Discovering Inner Peace: Dao De Jing

Delta Winds cover 2016Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


Discovering Inner Peace: Dao De Jing

Morgan Johnston

Ultimately everybody wants the same thing: Happiness. But how does one get it? Will it be obtained when finding Mr. Right, getting that dream job? Will it be found through friendship, or perhaps when finally traveling the world? We often place our happiness within something else, when in reality we have the power to achieve it in our mind. Happiness is a mental state. One must simply adjust one's mindset, although that is sometimes easier said than done. Dao De Jing is a collection of philosophical ancient Chinese poems, which do not necessarily solely teach how to obtain happiness, but how to discover the Way. The Way is essentially becoming one with the universe and allowing for the discovery of one's purpose. The Dao De Jing is one of the most popular pieces of literature. It is a religious classic, with over one hundred different translations in just the English language alone (1601). Daoism is very unique because its theories are subjective to each individual, and the meanings evolve as its reader does. Through the Dao De Jing's concepts of flow, simplicity, and balance, I have discovered an inner peace-one that helps with the relief of personal anxieties.

The Dao De Jing's notion to go with the flow is the most significant lesson to me in all of its teachings. Early Daoist philosophers suggest that when people make arbitrary decisions in an attempt to control their lives, as opposed to going with the flow, that it will inevitably lead one to trouble (1604). The universe has a meaningful plan for everyone; overruling nature's course will lead one off track when it comes to discovering their true purpose. Initially, I struggled to accept this concept in full, thinking: I cannot simply wait for things to happen; I have to make them happen. But as I took the theory into further consideration, its truth became clearer. I am most unhappy when I begin to believe my life is not good enough, resulting in my seeking change. Anxieties set in, and I begin to question everything surrounding me. The Bedford Anthology of World Literature, Book 1, explains humans only perceive a fragment of the whole plan, and potentially misunderstand how every event is connected to another (1604). Every experience, including the bad, is essential to another, even if one doesn't understand how at the time. It is as if the saying "as one door closes, another door opens" originated from the Dao De Jing's ancient philosophy. As I read Laozi's poems, my toxic habit of overthinking and negatively questioning my life's course was addressed right before my eyes. According to Daoism, my actions were incorrect. "Empty yourself of everything. Let the mind rest at peace" (1606). When one leaves emotion out of the thinking process, the Way will become clearer. To simply be receptive and open-minded to the flow of life is how one should act. I find peace in this way of thinking and realize my own emotions are a significant starting point of stress and anxiety in my life.

The next influential concept brought to my attention by the Dao De Jing is the importance of simplicity. Today's world is full of outside social pressures, and it seems as though everybody has an opinion on how another should act. Prioritizing other people's wishes before my own desires seems to only lead me to a discouraged state-unsure of who I really am. The Dao De Jing states, "It is more important to see the simplicity, to realize one's true nature, to cast off selfishness and temper desire" (1607). I connected to this statement immediately, for it reminded me to rid my mind of outside burdens and to channel the simplicities of life. The path others may want me to take is not necessarily the path to discovering my true purpose. I especially connected to poem Twenty-Eight of the Dao De Jing, as it states, "Become as a little child once more" (1608). To me, this simply translated to be free. To free myself of any bottled up emotions and to just breathe; be as carefree as a child. The author goes on to say, "Return to the state of the uncarved block" (1606), and within those words I have found so much power. When I am caught up in the chaos of the world, I remember to bring my mind to the simplest state-as if my mind is as pure as an untouched piece of wood. Reading the Dao De Jing is naturally therapeutic and as calming as a form of meditation. I hold on to Laozi's wise words and will use them as a tool in the future.

The Dao De Jing's teachings of balance also offer me peace of mind. Daoism is often compared to the flow of water, or better described as yin and yang, to represent water's natural rhythmic poles (1603). The yin and yang represent two opposites that yet perfectly complement each other, creating an even balance. Yin is associated with darkness, the enclosed, or femininity. Yang is associated with light, openness, or masculinity (1606). Daoism recognizes the presence of polar opposites in the universe and embraces them. This is an important concept that Daoism addresses because keeping a balance of all things in life keeps stability. Too much of one emotion over another can cause displacement and a swayed mindset. Dao explains that harmony can be achieved by combining forces (1609). It is as if all actions have an opposite and equal reaction but in balanced unity create tranquility. Hardships in life are balanced with peace, just as light is balanced with dark. Any of my personal anxieties or worries can be counteracted with the right mindset. I cannot allow myself to be consumed with stress, anxiety, or worry and expect to achieve happiness. This throws off mental balance and just creates more confusion. Having a balanced mind, caught up in neither spectrum of emotion, is when clear thoughts will emerge and the Way can be discovered. Balance allows for a deep inner peace and relief of uneven emotions.

The Dao De Jing has been a pleasant discovery that has made a positive impact on my life. Its concept of going with the flow has taught me to trust the universe and not go against its will. It is important to remember and appreciate the simple things in life, as well as keep an even emotional balance. I find the Dao De Jing to be calming, and I appreciate the sense of inner peace it has given me. It has allowed me to see-through a different perspective-not only life, but my inner self. I will forever remember its teachings.


Work Cited

Davis, Paul, et al, eds. The Bedford Anthology of World Literature: The Ancient World, Beginnings-100 C.e. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2004.