Image by Gerd Altmann

As Oscar Wilde once said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” All of us can be prone at times to fall into extremes. If we like something or find it useful, we might become like a new religious convert. We may extol the virtues of this new workout program or diet or religion we’ve found as the be-all and end-all. This worked for me, so it’ll work for you, we think. Or, if a little bit is good then a lot will be even better.

Of course, most of us have probably lived long enough to realize the mistake here. Whether it’s a diet, a workout program, or especially medicine, the proper dosage is everything. Too little and it won’t do what it’s intended to do, too much and you could harm or even kill yourself.

The Proper Dosage?

Now the proper dosage, the proper amount of anything, will vary according to the person as well. When we are first learning to do something, a little may go a long way.

For example, the practice of zhan zhuang or standing meditation. When we first begin practicing the “holding the tree” position with our arms in a circle and our hands in front of our chest, our arms will begin to tire quickly. We may want to start with just five minutes, or three, or even one. Then we may want to gradually build up our stamina by adding a minute a day.

If we immediately try to do too much, we’ll only make ourselves sore or tired and be unable to make much progress. But if we take things step by step, one day at a time, we’ll naturally see progress.

innerself subscribe graphic

Step by Step

This principle holds true in all aspects of our life, but especially in what we can call “the foundations.” Things like eating, sleeping, working, and the like. In the Huangdi Neijing, The Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic, we find sound advice that is perhaps even more relevant today than it was two thousand years ago.

The text opens with the legendary Emperor Huangdi asking one of his advisors, a famed physician named Qi Bo, why the people of his time are not able to live out their normal lifespan of one hundred years like the ancients. Qi Bo tells him,

“The ancient people knew the Dao. They followed yin and yang. They were in harmony with the natural laws of the cosmos. They ate a balanced diet at regular times, arose and retired at regular hours, and avoided overtaxing their bodies. Therefore, they maintained body and spirit in harmony, and lived out their natural lifespan, reaching the age of 100 before departing.”

Basic Human Needs

In our modern world we have our own ideas of foundational or basic needs, but they aren’t so different from what ancient texts like the Neijing described two thousand years ago. One such list many people are familiar with is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which begins with our basic survival needs, like food, shelter, and safety. Next, we have our psychological needs like social belonging and self-esteem. Finally, we have self-actualization and transcendence, which we might equate with awakening to reality (wuzhen) or realizing the Dao (dedao).

The Six Basic Human Needs adapted by Tony Robbins is another modern interpretation of Maslow’s ideas that many find helpful. They are certainty, variety, significance, connection, growth, and contribution. We all have a need for a degree of certainty in our lives, especially with basic survival needs like food, shelter, and safety. Certainty can be like a basic level of trust in life, the universe, or the Dao. A basic sense that things will be OK.

After that, we all need varying degrees of variety. If every day feels the same, we may get depressed and begin to feel like life is pointless. Significance is another need we all feel to some extent. We need to at least feel seen, even if we don’t want to be famous. We need to feel as though we have value, that we are enough.

Our need for connection can be met through relationships, but it need not necessarily come from a romantic relationship. We may feel a sense of connection from friends, family, or any other group that fulfills this need.

Our ability to grow emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually can be very important. This is the need that lifelong learners excel in meeting. Without a sense of growth many of us can feel unfulfilled in life.

And finally, contribution. This is our need to feel like we are making a difference in the world, or at least contributing to something outside of ourselves, whether it is our family, our society, or even a cause.

Polar Opposites

We can see these six as yin-yang pairs, or inner and outer aspects.

Certainty and variety are almost polar opposites. Certainty may be based at least partially on outer circumstances, but it can be seen as an inner experience, a felt sense. Variety has more to do with changes external to us.

Significance and connection can be seen as a need to individuate or set oneself apart on one hand (significance), and its opposite, belonging to a larger whole through relationship or connection, on the other.

Growth again is a more internal or personal focus, where contribution involves a relationship with a group or something larger than ourselves.

These three pairs can also be equated with the Daoist model of the Three Hun parts of the soul.

Unmet Needs?

If we find ourselves struggling in life, feeling like something is off, we might examine these different aspects of our lives and see if there is an area where our needs are going unmet. When you do, you’ll also begin to understand which of these needs are more important for you, and which ones aren’t.

You may also find as you go through life that your needs will change over time. This is perfectly natural. We all need different things during different periods of our lives.

That being said, there are also even more basic foundational needs that we all have that are often overlooked: eating, drinking, sleeping, rest, relaxation, play, and intimacy. These are physical needs that we often take for granted that can have a profound effect on our lives when they aren’t being met.

Are you hangry? Are you dehydrated? Are you sleeping well and enough? How can we expect to function at our best if we aren’t meeting these most basic needs?

Copyright 2023. All Rights Reserved.
Adapted with permission of the publisher,
Inner Traditions International

Article Source:

BOOK: The Hundred Remedies of the Tao

The Hundred Remedies of the Tao: Spiritual Wisdom for Interesting Times
by Gregory Ripley

book cover of: The Hundred Remedies of the Tao by Gregory RipleyIn modern Taoist practice, the emphasis is often on “going with the flow” (wu-wei) and not following any fixed rules of any kind. This may work well for an already enlightened Taoist Sage, but for the rest of us. As author and translator Gregory Ripley (Li Guan, 理觀) explains, the little-known 6th-century Taoist text called the Bai Yao Lu (Statutes of the Hundred Remedies) was created as a practical guide to what enlightened or sagely behavior looks like—and each of the 100 spiritual remedies are just as relevant today as they were when written over 1500 years ago.

Both scholarly and inspirational, this guidebook to Taoist spiritual living will help you learn to effortlessly go with the flow, deepen your meditation practice, and find the natural balance in all things.

For more info and/or to order this book, click hereAlso available as an Audible Audiobook and a Kindle edition.

photo of Gregory Ripley (Li Guan, 理觀)About the Author

Gregory Ripley (Li Guan, 理觀) is a Taoist Priest in the 22nd generation of the Quanzhen Longmen tradition as well as a Nature and Forest Therapy Guide. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Asian studies from the University of Tennessee and a master’s degree in acupuncture from Northwestern Health Sciences University. He is also the author of Tao of Sustainability and Voice of the Elders. 

Visit his  website:

More books by this Author.