Inner Master, Inner Fool
I have pulled this one from the web because an editied version of it looks like it is getting published in the magazine next month. I will put this back up once it's month in the physical world is over.
To be a Taoist means many things to many people. To be a practitioner of Contemporary Taoism simply means to have realised that we are all minute parts of an indescribably large Whole (the Tao), and to choose therefore to 'Flow Like Water' and live in a spontaneous, natural manner. This blog is about: Personal Growth / Spiritual Development as guided by the principles of Eastern Philosophy, particularly modern philosophical Taoism; Developing constructive habits and achieving success with minimal effort; Meditation - Taoist, Zen or otherwise. See 'What In Lao Tzu's Name is a Contemporary Taoist?'
I have pulled this one from the web because an editied version of it looks like it is getting published in the magazine next month. I will put this back up once it's month in the physical world is over.
So to return to the main thrust of this blog: Personal Growth advised by the principals of Taoism.
For you to understand this post I need to provide a snippet of background information about myself. I am a 32 year old rock n’ roller from way-back. As rockers are often inclined, I have spent so many nights completely ‘off my guts’ that I don’t care to try and count. I have had alcohol and pot addiction issues, used to be addicted to cigarettes, and also took my fair share of hard drugs back in the day. I no longer smoke or take hard drugs, but have still been finding it difficult to find a balance between my (thankfully less-frequent) ‘urges’ to smoke pot and drink booze, and my need to look after myself in order to enjoy this wonderful opportunity we call Life.
So I am beyond emergency status – but nevertheless, no puritan. Not yet anyway!
Aware that I was not yet ‘getting it right’ – that I needed to find a greater balance in my habits - I have been experimenting on myself. First I took five weeks off from any drinking or smoking of pot whatsoever. Not that I was smoking very much, but often enough, and, to be honest, I was probably drinking a little too much.
The break greatly increased my feelings of well-being in two ways: firstly by clearing my system; secondly via the side effect of feeling far more motivated to practice beneficial health practices (meditation, exercise, chi gung) more regularly and with greater discipline. At the end of the five weeks my clarity and ‘evenness’ of well-being were highly apparent. My mood was very consistently up, and my effectiveness in general was enhanced yet effortless.
Then I allowed myself (on three separate occasions): a couple of drinks; a few puffs of a joint only; a couple of drinks and a few puffs.
My conclusions from this experiment are:
To have a couple (not a lot!) of drinks had only minor negative effects on my general sense of well-being the next day. I stopped at three beers and drank lots of water before bed, I woke up feeling slightly crusty but nothing a stretch, a jog and a coffee didn't sort out. I got the feeling that most of the crustiness was in fact a side effect of the passive cigarette smoke that others subjected me to, but I am not sure. Importantly, I enjoyed the time spent savouring the taste of the beer, the relaxing feelings that came over me, and the company I was with.
Conversely, I felt slightly paranoid (only a little) when I got stoned, and although I felt some euphoria, it was muddy and not particularly outstanding. For the next two – three days I could still feel the side-effects: less happy, less motivated, less clearheaded, slightly irritable.
Then (glutton for punishment) I tried the three beers/some pot combo. This time the pot itself was natural outdoor ‘bush bud’ as opposed to chemically enhanced indoor ‘hydro’ so the high was much cleaner and the side effects the next day far lessened. But still I felt crap for two days after with much the same side effects as above. I could not write much, even though I had a precious day off set aside to work on my novels – major problem right there.
Conclusion? I now agree with my TCM practitioner, and with Jost Sauer that our bodies are actually better equipped to deal with a little bit of alcohol (not a lot!) than with marijuana. I reckon my pot smoking days are over.
Of course there will be temptation, but I have in my possession some very powerful techniques with which to disempower the temptation urge. I will explain this in a later post, for now I have to go to the LivingNow Expo and work for to pay ze bloody bills!
Flow Like Water...
Manly P Hall's "The Secret Teachings of All Ages is one of my fave books (I have a print copy but here is a free online version).
I just found this passage which I think draws attention to a parrallel between Taoist and Qabbalisitic ideas (also note the use of the circle in a similar way to Zen):
"THE Qabbalists conceive of the Supreme Deity as an Incomprehensible Principle to be discovered only through the process of eliminating, in order, all its cognizable attributes. That which remains--when every knowable thing has been removed--is AIN SOPH, the eternal state of Being. Although indefinable, the Absolute permeates all space. Abstract to the degree of inconceivability, AIN SOPH is the unconditioned state of all things. Substances, essences, and intelligences are manifested out of the inscrutability of AIN SOPH, but the Absolute itself is without substance, essence, or intelligence. AIN SOPH may be likened to a great field of rich earth out of which rises a myriad of plants, each different in color, formation, and fragrance, yet each with its roots in the same dark loam--which, however, is unlike any of the forms nurtured by it. The 'plants' are universes, gods, and man, all nourished by AIN SOPH and all with their source in one definitionless essence; all with their spirits, souls, and bodies fashioned from this essence, and doomed, like the plant, to return to the black ground--AIN SOPH, the only Immortal--whence they came.
AIN SOPH was referred to by the Qabbalists as The Most Ancient of all the Ancients. It was always considered as sexless. Its symbol was a closed eye. While it may be truly said of AIN SOPH that to define It is to defile It, the Rabbis postulated certain theories regarding the manner in which AIN SOPH projected creations out of Itself, and they also assigned to this Absolute Not-Being certain symbols as being descriptive, in part at least, of Its powers. The nature of AIN SOPH they symbolize by a circle, itself emblematic of eternity. This hypothetical circle encloses a dimensionless area of incomprehensible life, and the circular boundary of this life is abstract and measureless infinity."
Interesting, although wordsome, as is the entire book - and in fact, all similar esoteric writing I suppose. Personally, to quote Jeff Bridges's "The Dude" out of context, I am "into the whole brevity thing".
After a fun filled weekend spent recording music with genius Adelaide indie music kids (in their ridiculously messy houses filled with toys, DVDs and misc. junk - an Adelaide thing, I've noticed*) and hanging with my family, I am now back into my routine.
I used to hate routine, but now I agree with those who say that in order to be truly healthy/effective, routine is important. We are creatures of habit - physiologically as well as mentally. I found my Chi balance went right out the window this weekend. I wasn't drinking or smoking but still I had headaches, moods, low energy, and I (all but) lost my voice.
I think it is true that the more you look after yourself, the more sensitive you become. This is because your body/mind awareness is dramatically increased.
A small price to pay for generally feeling tip-top - and way, way less traumatic than a revolting hangover!
Looking forward to catching Jost Sauer this Sunday at the LivingNow Expo in Melbourne! Jost strikes me as being on a similar path to me – only he is way more advanced (he had a head start!). He used to get right into drugs and alcohol, but now teaches freedom from these using Traditional Chinese Medicine and Chi Gung, etc. Get his book – it’s worth it.
Meanwhile I am working on (tentative title) "The Contemporary Taoist - A Novel". It is a humorous fiction based around the principals of Taoism (as I see them, of course).
*Not a criticism kids, just an observation! I'm not all that tidy myself.
Flew to Adelaide, South Australia yesterday; did a quick interview and a couple of tunes on the local independent music station (3-D Radio), and then played a gig that night at the Grace Emily Hotel. Stayed true to my decision not to party for a while and didn't drink or smoke - apart from ten billion tonnes of passive smoke. 'Doing Nothing' in the face of temptation wasn't always easy, but by associating pleasure with not imbibing (by visualising myself waking up in the morning without a hangover), the desire to swill some brews soon passed.
Not that drinking is bad per se, it's just that sometimes it is good to have some (or a lot of) time away from it to give your body a rest. And smoking, of course, is pretty much always a bad idea - but it can be hard to convince myself of that when I am several beers into the night.
There was quite a healthy crowd gathered and as always in Adelaide, very friendly and most respectfully attentive to the music. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens, the air conditioning on the plane made me lose my voice. I haven't played for a while and forgot that this sometimes happens. When I say 'lose my voice', I really mean - nearly lost it. Basically my always-fairly-gravelly vocals turned to pure rubble, thinning out and essentially resembling Tom Waits.
There was a day when I would have reacted to my own disappointment at this by pouting and sulking, and probably getting completely pissed. Instead I called upon my Taoist leanings and went with the flow. I did my best (which wasn't too bad according to the claps and reports after) and kept smiling. It ain't always easy, but if you try it usually works out okay.
And if it doesn't?
Flow Like Water...
This morning I meditated for an hour. I often find it takes this long to connect with Tao*.
As usual my mind wandered a thousand times, and I had to bring it back to awareness of the moment (focus on the breath) a thousand times. As usual I passed through stages. There was one long period where I could not hush my mental voice from continuously telling me to stop and go get breakfast; that I had done enough for one morning; that, after all, Zen masters say that 'this is it' so therefore, why not get up and make a cup of tea?
Another stage I regularly pass through (just about every time I meditate) is the Creative Surge. I suddenly get so inspired to write or play my guitar or make plans to rule the world or whatever that I can barely stay on my cushion for excitement and the desire to get on with it. This is extremely testing, for as an artist I always want to go with it (almost for fear of 'it' never coming back) but I know that this is also a device of the ego - the Inner Fool - to distract me and tempt me to end the meditation session before making the full connection with Tao. The Inner Fool is scared of this for making the Great Connection means surrendering the ego, abandoning the illusion of separate self, in effect destroying the ego entirely (if only for a short while) and weakening it's day-to-day hold thereafter.
But I kept at it, kept returning to the breath, because I knew that if I did, eventually I would 'get there'. Getting there is actually returning to where we already are; waking up to where we have been all along. Strangely this often takes a lot of hard work, whereas mentally travelling to some imagined paradise is – as we say in Australia – ‘easy as’.
Eventually I grew very impatient. I was tired of trying, frustrated with the irritating paradoxes of No-Mind, Beginner's Mind, travelling to where I already was.
Then a child's face, smiling and full of wonderment, appeared to me and said 'It's easy! Can't you see?'
And suddenly I got it. I 'looked out' at the world (viewed the phenomena that is this life) with the eyes of a child, as if everything was new, and there it was - Beginner's Mind, the Great Connection, blissful union with Tao.*
Then, call me a tripper, but I had a second vision. I saw spiritually inspired personal growth as a mission to climb the tallest pine tree in the forest. Standing at the bottom of this gigantic tree I could not see very far because the forest was thick and the sun could not get through. Everywhere there were animals (ah, animals, can't seem to get those furry little critters out my life or my dreams!). The animals were bouncing around, chattering; lots of noise and activity.
As I started to climb, I saw that the branches of the tree were busy also; home to many more busy animals and birds, all getting on with their day.
Climbing the tree was not intrinsically difficult. It required focus and determination, but all I had to do was keep climbing one branch at a time, and I could see that I was getting closer to the top. As I got further and further up the tree, there were fewer animals, and consequently there was less noise and activity.
Eventually I got near the top, and as I scaled the last few branches I saw that this tree was indeed the tallest in forest. Finally perched on the uppermost branch I could now see the wonderful view - the forest stretching for miles, the mountains in the distance, and above me, much higher even than the tallest tree in the forest, eagles soaring on the breeze. Onto all of this shone the sun; the air was crisp and fresh, and I truly felt that I was free. More to the point - I could now see where I had been all along.
I think that this serves as a great analogy for both the act of each individual meditation session and also for the concept of Tao inspired personal growth.
Of course, visions are just visions. They are waking dreams, not reality. But they have intrinsic worth: they are fantastic tools for contemplation. Sometimes they are amazingly profound, like mine felt this morning, sometimes they are a bit silly. Yesterday for example, I 'saw' a small demon, like a mini-Gollum, get pushed up from inside me (during my meditation) on an exhalation. When it was time to breathe in again, he was stuck in my nostril. He started struggling, desperate to get back inside me. I took another breath (through my mouth so as not to suck him back in) and then snorted him out and across the room. I felt a bit sorry for him, so I wished him well, but he was obviously meant to go.
Then, promptly, I deliberately forgot about him for the rest of the meditation. Let's face it - either there are little demons, or (more likely) it was my subconsciousness working through a symbolic process - but if we get stuck on these visions we are missing the point.
Enjoy the Chi Scenery at the top of your tree - then forget it and return to earth, before you fall off!
Flow Like Water...
*The Great Connection - I never know how to put this experience into words. Language is great, but not so great as to be able to fully convey the most fantastic experience in life. I can list a few potential names for this, but none of them suffice (you’ll just have to go there yourself and see/feel it to know): Universal Consciousness, The Mind of God, Clarity, Bliss, The Tao, Perfection, No-Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Absorption, Euphoria, Freeflow, the list goes on.
If you haven’t ever meditated ‘successfully’ but have in the past ever been silly enough (like me) to take any recreational drugs, then you might like to think back to a time where you felt totally blissed out and that everything in the world made perfect sense. Of course the wonderful thing about reaching this state naturally is that it heals your body instead of destroying it.
One of the most challenging things about maintaining an effective meditation practice is, when the situation requires it, finding the time and the will to meditate long enough to achieve Stillness.
It really is remarkable the amount of hoopla that spins around inside our heads. This morning my mind was abuzz with activity - white noise, voices, strange sounds, images, and several layers of monologues.
These monologues are one of the more intriguing aspects of my mind. I find that as I go deeper into my meditation, I discover that I am blathering along to myself in a constant stream of what is usually nonsense. Even once my mind is getting quite calm I still discover more, one of the more regular ones being a smug little voice that prattles on to itself in a self-congratulatory manner, saying things like:
'...yes, yes, very good, now the mind is still, now the mind is quiet, excellent job, very still, very peaceful, you're doing well...'
I have figured out that this is a little trick that my ego tries to play on me to give me the impression that I have 'let go' when in fact I have not fully done so. Another similar trick that the old ego invariably tries to pull off is the old Inner Meditation Teacher routine:
'... Focus on the breath ... let go of thoughts ... you are calm and centred ... your mind is a calm blue ocean ...'
Don't get me wrong - the Inner Meditation Teacher is a very important tool to have, especially early into the meditation when my mind is as calm as a Shopping Mall two days before Christmas, but the thing is to eventually let go of this voice and find actual Stillness. For example today, growing impatient, I found myself thinking 'Oh my mind is just so busy this morning.' I knew I had to turn that around, so I started repeating mantra-like 'My mind is relaxed and calm. My mind is relaxed and calm'. Eventually this affirmation took hold, but then I had to deliberately cease repeating the words to complete the process.
Another sneaky little monologue is this voice:
'... anymore monologues? ... No, I don't think so ... Better look very carefully though, those sneaky little voices can be hard to catch sometimes ... No ... I think the coast is clear ...'
Catching that little trickster out is one of my favourite meditation moments!
It took me thirty minutes to 'get there' this morning (by the way, part of the trick to 'getting there' is to remind yourself early on in the session that there is actually nowhere to get. This helps to diffuse feelings of frustration which block effective meditation. And besides, it’s actually true). Along the way there were some funny moments; one that really struck me as amusing was the moment where Jason, the IT guy from the office where I work, suddenly popped into my brain (he literally stuck his face into my field of vision like someone popping there head around a doorway) and shouted 'You should go digital, man!'
Yeah, sure, digital, whatever...
As I began to calm down, I had an interesting vision. I saw my mind as being like a huge old Art Museum. All of my memories were represented as pictures hanging on the wall, but there was nobody in the building but me. I realised that I could, if I chose, look at the pictures, but that it would be more beneficial to ignore them for now and simply enjoy the quietness and space of the cavernous, empty rooms.
This was helpful and enjoyable, but after a minute or two I knew I needed to gently push this visual away. 'Chi Scenery' is nice, and often useful, but it makes sense not to get too dependant on it as it can become another trap of the ego.
Eventually, as I knew I would, I 'arrived' at the point of Stillness. Of course Stillness is always there, it's just that it sometimes takes a concerted effort to make the Long Journey to the Centre of Your Mind before you get to enjoy the Peace that is on offer.
The trick then is keeping this Stillness with you throughout your day, but that's another story!
Flow Like Water...
Taking a short break from writing, to explore today's I Ching reading (i.e. trying to interpret it - see post below) I came across this quote:
"Ultimately, the discovery of a life’s work begins with the realization of what it means to be a human being — embracing what binds us all together and appreciating what makes each of us unique. As long as we deny that we are social beings and ignore the needs of the world, we miss the sense that our work is meaningful. We feel cut off, lonely, and alienated. As long as we deny our individuality and fail to develop and express our unique talents and gifts, we miss the joy of creative self-expression. We feel frustrated, repressed, and trapped. Simply put: To the extent that your work takes into account the needs of the world, it will be meaningful; to the extent that through it you express your unique talents, it will be joyful."
...which Donna took from a book by the always brilliant Laurence G. Boldt.
This has helped clarify my I Ching reading. Today is a day for me to stay home and write - and my job is to write for benefit of the community. Simple.
Back to it then!
Flow Like Water...
The thing that I really do love about the I Ching is not only its seemingly magical ability to give exact or highly relevant 'answers' to problems, but also the way it is often very challenging. For example, if you had a behavioural issue - some habit you knew was bad for you in some way - and you were to ask the I Ching what you should do about it, the chances are the answer would not be a soft one. I have found that the I Ching is more likely to hold you to account, to give it to you straight - change or suffer the consequences sonny. Believe me; I have been on the receiving end of that one many times.
But apart from giving you honest reality checks, the oracle often will take you by surprise, causing your outlook towards a problem or your day to require re-assessment. This morning, for example, I did a 'general advice/vibe for today' kind of reading. Given that I have a day off and no intention of leaving the house whatsoever (I want to stay home and write) I was a little miffed by the result: 13 - Fellowship, Gathering in the Field, and a progressive hexagram reading of 45 - Gathering Together, Community.
As yet I have no idea what this is supposed to mean, but I have a sneaky suspicion that I will be clearer on that by the end of the day. Perhaps my space is going to be invaded by a posse of friends or I'm going to get a call to go out or maybe it's something to do with the online community.
The truth is I just want to be left alone today to read, write, meditate, play my guitar, etc. But maybe this reading is telling me that I would benefit from reaching out today.
I'll ponder this, wait, most likely do nothing about it, and see what happens. I'll check in later and give you an update...
This post has been pulled as it is being published this May in LivingNow magazine, and it's not polite to have your stuff posted to the web in that circumstance.
I'll whack it on up again once May has been and gone...
'...when a river comes to stones in its path it simply goes over, around or under, and as it does so, it sings.'
After a couple of days of 'getting down to business' it is nice to stumble across the other side to the Taoist paradox - irreverence. Please do not be fooled by my self-improvement blather - at the end of the day I am happy to be whatever I am (even when 'what I am' is somebody who feels the need to improve. Like I said: it's a paradox!)
My ultimate ambition is to be as the man described below, and I take joy in knowing that this man - this Wise Child - is already inside me (and you) always waiting for the best moment to poke his head out and say 'Boo!'
"The contented man can be happy with what appears to be useless. He can find worthwhile occupation in the forests and mountains. He stays in a small home and associates with the simple. Wherever he goes and whatever he does he can be happy-he knows when to stop. He does not pick the brief blossoming flower, does not travel the dangerous road. To him the possessions of the world are as dust in the wind. He sings contentedly to himself as he travels the green mountains.
He finds sheltering branches more comforting than the roof tiles of a mansion, the plough in his hands more rewarding than titles, the fresh spring water more satisfying than the feasts of the wealthy... He has no profit to gain, no salary to lose, no applause, no criticism. When he looks up it is not with envy. When he looks down it is not with arrogance. Many look at him but few see him, a dragon hidden among men." -Ko Hung
On a different, yet identical, note (and as a former Christian, although more by upbringing than by choice) I bring you this late breaking and very excellent link was Jesus A Taoist?
Now, I'm off to watch some dumb horror movie,
Flow Like Water...
Happy to report that I did rise at 5am and get to it with the meditation/Chi Gung and exercise (jogging, push ups, sit ups). And it felt great.
Just so as not to give the impression that I am (always) one of those freakishly disciplined people that most of us can only aspire to being like, I must point out that if you were to go over my past you would find many many more periods of my life where I was more inclined to self-medicate myself into a coma, and then stay asleep until late into the morning. Thankfully this is becoming less of a lasting pattern in my life, and indeed I am currently going through a very strong patch self-discipline-wise. I have every intention of remaining in this state.
I am actually working through the program suggested by Jost Sauer in his brilliant book ‘Higher and Higher’. I suggest you read it, especially if, like me, you have struggled (or still do) with substance abuse issues. It is a Chinese Medical/Philosophy take on the issue and is based on his own experiences as a drug addict, and subsequent recovery. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
During my morning’s Chi Gung meditation I enjoyed very vivid ‘Chi-Scenery’, that is I very clearly saw the movement and permeations of the primordial energy with my mind’s eye. This is because I have been off the booze, etc for over two weeks and practicing Chi Gung every day. Clarity – it is a sweet, sweet thing. Here's to the (very bearable and pleasant) Lightness of Being.
I did a ‘general guidance’ I Ching reading this morning and received 34 Da Zhuang – The Power of the Great, Increasing Strength, with a changing Hexagram of 14 Da You – Abundance. Sweet! Now I must go and get to work taking advantage of what is obviously a great day for me in terms of strong energy and plentiful opportunity.
Oh, and Australians, look out for the April edition of Living Now Magazine, as I have an article in it called 'The Science of Meditation'. The (paper) magazine is available in QLD, NSW, VIC and WA. I will most likely see to it that this article (in its newly edited form) is available online when the month is up.
Flow Like Water...
So, in the spirit of this morning's post, I will now go through what this Contemporary Taoist did with himself on this splendid day to further his virtue - or to actually speak like I'm from this century - things I did today that didn't suck:
1) Got up at the crack of dawn and did my Chi Gong meditation and movement.
I am finding it relatively easy to get up early and do my Chi Gung at the moment. This is because I am NOT drinking or smoking. This makes all the difference.
However, on some days, and today was one of them, I struggle to move onto the next stage of my morning discipline – jogging and muscle building. I get so excited about writing/generally being creative that I just want to skip to this part of the day immediately. This of course, makes no sense, because I believe it is important to do your exercise before breakfast (Why? See #4).
2) Read some inspirational literature to buck my spirits up.
I am usually browsing (or immersed in) one inspirational self-help/spiritual book or another. Yesterday I surprised myself with the latest that is doing it for me: Andrew Robbins ‘Awaken the Giant Within’! I bought it once for a buck at a charity store but never thought I would bother with it.
Why not? Because as a stoned out of my brain dude in my early twenties I used to watched his info-mercials at three am (I suffered from insomnia back then) and used to think he was a joke. Why I have been listening to this left-over opinion of my former, far less together self, I don’t know. Maybe it’s just that the guy looks like a cheese-ball. Whatever the case, I just assumed he was a bit blah y’know? Anyway, I flicked through the book yesterday and was very surprised – the guy knows his stuff. And as a veteran reader of countless self-help books I can say this with some authority. So there you have it. Next I’ll be getting my teeth bleached and talking about the ‘Creator’!
3) Applied myself to my short list of daily goals.
Although most of these are listed here as things I DID, I thought that it was important to point out that I actually have a SHORT list of goals each day. I stress ‘short’ because it can be discouraging to write a really long list that is unrealistic and then not get it all done (you can always do more if you get through your list ahead of time). Also I should point out that my list of goals includes things NOT to do – like smoke or drink. These are important.
4) Got some exercise.
I did eventually get my butt out there and go for a jog – but it didn’t feel as good as it does in the morning. Even though I gave my lunch two hours to digest, I could still feel it weighing me down, and I got a stitch for the first half of the jog. Then I did push ups – but I passed on the usual sit-ups because of the food in my belly. I figured it would do more damage than good so I skipped them and made the definite decision to do my exercise before breakfast.
5) Practised my music.
What fun! I am preparing for my first live gig in ages (at the Grace Emily Hotel, Adelaide, on April the 20th, 2006). I am definitely feeling very inspired about my music at the moment.
6) Worked on my novel.
I actually didn’t feel like writing today as I had a headache and couldn’t think straight (I suspect due to skipping my exercise!), but I made myself do it. I resolved to get it done after my lunch. When I returned to my computer there was a note from a publisher at a major publishing house who read and liked my first manuscript (but passed on publishing it for specific reasons) returning my email and confirming that she will definitely read my second novel when it is finished. Talk about the magic of decisiveness!
It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:
"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now".
J. W. von Goethe
Sweet. Hope you're having a wonderful day, but if it is proving more challenging than most, then take a deep breath and remember to...
Flow Like Water...
Questions - they are powerful things. I have long been trying to figure out what to do with this website, stuck as I have been between the aspect of Taoism that spurns deliberate effort and with this blog's obvious potential to really mean something, to provide a lot more in the way of meaningful content.
So yesterday I asked (in a round about way):
What is the purpose of this website?
Does having a blog run against the tenants of Taoism? Should I delete it and 'just be'?
Well, as I wrote yesterday, I decided the best thing to do about this was not to think about it (thus putting into motion the technique of wu wei - the Taoist principle of achievement via non-action). I went about my business and literally did not think about it (consciously) again...
...until this morning. I was having a shower and the answers to my questions popped into my head. While I had not been thinking about the questions consciously, unconsciously my grey matter had obviously been ticking away at the problem until it came up with a suitable answer and then flagged it to my conscious attention (this is a very real and viable problem solving option, by the way; ever forgotten somebody’s name and then later, once you had stopped trying to remember it had the name pop into the forefront of your mind? This is what I am talking about – achievement through non-action).
And what were the answers? What is the purpose of this website?
Well, firstly, I believe that everything I do here on earth – my main mission in life – is to help people. When I do things that don’t help people, I feel only dissatisfaction. Positive actions help others, negative actions do not. Even the little positive things we do help others, putting out the garbage, smiling at a passer-by.
This website exists to help others. I get emails here and there from people who tell me that my words helped them. This is the primary purpose of the website.
The secondary purpose of this blog is to document my personal adventures in self-empowerment (inspired by the tenants of Taoism).
The combination of these? To document my experiences in the application of Taoist principals in order to help others.
And does this go against Taoist principals? Principals like ‘doing nothing’? Like ‘forgetting’? Like laughing in the face of organised thought? Like rejecting conventional attitudes towards traditional concepts of knowledge?
No. because Taoism is a (non) system of paradox. For every Yin there is a Yang. For every concept there is another which contradicts the first. Anything and everything goes: that’s the true power of Taoism – absolute freedom from any limitations. I could write every day about the science of breeding ferrets and still feel within my rights to call this a Taoist blog.
And besides, what is one activity that Taoists are renowned for? SELF-IMPROVEMENT. Think beneficial diet, exercise, meditation, happiness and longevity techniques - if you know anything about Taoists then you know that this is what they are into.
Tao is everything we can imagine and all that we cannot.
So now, one and a half years after starting it, I finally know what this blog, the Contemporary Taoist, is about. It is about me helping people by helping myself by exploring Taoism as it applies to my personal journey and then documenting it online.
Today is a breakthrough day; expect great things from here on.
Flow Like Water...
As a self-professed Contemporary Taoist, I am often struck with the futility of this blog.
What is there to write about when the point of Taoism is 'forgetting'?
What is there to say? The truths of the philosophy are self-evident and simple; the challenge is not to reiterate them over and over but to live them.
I will try not to think about this as I make my lunch.
Meanwhile my dog will scratch his ear and then forget all about it.