Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 45

This chapter reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13:12 – For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face. We think we see clearly, but when we look through the fog of our own judgments and beliefs, our hopes and fears, we see illusion yet think it real. We try to make sense of the paradox of our perceptions, seeking the safety of certainty instead of the mystery of truth.

Great perfection seems imperfect
Yet its use is not impaired

Great fullness seems empty
Yet its use is not exhausted

Great truth seems wrong
Great skill seems clumsy
Great eloquence seems awkward
Great richness seems poor

The repeated use of the character for “seems” suggests that things are not always as they appear. Or, as the saying goes, don’t believe everything you think.

This is especially true of the second couplet above. The fullness that appears empty is the unlimited potential of the formless, undifferentiated Tao, the source of the entire manifested universe.

In martial arts we practice wuji stance, or empty stance, as pictured above. From this perfectly aligned, relaxed stance, all movement is possible. The internal circulation of qi (energy) is unrestricted; the potential for outward expression of power is unlimited.

We can cultivate this same “stance” in our lives, by finding our inner balance and alignment. When we are fully present with an attitude of open awareness, we engage with life as it truly is, as we truly are. We see face to face.

Every object, every creature, every man, woman and child
has a soul,
and it is the destiny of all
to see as God sees, 
to know as God knows,
to feel as God feels, 
to Be
as God
~Meister Eckhart

18 thoughts on “Tao Te Ching – Chapter 45”

  1. I'm reminded, Galen, in that second couplet that unless I choose to empty myself of pride and grasping, I cannot experience the fullness of joy and abundance God wishes for me and for all of us. When we focus on ourselves, the well runs dry. We need to humble the ego, and submit to the living waters.
    Blessings, dear friend!

  2. Indeed, Martha. Like the story of the Zen master pouring tea for the pontificating professor. When the cup filled and spilled over onto the floor, the professor said, "Stop. No more will go in!" "You are like this cup," said the master. "You must empty yourself before you can receive teaching."

  3. 'We try to make sense of the paradox of our perceptions, seeking the safety of certainty instead of the mystery of truth.'

    It has been proven over and over again in history that our need for "the safety of certainty" has killed creativity, innovation and the search for truth. The dark ages in Europe was a good example of how an ideology based on a certainty of belief was forced on the masses and it restrained all growth in its wake for 1000 years. We will never search for greater truth as long as we hold absolute certainty in our current perceptions and beliefs. If we do search for truth beyond what we already believe to be true, it will cause cognitive dissonance to such a degree that we may be forced to abandon our former beliefs and assumptions. This is very a painful process and most would rather continue to rest in the safety of certainty then search for the mystery of truth which by its nature is uncertain. However, it is a paradox that its only when we embrace uncertainty and seek after truth that we find true freedom. The truth will set us free to explore the mystery of life. As long as we are trapped in our certainties, even if they are illusory, we are enslaved in our mental concepts of what we think reality is.

  4. Well said, Brian. Studies have shown that we are more afraid of uncertainty than we are of physical pain. Our brains are wired to come up with answers. As one writer said, to impose order on our experience. That is a strong compulsion, reinforced and rewarded in our culture especially.

    By the way, left another comment on your current post.

  5. I was caught up in the safety of certainty of belief for 35 years as I have already expressed on your blog before. It was my desire to know greater truth that caused the dissonance in myself about 7-8 years ago. But, rather then run back to the comfort of certainty within my belief system, I embraced uncertainty, and went for truth. I have no regrets because its been the most fascinating years of my life. Unfortunately I can't get my concept of God back in the former box of belief. This new vision of what God is will not fit inside the old box. You can't put new wine in old wine-skins is a phrase from the new testament
    (Matt 9:17). I think this applies here.

  6. I really appreciate your posts, Galen. This one speaks to me, the stance from which all movement can come. I'm beginning to think I must be a Buddhist in my heart. I'm reading "The Dalai Lama's Cat" right now and learning so much! 🙂

  7. We are ALL Buddhists at heart, DJan–Ha! We might call it different names, and have different vocabulary to describe it, but we are all implanted with "homing beacons" that call us to truth.

  8. 'Great truth seems wrong'

    I believe there is a reluctance to accept what others have to say when one feels they have the only truth. If it don't fit inside of their data set of belief, then it gets discarded as coming from 'the enemy' . This dualistic thinking of the imagined enemy, in the other, keeps people in their own dark age thinking. To love our neighbor is to hear our neighbor. When we hear the world and listen to their truth, then we see clearly, the big picture. We see greater truth when we clean the dirty window of our perception and see others face to face.

  9. I love the thought of finding inner balance and alighment. It may be a life time endeavor for me.
    The very last quote is the best and rings true to me. According to the writings of Moses; all things had a spiritual creation before a physical – temporal creation. All God’s creastions acknowledge him except perhaps those who are blinded by the philosophies of men.
    Thanks for these ideas today! Always something to think about.
    Sending loving thoughts and hugs!

  10. Really enjoyed this post, Galen. It reminded me of what changes I went through in my midlife 'transition' which rendered me painfully empty – but that was really a new beginning, for new beliefs, with old 'truths'formed from social programming discarded, a new openness,and a feeling of circularity coming back to the real me with a new freedom. I love the way these different philosophies can intersect and enhance one another. It's quite a revelation to me! Life is always a struggle one way or another for all of us,but having a still empty place to go to is a special thing indeed.

  11. I love this piece from Brian! I think I'll hop over to your blog. In my mid-life crisis I was forced to let go of what I held to be truths. I remember how the uncertainty felt so awful and frightening. But slowly it became a place of strength – not overtly, but quietly. And I certainly felt set free..

  12. I went through a midlife transformation as well, Lynne. How I had been operating just wasn't working anymore and was damaging to my health–physical and mental. I came out on the other side of that change much more relaxed and happy. I think these changes often happen in midlife because we wear ourselves out and we are just too tired to struggle so much anymore! Yes, there is still pain, and we face challenges, but we handle it with more equanimity. Like the serenity prayer says, we find the courage to change the things we can, the serenity to accept the things we can't, and the wisdom to know the difference!

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