There is a Time for Everything
Just as you breathe in and breathe out,
there is a time for being ahead
and a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion
and a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous
and a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe
and a time for being in danger.
This is one of my favorite parts of the Tao Te Ching (Dow Day Jeen-g), by Lao Tzu, thousands of years ago. The Tao simply means, “The Way,” which is to say, “The Natural Way of Things.” It’s one of my favorite texts of all time, for many reasons.
When I was working full time at a job where I was being treated like a commodity, I would listen to this text on audiobook via YouTube, a translation by Dr. Wayne Dyer. It’s since become my favorite translation of the book, as his way of communicating the wisdom from this text feels more fluid than the other, more rigid translations that I’ve read.
I listened to this audiobook every day of my life, going to and from work, and during the day when I was at my desk – on repeat. I believe this, combined with the practical application of the teachings of The Science of Getting Rich by Wallace Wattles, contributed to my ability to extract myself from this job and transition (rather rapidly) into freelancing. But that’s a story for another time.
The excerpt above has a calming effect on me that is instantaneous as the words flow through my consciousness. It states that there is a time for everything – that peaks and valleys, and perceived positive and negative feelings/events, all have their place.
“Just as you breathe in and breathe out...”
The breath is life-giving. Without it... well, you know. It is something that we do not have to think about. You do not have to tell your lungs it is time to breathe, it just happens. It is a natural occurrence.
It is for this reason that I love the juxtaposition between this and the rest of the words. It is saying that all that follows this statement is as natural as the breath.
“There is a time for being ahead, and a time for being behind.”
These words give me such serenity the moment I hear them. So many times, we beat ourselves up for being behind in our work, like that somehow reflects on us in a negative light. Work piles up, and we busy ourselves trying to play catch up – but guess what? There will always be new things to do. You’ll never get it all done. So relax.
When you think of “being ahead” as the inhaling of the breath, and “being behind” as the exhale, then the whole concept comes together beautifully and you can see the exquisite duality of creation. Neither is better than the other – they are as the waves in the ocean, which ebb and flow in perfect harmony with The Tao.
“A time for being in motion, and a time for being at rest.”
That is a big one for me, personally. Being raised in the Western Mindset, I have been taught that The Hustle is a noble pursuit. Grind 24/7 and you will have great success. If you read my last blog post, you already know how I feel about “The Hustle” now. It’s garbage.
There is a time for action, for implementing ideas and creating great things, and when the work is done – the work day, you know, 8 hours or (preferably) less – it is time to retire.
So many of us do not retire at the end of the work day. We take our thoughts from the day and tomorrow’s to-do’s home and into the rest of our day, never resting. As you cook dinner, you are thinking. As you wash the dishes, you are thinking. As you sit on the couch, you are thinking. As you get ready for bed, you are – what? – thinking.
The constant flow of thought never ceases, so you are not resting. There is no stopping, and behaving in this way, one is never truly present. Meditation is a tool that helps with stopping, but moreover, it trains you to be able to do this throughout your day, creating restful moments here and there and helping to avoid burnout, or worse – a breakdown.
“A time for being vigorous, and a time for being exhausted.”
Just as there is a time for work and a time for rest, there is a time for activity and a time for sleep. Exhaustion is as much a part of life as action – there is a place for both.
Listen to your body and give it what it needs, when it needs it. Thirsty? Drink water. Tired? Sleep. Excited? Show it! This seems obvious but you’d be surprised at how many people go against their own inner nature.
“A time for being safe, and a time for being in danger.”
A bit morbid to some, I actually really like this part of the excerpt. It is true that there is a time for health and a time for sickness, and that you never really know what’s going to happen when you step out of your house each day.
Its meaning goes deeper than that, though. In business, and in life, there is a time for playing it safe, and a time for taking risks. Some would deem risks as being dangerous and as something to be avoided, but they are necessary to take sometimes so as to further life and success.
Everything Has Its Place
There is a place for all things in this world – that which we do not like or understand, and that which we do. So much discord comes from trying to impose The Will upon exterior circumstances. When we relax into our own inner knowing and trust in the natural way of things, a beautiful life experience unfolds.
This is a practice. Even The Sage, a word used by Lao Tzu which here means, “the enlightened one,” must practice. When I started to be more easy about things, life became easier. I was able to see solutions to the problems I was facing (remember that job?) and gracefully move into a new way of being, a new life experience. One that was more in alignment with who I am.
The Tao Te Ching
Here’s the video I would watch – or rather, listen to its audio. It’s a still image. I still listen to it, and it brings me an ever-deeper sense of calm now than it did then. I’ve been living its teachings for just over two years now, and the practice gets easier with each passing day.
Do you have something that brings you the same sense of peace? A favorite motivational video, meditation, affirmations, or other such practice? Tell me in the comments or start up a conversation with me via Facebook (it’s so new, be one of the first to like it!) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I also hang out on Instagram if you want to connect there!