27 Jan 11

Tao

I recently began an (almost) daily study of the Tao Te Ching recently. (The Jonathan Star translation — check it out dudes, it rocks.) Life has been a bit like a hurricane for me over the last several months, and I’d like to see if I can find a nice quiet place at the eye of the storm to ride it out. Maybe even set up a hammock and relax a little. Which would be much better than merely surviving.

Approaching this text as a complete novice with no idea of the traditions that have evolved around in in the 2,500 years since it was written, I’m initially puzzled that Taoism is considered a “religion.” (But then I’m probably bringing my western preconception of what a “religion” is to the table.) Taoism seems so much more elemental than what most of us call a religion or even spirituality. Its name — the way — is the perfect description of what it is. It doesn’t command or compel. It helps you realize that you’re probably dragging around a bunch of psychological and physical baggage that you just don’t need, and it helps you feel the weight drop when you put it down. There are no threats of punishment nor promises of ecstasy in some kind of afterlife. That’s not the task at hand, and the Tao Te Ching is a text that lives utterly in the moment. I’m thinking for the first time about how I move through the moments of my life, and how I connect those moments smoothly with the world around me. For the first time I’ve recognized the value of inaction as an important tool in life. Doing nothing is not doing “nothing.” Mindful inaction usually does a heckuva lot more good than thoughtless action.

This book has a lot to offer people of any background. Its emphasis on mindfulness and humility are main ingredients for a virtuous and peaceful life for all of us. I look forward to digging in deeper and having my mind blown.