Tao Te Ching, Verse 64: One Step at a Time

Although similar to the verse on baby steps, this verse is a powerful reminder not to care too much about what needs to be done, but to draw your attention back to what you are doing. That’s certainly something I could practice a lot more.

Verse 64 [my interpretation]

A rolling ball is easiest to stop before it gains momentum.
What is not yet manifest is easy to prevent.
Act before things exist,
manage before there is disorder;
prevent problems to avoid having to solve them.

Remember:
The tree that fills a man’s embrace begins with a seedling.
A tower nine stories high begins with a single brick.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Act, and it is destroyed.
Grasp, and it is lost.
The wise woman never aspires nor attaches,
and thus she never loses nor destroys.
People usually fail when they’re on the verge of success,
so give as much care at the end as at the beginning.

The wise woman does not attach to what is difficult to obtain.
She does not hoard treasure, or cling to ideas.
She helps all things discover their own nature,
but does not presume to lead them by the nose.

If your goal is writing a novel, don’t stress about the thousand pages you are hoping to write. Put your pen to the page (or fingers to the keys) and, just for today, write the starting paragraph. The future is unpredictable and will never come; it is only in the present that you have the power to change anything. So do something now without worrying about whether you can do it tomorrow. An example that springs to mind is the 30 Day Cold Shower Challenge that I began. I went to training one night, heard about it from Rob (who reminded me of Kancho’s opinion that people have it too easy nowadays and that we don’t have to struggle for anything) and went home to a cold shower that very night. It involved flinching and shivering, despite my practice and techniques to bear it, and I climbed out miserable but determined. The next day was easier, though not pleasant on a winter’s eve. Day by day it got easier and easier until, two weeks into the challenge, it’s no longer a bother for me. I think that first one was so hard because I knew what to expect, and I spent much of that shower going “Why am I doing this? Why don’t I turn on the hot water?” The next time it was easier because I didn’t let myself question my choices or contemplate an alternative, I just did it. And so, one day at a time, it became pleasurable without my realising it. Who knows what the future brings if you just focus on the step you’re taking right now?

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