Never Self-Punish

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 59


Moderation is the best way to care for our affairs.
It frees us from fixed plans that waste our power.
We never punish ourselves for things we do or don’t do,
so our power remains available.
With it we can respond
to the shifting winds of life
and use everything for good.

We are able to take care of our affairs,
no matter how complicated,
with the gentle ease of a mother caring for her child.

Deeply rooted in our practice,
we never become confused
or lose our way.


Self-punishment is energy-sapping and vicious. It is a futile attempt at “self-improvement” that instead accomplishes the opposite. Simply noting that something I did didn’t accomplish my intention is sufficient.
For me, self-punishment is set up by having fixed ideas of how things should unfold. When my fixed ideas are not met (and they never are!), my conditioned mind always interprets it as “my fault.” Even when the responsibility lies solidly with other people, my mind will go to; “I should have known…”
The simile of a mother caring for a child is an apt one. Parenting is always complicated by having fixed ideas about a child and that child’s behavior. Simply responding, moment by moment, without blame or self-reproach keeps the parent’s energy and clarity intact.
So it is with my moments here in Mt. Shasta. The plumber has fixed the pipes and the sheetrock installer is hard at work. Next comes the painters (me and Nancy). Just one step at a time, with time for relaxing with a beer at the end of the day and watching the hares nibble the grass in the field while the stars slowly appear.

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