Know the masculine,
but keep to the feminine:
receive the world in your arms.
Be a valley under heaven;
if you do, the Tao will never leave you
and you will become as a little child.
Know the white,
yet keep to the black:
be a model for the world.
If you are a model for the world,
the Tao within you will strengthen
and you will return whole to the infinite.
Know the personal,
yet keep to the impersonal:
accept the world as it is.
If you embrace the world with compassion,
then you will live a life of abundant virtue.
The world is formed from the void,
like utensils from a block of wood.
The Master knows the utensils,
yet keeps to the block
because of its limitless possibilities.
When the unformed is formed into objects,
its original qualities are lost.
If you preserve your original qualities,
you can use all things.
Since recorded history began, our culture has been rooted in a very masculine principle: it has been about action, achievement, conquest and dominance.
Lao Tzu tells us to ‘know the masculine, yet keep to the feminine’, the qualities of which include nurturing, compassion, wisdom and acceptance. These are qualities that are greatly needed in the world, now moreso than ever.
Lao Tzu urges us to know the world and all its myriad forms, but to keep to the formless. When we are focused exclusively on objects and forget the source of the objects (such as the uncarved wood from which the utensils are crafted), we lose touch with our source and the result is invariably suffering for ourselves and others.
If we not only accept the world as it is but embrace it with compassion and open arms, then we will never lose connection with our source and will live a life of abundant virtue. Only then can we truly “be the change we want to see in the world.”