughts and simply going with them, the conduct of that other person instantly loses its potency. You begin seeing your world suffused with the harmony of the Tao eternally (and internally!) flowing through you.
In any situation - whether it be under the heading of "family," "work," or "social;" or even just seeing the atrocities reported on the evening news - you'll become aware that there's no "they" who have power over you. By refusing to turn the controls of your existence over to anyone or any set of circumstances, you're exercising personal strength instead of force. You are indeed experiencing self-mastery and this new state of internal control has come about because you've elected to live in accordance with the Tao. You don't need the approval of others or another possession in order to be happy - you must merely understand yourself as a Divine piece of the eternal Tao, always connected to that infinite essence.
Lao-tzu equates the ability to look within for the Source of enlightenment and strength with eternal life. He reminds you that while externals such as knowledge and the power over others may provide a long life, shifting to being in charge of yourself offers imperishable wisdom and a ticket to immortality.
Here's what this great master wants you to take from this verse of the Tao Te Ching and apply to your world:
Focus on understanding yourself instead of blaming others.
Whenever you're anxious, in pain or even mildly upset over the conduct of others, take the focus off those you're holding responsible for your inner distress. Shift your mental energy to allowing yourself to be with whatever you're feeling - let the Tao flow freely, without blaming others for your feelings. And don't blame yourself either! Just allow the Tao to unfold... Tell yourself that no one has the power to make you uneasy without your consent and that you're unwilling to grant that authority to this person right now. But you are willing to freely experience your emotions without calling them "wrong" or needing to chase them away. Flow in the Tao now! In this way, with this simple exercise at the moment of your dis-ease, you've made a shift to self-mastery. It's important to bypass blame and even your desire to understand the other person; instead, focus on understanding yourself. By taking responsibility for how you choose to respond to anything or anyone, you're aligning yourself with the Tao. Change the way you choose to perceive the power that others have over you and you will see a bright new world of unlimited potential for yourself.
Cultivate your desire for others to discover the Tao in their lives.
Dismiss any desire to extend power over others through the forceful nature of your actions and your personality. Ego believes that others are incapable of running their own lives and wants to control with force, so demonstrate your inner strength by abandoning such tactics. Catch yourself as you're about to tell others how they "should" be. Use the opportunity to practice allowing them to learn their own lessons without interference from you. Notice how often you attempt to use verbal force to convince others to listen to you. Remind yourself to remain quiet and send loving energy. Practice this kind of self-mastery even though it's rare in today's world. You are strong enough to trust the Tao. When your judgments dominate, the flow of the Tao slows. See how the world truly changes right before your eyes when you sincerely desire that others follow their own life paths, which will lead them to realize the greatness of the Tao. All those formerly perceived as needing you to tell them what or how to live are also the same as you are in the Tao's wisdom and strength.
Do the Tao Now
Today, practice experiencing the unfolding of the Tao with someone who usually causes you distress. Consciously initiate a conversation with that in-law, ex-spouse, bullying co-worker or family member, inviting the Tao to flow freely. Notice how, what and where you feel; remain warmly and tolerantly in touch with the sensations within your body. You've entered the space of self-mastery in this moment. Here's what A Course in Miracles offers on this verse of the Tao Te Ching: "This is the only thing that you need to do for vision, happiness, release from pain... Say only this, but mean it with no reservations... I am responsible for what I see. I chose the feelings I experience... "
Wayne W. Dyer, Ph.D. is an internationally renowned author and speaker in the field of self-development. He’s the author of 30 books, has created many audio and video programs, and has appeared on thousands of television and radio shows. His books Manifest Your Destiny, Wisdom of the Ages, There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, and the New York Times bestsellers 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace, The Power of Intention, Inspiration and Change Your Thoughts—Change Your Life have all been featured as National Public Television specials. See Wayne in his new feature length movie The Shift. Visit www.drwaynedyer.com for details.