Being the Valley

Knowing the manly, but clinging to the womanly,

You become the valley of the world.

Being the valley of the world,

Eternal virtue will never desert you,

And you become like a little child anew.

Knowing the bright, but clinging to the dark,

You become a model to the world.

Being a model to the world,

Eternal virtue will never falter in you,

And you return to the boundless.

Knowing honor, but clinging to disgrace,

You become the valley of the world.

Being the valley of the world,

Eternal virtue will be full in you,

And you return to the state of uncarved wood.

When the uncarved wood is split,

Its parts are put to use.

When the sage is put to use,

He becomes the head.

The best way to carve is not to split.


I was unfamiliar with the Tao Te Ching before I came across this 28th Chapter by way of another book. The author had quoted just the first first paragraph but it moved me so much that I sat and re-read it several times. When I received my very own copy of the Tao Te Ching for my b(earth)day this last Autumn, Chapter 28 was the first passage I flipped to and marked. Have you ever read something that resonated with your soul even if you didn’t fully understand its depth or breadth? Yea, 100% Chapter 28 for me.

I have now spent many a morning contemplation with this passage, and what has spoken so deeply is the simplicity of it. To be the un-carved piece of wood, that holds no duality, opinion, innocent as the day this soul came Earth side. This passage also came at a point in my life where I was struggling with my own ego- feeling the desire to be a stand out healer and teacher, to be seen as someone special, while at the same time feeling the polarity that I wanted to disappear and be of no importance whatsoever. But these are two extremes, I am still learning to find the middle path with this pendulum.

And this is what ‘being the valley’ means. At least to me. The mountain strives to stand out, be bigger, be taller and more imposing and impressive. To be the valley is like the million dollar lottery winner who lives at the end of your street in an unassuming house and 10 year old car who still goes to work each day. It is like the sage who is right in the thick of the day to day, unassuming, demanding no attention, being of service in the ways they can. Its holiness in the mundane. Simplicity among the complexities.

And lets be honest- being a mountain is fucking exhausting. Yet that is what it feels like our modern world wants us to strive for. I, too, believed that success meant being a glorious mountain, I was not immune to the fame-chase as I grew up in an era where there were ‘everyday’ celebrities. We start to believe that is success and with the whole world at our finger tips it can become the driving force of our actions whether we notice it or not. Some people are meant to be mountains (Hey, Oprah!) but many of us are meant to be the valley that supports the mountain.

If your ego is squirming at the idea of being the valley and thinking ‘uhhh I am totally a mountain and only want to be a mountain’, then perhaps mountainship is your calling but remember to hold the wisdom of the valley close to your heart. But perhaps you are like me, I had to take a long hard look at the ideals I had held for myself that in actuality didn’t feel so good and were forcing this valley dweller to be a mountain climber. I can still make waves in the valley, I can still be of difference, it is not less than, it is just the other side of the same coin.

I have felt really cozy in the valley lately. Honestly, taking this break from Social Media has really simplified the task of defining success on my own terms. I needed to take this time out to understand what feels good for my own satisfaction and fulfillment without comparison. In the valley I have been able to focus on creating just for myself, writing this blog just for myself, defining what a successful income means for myself. As I write this out I am realizing what a blessed season of ‘Holy Selfishness’ this has been and how the process has opened me to new possibilities and perspectives in life.

What does the Valley and the Mountain mean to you? Do you experience this chapter differently through your perspective? I’d love to hear what ways you are defining the experience of life for yourself- it isn’t always easy to do in these modern days.

My hope for myself as I continue unraveling the wisdom of Chapter 28 is to find that middle path of peace within myself about my work in this lifetime. The work of personal refinement, and the work of being in service. To continue looking at my inspirations of Mother Teresa and Amma to, who me, are Mountains with the heart of the Valley. I set the intention to remember that my perfection and wholeness is already present with no need to carve or manipulate. To continue polishing through the mud of complexity to the simplicity. This is my work in being the valley of the world. And so be it!