A man is born tender and weak.
At his death he is stiff and hard.
All things, including the grass and trees are tender and supple in life;
dry and brittle in death.
Therefore stiffness is a companion of death;
flexibility a companion of life.
An army that cannot yield will be defeated.
A tree that cannot bend will break in the wind.
The hard and stiff will be broken;
The soft and supple will prevail.
As I Understand It:
The most durable things in nature are soft, gentle and adaptable. Water adapts itself to any shape, trees and grass bend in storm, and newborns bend their limbs like a great yogi.
Lifeless things are hard, dead bodies stiff. Rigid thoughts and stubborn conduct are unexciting, supple and flexible stimulating. Living things are pliable. By being adaptable we become strong (another Taoist paradox). By yielding when confronted with opposition and stress we become victorious. Flexibility is companion of good life.
In order to be in harmony with the Tao practice being flexible. Cede in confrontational situations, petty arguments and verbal fights. Being stiff won’t take you very far but being flexible will carry you through.
Those who know how to bend during hurricanes survive to sway in the spring breeze.
Dyer, W. Wayne. Change Your Thought–Change Your Life: Living the Wisdom of the Tao. Hay House, Inc. 2007.
The Way of Lao Tzu (Tao-te Ching), Translated, with introductory essays, comments, and notes by Chan, Wing-Tsit. The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc. 1963.