The first time I read Chapter 16 of the Tao Te Ching, I was a classic clueless blonde. It flew so far over my head that I didn’t see it coming or going, but I needn’t have worried so much about it all really. The Tao, being a natural process, is quite relentless.
Just as I would get a nice tan, and even get burned to a crisp if I stay out in the sun too long, regardless whether I realized it or not, I found that the Tao affected me in the same way. It wasn’t that I got any smarter, but just hanging out with Taoist friends was all that it took, and somehow, I seemed to have absorbed it into my skin in spite of myself. One day, I read it and it was a cryptic jungle—the next day I read it, and it made perfect sense!
Tao Te Ching – Chapter 16
Translated by Derek Lin
Attain the ultimate emptiness
Hold on to the truest tranquility
The myriad things are all active
I therefore watch their return
Everything flourishes; each returns to its root
Returning to the root is called tranquility
Tranquility is called returning to one’s nature
Returning to one’s nature is called constancy
Knowing constancy is called clarity
Not knowing constancy, one recklessly causes trouble
Knowing constancy is acceptance
Acceptance is impartiality
Impartiality is sovereign
Sovereign is Heaven
Heaven is Tao
Tao is eternal
The self is no more, without danger
To be sovereign is to possess authentic power—not power over other people, but power over oneself. It is the profound realization that we are ultimately responsible for creating our own reality. We have the ultimate authority over our own destiny. Our sacred task in life is to learn how to exercise this sovereign power wisely.
In my simple understanding of Chapter 16, it is all about connecting the dots and turning the correct cogs in the correct order, at the precise time required, so that a desired end-result is achieved upon a predetermined timeframe.
Chapter 16 of the TTC clearly states that there is a pattern to the universe. It is cyclical in nature, and everything drives everything else. How I see the world is very different from how another person may see the world, so I will attempt to explain my vision, and how my understanding of my vision allows me to attempt that ‘sacred task in life – to learn how to exercise this sovereign power wisely’.