Flexible and Open

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 76


Before we are conditioned by all the “dos and don’ts” of life,
we are naturally tender and gentle.
As we grow old, we constrict around these conditions
and end up dying stiff and rigid.
Indeed all living things begin soft and supple
and end up brittle and dry.

So we see that hardness and inflexibility are signs of death,
and that tenderness and gentleness are signs of life.

It is the ability of an army to change its plans
that keeps it from defeat.
It is the ability of a tree to bend in the wind
that keeps it from toppling.
Our natural tenderness
is our true strength.


The “stiffness” of body is sometimes inevitable as we age, though there is much we can do to remain physically flexible – Qigong, Yoga, Taiji, etc. However, the corresponding “stiffness” of mind is not inevitable. Softness of expression; tenderness of heart; flexible adaptation to change; and willingness to let the River of Tao carry us along are qualities that are available to all, without exception.

The difficulty I have living out these qualities comes from the conditioned expectations my culture has so firmly planted in my brain. All the “shoulds” and “oughts” rise to the surface and attempt to keep me braced against the flow of life. These inner voices want to circle the wagons and protect my ideas and opinions lest anything break through to change things.

I want to live today with flexibility of body, but even more, with flexibility of mind. Let my mind be awake and able to dance with life this day.

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