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The Timeless Tao Today

The Tao Te Ching. Lao Tzu.

Commentary on Chapter 2.

tao te ching

Duality and Detachment.

Duality is like the two sides of the same coin. There cannot be one without the other. We cannot know beauty without the concept of ugly. There is no good without bad. We can’t appreciate feeling happy if we haven’t felt sad. Success is the other side to failure.

When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises
When it knows good as good, evil arises
Thus being and non-being produce each other
Difficult and easy bring about each other
Long and short reveal each other
High and low support each other
Music and voice harmonize each other
Front and back follow each other
Therefore the sages:
Manage the work of detached actions
Conduct the teaching of no words
They work with myriad things but do not control
They create but do not possess
They act but do not presume
They succeed but do not dwell on success
It is because they do not dwell on success
That it never goes away.

(Translation by Derek Lin. Tao Te Ching. Tao and Virtue Classic)

tao mountain refection lake

Lao Tzu was an ancient Chinese philosopher and poet who lived in the 6th century. His name means ‘Old or Venerable Master.’ There is some debate whether he actually wrote the Tao Te Ching or if it was written as a compilation by many others. There are also many myths about him, including that he lived for 600 years and that he actually didn’t exist at all! However he is regarded as the traditional founder of Taoism.

These Taoist blogs have been inspired by Amy Putkonen of
Amy posts a chapter every Tuesday and invites fellow bloggers to do the same. Please join with us and comment below or send your commentary to me through the contact page and I will post it with a link back to your website.


When we understand that our mind is dualistic, we don’t judge others. Having compassion doesn’t mean that we tolerate unacceptable behaviour. When someone is angry with us we simply know that we too can be angry! We can also be peaceful at times. One day we feel up and the next, we are down. This is our normal life, unconsciously repeating habitual thoughts and patterns.

In Process Oriented Psychology, we talk about the dreaming level where duality is expressed as polarities. We swing from one side to the other. For example, in a relationship, we are in the ‘high dream’, the best things can be until we then swing to the other side, ‘the low dream’ which is the worst that can happen. If we know how to go deeper into these emotions it allows us to go beyond duality into the essence, which is being ‘at one’ as demonstrated in Chapter 1 of the Tao te Ching.

We sometimes have a glimpse of feeling totally interconnected with everything when we have a ‘peak’ experience or we are just in the flow of things. As soon as we we start thinking again about what is happening or what we are doing, we are back in our dualistic mind again.


In Buddhism there is deep understanding of the relative dualistic mind. Meditation teaches us to watch and bring awareness to our thoughts and feelings rather than getting caught up in thinking the same thing over and over. In meditation, we do not engage with our thoughts. We just watch them like a cloud in the sky and then they disappear. We just keep watching our thoughts and feelings dissolve and feel calm and peaceful. The difference in psychotherapy is that we delve deeply into all the stories in our dualistic mind, like diving deep into the sea. Then we can let go of them, like coming out of the water and shaking all the droplets off ourself.

The wise sage is not attached to anything and also does not  suffer from aversion ie. S/he has no likes or dislikes. This seems impossible for us normal human beings.  However this is what traps us in the world of ‘samsara’ which means we just keep going round in circles. We move towards what we like and move away from we don’t like. This causes us to suffer as unlike a wise person, we cannot just flow with whatever just is, without reacting one way or the other.


The true teacher teaches by example, demonstrates rather than speaks, does by not doing and is naturally  in the flow of life.  If we don’t embody what we are teaching others, it is all for nothing. We are merely mouthing words rather than living the true Tao. Less is more. Maybe using humour to defuse a tense situation or being kind to someone who is upset or bringing awareness to yourself when you feel grumpy.

When people work together and there is success, the leader knows that the team did it, not them.

Nelson Mandela said, “Lead from the back and let others believe they are in front.”

Lao Tzu himself says, ” A Leader is best when people know he barely exists. When his work is done , his aim fulfilled, they we say : we did it ourselves.”  

Whenever there is control, there is no Tao. Controlling comes from the will, the fearful mind. When we can work with all sorts of different people and situations, true success comes from embodying fluidity and transparency. We are not concerned with power, recognition, money or fame. We realize we are successful but know that things are impermanent and can change at any time. We can be rich and powerful one day and living on the street the next. This has truely been demonstrated recently in the global financial meltdown which started in 2008.


In fact, if we shift the paradigm of success or failure to one of learning, we free ourselves from attachment. So many of us are trying to prove to ourselves and others that we can be successful. Ambition drives so many of us to the exclusion of other values in our life.  An attitude of  learning paradoxically often means we are more successful because we take the stress, pressure and judgement off ourselves.  Living in each moment with no egoistic clinging means that because there is no concept of gain or loss, we no longer have anything to lose!

“Praise and blame, gain and loss, pleasure and sorrow come and go like the wind. To be happy, rest like a giant tree in the midst of them all” The Buddha.


About the Author
Sherry (BSc. Sociology; MAA. Social Work, AMHSW; Masters Science Soc. Ecology; Diplomate, Process Psychology) is a faculty Director of ANZPOP.

She has offered expert psychological counselling in Australia and overseas since 1989. Sherry is currently based in both the Sydney CBD and on the Northern Beaches near Manly. She also offers national and international phone and Skype appointments.

If you would like more information or wish to reference something you have read on this website please contact Sherry.

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