Proceeding Softly

by Christopher Lovejoy on June 23, 2013

A capacity to proceed softly and mindfully with heartfelt assurance, to start or stop or continue a course of action with soft intent born of soft insight, is a monumental achievement, a signature of mastery, an indicator of a highly discerning mind and heart.

Tao Te Ching, Verse 43

As you may already know, the Tao Te Ching is best read as one long flowing continuous text.

In verse 42, we are counseled to be mindful of compensatory striving, of hanging on for dear life to the people, places, and things that we have come to love and cherish.

In verse 43, we are counseled to be mindful of forcing life through tiny channels into tiny boxes for the sake of mere comfort and convenience.

The softest of all things
overrides the hardest of all things.
That without substance
enters where there is no space.
Hence I know the value of nonaction.

Teaching without words,
performing without actions –
few in this world can grasp it –
this is the master’s way.
Rare indeed are those
who obtain the bounty of this world.

Edited slightly by yours truly to enhance the flow of text

Ref: Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao

The unseen, the unheard, the unknown: all have their place in meaningful coincidence.

My Impressions of the Verse

Inner guidance is about following gut instincts, listening to the heart, being mindful of motives and reasons.

But we don’t always have the time to consider consequences, address feelings, or contemplate wisdom.

The softest of all things
overrides the hardest of all things.
That without substance
enters where there is no space.
Hence I know the value of nonaction.

Intuition is lightning quick and the small voice within can sometimes be wise beyond words.

The formless informs and transforms: sometimes no action is the very best action of all.

Teaching without words,
performing without actions –
few in this world can grasp it –
this is the master’s way.
Rare indeed are those
who obtain the bounty of this world.

Aligned with the Way, there is nothing you can’t accomplish, nothing you can’t have: this is the promise of those who would have you observe and listen to the unseen and the unheard.

Implications for Personal Fulfillment

What are the implications of proceeding softly for the sake of personal fulfillment?

Let me speak of consequences: proceeding softly, as water, keeps me fluid and flexible in the face of obstacles, in the face of perceived problems, difficulties, challenges, inadequacies.

To proceed softly is to proceed vibrationally, emotionally, mentally, physically.

When I remain transfixed by the surface play of things, where everything seems to “matter”, I become hardened to experience. I am less fluid, less flexible in my alertness and responsiveness.

As I soften my relationship with physicality, with the physical dimension of experience, my mentality has more room to breathe, to clarify and be clarified. I am not so invested, not so attached to desired outcomes.

With mental clarity, I have the space I require to feel what I feel as and when I feel, allowing me to see the value, appreciate the meaning, and convey the blessing as necessary or desired or appropriate.

With emotional security and stability, I am privy to my vibrational state in my current situation or circumstances and I can reference this state of being as and when I assess the state of being of another.

In a natural order, all of these somatic layers of experience are accessible and available to me for the sake of simplicity and practicality.

Practically speaking, the watercourse way offers a welcome reprieve from constant pushing and pulling, forcing and feigning, controlling and demanding. As I soften expectation, attitude, and behavior, I can tap into every level of my experience.

A softer approach to life can open up possibilities, attracting opportunities. I need not try so hard.

As an exercise, enjoy a day of relative silence. Speak only when necessary, and when you do speak, speak softly, without telling yourself or anyone else what to do or how to do it.

As a witness to the course of your day, observe the course of your life in the spirit of the watercourse way. Acquire a taste for loving the fruits of vulnerability and for loving the fruits of vulnerability.

I hereby allow myself to proceed softly and mindfully with heartfelt assurance as and when this is possible – to start, stop, and continue courses of action with soft intent born of soft insight.

Next up: On Living Fruitfully (Living by Knowing When to Stop)

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This post is one of many in an ongoing series that began here.

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