30 Day Cold Shower Challenge

A blog post I wrote for TINO.

***

About a month ago, my friend Rob turned to me after training one night and said “Man, have you heard of the 30 Day Cold Shower Challenge? I’ve been doing it for a few days now and it is amazing.” That’s all I needed to hear to try it. In fact, he could have stopped at the word “challenge” and I would have been in- I’ve always enjoyed pushing my physical limits to see just how much I can survive.

My reasons were simple: I wanted to make life harder. All things considered, we have things pretty cosy: hot water at the turn of a tap, exotic vegetables available at a local supermarket, being able to travel almost anywhere in the world within the space of a few hours… A hundred years ago, many of our ancestors could not imagine such luxury. In short, our society has enjoyed such convenience that we’ve become accustomed to it, and we’ve forgotten just how little people need to survive. I wanted to remind myself how good I had it, and to toughen up a bit in the process.

Admittedly, it was kind of a blockheaded idea to jump on the bandwagon without really knowing what I was getting into or why, especially in late winter/early spring. Nevertheless, I later discovered that there’s more to be gained than just mental discipline. Apparently there’s a whole list of health benefits! People who take cold showers can expect to feel more energy, less muscle soreness, greater immune strength, improved organ function, less pain, less stress and healthier skin and hair, among other things.

Without knowing any of this, I went home that night, stripped off my clothes and stared nervously at the shower head. I’d had cold showers before on a previous martial arts training camp, so I knew that what I was in for would involve discomfort and gasping and flinching. I was right. I decided I’d start the water off at about a 50:50 ratio of hot:cold and work down from there. It was intense. My muscles had long since cooled during the half hour drive home, and pretty soon I was shivering as I tried to shampoo my hair. I crawled out of that first shower, shaking and freezing, but glowing with a sense of triumph.

The second shower wasn’t so bad. I had suffered one cold shower already, and there was no way I was going to have endured that suffering for nothing. So I started the water at about a 30:70 hot:cold ratio and tentatively let the water cool first my left arm, then my right arm, then my left leg, then my right leg. By cooling small parts of my body, my core body temperature dropped so that when I immersed my torso it wasn’t nearly so unpleasant. After a few minutes, I found that the water temperature didn’t really make much of a difference- cold was cold, or put another way, lack of heat was lack of heat. I turned the hot water off entirely and just got on with cleaning myself as quickly as possible.

Around Day 5, I was sweaty and dirty, it was around 11pm and I was in no mood for another biting shower after a painful session of training. But I had set the challenge for myself, and I wasn’t going to back down. I turned on the cold tap, gasped a little, and then just got on with it. After two minutes, I turned off the tap, climbed out and felt surprised that it was so easy to clean myself, especially when I didn’t let myself have a choice about it. If I had gone “Oh man, I really don’t feel like this. Maybe tonight I’ll use a little (or a lot) of hot water”, my suffering would have been unending. When you don’t have any alternatives, you just do what you need to do and there’s nothing to complain about.

A couple of times I managed to shower while my muscles were still hot from training/exercise. On these occasions, I found that I could I just stand in the shower, turn on the tap and let it hit me full in the chest/back without flinching. There might have been slight gasps, but they were reflexive, not due to discomfort. (One of the body’s defence mechanisms for plunging into cold water is to automatically take a quick breath. Cool, right?). It was like my heart was insulated by heat, and though I could feel the sensation of cold running over my skin, my body glowed with warmth from inside.

Around Day 8 I started enjoying my showers more. There were still a few seconds of gasping and flinching, but for the most part, the cool running water began to feel exquisite. I came out, fresh and happy without any fear of cold. I wished I could share the amazing sense of strength and clarity, of joy and resilience with everyone I met.

Don’t be fooled by the beautiful view: it got pretty damn nippy at sunset.

Yet despite it all, I’m a little sad to say I failed the challenge. On the most recent martial arts training camp I was on, I managed to maintain my practice of cold showers in the mountain ranges, up until the last few days of the week. After one freezing session of yoga as the sun set in the canola fields, I thought the pleasure of feeling warmth would outweigh the displeasure of failing the challenge. It didfeel great, but only for the first few seconds- then my body adjusted to the temperature and it felt the same as any other shower, except I didn’t want to get out. It’s not so much that I enjoyed being in the jet of warm water as flinched at exposing myself to the cool air- a problem I didn’t have when I took cold showers. So it was, around Day 25 of the challenge that I failed it. I also failed Day 26 after that freezing night in a mountain cave, but I consider that shower well worth it.

So my challenge is officially over! Not that I’m letting it stop me. Despite not seeing it through to completion, I’m still taking showers every day. (Well, usually every second day, or whenever I need them. I don’t believe it’s necessary to take showers or change clothes unless you’ve been working up a sweat- a few generations ago, people only bathed/changed into their “Sunday best” once a week. This practice of swapping clothes and scouring the body every day is quite modern, and quite bad for your hair, skin, clothes and the environment.) Apart from saving a significant amount of water and energy, it just feels good. I’m not suggesting you try it, but if you do, you might be pleasantly surprised at the results.

Keep fresh everybody!

Xin.

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My mantle is free!

I don’t normally blog about my day, because to be quite honest my days usually aren’t all that interesting. But in a rather delightful change of pace, I had a perfectly lovely day out with Bethwyn.

 

After the morning fitness class, I went to Bethwyn’s house and had a cold shower and breakfast. Although I had planned to do my morning ritual and get ready for a day in the city, I had slept poorly during the night due to a rather gruesome nightmare and I really needed to sleep. My half hour nap turned into a two hour one, which Beth bore with dignity and patience (and just a little irritation). But after a groggy start and some sweet piano tunes (I’m surprised at how well my fingers remember the keys even if my mind doesn’t), we started shuffling along.

We hit up the library to return some books, then dropped into the local health food store to buy some rather obscure gluten-free flours (in order to make gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free cookies!). They didn’t really have what we were after, but we were hoping that Kakulas Sisters in Fremantle would have the ones we needed. The problem was getting there: it became quickly apparent to me that Beth was running out of health and energy, and that the long journey there by public transport might be more than she could weather. After a quick conference, we decided to drive, and I managed to get us reasonably close to the city centre with only a vague idea of where we were going.

Our destination was some kind of Sacred Food restaurant she had discovered on the internet that catered for vegan and gluten-free diets. It was a long, long wander, and we got distracted by Kathmandu on the way (I LOVE KATHMANDU). As we got progressively hotter, tireder and grumpier we managed to happen upon the street, but couldn’t find the building. Having finally given up on our half hour search, we decided to eat in a cafe we had passed along the way. After ordering the first edible-sounding items on their limited menu, we discovered that this really was the cafe we had been searching for and it had changed its name. The burgers were mindblowingly amazing (Beth had several lingering foodgasms during and after the consumption of said burger) and the juice was delicious and voluminous. High off the deliciousness of it all, we swaggered down the road and bought some ski-gloves for my upcoming trip to London, then wandered leisurely back towards the Blue Buddha.

Along the way, we were drawn into a Cold Rock ice cream store. As a kid, I remember watching the add and getting really excited about smashing stuff and putting it in ice cream. Even though I didn’t particularly crave it, I pulled Beth in anyway to see the magic. Unfortunately no magic was being made, so I rectified it by ordering a cheesecake ice cream with Kitkat, Mars bar and cookie dough. It was amazing, though I’ll probably steer clear of the Mars bar, whose caramel solidified into a delicious mess (which I drooled all over. God I love ice cream. But wait, aren’t I vegan, you ask? Well yes, except for my one designated non-vegan meal a week (more on that another day).

The Blue Buddha we discovered didn’t have any blue lace agate, which I had promised to buy for Bethwyn having lost her previous crystal. The shop was modestly small with a really friendly French girl who served us, but lacking the goods, she directed us to the bigger Blue Buddha around the corner. Hoping to make it our last stop, we decided to hit up Kakulas Sisters first, which is one of my favourite stores in the world. All the organic, super healthy food invigorates me just by being around it! We found all the flour we were after, despite how arcane and obscure I thought it would be, and left as happy campers.

The Blue Buddha around the corner turned out to be massive, and we marvelled over the crystals (fire agate felt hot in my left hand and cold in my right hand. Weird, right?) and drooled over the oracle cards. I was fascinated in particular by a deck that featured Asian warriors and beauties of all descriptions with startling imagery and compelling expressions. I went through each card, captivated and enchanted, and Beth ended up getting it. I’m keen to pour over the art in closer detail and admiration in the near future.

Finally, nearly four hours later, we decided to make the long trek back to the car. But what should greet us along the way? Donuts. Hot, freshly made donuts, served right out of a caravan by a guy who might have been slightly racist. And they were freaking delicious.

What a wonderful day out! So many highlights <3 Hope you’ve all enjoyed your hump days, too! Take care everyone.

Simply Living

Another blog I wrote for TINO just after gashuku.

***

Life is simple. Really, really simple. I’ve come to believe that all you really need to be happy is food, sleep, and shelter from the elements. Companionship is good too, if you have some handy. Everything else is superfluous and just serves to complicate things.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently returned from a week-long martial arts training camp held in the mountains. Life was exceedingly simple: sleep, eat, and train, all day long. Within that week we spent two days and a night climbing several mountains, and all we took with us was whatever food, water and survival gear we could carry on our backs. After a frigid and restless night in a cave, we climbed across the remaining mountains and journeyed back to camp. Having spent the night in the cold, I was overjoyed to crawl back into the small two-person tent that I was sharing: it was waterproof, windproof, and I even had enough space to put my bag down next to my training clothes! As I sat there in blissful gratitude, I realised just how little a person needs to be happy. All I really had were my clothes, some water bottles and a sleeping bag, but I was so extremely grateful to be alive, and to enjoy the great fortune of being able to breathe fresh air and feel pure sunlight on my face.

And the funny thing is, life didn’t change when I returned to the city. The air didn’t disappear and the sun didn’t stop shining. All the really important and pleasurable things in life (like sunrises, and tiny forms of life) were still right there, available for anyone to enjoy. It was like being initiated into a secret club where happiness could be found everywhere you looked, if only you knew that you were looking right at it.

Really, how much more could you need?

Although it’s tempting to just pick up a tent and head out into the wilderness, I’m not quite brave enough to make that choice (though I know of remarkable people who have, such as Alexander Supertramp). Life among people, although full of unimportant rubbish and an overwhelming amount of capitalist idealism, can still be enjoyed simply.

Recently I’ve been reading the Tao Te Ching, an ancient philosophical text on Taoism, and in one of its verses it says that there are three treasures in life: love, simplicity and humility. In the spirit of simplicity, I recently gave almost half my wardrobe to charity, and cleared out my drawers of all the old stuff I’d accumulated. It felt so darn liberating to make some space in my life, and to know exactly what I owned and where I could find it.

Here’s something quick you could do to help you feel how great it is to let go. Grab your phone right now. Go on, go ahead, I’ll wait for you. Got it? Good! Open up your contacts list and look at all the people you’ve added over the years. How many of them do you still call/text? Are there any names that you have no idea who they belong to or why you added them? Go through the whole list and delete any number you haven’t called/used in a few months unless you’re hanging onto them for a specific reason. It took me about half an hour to go through all of mine, and it felt so great to trim away all the useless baggage that I was still hanging on to. You can do the same thing for your Facebook friend list, or for your wardrobe, or for anything in your life.

My favourite Buddhist monk, Ajahn Brahm, once told the story of his mother’s mantelpiece. In English homes, the mantelpiece is the place of honour above the fireplace where a family might display trophies, photos or treasured memorabilia. When Ajahn Brahm returned to England, his followers gave him a small kangaroo to bring back for his mother as a souvenir. She instantly put it on her mantelpiece, proudly displaying it as a reminder of her son. A few years later he visited her again, and one of his followers gave him a stuffed platypus to give her as a souvenir. Again, she was delighted at the present and put it on her mantelpiece next to the kangaroo. The third time he visited, someone gave him a rather large wombat, and when he gave it to his mother, she excitedly added it to her collection. But when she tried to fit the wombat on the shelf, the kangaroo fell off the other end. And when she tried to put the kangaroo on, the platypus was squeezed out the middle. Ajahn Brahm suggested she just get rid of the old two and keep the newest one, but she protested loudly, crying “Nooo, I couldn’t possibly! They’re important reminders of you, my son!”

Imagine how free and simple her life would be if she had an empty mantelpiece. Every time something important came along, she could throw out whatever was currently there so it would never become cluttered. Getting rid of the kangaroo and platypus wouldn’t make her forget her son, yet she couldn’t let go of her attachment to them, even when it had become impractical to sustain them. Why can’t our lives be like empty mantelpieces?

I don’t know about you, but doesn’t this minimalist bedroom fill you with a sense of peace and contentment?]

Speaking of emptiness, why is it that when people clear space (in a drawer, in a room, on a mantelpiece), they instantly feel like something is missing and it needs to be filled? What nonsense! And for that matter, why do people buy houses with so many rooms in them anyway? How many rooms can one occupy at a time?

Ajahn Brahm says there are two kinds of freedom: freedom of desires, where you’re free to want anything and everything, and freedom from desires, where you are so content with life that you never have want for anything. It’s basic economics (and common sense!) to know that resources are limited but desires are infinite. Logically, it’s fruitless to try and accumulate more and more wealth to meet a never-ending string of things to spend money on. It’s much, much easier (not to mention cheaper) to stop wanting so much out of life and to just be content with what you have. Believe me, returning to a tent after a night in a cave was bliss. How much more does a person need to enjoy life?

My friends, take it from me: you don’t need stuff to make you happy. In fact, I know quite confirmedly that all “stuff” really serves to do is to make life complicated. Life is so damn simple, and most of the things you care about don’t matter at all. Sorry to break it to you, but your life is awesome. If you’re reading this, it means at the very least that you’re literate, have access to a computer, and have the time to enjoy reading blog posts. And that puts you in a better place than a whole lot of the population.

So here’s my advice: go through all your stuff, and get rid of most of it. Ask yourself, “Will owning [this item] improve the quality of my life? Will it make a significant difference to the way I live? Will it make me happier?” You might find that the answers will often be “No.” And it feels great.

The other thing I advise is to stop buying so much crap. Not getting rid of things you don’t need is pretty unhelpful, but adding useless stuff to your hoard is even worse. The next time you’re about to buy something, go through the same process of asking whether you really need it. Maybe you have something similar that will serve the same purpose. Maybe you could borrow it from a library or video store, or someone on facebook has one they’re not using (note: that’s how I got my top hat, a bike lock and a bag for my suit). Or maybe don’t need it at all, and your life will be better off without it. If you really want to get it, try waiting for three days and see how you feel. If you still want it just as much, go ahead. But wherever possible, trust me when I say life is better when you don’t keep things you don’t need!

Peace everyone. May your houses be tents, and your mantelpieces become empty!

Xin.

Healthy eating

 Another blog post I wrote for TINO.

***

Have you ever given much thought to the sort of things you put in your body? More specifically, have you ever seriously considered the sort of food you eat? When you’re hungry, what kind of snack do you reach for? Are you more likely to pick up an apple, or open a bag of chips?

Last week, I went on a martial arts training camp in Stirling Range mountains. A typical day looked something like this: wake up at 6am to use the bathroom and eat an orange. At 6:30, start tai chi. At 7:00am, go for a run and then practice basic techniques for an hour. A cold shower would follow to cool the muscles and train the spirit (more on that another day). Breakfast consisted of a mix of grains and cereals, and maybe some toast. Around 10:30, serve herbal tea over a discussion of life and the martial arts in general. After that, mid-morning training begins. For lunch, we eat sandwiches and maybe some earl grey tea. After a break to digest, afternoon training commences. We practice weapon and unarmed forms, and end the day with a session of yoga. Hot showers all round at 6pm, along with an apple and a muesli bar for afternoon tea while the dinner team organises a meal of dahl, spaghetti, or couscous. Free time follows, used for some well-earned rest and relaxation, until lights out at 10pm (though most of us are in bed before 9).

Our schedule might seem austere, but it was actually very liberating. I learned a lot of lessons about life from this experience, but the one I want to share most is around food. Every meal I ate on camp was ridiculously healthy, and provided me with all the energy and nutrition I needed. I often had three or four servings of good food to eat several times a day, and it was amazing. The fruit and muesli were perfectly invigorating, and they were all the snacks I needed during my simple life in the mountains. It’s hard to imagine life without junk food, but during the week of training, it didn’t cross my mind even once.

Yet when I came back into the city, the first thing I bought was a tube of Pringles and a box of hot chips. I thought that I would really enjoy them because it would be nice to indulge after all the hard work I had done, yet I found myself a little disgusted at the sort of rubbish I was putting into my body. When I went to my friend’s birthday party later that night and had a slice of cake, my stomach hurt from the sudden rush of processed sugar. After lunch the next day I felt like eating chocolate to cleanse my pallet, so I bought even more cake, which tasted great but instantly made me feel sick afterwards. I realised that I had become so healthy that I could instantly feel the effects of the sugar, saturated fat and other gross things that I was eating.

After that, I made a resolution to avoid junk food for the rest of the week. After all, my Spartan diet in the mountains reminded me that human beings have survived off fresh plants and healthy animals for millions of generations, so why couldn’t I? In place of the chips and chocolate biscuits I would traditionally buy, I bought a huge packet of roasted nuts and dried fruit. In place of cordial and soft drinks I bought fruit juices (real stuff, not the stuff filled with processed sugar that never seems to expire) and herbal tea. And you know? I’m not going to lie, it’s not always been easy. The first three days of being back in the city involved getting over some massive cravings for chocolate. But I know now how unnecessary sugar is, how I just enjoy eating it because of the momentary pleasure it brings my tastebuds rather than because I’m hungry or I need the energy. I also know how unhealthy it is, and how hard my body has to work to stabilise my energy when I’ve just inserted a huge rush of sugar into it.

Something else I noticed was that being in certain places made me want certain foods. When I was at my girlfriend’s house, I was aware at the back of my mind that she had four blocks of chocolate, two packets of biscuits, two bags of chips, a few bottles of fizzy drinks and other short-term pleasure foods in her pantry. It made it harder to choose to nibble on assorted seeds or an apple knowing that superficially tastier alternatives were nearby- alternatives I’d eaten most of my life and had become accustomed to enjoying despite the negative effects on my body.

But at home, I’ve made a dedicated effort to keep the pantry stocked with only healthy snacks, and lacking nothing else to eat, it’s much easier (and more satisfying) to maintain my healthy diet. When I crave sweet foods, I now enjoy a piece of fruit, and when I crave savoury, trail mix and rice crackers do a great job. I know writing about it like that makes it seem unsatisfying and insubstantial, but I promise you from the very bottom of my stomach, I feel so much better for eating healthily. Each day that passes I crave junk foods less and less. And even in this short time, making those simple choices has had a noticeable effect on my body and mind.

So here’s my challenge for you. Don’t worry, it’s not going to be hard, and it’s not going to involve you cutting anything out of your diet unless you want to. I want you to write down a list of everything you eat for one week. Draw up a template, or use this one.

 

DAY Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Breakfast              
Lunch              
Dinner              
Snacks              

 

 

That’s it. That’s all you have to do. Not too hard, right?

I’m not trying to guilt-trip you into avoiding all your favourite foods. All I want to do is help you become a little more conscious of the sorts of foods you eat every week. And maybe when you look back on it all, you might want to make some changes, or you might not. Maybe you’ve noticed how tired you get during the middle of the day, or after a session of exercise. Maybe you’re aware of how hungry you are mid-morning or late at night. And maybe you might like to see if you feel any different from adding a little more fruit to your diet, or cutting down on meat or whatever. But at the very least, I think it will be helpful to be conscious of what you’re eating.

Let me know how you go everyone. Stay healthy!

Xin.

Knock yourself out

Last night I decided to go to training, even though I was feeling a little under the weather and my head was hurting. Normally when I get into training, any ailments I’m experiencing are lost in the joy I have from training, but throughout the night my head kept throbbing. I kept sneaking drinks of water (I’m grateful that students are largely trusted to take care of themselves in whatever way they need to without asking for permission first), but I was quite grateful when the end of class came around. Rob approached me and asked if I had my gloves with me, which I did, and asked me if I wanted to practice randori (controlled sparring). I agreed to, though I was reluctant for a number of reasons. Firstly, the presence of gloves subconsciously reminds me of sports martial arts, and from previous experience I’ll abandon technique and revert to just hitting the other guy with the big padded things on my fists. The subtleties of techniques are lost, and the principles of unarmed fighting are changed. Secondly, Rob wanted light-medium contact, and I didn’t trust myself to consistently hit lightly- a single centimeter of depth can easily make a technique penetrate to a dangerous level. Thirdly, my head was still throbbing and I didn’t really want to get punched in the face more than I had to. But I agreed because I love randori and I enjoy training with Rob (though we both have our failings).

 

Long story short, the sparring went well in some parts and sloppy in others. Exhausted, I thought I’d be sneaky and throw a punch followed by a spinning backfist. At the moment I turned my back to Rob, he hit me quite solidly in the back of my head and I fell to the floor. I probably could have stayed on me feet if I wanted to, but I felt safe enough in a one-on-one dojo match to just lie down for a while. My head was throbbing madly as the adrenaline wore of, so we stopped training. I felt exhausted and sore and generally unwell, so I was keen to go home and rest. Mike asked for a lift to his house, but after driving for about a minute I felt intensely nauseous. He took over the driving (where we narrowly avoided death by falling spider as we swapped seats), and I controlled my nausea as best I could with mindfulness and acupressure. I dropped him off, we swapped seats, and I started driving home.

About 100m down the road, I started to throw up as I was driving. I pulled over as quickly as I could, grabbed a vomit bag (my Dad put them in all the cars after Mum vomited from carsickness one time) and assessed how I was feeling. It would have been a tremendous and dangerous struggle to drive home, so I sent Mike a text and he let me stay with him until I felt better. Thankfully I had reviewed my first aid before gashuku and I recognised the symptoms of a minor concussion. I didn’t eat or drink for a while, but after an hour of nausea and headache, took some painkillers which made a big difference. I was experiencing weakness, exhaustion and cold, which possibly indicated shock as well, so I rugged up, lay down and slept a while. Mum and Dad very kindly came to pick me up and drive my car home.

 

After a good (but brief) night’s sleep, I felt almost entirely better. I’m grateful I had such supportive friends and parents to help me through a very uncomfortable night. What did I learn from this? Well, among other things:

a) Don’t throw spinning back fists unless you have a damn good reason.
b) Learn control before you start hitting. I’m good, but I’m not nearly good enough to practice safely.
c) When you feel unwell, stop. It’s not worth it.

So that’s that! Day of rest and limping to heal from pushing myself so hard last night (and falling onto my coccyx). Hope your days are going well everyone <3

You know, it’s been a couple of months since I’ve felt like this. And that’s hard. I had forgotten how crippled, incapable and incompetent I could feel. I find it so overwhelmingly hard to think about doing things. About doing practically anything. I have just about enough motivation to drag myself to my DS or this computer and play Pokémon or watch Zombieland. But I find it ridiculous to imagine having the drive to do more than that, say, work a job or get a cup of tea. They seem equally, absurdly difficult right now. And I have to wonder. When just about every minute is a draining struggle to look after myself in basic ways, how can I possibly live a “normal life”?

 

I don’t really know why I posted this. I guess it was such a surprise after so long- I really did think it would be all uphill. Seeing the psych was going amazingly as she revolutionised my views on life; I had finished the Daodejing and had achieved a sense of perspective and acceptance of the nature of being; I have holidays upon holidays and a source of income that’s dependent on looking for ten jobs a week (almost all of which I never hear back from)… This feeling of ineptitude is somewhat out of the blue. And I suppose that’s fitting, because I think it’s partially (largely?) due to the overwhelmingly depressing cloud cover that’s making it hard to care about life.

 

So there you go. My first negative post in ages.

Concluding interpretations of the Tao Te Ching

I finally finished all 81 verses after half a year of semi-regular study. How relieving! But of course, all things in the Tao are cyclical, and I am certain that I have forgotten much which I will one day remember. I hope to re-read it again soon, but for now, here are my thoughts on the final five verses. I’ve put Verse 80 last because I found it the most poignant; it is the dearest vision of my heart, and it reminds me fondly of gashuku.

 

Verse 77

One who follows the way shares his abundance with others.
What man has more than enough and gives it to the world?
A man of the Tao.

Such a man can keep on giving
because there is no end to his wealth.
He acts without expectation,
succeeds without taking credit,
and does not think he is more important than anything else.

 

Verse 78

Nothing in the world is softer or gentler than water.
But for wearing away the hard and unyielding,
nothing can surpass it.

The weak overcomes the strong.
The soft surpasses the hard.
All people inherently know this,
but none can master it.

The wise woman remains serene in the midst of sorrow;
no darkness can enter her heart.
Because she no longer strives to help people,
she becomes people’s greatest help.

 

Verse 79

After a bitter quarrel, some hurt remains.
What can be done about it?
Eventually, someone must risk responding to injury with kindness,
or else hostility can never turn into love.
Thus the wise always give without expecting reward.

It is best to be content with what you have.
One who knows the Way always seeks to give.
One who does not know the Way always seeks to get.
The giver receives the bounty of life.
The taker receives only emptiness.

 

Verse 81

True words are not beautiful;
beautiful words are not true.
Good men do not argue;
men who argue are not good.
Those who have virtue do not judge or search for faults;
those who judge or fault-find are not truly virtuous.

Wise people do not accumulate anything,
but share all they have with others;
the more they have, the more they give.

Heaven is good to all beings,
and does no evil to anyone.
A wise woman emulates this,
acting for the good of all
and opposing herself to none.

 

Verse 80

Imagine a small country with few people.
They have weapons but do not use them;
they enjoy working with their hands
and do not waste time inventing labour-saving machines.

They take death seriously and do not travel far.
Although they have boats and carriages,
no one uses them.
Since they dearly love their homes,
they are not interested in travelling far from them.

They are content with healthy food,
pleased with useful clothing,
satisfied in cosy homes,
and protective of their way of life.

Although they live within sight of their neighbours,
and crowing cocks and barking dogs can be heard across the way,
they leave each other in peace
while they grow old and die.