Bali, Indonesia – Supreme Good

We are in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.


I drink coconut milk.

Tao te Ching (Chapter 8 – Steven Mitchell):

“The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao.”

This is one of my favorite verses — one I pondered while I was a social worker in the psychiatric hospital. I worked in a place most people disdain — where the patients need all the spiritual nourishment that they can get.

Each day we walk from where we live to the city of Ubud.


We get a good exchange rate for the dollar — one dollar buys 14,260 rupiah — but I am pondering verses from Lao tsu’s Tao te Ching:

“In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.”

These verses fall into the category of advice.

Here is what I have to say: Many people seem unable to follow good advice. They know they should be kinder to others, stop drinking so much, not waste so much time watching TV or playing on the Internet — but changing one’s behavior is not easy.

How can people gain the motivation and insight to do what needs to be done?

In Ubud, we watch a Hindu procession pass.

We look at the lilies in a pond and the guardian spirits in a temple. These images are representations of the things inside — we have flowers, spirits, so-many-things — lurking inside.

Here is what Lao tsu has to say:

“When you are content to be simply yourself
and don’t compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.”

Lao tsu is not advocating motivation toward “doing.” He suggests “not-doing.”

We walk in the rice field. The guide pulls on the rope and the rope system frightens birds far accross the field — protecting the rice.

The water lilies grow in polluted water — yet they produce beautiful flowers. They provide advice: bloom in the place that you are.

The guide explains about the short grain rice — sticky rice.


We look at the field.


A large spider


The guide tells us about a medicinal plant

A huge spider

Scarecrows in the rice fields

Some people are extremely afraid of spiders even though most are harmless. We humans harbor harmful and harmless spirits inside of us. We are afraid of certain memories, just as birds are afraid of the scarecrows — but, of course, real harm can come about — there is evil in this world.

Shakespeare says, “Nothing is either good nor bad but thinking makes it so.”

When you ponder the Supreme Good, you make it real.

Lao tsu says, “When you are content to be simply yourself
and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”

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