Book Update

Book: A Study of Sovereignty

Hi everyone, I’ve turned the manuscript over for editing. should get it back in a couple of weeks. Hope to finish and get it printed by Christmas.


How To Cultivate Wu Wei

. The softest things of the world

Overcome the hardest things of the world

That which has no substance

Enters into that which has no openings

From this I know the benefits of unattached actions

The teaching without words

The benefits of actions without attachment

Are rarely matched in the world

Chapter 43, Tao Te Ching

The Practice:

Cultivate the ability to accomplish more by doing less and without striving. This is accomplished through detached from the outcome.  Be mindful of ego-attachments and intentions that initiate the reaction. Instead, find right action in Tao through virtue.

Wu Wei is a state of being. Remember in previous chapters that the meditative state is one of detachment and transcendence. In this state, you rise above the ego to become the silent observer. Free of ego attachments, you can align your action with the flow of the Tao. The flow of the Tao is life and nature unfolding moment by moment. As the true-self (the transcended self), you have clarity and accept things as they are. Virtuous actions are initiated through karma so that you accomplish more without striving.[1] The metaphor that my mentor used was to think of a surfer riding the wave.

The opposite of this is to be blinded by the ignorance of ego and to go against the nature of reality. The ego is attached to its desire seeking or emotional coping agenda. It cannot give up the pursuit even if it causes self-destruction. The ego is stubborn, short-sighted and needy. It always confuses what it wants with what it needs. The sensation and experience are one of struggle, pain, and suffering to achieve the goal or get what it wants. Most importantly, the ego is never satisfied for long. So even if it gets what is so strived for, it will soon be bored with it and begin a new quest. Day after day, year after year, a person gets worn down with the struggle and ensuing stress. Have you ever known someone who is not happy unless they are fighting and struggling with something?

In verse 1 and 2 above it specifically, states that “the softest things of the world overcome the hardest things in the world”.

Think of stubbornness or a rigid perspective as hardness. Think of acceptance and detachment from outcome to be softness. By being open-minded, you can gain many different insights that will inspire you to accomplish more by doing less.


The way to cultivate Wu Wei is through the practice of meditation and mindfulness. As the true-self emerges, it lets go of the struggle and accepts the way of virtue.

Example: One way to look at struggle vs. going with the flow is to think about how to survive a rip current. Each year many people drown trying to escape the tidal rip current that develops along the shoreline. They drown when they panic, struggle to swim against the current, become tired and are overcome.

Here are the instructions I observed on the internet:

  • Pay attention and be aware if a rip tide is present.
  • Get out of the water if you feel a rip current and the water is shallow enough.
  • Remain calm, do not panic.
  • Call for help if you are having trouble.
  • Swim parallel to shore (with the current) to escape.
  • Pay attention to your energy (tiredness) and relax and float when you need to.
  • Swim diagonally toward the shore when the current begins to subside

Now think of a problem in a different context. See if you can apply the current metaphor to real-life situations.

  • Pay attention and notice when things begin to become problematic. Don’t let the ego overreact or procrastinate. Practice proximity awareness. Avoid excessive distraction. (be mindful of riptides in your life as they develop).
  • Step back from the problem if you can. Take a deep breath. (get out of the water when you first sense a riptide)
  • Stay calm, don’t panic. Be mindful of strong emotions influencing your perspective. Remain calm and do not panic)
  • Seek guidance and wisdom, seek clarity about the situation. (call for help)
  • Seek a way to turn the problem to an advantage (lemons into lemonade (swim diagonally toward the shore when the current is weaker)


When it comes to goals, wu wei is the best course of action. Cultivating Wu Wei is working on the ‘self’ first. Rather than a problem, think of the goal as the destination that you seek to arrive.

Is the goal one that is in unity with Tao (virtue) lessons?

Alternatively, is this goal just another ego-driven hunger?

Who benefits from this goal? Who suffers or gets exploited by the pursuit of this goal?

Here is the litmus test personal achievement:

“No matter what it is you do, there is a way to do it that is effective, and enjoyable at every level. This is the true meaning of Wu Wei” Derek Lin; From his book: The Tao of Happiness

Wu Wei (detached action) takes cultivation and practice. Many times, in hindsight you will how you could succeed through unattached action. That is how wisdom and skill are developed through trial and error in real life.

Without the ability to be your true-self and Sovereign over the ego, you will be a prisoner to attachments. These attachments cause striving. Attachment to the outcome is something you must be able to choose to let go.

Practice meditation and mindfulness as a discipline so that you can be present and aware of the rip-tides occurring in your life. Be willing to see different perspectives, and you will be able to see how to “catch the wave” of effective, effortless, and enjoyable outcomes.



[1] Striving is defined as struggling, fighting, and giving great effort, going against the flow etc.


grim reaper


People do not fear death
How can they be threatened with death?
If people are made to constantly fear death
Then those who act unlawfully
I can capture and kill them
Who would dare?
There exists a master executioner that kills
If we substitute for the master executioner to kill
It is like substituting for the great carpenter to cut
Those who substitute for the great carpenter to cut
It is rare that they do not hurt their own hands

Chapter 74, Tao Te Ching

In any given moment, we plant the seeds of our destiny. Inner intentions drive the choices you make, so it is important to be aware of these moments. By reflecting on your past, you can gain insight into how you arrived in this now.

The simplest perspective of Karma is to view it as a law of cause and effect where the actions that you take will have a result. The two most important perspectives for cause and effect are the spiritual view and the physics theory. In Taoism and Buddhism, it is a spiritual principle. In Taoism, it is both spiritual and philosophical.

The name they both have for it is Karma. In Physics, causality is the relationship between cause and effect. Results are always preceded by an action that produced it. In Taoism, both play a significant role in understanding how the Tao is the spiritual and physical realm. An even simpler way to put it is common saying of “what comes around goes around.” Alternatively, you may have heard “what you put out into the world comes back to you stronger or bigger.”

Choice and Destiny.

“If you want to know your past,

look at your present conditions.

If you want to know your future,

look at your actions today.”

Chinese Proverb- Unknown


Choosing is an action, and the result or effect is destiny. In any given moment, you plant the seeds of your future. Inner intentions drive the choices you make, so it is important to be aware of these moments. By reflecting on your past, you can gain insight into the circumstances you realize in the present. These conditions whether right or bad is the result of earlier choice. The results may have been created by choices that you made earlier, or they may be the result of someone else’s choice. So you can see how important the action of choosing is. Not only it is guaranteed to affect your future, but it may and often does influence the future of others.

It is essential that you understand the following points:

  • The Tao (karma) does not play favorites
  • No one can escape its influence or the destiny they create
  • Seeds are planted to grow a garden.
  • What you plant now is what you will reap later. (the garden is a metaphor for your life.)
  • Choices create destiny. What you choose now creates the circumstances of your future (or someone else).The results maybe sooner or later

All of this is karma.

A crucial insight is to realize and accept your responsibility for the circumstances of your life right now. In some ways, it does not matter if the current situation is a result of your choice or caused by something or someone else. Right here, right now you are experiencing the results.

Things happen to us, expected and unexpected, self-caused or not. Be aware of how you react to the things you experience, whether you caused them or not. When something happens, it is typical to react. This reaction becomes a choice with a future result. So even if you did not cause you this problem, be mindful of how your response will create even more karma results. If you did make a bad choice, be careful to understand what went wrong and not repeat the results.

The choices you make while reacting will create your future circumstances. Since you cannot always prevent the unexpected from happening, you must expect the unexpected, accept that it is a part of life, and learn to take the next step or the next choice, very carefully.

How Do You Do This?

So, instead of automatically reacting when something happens, you can in a moment of self-awareness, consider what the wise choice should be. Being able to stop and think what the smart choice may require a degree of mindfulness. Mindfulness is something you cultivate as an extension of meditation.1

Now that you are present and mindful of choice, how do you know what to choose? That is where the wisdom of the Tao Te Ching (the way of virtue) can play a decisive role. Free of automatically reacting, you can let the wise insights and strategies of the Tao Te Ching guide you. Good intentions are not enough.

You must consult experience and wisdom to know what the right action is. It can be the wisdom of the Tao, and it can be your wisdom cultivator over a lifetime of experience. You may have heard the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Be patient and make a wise choice for the action that seems best.

Try to consider this three step process:

  1. Be mindful of reaction.
    • Be patient and don’t automatically react.
    • Stop and look at what is going on in your
    • Ask if an immediate response is even necessary.
  1. What is your immediate reaction?
  • What is the deeper intention?
  • Are you blaming someone or something else?
  • Can you take ownership of your bad choices in the past?
  • What are you doing and why are you doing it?
  • What will the outcome be?
  • What seeds am I planting?
  • Is Ego at work?
  • Is this virtuous?
  • What might be the cause and effect of my actions?
  1. Let wisdom guide you.
  • What outcome would be best for everyone?
  • What are some virtuous-choices?
  • What would your spiritual teacher or role model tell you to do?
  1. Consider the wisdom of the Tao. What are some Tao strategies that are relevant?
  • Consider your wisdom from what you have learned from your

Change. Look at the complementary relationship between change and cause and effect. Change is inevitable, but how you react is a matter of choice. Choice creates your destiny. As the Tao cultivator, be consciously aware of these two laws of change (impermanence) and karma (cause and effect). Pay attention to your choices as if your life depended on it.

How Sovereignty Helps With Karma

Cultivating Sovereignty is learning to rule your inner kingdom so that when you experience problems or obstacles, you will act wisely. The wise ruler can be aware of the inevitable changes that each day brings. Rather than resist this reality of impermanence, the sovereign cultivator integrates with the corresponding relationship change, creation, and karma. Sovereignty will allow you to unify with the Tao and navigate your life through wise choices. In this way, you create your true destiny.

In ancient times Karma was referred to as “The Great Executioner.” It is a good idea to have a healthy respect for karma; Inevitably you will reap what you sow. Are you familiar with the saying “what goes around comes around”? What you send out, the actions you take will work

its way back around gaining strength. When it fulfills its cycle and arrives back, it will be bigger. So it is with great care that you create the moments of your life. This Tao principle in unavoidable, inescapable and guaranteed. This convergence of karma with the present moment can be catastrophic; hence the saying “the great executioner.” Like nature, the Tao does not play favorites. No one escapes the effect of karma. When and where the convergence happens is unknown and unpredictable. It may return very soon, or it may not catch up to you until another life time. You can run, but you cannot hide.

As you read this, in this now, is the moment of truth where you take control of your life. At this moment you have a choice. Will you choose to continue as a victim of your distracted ego choices? Are will decide to become the sovereign? This decision is the one where you will most certainly begin to create your destiny consciously.

Take charge of your mind by practicing meditation. As you wake up and become self-aware, you can mindfully take part in your destiny through wise choices. There will always be changes in life. Many you will not see coming. You will be the victim of someone else’ poor choice. You will make mistakes. However, the more you practice, the more your skill will improve. With practice and cultivation, you will get better and better. People will notice and ask you how you were able to change for the better. Be the sovereign and let the wisdom of the Tao be your compass as you navigate your life path and you will stay true to your true self.


grand canyon black and white

The softest things of the world

Override the hardest things of the world

That which has no substance

Enters into that which has no openings

From this I know the benefits of unattached actions

The teaching without words

Are rarely matched in the world

Chapter 43, Tao Te Ching

Softness is both a Tao principle and virtue. In this book, I am putting under the category of a Tao virtue because of its inherent power. The first two verses bring emphasis to the inherent power of using softness to overcome hardness. The most commonly used metaphor and easiest to understand is water. Water is soft to touch and has little substance when you try to pick it up. Stone is the commonly used metaphor for hardness and a material which has no openings. To appreciate the inherent power of softness penetrating something harness, take a look at the Grand Canyon in the American Southwest. Water has slowly worn away the hard and rocky plateau to create one of the great wonders of the world. It is also quite evident when you take a look at a sandy beach or sand bar. Water has reduced solid rock into tiny particles. The process begins with water slowly penetrating the hard surface of the stone. Slowly and patiently water seeps into the rock in a process that to disintegrate its structure. Wind and Sun, also without substance, assist the process until the solid stone is no longer there.

The power of softness is especially useful in dealing with many aspects of life. It is so applicable in everyday life. As a life strategy, it gives you a methodology for resolving hard problems.  Use softness to penetrate the obstacle, get informed on what is going on. Be detached from the intended outcome and allow time chip away at the hardness. Let the Tao guide on your course. And one day, that mountain will be a big pile of sand.

One example is when dealing with some of the personality traits of the ego. Some of those hard characteristics might be stubbornness, anger, and aggression. The soft approach to these might be patience, non-reaction, or empathy.

Here is a story that I will share to reflect how softness can overcome hardness in interpersonal relationships.

In the city where I was living, there was a consignment shop that I affiliated with as a vendor. It was during the great recession. Times were hard, and people experienced a lot of stress trying to make ends meet. The owner and manager of this consignment shop had a challenging time trying to keep her business going. Her stress created a lot of tension among the people who worked there. Because of her anxiety, she was not a good manager, and retention was a problem. One of the more successful vendors, a lady who had a lot of experiencing in the antique market decide to leave and start her own business. She was a friendly and optimistic person who finally had enough of the stressful environment and opened up a similar business across the street. She was an immediate success. Most of the customers left the business of the cranky lady and started giving business to the new business across the street. Then many of the vendors, having had enough of the constant drama, left and came over to the new business too. It didn’t take long before the first business was in serious trouble with a lack of loyal customers and workers. One day which has been particularly bad for her, she got angry and marched across the street to have it out with the woman who had left and started the successful business. She threw open the door, walked up to the new store owner and begin to bless her out. Momentarily, she paused in her onslaught to take a breath. During her verbal attack, the other woman, the friendly optimistic and prosperous new store owner, smiled and said,

Oh honey, I am so sorry you are having such a hard time. I know how difficult it is. Let me hug you”. She embraced the angry woman, who suddenly wilted and began to sob. She returned to her store, and before long it was closed and out of business. Later, she came to work at the new store for the friendly lady. The last time I saw them, they were both at peace and happy again.

In this true story, the friendly optimistic lady used a soft, non-reactive, empathetic and compassionate response to the hard attack. It is a classic case of wisdom vs. ego. Witnessing that event raised my spirit, and to this day, I keep that example in my mind as a strategy for dealing with hard personality types. I have told this story many times, and people have shared their own stories where they found it to be successful.

In this chapter of the Tao Te Ching, Wu Wei activates the inherent power of softness.

“From this, I know the benefits of unattached actions” verse 5 from above is talking about Wu Wei or “unattached actions.” Footnote

To see the inherent power consider this sample sentence:

Because she reacted softly with empathy and compassion, the woman stopped attacking her.

Verse 6, “The teaching without words

Are rarely matched in the world”

That woman taught me and everyone there how to use softness to overcome hardness for a beneficial outcome. We learned from her example. Later I asked her about it, and she said that she was living through her Christian conviction of “love thou neighbor.”

It takes self-discipline of ego control to choose softness. Self-control and ego management is the greater principle of sovereignty. In the moment of action, you have a choice. If you are mindful of ego, you can be detached from reacting. In that detached state, you can choose the wisdom of the Tao. In this case, the wisdom is the virtue of using softness to overcome hardness.


Chapter 24


...Therefore the sage:

Eliminates extremes

Eliminates excess

Eliminates arrogance”

Excerpt from Chapter 29 Tao Te Ching

I define moderation as avoiding excess or extremes. Complements of moderation are balance, harmony, and conservation. There is inherent power in the ability to moderate behavior and choices.

Understanding moderation is not rocket science. Implementing moderation can be quite challenging. Any reasonable person knows and understands that going to the extreme in any situation erodes balance and well-being and that excess leads to depletion. Most people know this. Then why do most people suffer from some form of excess or extreme?

In most cases, it is due to the cause and effect of choices made by ego. These options usually begin with one person and often spreads to include many other people. When the egos of the many collude, it becomes collective ego. It is easy to observe how an individual or a group of people are out of balance. The result of extreme or excessive behavior is evident by the lack of harmony. Here are some examples to consider.

  • Health and fitness harmony (weight, vitality, energy)
  • Mental and emotional peace (self-destructive behaviors and habits)
  • Financial health – income and debt balance
  • Interpersonal relationships – how well do they get along with others. Cooperation, teamwork, friendships, filial relationships)

If you are experiencing any of these, try realizing where a lack of moderation has created disharmony. The deeper insight will be to realize how ego played a role in the choice that led to excess. You can use moderation as a conscious management of decisions and actions so that balance and harmony are maintained in all aspects of life. Moderate choices are only possible when you have learned to manage the ego. Management of the ego is the self-discipline of sovereignty. To gain control the ego, see the chapter 5 on meditation and mindfulness.

The inherent power of moderation as a virtue.

We all have experience challenges in life. Things happen to us, and we find ourselves in stressful situations. When they do, the ego is quick to react. Often the ego will overreact. These are times when we are most likely to go to excess or extreme. The sovereign is mindful of ego reactions and chooses to use a moderated response.

Here is an example where you can see the inherent power of moderation.

“because of her moderate approach to gambling in Las Vegas, she was able to leave the casino with her winnings and invest them in real-estate.”

The lesson: because she managed the ego’s lust and greed for more, she wisely left while she was away. She was then able to invest the net gain winnings into something with stable growth. This example involves other virtues as well as their inherent powers. In this one, you can see, patience, wisdom, moderation, conservation, and constancy.

…Excessive vitality is said to be inauspicious

Mind overusing energy is said to be aggressive

Things become strong and then they grow old

This is called contrary to the Tao

That which is contrary to the Tao will soon perish”

Excerpt: verses 14 – 18, Chapter 55 Tao Te Ching

I included the excerpt from above in Chapter 55, because it is directly relevant to our modern life.

Excessive vitality. Too many people strive to be successful. There is excessive use of stimulants such as caffeine and energy drinks to raise their vitality for high performance. Or they maybe too tired or hung-over from excessive partying the night before. Either way, the pursuit for extreme energy is known to create health problems.

Mind Overusing Energy. This term has many examples. But the one that I want to focus on is worrying. Being concerned about potential problems is a regular part of life. Chronic worrying can quickly become toxic. Too much anxiety is stressful and is a serious imbalance in the mind and body. Many self-induced sicknesses have their beginnings worry-stress. Again the antidote for this is meditation and mindfulness.

Karma. Now is a good time to remind you of the relationship between moderation and karma. Remember the relationship between choices, cause, and effect. Your future, your destiny is being created in the present. When act or react with extreme measures the future results will be even more extreme and problematic. Taoists call karma “the great executioner” because it does not play favorites and you cannot hide from it. No one is exempt. In this regard, it is imperative to use moderation as a management tool to prevent a dreadful destiny. And your circumstance now can be understood by what you did in the past. Take another look at the list above of areas in your life that may be out of balance. These are the results of some choices or reactions from the past. They may be a result of your own decisions or from others. If they are from others, you must still be mindful of how you respond and use moderation as a guide. This insight is also a reminder of how your choices can affect other people. Moderation is the wise approach.

The sovereign takes care in moderating each step along life’s path. Sovereignty is being mindful of how choices affect your destiny and that of others. The sovereign is mindful of the fact that all things are connected and creates a destiny that serves everyone in the best way possible by avoiding ego-indulgent choices. And that is the power of moderation. Conserving and preserving life by preventing extremism.


End sagacity; abandon knowledge

The people benefit a hundred times

End benevolence; abandon righteousness

The people return to piety and charity

End cunning; discard profit

Bandits and thieves no longer exist

These three things are superficial and insufficient

Thus this teaching has its place;

Show plainness; [hold to simplicity]

Reduce selfishness; decrease desires.

Chapter 19 of the Tao Te Ching

The root of simplicity is the word simple. The term “simple” can be defined as “easy”, “clear”, “uncluttered” and “natural”.

Simplicity is a virtue because of its altruistic nature (selfless action). Those who are aware of the ego’s desire for details and complexity know how it can hide cunning and trickery. If you look up the antonyms for simplicity, you will see “complexity, difficulty, and complication.

The complement to simplicity is honesty. Those who are honest with themselves and others feel no need to make things anything other than easy, clear, straightforward or natural. Telling the truth keeps things simple. Lying is complicated because of the difficulty in keeping the details straight. The more the lie is defended, the more complex it becomes. Often it will evolve into something indefensible and it will become painfully apparent that the truth would have been much simpler.

Another complement of simplicity would be conservation. The vanity of ego can be the source of non-useful expenditures of resources. Complexity leads to difficulty and complication. This leads to stress and worry. Stress and worry generate a need to cope which drains your energy and resources.

A good example of this can be been seen with the late genius and entrepreneur Steve Jobs. It is said that he wore the simple attire of jeans and black shirt as his primary wardrobe. Not having to worry about what he wore must have freed up his genius for more creative wonders.


Imagine what the simple life would be for those who are cultivating sovereignty. What if you lived your life in simplicity?

  • Consider areas of your life and how simplicity would have a more positive effect on something like your financial picture.
      • Are your finances complicated? Why?
      • How much debt do you carry that is due to non-essential needs?
      • Why do you choose:
        • the car you drive?
        • The clothes you wear?
        • The person you married?
        • The house you bought
        • The church you attend?
        • The person you voted for?

The chain of complexity might go like this:

  • Complexity leads to a higher potential for problems to occur.
  • Problems create stress.
  • Stress leads to unhappiness.
  • Unhappiness leads to coping.
  • Coping leads to desire.
  • Desire creates attachment.
  • Attachment leads to striving.
  • Striving leads to complexity.

Often, coping means buying stuff to make yourself feel better and find happiness. It becomes a circularity for suffering; a daisy chain of ignorance that is avoidable. Because of problems, you might be thinking
“if I could just get that (fill in the blank). ” So you spend money and get one. One day you realize that you are still unhappy. So you buy something else. At some point, you may realize that you have acquired too much debt. You can now add debt and financial problems to your unhappiness. Searching for happiness in material possessions often creates a downward spiral.

When you can learn to find true joy and happiness in the simple things in life, usually non-tangible items, you can find lasting joy and happiness.

This concept always hits the ego the wrong way. So if you feel resistant to the idea of living a simple life free of attachments, that is the ego influencing your mind and mood. Sovereignty is the ability to reign in the ego and to realize the power of simplicity.

This where simplicity becomes a virtue of power.

  • Simplicity reduces complexity and paves the way to fewer problems.
  • Fewer problems means less stress.
  • Less stress means less striving.
  • Less striving creates unattached action.
  • With unattached action, there is nothing one cannot do”.1

The phrase “nothing one cannot do” is a pretty good example of success. So simplicity is a virtue that can lead to success. Constancy2, which is returning to self-awareness and unity with the Tao is easier when life is free of distractions of attachment.

If you are keeping a journal, notate the times where you are successful at keeping to simplicity. Especially note where you have an opportunity to improve (setbacks). Be mindful of the choices that lead to complexity and see the ego’s influence in your decision making.

If you look at a list of antonyms for virtue, you will see words like dishonesty, evil and imperfection. Practicing these traits will end in ruin.

All virtue has inherent power. You can see the inherent power in simplicity.

Example: Because she kept things simple and easy to understand, the project was completed smoothly and quickly.

Practicing the virtue of Simplicity enables Sovereignty. Sovereignty is “the mother principle of power”. 3

1See v4, chapter 48 of the Tao Te Ching
2See the Chapter on Constancy for more detail.

3See Chapter 59 Tao Te Ching.


The third is called not getting ahead in the world”

from verse 11, Chapter 67, Tao Te Ching

The verse above stating “not getting ahead in the world”, is stating the virtue of humility. This virtue, humility, is a complementary of compassion and conservation. In conserving spirit, you have transcended the self-important perspective of ego. Compassion is having loving kindness and caring for the suffering and well-being of others. The joining of compassion and conservation opens the door to a state of not striving to get ahead in the world or non-self importance. This state of being is humility. Humility or selflessness is the antithesis of ego.

As you gain skill at sovereignty, you gain more and more control over the ego. This is the point that the need for self-importance begins to reside. Neediness is a core principle of the ego-self. The need to have attention, to be seen as the best, to always win is how the ego spends its life. Seeking ”to get ahead in the world”, rather than being like water and seeking the low places” 1.

Like the hub of a wagon wheel, being empty of ego, humility gives function to so many other principles and virtues of the Tao.

Chapter 8: “The highest goodness resembles water,

Water benefits myriad things without contention

It stays in places that people dislike”

Therefore it is similar to the Tao

Chapter 22: “….be low and become filled

Be worn out and become renewed

Have little and receive

Have much and be confused

therefore the sages hold to the one as an example to the world

Without flaunting themselves, they are seen clearly

Without presuming themselves, and are distinguished

Without praising themselves, and so have merit

With boasting about themselves and so are lasting”..

Chapter 28 “…The eternal virtue does not deviate

Return to the state of the boundless

Know the honor, hold the humility”…

Chapter 39 “The honored uses the lowly as a basis

The higher uses the lower as a foundation…”

Chapter 66 “ Rivers and oceans can be the kings of a hundred valleys

Because of their goodness in staying low

So they can be kings of a hundred valleys

Thus is sage wish to be over people

They must speak humbly to them…”

The inherent power of humility the first two treasures possible. Because you are not trying to get ahead in the world, your spirit resides in compassion. Because of your humility you are free from the greedy desire of ego never caring for conservation. The ego is too hungry with desire, it is ignorant to conserving resources. Through Sovereignty, you can engage the inherent powers of the three treasures and experience a long joyful life.

Humility is the principle and centerpiece for so many insights within the Tao. Humility opens the mystic door to the insight that those who are blinded by ego/desire/self-importance cannot see or comprehend the power of humility. Humility is the gateway to the Tao.

1See the chapter on Softness


the second is called conservation

verse 10 from Chapter 67, Tao Te Ching

The second of the three virtues is conservation. Conservation is the virtue of preserving, protecting, not being wasteful and using resources in a wise method. It is used in both material and non-material aspects of life.


Material resources: money, home, clothes, car etc.

Non-material resources: friendship, relationships, energy, time etc.

These material and non-material things in life are limited. Since they can be used up, it is important to take care of things that can be hard to replace. Your most important resource is life. Life is limited for everyone, therefore you must learn to conserve your life so that you can endure successfully. Sovereignty is the self-disciplined management of ego so that you don’t waste your life experience. Longevity and endurance depend on skillfully managing your resources so that your biggest resource, life, can be long and full.

Conservation has complementary relationships with other virtues such as moderation, patience, harmony and mystic virtue. When you practice patience, you can use your resources in moderation to keep balance and harmony in your life. Longevity, endurance, prosperity, and harmony are all inherent powers of conservation.

Conservation of Spirit. (constancy)

The foreword section of this book defines life as a sacred journey of experience. You are called to be awake, aware and experiencing life to gain wisdom. Successful realization of sovereignty can only happen when you continually return to self-awareness and unity with the Tao. This constantly returning/awakening is called constancy.1

Conservation of spirit is one of the highest virtue. Conservation of spirit empowers you to manage the ego and desire so that you do not deplete your resources. As always it comes back to conservation of spirit to be mindful of choices. Choosing actions that conserve both intangible and tangible assets is key to longevity and avoiding suffering and death.

Remember, your actions are like ripples in a pond. We are all connected. Your compassion or your indifference can affect so many. When you deplete your spiritual awareness and make selfish choices, the result can affect others. When you stupidly waste your life, others must sacrifice some of their own resources to help you start over. Those with compassion are willing to help. However, it is important to know that compassion from others can have a limit along with patience. If you hit bottom and have a chance to start over, you must use the gifts of compassion from others to help yourself return to harmony. Gratitude for assistance can go a long way.

The penalty for continuing to be the prisoner of ego and self-serving narcissism is dealt out by karma. Karma2 sometimes called “the great executioner” does not play favorites. Any notion of “it can’t happen to me” will be crushed. Karma is the result of your own ignorance choices. You must be honest with yourself and realize your actions. Conservation is a virtue that the Sovereign works at to build wisdom. You must be mindful of your resources and keep harmony in your life.

1See the chapter on Constancy. Section Two Chapter

2See the Chapter on Karma, chapter 10, section one.


I have three treasures

I hold on to them and protect them

The first is called compassion

verses 7,8, and 9, Chapter 67 Tao Te Ching

Compassion is a conviction of love and kindness for another being. It is a virtue that comes from the heart. The Sovereign, as a spiritual being, recognizes the spirit in other living beings. Note that the sovereign does not discriminate in its recognition of other living beings. As human beings, we share the planet with a very large number of other beings, who just happen to dwell in a different body. The Tao is not exclusive to humans and an argument can be made that plenty of beings in the animal world are closer in unity with nature (Tao) than a lot of humanity. But at least for the beginner on the path, compassion (loving kindness) for other humans is a useful place to begin.

As discussed earlier, true virtues have inherent powers. The inherent power of compassion is true courage.

“compassionate, thus able to have true courage”, verse 12

It is important that you study an accurate translation of the Tao Te Ching. The character for compassion sometimes gets translated as “pity”. However, pity is too far off the mark and will not make sense when consideration of the deeper study of compassion especially when used in verse 12. The inherent power is revealed when you realize that true courage comes from compassion. Pity (feeling sorry for someone) and empathy are important, may focus more on victimization. When you insert the word pity instead of compassionate in verse 12, you can see where it falls short.

Example: Pity, thus able to have true courage.

True compassion can be seen easily when you think of a parent/child relationship. Better yet, is to consider the mother/child bond.

Courage is sometimes confused with bravado or showing off by doing something dangerous. 1 Courage by virtue of compassion can be seen when the mother comes to the defense of her child. It is not just a human attribute. This compassionate courage can be seen throughout nature. Just as a human mother will not hesitate to face great odds against her, mother in nature will do the same. The internet is full of videos showing animal mothers protecting their young against dangerous predators. Even in our own homes, you can see dog or cat mothers standing up for their babies against anything they feel is a danger. This is true courage and is sourced in the love and selfless compassion for their children. The inherent power of compassion is not limited to mothers. You too can practice compassion (loving kindness, caring) and realize the power of true courage.

So you can begin to see that compassion is a specific kind of love and caring. Love has several perspectives including self-love, romantic love, or adoration for a material thing. This type of love is for someone or others. It doesn’t have to be for your children or family, it can be for your community or country. It is having compassion, love, and kindness for other than yourself.

One more area of compassion to focus on.

If one fights with compassion, then victory,” verse 20

Fighting here is not in the martial sense, but more as a metaphor for the battles or struggles in life. Courage to successfully get through life’s battles can be found when we are fighting for something important other than just ourselves. It is working hard, persevering and enduring so that others may benefit in a good way. When your efforts are grounded in the compassion of helping someone outside of yourself courage will empower you to stick with the effort and to endure. In a very simplistic perspective, true courage is not found in ego bravado, it is found the selfless caring of something other than yourself.

1See the Chapter True Courage, Chapter 16 for clarity on courage vs bravery

The Three Treasures

The Three Treasures

Everyone in the world calls my Tao great

As if it is beyond compare

It is only because of its greatness

That it seems beyond compare

If it can be compared

It would already be insignificant long ago

I have three treasures

I hold on to them and protect them

The first is called compassion

The second conservation

The third called not daring to be ahead in the world

Compassionate thus able to have true courage

Conserving, thus able to reach widely

Not daring to be ahead in the world

Thus able to assume leadership

Now if one has courage but discards compassion

Reaches widely but discards conservation

Goes ahead but discards being behind

Then death

If one fights with compassion, then victory

With defense, then security

Heaven shall save them

And with compassion guard them

 Chapter 67, Tao Te Ching

It is understandable why Lao Tzu called these three virtues as treasures that he holds on to and protects. These three virtues are applicable in every aspect of life. Picking up from the last chapter of Constancy, returning to spirit is sometimes easier said than done. It takes years of practice in cultivating constancy. So I listed the three treasures as a recommended next step in keeping grounded within the Tao.

When combined the three treasures form a complementary foundation for the Sovereign path. Each one gives true context for the other two.

three treasures

Compassion harmonizes with Conservation and Humility

Conservation harmonizes with Humility and Compassion

Humility harmonizes with Compassion and Conservation

If you are just beginning your conscious effort of cultivating, start with these three. Use these three as your moral compass in everyday life. When you have practiced them long enough, they will become the default perspective as you develop your Tao strategies for moving around life’s problems and obstacles.

On a personal note, I consider these three treasure as one of the key or highest virtues. You could spend the rest of your life attending to your ability to follow just these three. It is worth the effort for yourself as well as the rest of the world.

In the first chapter, you read that the concept of this life experience as being a sacred journey. Now it is time to realize that this is the journey back home. Home is where you live. Spiritually speaking, home is a returning from striving in the world of form to the tranquility of stillness and being. The path back home is very hard if not impossible without following the path of virtue. I consider the three treasures very significant guides on the road back home.


owl wisdom

The ultimate purpose of the Tao Te Ching is to provide us with wisdom and insights that we can apply to life. If we cannot do that then it doesn’t matter how well we understand the passage. The true Tao must be lived.” Derek Lin1

I define wisdom as the intelligence that consciously combines knowledge and experience for sound judgment. There are many books and articles that use the phrase “wisdom of the Tao”. I take that to mean, intelligence gained through study and practice of Tao lessons in everyday life. However, it is important to note the distinction of knowing the wisdom and using the wisdom. Acquiring knowledge alone is not enough. To benefit from the real power of wisdom, you must actually cultivate it and use in the moment by moment choices that create your destiny. The opposite of wisdom is ignorance and stupidity. A colloquial definition of stupidity or ignorance is to keep repeating the same destructive mistakes expecting new and different results.

There are two main points I hope that you will gain from this study of wisdom. One is to cultivate wisdom and the other is to choose to use it.

Cultivating Wisdom

I believe that there are two parts to cultivating wisdom. They are experience and knowledge. Of the two, experience is the key ingredient and knowledge is a by product. Our society seems to promote the opposite of this path which is striving for knowledge with little regard for wisdom. The pursuit of knowledge is something the ego is fond of when the motivation is for vanity, greed or intent on manipulation.

The distinction is that learning and training to build knowledge is sound when it is intended as a foundation to build experience. Later when you have practiced what you learned in real life experiences, your wisdom will be true. The wisdom of the Tao follows the same process. You are to study the Tao lessons and gain experience through use in everyday life. Over time, you become conditioned to be guided by what you have learned through the teachings and your experiences.

The wisdom is found in both failure and success. One teaches you what leads to failure and one teaches what leads to success. Over time, your experience becomes the true wisdom.

The other point to know is that the gained experience must be applied. Wisdom has no value if you do not listen to it and use it. This may sound mundane but it happens every time your ego overrides your wisdom. It is the reason that smart people make stupid mistakes.

The sovereign ability to rule over the ego is what this book is about. In that important moment of choice, you can be aware of the many options available. The voice of the ego will often be the loudest. Sovereignty is accessing your wisdom-mind whose intelligence is learned from both knowledge and experience. In that moment, you can override the emotional ego and make a wise choice.

Again, meditation and mindfulness practice will provide the presence of mind and awareness to make a wise choice. Without this skill, your mind will be captivated by the ego influence and the emotions that go with it. Emotions, mood, and desire can be the cause of obvious mistakes.

Tao cultivators can remain calmly detached from these negative factors so that the wisdom-mind can prevail.

The inherent power of wisdom is the right action of intelligence. One of the complements2 of patience is wisdom. Patience can provide the space and opportunity for wisdom by controlling the reactive ego. Detachment can provide the opportunity for patience. You can see these virtues work together in a tapestry to create wisdom. You just have to be present and self-aware.

Wisdom is one of the power virtues of Sovereignty. And remember what Lao Tzu stated in chapter 59; verses 5-9:

Accumulating virtues means that there is nothing one cannot overcome

When there is nothing that one cannot overcome

One’s limits are unknown

The limitations being unknown, one can possess sovereignty

With this mother principle of power, one can be everlasting”

1Excerpt from Tao Te Ching – Annotated and Explained. Written by Derek Line, published by Skylight Paths Publishing, Woodstock, VT Published 2009.

2Complement (no compliment) something completes or perfects the associated virtue.


In the previous chapter, I stated that acceptance is a gateway virtue that enables other virtues such as patience. Patience is what I would call a lynch-pin virtue. It is the complement of so many other important virtues. A lynch-pin joins the axle of the wagon wheel to keep the wheel in position. The lynch-pin keeps the axle from sliding out of the hole in the wheel hub. Thus, the emptiness of the hub gives function to form and holds it all together so the vehicle can move forward towards its destination. In its most important role patience unifies possibility and intention to destiny. Destiny is determined by your choices. To choose wisely, you must be patient, and not be pushed by impulsive negative traits of the ego mind.


This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. To view a copy of this license, visit or send a letter to Creative Commons, PO Box 1866, Mountain View, CA 94042, USA.


In holding the soul and embracing oneness

Can one be steadfast without straying?

Verse 1, Chapter 10

Meditation leads to the stillness of the mind and emptiness of ego. Stillness and emptiness is the space for acceptance. Acceptance creates space for patience. Patience enables you to be steadfast without straying like the lynch pin holding the wheel to the axle. It is said that emptiness gives “functionality to form.”1The inherent power of patience is the wisdom to resist ego and avoid impulsiveness and reactionary choices. This is the inherent power of patience.

Example: Because she was so patient, the children came to love and respect her.

Patience creates the space for hope, giving you the courage to overcome fear. By the phrase ‘creating space’, I mean that you become present and self-aware. Free of the impatient ego, you can choose to be patient. In the moment of patience, you return to your true path.

Continuing with the wagon wheel metaphor, let thirty spokes of the wheel, be some of the many virtues one can practice as a sovereignty cultivator. Patience allows you to view many different perspectives and possible choices to the situations that you face. Without patience, these virtuous choices will probably not be realized. Lack of patience and impulsiveness can lead to costly stupid mistakes.


Here is a list of some important virtues, that when mindfully practiced can transform your life in a dramatic and wonderful way. Looking at the group of the virtues below, think about how well you practice them. Get a piece of paper and write each one down. Write down beside it score from 1 to 5. 1 is no patience and 5 is the patience of a Saint. You probably ought to begin with honesty and work your way down. Do you have the patience to stick with this exercise? Or are you already telling yourself you will come back later?




Will Power























Now if you scored low of any of these important virtues, sit quietly and reflect on why these virtues are difficult. The answer will lie in seeing how your ego resists virtue of patience. This is really where spiritual growth if effective. Seeing your faults and then choosing the right action. With sovereignty over ego, you can be mindful and then choose patience over the ego response. Can you see how powerful it is to be able to over-ride the self-destructive reactions of the ego?

Try these powerful steps of cultivation. The following chapters on virtues require you to exercise patience and practice. Here are some actions steps for cultivation.

  1. Mindfulness. Take a course in meditation and mindfulness. Learn how to focus the mind away from the mind-stream of incessant thinking. Pay attention in a judgmental way to how the mind lost in ego intentions/responses. Consciously choose to ignore the impulsiveness and re-activity nature of the ego.

  2. Keep a journal. I have found that it helps to keep a journal of some sort. At the end of each day, make notes in your journal of what you experienced.

  3. Cultivate patience for a couple of weeks before moving onto the list of other virtues to incorporate into your life. Patience empowers self-discipline. Try to spend 3 or4 weeks on cultivating patience and use your journal to chart your progress.

  4. Cultivate A Life Path of Virtue. Start with the virtue that you scored the lowest and work your way up to your best. The following chapters are some that I find very important to work on. Take each virtue and live with it for a week. At the beginning of each day, take a moment to set the intention to follow the virtue. Work your journal. Use moderation in your efforts. Always be mindful of ego. It is the great pretender. So, avoid attachment to outcome. You will experience some set-backs with cultivating patience so do not lose patience with yourself. That is an ego response (impatience).

You do not have to become an expert at virtuous living. Even just a modest improvement will transform your life. Just do the best that you can. Remember, that your choices will initiate cause and effect (karma). The causation of virtue will result in true wisdom which will guide to true success. What you concentrate on, what you send out will return bigger, deeper and strong. The more you invest in virtuous choices, the bigger the return of Mystic Virtue2. This is the foundation for a long and successful life. This is the way of sovereignty. Begin with patience and self-honesty.

1Chapt 11, verse 2, Tao Te Ching

2Mystic Virtue; Chapter 11

The Power Of Acceptance

Not knowing constancy, one recklessly cause trouble

Knowing constancy is acceptance

Acceptance is impartiality

Impartiality is Sovereign

Sovereign is Heaven

Heaven is Tao

Tao is eternal

The Self is no more, without danger”

Excerpt from Chapter 16

Acceptance begins with the present moment. It is an acknowledgment of reality and the allowing of something as it really is. Non-acceptance (denial) is something the ego does frequently when its self-serving desire is in conflict with reality. The illusion occurs when reality does not match up with how the ego wants it to be. Acceptance is impartial to desire.

The ego will have a bias towards the perspective that best serves its insatiable desire. Confirmation bias is an illusion where a person seeks out only that information that supports the biased view. Denial of the underlying reality of life as it avoids facing the root cause of suffering. The ego will delude itself for a number of reasons such as greed or fear. Both lead to suffering.

Non-acceptance to reality creates resistance. When you deny the underlying reality, you are resisting the natural flow of life. This resistance creates emotional friction. The ego response can be mood reactions such as anger, frustration, depression, resentment and other negative feelings. When you feel these dark moods, the usual reaction is to cope with them through superficial means such as sensational responses. We may do unhealthy things hoping to feel better. Distraction is a common means of coping. Instinctively people will try to fill their minds with something else so that they will feel better. Too often these coping measures are self-destructive and only lead to more and deeper suffering.

Acceptance is a virtue whose inherent power can lead to a more effective alternative. When you can accept the reality of a situation you become impartial to the desire of the self-absorbed ego. Non-acceptance can create a feeling of being imprisoned. However, the prison is one whose door is wide open and you just to walk through it. Free of desire, you become detached from the things that keep you confined and unhappy.

This ability to accept and let go is a trait of sovereignty. Remember, sovereignty is the higher-consciousness ruling over the ego mind. When you can take back your power from the ego, you free yourself from its attachments.

Acceptance is a gateway virtue that initiates the implementation of other virtues such as honesty, cooperation, patience, wisdom, contentment, detachment, gratitude, and simplicity. Each virtue has its own inherent powers for effective life management.

Acceptance is the first step in detachment. With detachment, you can cultivate Wu Wei1. With attachment to outcome, you are striving which is opposite of the Tao.

You can use the “because of” litmus test to see the inherent power of acceptance.

Example: “Because of his acceptance, he was able to be patient with the child’s tantrums.”

And… “It was a time of great struggle. However, by virtue of acceptance, she was able to experience contentment and even joy during challenging times.”

Acceptance is a choice. It is available in the moment that you are mindful of feelings and intentions. Through meditation and mindfulness practice you can learn to be aware of the ego and transcend its control over those choices that affect your future.

The future depends on what we do in the present.”

Mahatma Gandhi

Is it easy to practice acceptance? You will immediately know how you feel when you try it. If you (your ego) resists you will feel it in a negative way.

Truth can be subjective. So use discernment rather than ego bias. I define discernment as perceiving without judgment so that you can perceive what the underlying reality is. Be mindful of ego bias and influence in what you believe to be true. Realize multiple perspectives and other viewpoints. Try to avoid being attached to an ego based outcome.

Another important point about acceptance is making the distinction of action vs reaction. An example to see this is when you experience a serious illness. Sometimes we can be in denial because we are afraid of the outcome or even the treatment. The right action is to accept that there is an anomaly in your well-being, yet you do not have to react by giving up and surrendering to despair. You can accept the reality of the illness, but you don’t have to accept the reaction of hopelessness. When you accept what is happening, it can be more effective in finding a solution. Hope can raise the spirit which has a better chance of healing.

In verses 1 – 11 of Chapter 64, Lao Tzu encourages us to deal with life issues early on.

When it is peaceful, it is easy to maintain

When it shows no signs, it is easy to plan

When it is fragile, it is easy to break

When it is small, it is easy to scatter

Act on it when it has not yet begun

Treat it when it is not yet chaotic

A Tree thick enough to embrace

Grows from the tiny sapling

A tower of nine levels

Starts from the dirt heap

A journey of a thousand miles

Begins beneath the feet

Acceptance avoids procrastination so that we can begin the right action while it is effective. Sometimes problems resolve themselves but many times they do not. Either way, acceptance is the more effective approach.

Acceptance is practiced by true-self and cultivates sovereignty. Your sovereignty will keep the ego in check which will lead to a more harmonious life. A life in harmony is one with less effort and striving. You can accomplish more by doing less.

Sovereign is Heaven

Heaven is Tao

Tao is eternal

The Self is no more, without danger”

In this way, you can get through the challenges and still live a long life of well-being. Acceptance opens the way for Sovereignty.

1See the Chapter 12 on Wu Wei. (unattached actions, accomplish more by doing less.


Attain the ultimate emptiness

Hold on to the truest tranquility

The myriad things are all active

I therefore watch their return

Everything flourishes, each returns to its root

Returning to its root is called tranquility

Tranquility is called returning to one’s nature

Returning to one’s nature is called constancy

Knowing constancy is called clarity

Not knowing constancy, one recklessly causes trouble

Knowing constancy is acceptance

Acceptance is impartiality

Impartiality is sovereign

Sovereign is Heaven

Heaven is Tao

Tao is eternal

The self is no more, without danger.

Chapter 16, Tao Te Ching

Constancy is a word that appears in at least three chapters of the Tao Te Ching. Before studying the Tao, it was a word I never used. Constancy is a very powerful virtue. It is a necessary element of cultivating sovereignty. In this context, I define constancy as a returning faithfully to the stillness of the Tao. What does this mean?

There are numerous references throughout the Tao Te Ching about returning to and being in a meditative state. The meditative state can be thought of as pure awareness within the stillness of the mind. A stillness of the mind is realized in the presence of the movement of thought processes. In this stillness, empty of mind movement is tranquility. In tranquility is your true nature. Your true nature is being. Your being is spirit.


The physical experience of life requires that we go forth and work to sustain our presence in the physical realm. As we engage our world, we use our mind to think.

The myriad things are all active”

Along the path of our species evolution, we developed the ego. I consider the ego to be physical consciousness that helped us to survive and evolve. For many, this physical consciousness is the primary identity. When asked “who are you?”, the response is “I am me”. While the ego identity serves the purpose of dealing with self-preservation and strategies for survival it is not the highest state of conscientiousness. The ego mind and sense of self must be managed and ruled over by the higher state of consciousness, the spirit. This is the essence of sovereignty. The spirit and wisdom mind reigning with supreme authority over the animalistic ego mind. The eternal non-corporeal essence of pure being.

When you sit in meditation and focus your consciousness on the stillness beyond thought and mindstream of mind and emotion you return to being. This is returning. Spirituality is pure being and unity with the Tao. It is a return from ignorance to wisdom, from avarice to virtue, and from narcissism to altruism to realize and maintain harmony. Harmony leads to tranquility.

I therefore watch their return

Everything flourishes, each returns to its root”

Tranquility is realized when you have moved beyond the thoughts [transcendence] that drive you crazy and create problems. In the dichotomy of Taoism, it can be thought of as heaven and earth. Or spiritual and physical.

As a physical living being, we must engage the physical aspect of living. Food, shelter, and thriving are daily activities that keep our physical presence in a sustained manner. However, we must return to spirit to maintain harmony. The harmony is a balance between spiritual and physical, being and doing, true nature and ego.

The meditative state is pure being, and mindfulness is the non-judgmental view of what you are thinking. Cultivating harmony is constancy returning to spiritual-awareness and the tranquility of calm-abiding. It is reflected in the principle of yin-yang. Yin is being/spiritual and yang is physical/action. This returning faithfully to spirit and oneness with the Tao (stillness) constancy.


Spiritual clarity is seeing things as they really are without the influence and filtering of the ego. The ego perspective is always tainted by narcissistic traits and a self-serving agenda. The ego is unable to see the underlying reality because of its nature is often caught up in illusion.

Returning to one’s nature is called constancy

Knowing constancy is called clarity

Not knowing constancy, one recklessly causes trouble

When the ego has too much control over decision making and choices, then trouble and suffering ensue. The ego abhors wisdom and will default to what ever desire or emotion that happens to be prevailing. It will ignore the wise choice and try to fulfill its luster or cope with mood. Ignoring wisdom and following ignorance, it will recklessly cause trouble for itself and others.

When you have transcended the ego and returned to spirit, you use discernment to see reality as it really is. Detached from ego, you will be able to accept reality and take the right action accordingly. This is acceptance. Rather than being controlled by reactions and perception of the ego, the choices you make, the steps you take are in unity with the Tao. Wise choices create harmony. Harmony means more successes and less suffering. Harmony is the nature of the Tao. Harmony sustains longevity. With the self-discipline of the sovereign spirit holding the ego under control, your path is less fraught with the dangers of bad choices.

Knowing constancy is acceptance

Acceptance is impartiality

Impartiality is sovereign

Sovereign is Heaven

Heaven is Tao

Tao is eternal

The self is no more, without danger.

The inherent powers of constancy are clarity and acceptance. Because of the power of constancy, you will be able to see things as they really are and to practice acceptance. By the virtue of you can experience a longer life with more harmony. This is the way of Sovereignty. This is the Tao.

True Courage

…I have three treasures

I hold on to them and protect them

The first is called compassion

The second is called conservation

The third is called not daring to get ahead in the world.

Compassionate, thus able to have courage

Conserving, thus able to reach widely

Not daring to get ahead in the world

Thus able to assume leadership

Now if one has courage but discards compassion

Reaches widely but discards conservation

Goes ahead but discards being behind

Then death!”….

Excerpt from Chapter 67 verses 7 – 19 of the Tao Te Ching.


True Courage vs Bravery

True courage is the inherent power of compassion. 1 This chapter highlights the important differences between just true courage and bravery.

Generally, courage is thought to be the ability to engage something difficult, dangerous, pain etcetera. This definition could also be applied to the word bravery, boldness, or guts. However, there is an important distinction between true courage and the other definitions.

The distinction can be found in the examination of the intention or mindset for how and why one faces danger and difficulty. One intention is to serve the self, the other is to serve something other than self. True courage is found through compassion and serving someone or something other than your specific needs or perspective. If you initiate an internet search for symbols of courage, you will see many images of the lion. The lion is a symbol of both power and true courage. The male lion will fearlessly protect the pride, and the lioness will fearlessly defend her cubs. They have a natural inherent intent of serving the pride.

To understand how compassion creates true courage, think of how the mothers or parents of many species will face great danger or difficulty in order to protect their young. Human parents will endure years of hardship and sacrifice to enable their children to have a good life. In nature, it is easy to see how mothers can be ferocious when their cubs are threatened. Every year we hear in the news how a mother bear attacked hikers or campers who came too close to the cubs.

Another perspective of how people will exhibit true courage for something other than their own well being can be seen when they serve their team, their country, or even humanity. Courage and sacrifice for the great good is the element of virtue that gives true courage.

And then there is bravery. I use bravery as a comprehensive word to represent the different actions where one faces difficulty, adversity, danger, and sacrifice because of self-gain. Greed, avarice, vanity, anger, vengeance are just a few ego motivating factors that can cause people to face danger or sacrifice one thing to get another. Some examples might be a bank robber who just wants to be rich. Or it might be swindling older people out of their money. In both situations, the perpetrator faces challenges and the danger of getting caught, yet you can see the motivations for self-gain.

Sometimes a person’s ego can be so self-convincing to the degree that they draw others into their dangerous plight because they are convinced that their idea will save the day. It gives credence to the saying “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. It is still just a matter of a self-serving mindset for the ego or even collective ego. Seemingly good ideas can become a self-serving ideology masked under the name of religion.

If you are still not convinced, try considering what Lao Tzu says in verse 16 and 19:

verse 16 …“Now if one has courage but discards compassion”

verse 19 …“then death”.

Death” can be both a metaphor for self-destruction and loss or it can be literal. Taking dangerous chances because of ego pursuits can end in death. Taking chances with financial resources because of greed can result in a great financial loss.

Once again, you can see how important it is to be mindfully aware of the mind and the ego’s influence over intentions. In those moments of choice, you must know what you are doing and why otherwise the chance you are taking will not be based on true courage and end badly for all involved.

To step out of your comfort zone to help someone takes courage. In this way, courage becomes a virtue and karma will reflect back your true intention. Today and every day the opportunity for courage will present itself. It might be helping someone stand up to a bully. It may be a chance to push back on bigotry or racism. You may be called on to sacrifice something important to you so that someone else gets what they really need. A moment of truth will present itself that offers you a chance to have the courage to move beyond judgment and be compassionate. When you decide to take action seek to know if you are doing it because you will look good and be famous or are you doing it stop someone from suffering.

You will have the choice to be safely indifferent to someone in need or to have the courage to do the right thing. I hope for karma’s sake that you make the right choice. I guarantee you that someone in your future will need for you to have the courage and act selflessly.

Inherent Power

The inherent power of true courage is “victory”. Victory can also be thought of as true success, longevity and most importantly, harmony. When you use the “because of or by virtue of” test2, you can see the inherent power. Example:

Because of her true courage, she was able to inspire the workforce to achieve its goal in record time and keep morale high.

The analogy. When a leader and its group have a common goal, the leader can use compassion in leading the workforce. Putting her own ego-agenda aside and addressing the concerns of the workers raise the spirit of the workforce/team. They, in turn, will sacrifice and give extra effort for victory because they will be acting with compassion for those who stand to benefit from their efforts.

On the other hand, when the leader can be only focused on the result and uses coercion, manipulation, and trickery and forces the effort without compassion, then there will be a failure or at best-limited success. Any success will be soured by enmity to the leader and people will not want to follow them in the future.

True courage is knowing the “two standards” and choosing the right action.3 Compassionate courage is a virtue of sovereignty. Practice often.

1See the chapter on compassion (chapter 13)

2Use the phrase “because of” and “by virtue” as the reason for success to illuminate the inherent power of virtue vs ego.

3See the Chapter on Mystic Virtue for more about the two standards

Mystic Virtue

Right now the title of the next book is probably going to be Sovereignty – The Mother Principle of Power. Section One of the book will be a study of important Tao principles such as Karma, Emptiness, Wu Wei et al. One of the important virtues will be about the principle of Mystic Virtue which in itself is a study of inherent power. Section Two of the book will be a study of virtue and their inherent powers. In chapter 64, Lao Tzu says of Mystic Virtue, “it is so profound, so far reaching”. To understand why virtue is so powerful, one must realize the insights in Mystic Virtue. This is definitely a game changer on the path to Sovereignty.

<from the rough manuscript>

A Study Of Mystic Virtue


Mystic Virtue is so profound, so far-reaching

It goes opposite to material things

Then it reaches great congruence

Excerpt (v13,14,15) from Chapter 65, Tao Te Ching

Why is cultivating and knowing mystic virtue so important? Its power is realized when it reached great congruence. Masters and Sages who have integrated this aspect of Sovereignty are sought out because of their great wisdom and success at life. Their powers are mysterious and profound. They accomplish great things effortlessly and with joy. Because of this mysterious ability, people seek them out for guidance. They are loved and cherished.

There are two main aspects of Mystic Virtue to study. The “Inherent Power” of virtue, and the right choice of “The Two Standards.”

Inherent Power.

A study of mystic virtue is one of cultivating a mysterious and unusual power. But this power is not what you might think. Tao masters and sages attain a different kind of power. Think of someone in your society that you think of as powerful. Consider what kind of power or powers they wield. Examples might be the Mayor of your city or town. Or perhaps it is your Commanding Officer, your professor or your boss. Maybe you are thinking about a powerful Bull or some type of powerful beast. Perhaps you are even considering a shaman who can conjure the wind and rain. While these are all examples of power the power I am talking about is altogether different. It is something called inherent power.

An observation of inherent power reveals that it is hiding in plain sight. You have used it or have been witness to it at various times but maybe never viewed it as significant. What I speak of is a virtuous power. Virtue has two meanings. The obvious one is the one we know as being a high moral standard or action. The other one is as an inherent power.

Consider this example:

by virtue of her patience and self-discipline, she was able to lose 100 pounds.”


by virtue of his reputation of honesty, he was able to gain the trust of the staff.”

Change the phrase “by virtue of” to “because of” and you will gain the insight of inherent power. This is the inherent power of virtue. Masters and sages merge with this power so skillfully that they make the hardest tasks or goals seem easy. They can share insights that bring clarity to murkiness. There is definitely a level of mystique in how they always seem to know and see clearly and so it gained the the description of “mystic“ (mysterious) . Thus it became known as “mystic virtue”.

The Two Standards.

The essence of mystic virtue is to be mindful of the two standards (virtue vs ego) and to take the right action. The inherent power is demonstrated when you are aware of ego intentions but hold to the way of virtue. In every moment you have a choice between spirit and ego intentions. To know both standards but to hold to virtue is called mystic virtue.

Three chapters in the Tao Te Ching show us how to cultivate and attain this mysterious power. They are chapters 10, 51, and 65. These three chapters hold far more that can be discussed in one chapter. So here is an overview of what is required and how to cultivate. They show the two standards of realizing the two standards and taking the right action (choice). As you go through each of these chapters below, look for the two standards and understanding how Lao Tzu is encouraging you to choose the way of mystic virtue.

Chapter 10 addresses the mindset for cultivating and implementing mystic virtue. The two standards are

  • self-awareness vs distraction
  • true-self vs ego.

You cannot choose the right action (virtue) without self-aware and mindful of ego influences.

Chapter 51 describes how the Tao and naturally follows mystic virtue with right action.

  • “Produces without possession”
  • “Acts without flaunting”
  • “Nurtures without domination”

The Tao naturally produces (creates) with possessing. Living creatures are free to take from nature all of what they need. Nature, having no ego, acts without showing off. It nurtures (sustains us) without any need to control or dominate.

Chapter 65 instructs us on using mystic virtue in interpersonal relationships and governing our lives (Sovereignty).

  • Simplicity vs cleverness

Using complexity and cleverness to manage your life and the people in it goes against nature. Most reasonable people will always listen to or follow those who speak and act simply and honestly. Using trickery, complexity to dominate or control others will always lead to a bad end.

Here is a consolidated list compiled from the 3 chapters:

  • Be steadfast without straying (self-aware/mindful)
  • Be without imperfections (seeing reality as it is)
  • Concentrate the energy and reach relaxation like an infant (relaxed and free of stress)
  • Be without imperfections in your perspective (detached observation)

  • Be without manipulation in your personal interactions (the feminine principle)

  • Create without possession (free of attachment to outcome and personal gain)
  • Achieve without arrogance (humility)
  • Raise without domination (help or assist with expectation or compensation)
  • Produces but possess (give freely)
  • Act but not flaunt (action with ego vanity)
  • Nurture but not dominate (holding to the feminine principles)
  • Simplicity rather than cleverness in dealing with people (honesty, simple)
  • Know the ego way but choosing the Tao (the way). Right action

Look for the inherent power in choosing the right standard. In the list above, put the phrase “by virtue of being …” in front of each line. Consider what the mystic power will produce.

Example: By virtue of being steadfast without straying I was able to ….

If you are a leader, think of your subjects. If you are a parent, think of your children. If you are a boss, think of your subordinates. Be the sovereign in both the inner and outer world. Be mindful of the two standards and choose the action; the way of mystic virtue. If you do this with consistency, you will cultivate a great inherent power. This is the way of the sovereign, at one with the Tao.



Knowledge vs Experience

Chapter 50 The Dixie Taoist: Sovereignty*

The Strategy: Striving for knowledge can be just another effort of ego desire. Wisdom is gained through experience and self-reflection.

The Application: Rein in the ego’s striving for knowledge and power. Cultivate wisdom and knowing through awareness and experience. By being mindful and self-aware, real understanding and growth occur through actual experience.

knowledge is power”1

An internet search for the phrase “knowledge is power”, will result in millions of hits.2 It is accepted as such a given truth, that it may be difficult for you the reader to be able to consider an alternative perspective. However, some older and wiser readers will understand the concept that wisdom gained through experience is true power and “book knowledge” is at best just the beginning.

As in so many cases of cultivating sovereignty, this Tao wisdom begins with being aware of how the ego has influence over our feelings and actions. This chapter takes a look at the strategy of being aware of ego’s role in the pursuit of knowledge, and the Tao wisdom of cultivating a deeper wisdom for success in life. The harmony is found in the balance between knowledge and experience. It is not knowledge itself that is harmful, but the obsession and striving to possess it that goes against the Tao wisdom.

End sagacity; abandon knowledge

The people benefit a hundred times…

Excerpt from Chapter 19, Tao Te Ching

The pursuit of excessive knowledge is rife with ego traits.

  • The ego is insecure and seeks knowledge as a means of security.
  • The ego is vain. To be seen as filled with knowledge is to be admired by others.
  • The ego is impatient and often lazy. It has a desire to circumvent experience and gain understanding through the gain of knowledge.
  • The ego has an insatiable hunger and always wants more. Enough is not enough, and more is better. Sometimes it does not know when to stop pursuing knowledge and start living.
  • The ego is ignorant and believes that knowledge supersedes experience.

When I finished my first enlistment in the Navy, I enrolled in a technical college after returning home. I studied electronic technology and loved every minute of it. After graduating, I went back into the Navy and couldn’t wait to get to work as a technician/operator on radio equipment. My head was filled with all sorts of theory and math formulas that I couldn’t wait to try out in the real world.

When I got to my first duty station which was a ship, I was immediately given a piece of equipment to troubleshoot and repair. After spending too many hours trying to figure out what was wrong, my supervisor came to me to find out what the problem was. I was trying to apply all the classroom knowledge instead of using my instincts and common sense. In a moment of humility, I asked my supervisor what I was missing. The answer and solution turned out to be so simple. He had never had the benefit of a college education but he did have hundreds of hours of experience with this equipment. His experience over the years gave him the real power of knowing on a deeper level how to keep our communications equipment operating with efficiency. I had almost no experience and the knowledge that I had gained in school fell way short of practical application. As I began to use my instincts and senses to help me troubleshoot and repair, my skill improved quickly. With experience, the book knowledge fell into place and made sense on a theoretical level. The hands-on experience along with the “book learning” found a harmony with each other and my skills improved dramatically.

Accumulating knowledge can also set up the illusion of knowing. Having acquired information, the ego will take on an attitude of “I’ve got this”. The Tao Te Ching warns us

“To know that you do not know is highest

To not know but think you know is flawed”

Excerpt from Chapter 70 Tao Te Ching

Knowing is defined as information or skill gained through education and experience. Both can be valuable attainments. The wisdom of this lesson is about having sovereignty over the ego so that your reasons for seeking knowledge and experience is grounded in virtue.

If I have a little knowledge

Walking the great Tao

I fear only to deviate from it

The great Tao is broad and plain

But people like the side paths…

Excerpt from Chapter 53, Tao Te Ching

The Tao as a spiritual and philosophical path has the potential to transform your life in the most positive way. As the sovereign, you must control the ego so that you do not stray from the path. Having a little knowledge can inflate the ego and you can lose your way. The way is “broad and plain”, yet you can become distracted in the pursuit of knowledge for ill gain and get lost on the side paths.

As someone who practices mindfulness, you can pay attention to your intentions and desires of the ego even if you meander along the way. The pursuit of knowledge for the sake of ego gain is a distraction or “side path” to be careful of. The ego, the great pretender, can even use the Tao as a pursuit of knowledge. Your understanding of Tao principles and virtues is best learned through experience. The best experience is found by the application in everyday life. Later, when you reflect on what your observed and experienced, your knowing will be on solid ground.

1Possibly Francis Bacon;

2As I write this chapter, google reported 31,900,000 hits with variations such as “information is power” etc.

 The Book Is scheduled for release Summer of 2017

Will Power & Self-Discipline

Woman stretching at gym.

The Strategy: Work on your ‘self’ first. Cultivate will-power and self-control to be able to achieve your goals with less striving and failure.

“Accumulating virtues means there is nothing one cannot overcome

When there is nothing that one cannot overcome

One’s limits are unknown

The limitations being unknown, one can possess sovereignty…” Excerpt from Chapter 59

Every New Years Day in the United States, millions of people set up personal goals that are sometimes called “resolutions”. The premise seems to be; its a new year so it is a time for a new me. For many reasons, they become motivated for a change in behavior. The change in behavior has a wide range. The behavioral change can be starting something or stopping something. Sometimes, maybe anytime, we fail to achieve those goals and by springtime, we have lost the motivation.

Harmony is the foundation for good karma. The western mind can understand Karma as the law of cause and effect will manifest through your choices. Will-power of the true-self will seek harmony through moderation and right thinking. In this way, you can reach your goals and realize the success of your new year resolutions. With proper motivation, and the execution of true will power you can reach your goals. The wisdom is to work on your ‘self’ first, to achieve sovereignty, and goal success will happen without as much striving or failure.

The realization that we must change our path when it is leading us away from harmony comes from the inner nature of the true-self. We have those moments where we admit to ourselves that we need to change and resolve to do so, hence the new years’ resolutions. In those moments where we are contemplating our destiny as the true-self, we can make some choices to change our ways.

So how do we continue working towards our self-improvement goals even when we no longer feel motivated? It takes will power.

Will-power is cultivated through self-control and self-discipline. Sovereignty and will power are the mental states where we consciously choose to follow the higher path. In previous chapters, we discussed at length how to cultivate self-control and self-discipline.

Without will power, you have a much more likely chance of not succeeding in realizing those self-improvement goals. Will power is that nature that will keep you on the path even and especially when you feel like giving up.

There are those difficult moments where the choice of staying on the path is right before you. Do you maintain or do you cave in? It becomes a battle of will between true-self and ego. Which aspect will become sovereign?

How do you do this? You must transcend the ego and take over the management of your emotional life. This is done through a self-awareness and the discipline of meditation and mindfulness. This is working on the self first. With Will-power, self-control, and self-discipline you can better avoid the poor choices that lead to distraction and failure. This is sovereignty.

Sovereignty takes over management of intention from the willful ego. Ego seeks to fulfill desire. The true self seeks to implement virtue and wisdom. The path of desire has many traps to prevent you from achieving a true success. Hidden intentions or imprinted intentions can operate in the background and control how you navigate down your path. So it is important to practice meditation and mindfulness to stay strong in your calm abiding nature. Insight meditation (self-reflection) can help you uncover hidden or subconscious intentions that can erode your will-power. This is part of “self-discovery” or the sacred path set out in chapter one.

Even the intention of the goal itself should be examined. When you are self-aware, you can examine the what and why of the goal. An important question to ask is if the goal is just a means of seeking happiness and fulfillment through material gain? Is this just more “self-indulgence1 (ego indulgence).

It is my conjecture that you should first seek to find and know your true path. That you should be living your life with your higher purpose. Your goals should be aligned with your higher purpose that is one of virtue and in the service of others. Be aware of ego goals that are vain, petty and non-spiritual. Rather than seeking fame and fortune, seek to share your true gifts with others.

When you find your true path and realize those worthy goals, then begin the hard work of cultivating the true-self.2 Become the sovereign, whose will-power will accomplish worthy achievement through self-discipline and self-control. By working on the self to be in spiritual harmony, the goal you seek, the goals you achieve will be done without striving. This is accomplishing more by doing less. This is a principle of Wu Wei3. This is being Sovereign.

This is a chapter from the upcoming book “Sovereignty”. From section three; Tao Strategies.

1See the section on the “self”.

2See The Dixie Taoist Volume One: How To Find Your True Path

3See the chapter on Wu Wei