5 Life Changing Lessons From the Tao Te Ching

We all have areas of life where we’re not at peace…

It could be in our relationships, where we may feel anger, resentment, jealousy or a lack of understanding. It may be in our career, where stress, tension and disappointment leave us feeling empty and unfilled. It might be that our finances leave us feeling overextended and overwhelmed.

If you feel a general sense of anxiety about these and other problems, you may be trying to self-medicate with compulsive working, eating, shopping or drinking.

The real problem is that you’re not at peace in your world…

Your power to change the world is limited, but you do have power over your own thinking.

According to the Tao Te Ching, the first step on the path to peace is to change your attitudes.

For example, say that you are unhappy with your home because it is smaller than the homes of your friends or relatives. Instead of living with dissatisfaction, you can change your thinking and learn to be contented with your home. It provides shelter, which is really all you need.

When you accept the fact that your home satisfies all your basic needs, you will be closer to achieving inner peace.

The Tao Te Ching is an ancient Chinese book of wisdom that was written more than 2,000 years ago…

It has been translated more than any other book in the world except the Bible. This deceptively simple volume has been described as an instruction manual for the art of living; its title is often translated as The Book of the Way. It consists of 81 verses that describe a way of life that’s peaceful, balanced and in harmony with nature.

The Tao is attributed to Lao-Tzu, but little is known about the author…

He left his book for the ages and disappeared without a trace. The central figure of the Tao is The Master, who may be either a man or woman (the Chinese language doesn’t distinguish between genders). The Master has achieved peace by giving up all judgment and desire, surrendering to the Tao and becoming one with Nature.

In terms of contentment, the Tao contains several nuggets of truth that are especially relevant in our material age.

Here are 5 essential life lessons from the Tao Te Ching that can help you obtain everyday contentment…

LESSON #1: Seek Simplicity

“When there is no desire, all things are at peace.” – Tao 37

People who focus exclusively on accumulating possessions are allowing their lives to be controlled by external forces. The Tao tells us that the mindless pursuit of wealth and status leads to discontent, dishonesty and a breakdown in morals. Instead of working to accumulate more possessions, the Tao suggests that we seek simplicity and learn how to be more content with what we have. By emptying our minds of thoughts about our material status in the world, we will be free to concentrate on contributing to the well-being of others.

LESSON #2: Overcome Fear

“Success is as dangerous as failure…Whether you go up the ladder or down it,your position is shaky.” – Tao 13

Many people attain success and see their dreams come true, but they spend their days haunted by the fear of bad fortune and failure. Anxiety and fear poison any enjoyment they may have in their own success. Ignoring fear won’t make it go away – it must be faced and vanquished. When we face our fears, we can regain the energy that we expend in worrying and apply it to activities that will to bring greater contentment into our lives.

LESSON #3: Rethink Your Priorities

“Practice not-doing,and everything will fall into place.” – Tao 3

The concept Wu-Wei or “not-doing” is one of the more difficult aspects of Taoism for Westerners to comprehend. The Tao is not advocating laziness and inactivity but is instead instructing us to ignore our ego-driven search for status and wealth and allow ourselves to be guided by the Tao. Instead of being caught in an endless cycle of procuring and seeking wealth and status, the way to contentment can be followed by becoming part of the natural flow of life.

LESSON #4: Imitate Water

“When it confronts a wall of stone,Gentleness overcomes rigidity; the power of water prevails.” – Tao 78

The Tao tells us that by imitating water and learning to yield, we can overcome great obstacles. Like the slow and steady current of a river that can wear down rock over time, we can overcome obstacles by adopting a soft approach. Because water is soft, it can never be broken. The Tao encourages us to examine our thinking about hardness and softness, strength and weakness. Instead of trying to dominate and control situations, you can gain more contentment by learning to flow along the course of least resistance.

LESSON #5: Take One Day at a Time

“The giant pine tree grows from a tiny sprout.The journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath your feet.” – Tao 64

This is the most well-known Tao verse of them all. It reminds us that all goals are achieved one step at a time, but nothing will happen until we take the first step. We can learn from the cycle of growth that we see in nature. Just as it seems a miracle that the giant pine begins as a tiny seed, we have the potential to do great things if we just have faith and take the first step. We can foster a growing sense of contentment in our hearts by reminding ourselves that slow and steady progress can get us where we need to go.

For a modern interpretation of the wisdom of Tao, read Dr. Wayne Dyer’s Change Your Thoughts – Change Your Life.

Dr. Dyer was a former guidance counselor with a doctorate in education who become one of the world’s leading self-help authors and lecturers. If you’d like to experience the wisdom of the Tao firsthand, one of the very best sources is this translation by Stephen Mitchell.