Tao Te Ching Verse 75: Abstinence
*Tao Te Ching Verse 75
translated by Shi Fu Hwang
The people suffer from hunger because their superior agencies have imposed a heavy tax, thus they are hungry.
The people are difficult to govern because their superior agencies are too fond of meddling, thus they are difficult to govern.
The people make lightly of dying because of the excessive costs in seeking the means of living, thus they think lightly of dying.
Therefore the benevolent should be those who do not interfere with people's living; instead of those who value people's living.
Photo by Christian ter Maat on Unsplash
In what do I overindulge? I mean there are the easy ones - my behaviors. Eating, relaxing, working - if it’s a habit or behavior, I can do it too much at the expense of other things in my life. But what about emotions?
Don’t I like anger just a little? That fiery burn is kind of intense, and whoa, especially when I’m right about something! Or especially when I’ve been wronged, then it’s pure justification. So indignantly, of course, I can ask myself, well how am I overindulging in anger here?
Anger. It feels good at first, but eventually, it grows out of control and just saps our strength. For me, anger is a tricky thing sometimes, because when I feel it and don’t want to be feeling it, it seems to stick around longer than I want. When I don’t mind feeling it, I just have to pay attention to it and it grows.
So why? I mean the question of the day is how to control it, right? I feel like a big part of what I can do with anger is to sit with it. And, I thought a little more about it, too. When I sit with anger - or any emotion, really - I am allowing it to be. I am accepting it, so I am neither indulging in it by justifying things, nor am I trying to resist it, which causes more frustration when I can’t let go.
So I guess the question I can ask myself is, would I be willing to sit with this feeling for a bit? Would I be willing to allow it to be here? And if that answer is yes, then I can settle in and just...be with it. And I can watch myself start thinking about it and begin justifying my point of view, my behavior, and trying out scenarios in my head to see if in another situation I would still be right, and when that was the case, I would be feeling a fresh dose of anger. Or, if that answer is yes, I could notice that I am replaying the situation and remember not to eat too much tax-grain - I can remember what I’m doing - just sitting with it and allowing it to be - without justifying anything. Without fantasizing about how I’m right. Forget overindulging, just without indulging in it.
Now, 100% - this is waaaay easier to talk about than do. Luckily, I have time to practice it. I have compassion for myself too, so that when I don’t get it right, I can keep trying.
And then I might extend this practice to other areas of my life. When I’m not relaxed, I can ask why. Then I can ask what I’m indulging in. Am I fantasizing about how this project I’m working on is going to help me professionally? Am I fantasizing about that afternoon cup of coffee? Am I attaching to an outcome that I desire for myself?