Lao Tsu, the man accredited with founding Taoism around 2,600 years ago, though in fact probably more of an interpreter of what was already going on and had been for a few thousand years by then, Taoism-wise, proclaimed, ‘False teachers of the way of life use flowery words and start nonsense.’
I bear that in mind every single time I sit down to write a piece, as a check or balance in case I should unwittingly err on the side of nonsense promulgation.
The Tao Te Ching (Book of the Virtuous Tao), a collection of 81 metaphysical poems about most aspects of existence allegedly penned by Lao Tsu but actually more likely just collected and transcribed by him and the only book, incidentally, to outsell the Bible, on account of relative oriental and occidental population sizes, begins, ‘The Tao that can be explained is not the true Tao.’ Hence anyone who dares presume to explain the ineffable instantly falls into the false teacher category.
All that can be passed on are the methods for attaining the optimum psycho-energetic state in which to experience the Tao for yourself.
The irony is that each of us is a manifestation of the Tao, each of us an expression of the preatomic consciousness, energy and love comprising it and, as such should be perfectly able to know it, for it is us. However so distracted are we by the ‘world of the ten thousand things,’ so diverted is our attention by externals, we simply don’t have a mind to notice the obvious, in the same way fish probably aren’t aware of water for its sheer ubiquity and ordinariness as far as they’re concerned.
So once, having spent some time diligently practicing the methods (preferably on a daily basis), you do discern the obvious, it seems so ubiquitous and ordinary you can’t imagine how you were ever able to ignore it.
Moreover, once you discern it informing you, your life, your relationships and activities at every level, you are empowered simply by activating the awareness, for, according to the law of relativity, what you focus on grows, hence focus on the source of existence itself flowing through you and your affairs and how could you be other than progressively profoundly empowered?
Meaning, that by desisting from taking positions too firmly and thus remaining flexible, you find the Tao’s flow naturally pushing you this way and that via the theatrical device of various doors being opened or closed to you as you wend your way through the everyday, the outcome of which is you being safely delivered, by hook or by crook, into a set of conditions that facilitate the precise quality of experience your heart truly desires: total fullness of being – complete self-realisation in all respects: spiritual, philosophical, psychological, emotional, personal, physical, creative, financial, professional, social and so on – full enlightenment and mastery, in other words, or at least having a damn good time of swinging between that and the inevitable phases of being a stumbling, bumbling human.
The Taoist methods for attaining this optimal state, known as attaining the Five Excellences, are many and complex, comprising, one: the study of martial arts (including chi gung); two: meditation; three: medicine (including acupuncture and herbology); four: compositional skills (musical, literary, calligraphic [graphic design], audio-visual, or performance, for instance); and five: devising workable strategies based on the philosophy of yin and yang for communicating your needs and thus receiving the help and support required from others to accomplish your goal of expressing yourself as a living art-form in the world (and earning a living from it in your chosen field), however they all rest on following a set of simple principles relating to how you exist in your skin as you go about your tasks in any of the various fields of endeavour.
Following these simple principles in your everyday life as you undertake your obligations and follow your fascinations, will grant you access to the desired state whether you ascribe to the Five Excellences model or not and will benefit you greatly in all respects.
Elongate your spine. Broaden your shoulders. Broaden your hips. Relax your muscles and sinews. Sink all your body-weight below the level of your navel. Breathe slowly and low down in your belly, letting it swell on the in-breath and flatten again to expel the air on the out-breath. Draw your mind back into the centre of your brain.
Suspend your rational mind, do all that precisely as written without questioning it and you’ll instantly find your state transformed, into what the Taoists would call a state of virtue (te, pronounced tay) or authenticity, from which you’ll be able to accomplish far more, far more easily, effortlessly and enjoyably today, as you work, rest and play.
On the other hand, let your rational mind get in the way, question it all, don’t engender that altered state and carry on as you were, and that will be fine too.
As long as you’re enjoying yourself fully from moment to moment, whatever’s going on or isn’t, it doesn’t matter.
Though I would say you’ll increase the odds of enjoying yourself heftily by giving the above a wee go – that and having a mind to be kind to yourself and those around you as you go about your business, for which pay special attention, while relaxing your muscles and sinews, to softening the musculature of your chest, in order that your heart energy (love), whence springs kindness, may flow more freely.
Finally, say three times, ‘This is my day (and night) and I choose to live it, love it and ride it for all it’s worth.’