“Colors blind the eye.
Sounds deafen the ear.
Flavors numb the taste.
Thoughts weaken the mind.
Desires wither the heart.”
~ Stephen Mitchell (trans.), Tao Te Ching: A New English Version (New York: Harper Perennial), 2006.
All five of these statements seem not only false, but the opposite of the truth: thinking quickens the mind, desire inflames the heart, colors excite the eye, and so on. But this is so only if we take them at face value.
Many believe this chapter to be a set of rough meditation instructions aimed at thwarting the power of distractions to pull us out of the moment. The mind, the heart, and the senses are typically distracted and disintegrated in our daily lives. Instead, the text encourages us to “trust our inner vision.” But this doesn’t mean retreating to a mountaintop cave, closing our eyes, and plugging our ears. The Master “observes the world” and his “heart is open as the sky.”
When we focus on colors, sounds, flavors, thought, or desires, we fixate on a part of the whole, and unconsciously close ourselves off from the world.
To really see and hear and taste and know and feel, we have to let go of colors, sounds, flavors, thought, or desires.
New to the Dao Du Jour? Check out “Day 0.”