Welcome to this week’s installment of the Toon-Te-Ching. Each week we are taking one of the 81 verses of the Tao-Te-Ching, pairing it with a toon and connecting the teaching to our work life.
The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It flows to low places loathed by all men.
Therefore, it is like the Tao.
Live in accordance with the nature of things.
In dwelling, be close to the land.
In meditation, go deep in the heart. In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.
Stand by your word.
Govern with equity.
Be timely in choosing the right moment.
One who lives in accordance with nature does not go against the way of things.
He moves in harmony with the present moment,
always knowing the truth of just what to do.
Go with the flow. The basic lesson here is to go with the flow. The analogy to water suggests that we are more powerful when we are just being than when we are trying too hard. Water seems very neutral but it is also very powerful; think Niagara Falls. Leaning into your natural flow is much more powerful than fighting it.
‘One who lives in accordance with nature does not go against the way of things.’ This phrase does not mean you should go along to get along. Do not mistake this to mean that when everyone wants to form a lynch mob you should join in. What it means is that you should deeply know what is right, and follow that. Notice he says “in accordance with nature”, not in “accordance with the crowd.” Be careful not to mistake society’s influence for human nature.
I’ve got friends in low places. Lao-Tzu makes a point of noting that water flows to “low places, loathed by all men.” The first idea is that the natural flow of water is downward, the opposite of trying to ‘claw your way to the top’. In the workplace, this doesn’t mean to try and get demoted, but it does caution against a constant focus on moving up or impressing those at the top. It also suggests staying close to those at the bottom of the organizational hierarchy. I once witnessed an executive who refused to meet with anyone more than 1 level below him. That mandate spread like wildfire and he quickly became the least popular executive in that company.
“If you judge people you have no time to love them” - Mother Teresa
What does “loathed by all men” mean? This brings to mind Mother Teresa, who focused her life solely on the least fortunate people in society. Embrace the low places and the people there because these are a part of life. In the workplace, this means showing as much respect to the janitor as you show to the CEO. Ask any Administrative Assistant for a character assessment of a potential hire. An Administrative Assistant knows who you are immediately by how you treat them.
Brain Twist: Today at work, pay attention to the people and the work that might be in ‘low places’. Is there a loathsome task that might need nourishment? How can you flow into those areas?
Translation from: Dyer, Wayne. Change Your Thoughts - Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. Hay House. Kindle Edition.