“If you empty yourself it will happen by itself.”

The Tao Te Ching
of Lao Tzu
(chapter 16)

Empty yourself of everything.
Let the mind rest at peace.
The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish and then return to the source.
Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.
The way of nature is unchanging.
Knowing constancy is insight.
Not knowing constancy leads to disaster.
Knowing constancy, the mind is open.
With an open mind, you will be openhearted.
Being openhearted, you will act royally.
Being royal, you will attain the divine.
Being divine, you will be at one with the Tao.
Being at one with the Tao is eternal.
And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away.

The first time I heard this poem was during my Hatha Yoga teacher training in 2006. The teacher had read it to us during meditation and it had a big effect on me. I like the simplicity and the fact that one can read or hear it over and over again and can still discover new aspects – depending on how you listen and perceive.
I had this poem in mind for one scene in my choreography ‘five’ in 2009 and it recently popped into my mind again when – related to my current research at the IRC – I interviewed a Qigong master. I asked him how it might be possible to shift and move energies in the room, transferring an inner state to my audience. And he said: “If you empty yourself it will happen by itself.”


Johanna Devi, German dancer and choreographer is currently IRC-Fellow at the Center, pursuing a research project on a practical approach on spirituality and performance.

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