A long time ago, a wise man decided to write a book. His name was Lao Tzu, and the book was called the Tao Te Ching.

Not only one of the world’s oldest pieces of literature, it’s also one of the most profound and potentially life-changing.

I first came across a little pocket-size edition when I was barely out of my teens. It has to be said that some translations of the Tao Te Ching are a little trickier to understand than others. Part of the problem lies in the translation. Many of the original Chinese characters have multiple interpretations and meanings, so depending on the translator and their grasp of the teaching, it can get a little confusing. The edition I first read was both deeply intriguing and deeply baffling.

It did, however, ignite a flame and I spent years studying different translations and meditating upon the essence of the themes and ideas. I also tried, as best as I could, to find ways to actually live this ancient wisdom — to let these words somehow guide my life.

This isn’t the kind of stuff we’re taught in school. It seems counterintuitive and runs contrary to the ethos of our capitalistic, object-oriented society. But the most powerful teachings are often the most challenging. If a spiritual teacher is simply telling you what you want to hear then you’re not going to really get anywhere. Confirmation bias (seeking out those who simply reflect your existing belief paradigm) is a big problem in the world of spirituality — and, indeed, the world in general.

Lao Tzu, however, cuts to the chase. He has absolutely no pretensions and clearly isn’t afraid of challenging the status quo.

I get the impression he was probably quite badass in his own Sagely way.

Economical with his words, he presents his ideas with clarity and incisiveness.

The vision of the Tao Te Ching is staggering in its beauty. It completely upturns the way we see ourselves, the world and others while offering a wholly different way of living — one that’s based on wholeness, balance, harmony, and wondrous simplicity.

To celebrate the release of a new edition of my version and commentary of the Tao Te Ching , here are the 7 greatest life lessons I learned from Lao Tzu.
7 Life-Changing Lessons the Tao Te Ching Can Teach You — by Shift