Chapter 24


...Therefore the sage:

Eliminates extremes

Eliminates excess

Eliminates arrogance”

Excerpt from Chapter 29 Tao Te Ching

I define moderation as avoiding excess or extremes. Complements of moderation are balance, harmony, and conservation. There is inherent power in the ability to moderate behavior and choices.

Understanding moderation is not rocket science. Implementing moderation can be quite challenging. Any reasonable person knows and understands that going to the extreme in any situation erodes balance and well-being and that excess leads to depletion. Most people know this. Then why do most people suffer from some form of excess or extreme?

In most cases, it is due to the cause and effect of choices made by ego. These options usually begin with one person and often spreads to include many other people. When the egos of the many collude, it becomes collective ego. It is easy to observe how an individual or a group of people are out of balance. The result of extreme or excessive behavior is evident by the lack of harmony. Here are some examples to consider.

  • Health and fitness harmony (weight, vitality, energy)
  • Mental and emotional peace (self-destructive behaviors and habits)
  • Financial health – income and debt balance
  • Interpersonal relationships – how well do they get along with others. Cooperation, teamwork, friendships, filial relationships)

If you are experiencing any of these, try realizing where a lack of moderation has created disharmony. The deeper insight will be to realize how ego played a role in the choice that led to excess. You can use moderation as a conscious management of decisions and actions so that balance and harmony are maintained in all aspects of life. Moderate choices are only possible when you have learned to manage the ego. Management of the ego is the self-discipline of sovereignty. To gain control the ego, see the chapter 5 on meditation and mindfulness.

The inherent power of moderation as a virtue.

We all have experience challenges in life. Things happen to us, and we find ourselves in stressful situations. When they do, the ego is quick to react. Often the ego will overreact. These are times when we are most likely to go to excess or extreme. The sovereign is mindful of ego reactions and chooses to use a moderated response.

Here is an example where you can see the inherent power of moderation.

“because of her moderate approach to gambling in Las Vegas, she was able to leave the casino with her winnings and invest them in real-estate.”

The lesson: because she managed the ego’s lust and greed for more, she wisely left while she was away. She was then able to invest the net gain winnings into something with stable growth. This example involves other virtues as well as their inherent powers. In this one, you can see, patience, wisdom, moderation, conservation, and constancy.

…Excessive vitality is said to be inauspicious

Mind overusing energy is said to be aggressive

Things become strong and then they grow old

This is called contrary to the Tao

That which is contrary to the Tao will soon perish”

Excerpt: verses 14 – 18, Chapter 55 Tao Te Ching

I included the excerpt from above in Chapter 55, because it is directly relevant to our modern life.

Excessive vitality. Too many people strive to be successful. There is excessive use of stimulants such as caffeine and energy drinks to raise their vitality for high performance. Or they maybe too tired or hung-over from excessive partying the night before. Either way, the pursuit for extreme energy is known to create health problems.

Mind Overusing Energy. This term has many examples. But the one that I want to focus on is worrying. Being concerned about potential problems is a regular part of life. Chronic worrying can quickly become toxic. Too much anxiety is stressful and is a serious imbalance in the mind and body. Many self-induced sicknesses have their beginnings worry-stress. Again the antidote for this is meditation and mindfulness.

Karma. Now is a good time to remind you of the relationship between moderation and karma. Remember the relationship between choices, cause, and effect. Your future, your destiny is being created in the present. When act or react with extreme measures the future results will be even more extreme and problematic. Taoists call karma “the great executioner” because it does not play favorites and you cannot hide from it. No one is exempt. In this regard, it is imperative to use moderation as a management tool to prevent a dreadful destiny. And your circumstance now can be understood by what you did in the past. Take another look at the list above of areas in your life that may be out of balance. These are the results of some choices or reactions from the past. They may be a result of your own decisions or from others. If they are from others, you must still be mindful of how you respond and use moderation as a guide. This insight is also a reminder of how your choices can affect other people. Moderation is the wise approach.

The sovereign takes care in moderating each step along life’s path. Sovereignty is being mindful of how choices affect your destiny and that of others. The sovereign is mindful of the fact that all things are connected and creates a destiny that serves everyone in the best way possible by avoiding ego-indulgent choices. And that is the power of moderation. Conserving and preserving life by preventing extremism.

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