The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step

Taoism

The rainmaker

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“There was a great drought where the missionary Richard Wilhelm lived in China. There had not been a drop of rain and the situation became catastrophic. The Catholics made processions, the Protestants made prayers, and the Chinese burned joss sticks and shot off guns to frighten away the demons of the drought, but with no result. Finally, the Chinese said: We will fetch the rainmaker. And from another province, a dried up old man appeared. The only thing he asked for was a quiet little house somewhere, and there he locked himself in for three days. On the fourth day, clouds gathered and there was a great snowstorm at the time of the year when no snow was expected, an unusual amount, and the town was so full of rumors about the wonderful rainmaker that Wilhelm went to ask the man how he did it.
In true European fashion, he said: “They call you the rainmaker, will you tell me how you made the snow?” And the little Chinaman said: “I did not make the snow, I am not responsible.” “But what have you done these three days?” “Oh, I can explain that. I come from another country where things are in order. Here they are out of order, they are not as they should be by the ordinance of heaven. Therefore the whole country is not in Tao, and I am also not in the natural order of things because I am in a disordered country. So I had to wait three days until I was back in Tao, and then naturally the rain came.”

From The Nature Writings of Carl Gustav Jung

 

 

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We are all one mind

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Ram Dass has shared a story of a young woman who told him, “My family hates when I’m a Buddhist but loves when I’m a Buddha.” In other words, it’s not what religion we identify ourselves with that matters, but how we think, feel and keep our hearts open with others that matters most.

In my experience, it’s often beneficial to not identify too strongly with any group or “ism”… When I identify my self as a Buddhist then a non-Buddhist becomes “the other” – and there’s an immediate wall of separation- us/them, me/you.

The same is true for anyone who identifies strongly with being a Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Jew while failing to apply the deepest wisdom and compassion of those traditions.

More important than identification with a religion is to live the teachings― to focus on being peaceful, loving, joyful, generous, grateful, mindful and kind. To “be the change,” as Gandhi put it, transcending the conceptual categories and divisions in our heads.

Simplifying our sense of identity, being with people fully, sometimes silently (knowing in our hearts that we are all part of one unified reality) is transformative. Giving everyone you meet your undivided love and attention― as small children often do― is one of the greatest gifts we can share with ourselves and the world (which were never really separate in the first place).

By focusing on the interdependence, unity and connectedness that was always there from the beginning, the “problem” of self/other is not so much solved, as dissolved and transcended.

~Christopher Chase
Tao & Zen​

Being a Buddha: Transcending the Sense of Self/Other https://creativesystemsthinking.wordpress.com/2014/08/13/being-a-buddha-transcending-the-idea-of-selfother/


How A Fourth-Century Taoist Concept is Treating Anxiety

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Waking Times

Derek Beres, Big Think
October 25, 2018

 

While the Tao Te Ching is not one of the world’s most discussed religious texts, at least relative to the amount of attention the Bible, Quran, and Buddhist and Hindu doctrines receive, Laozi’s slim volume of instructions has massively influenced how we think about Eastern philosophy. The basis of Taoism is embedded in his series of short and punchy ideas that are rooted in, at times, paradoxical thinking.

Consider one of his most famous aphorisms: “The Tao does nothing, and yet nothing is left undone.” The ‘nothing’ is wu-wei, often translated as ‘non-action.’ One translation of Taoist ideas, Tao: The Watercourse Way, written by British philosopher Alan Watts and Chinese philosopher Chungliang Al Huang in 1975, state that the concept should not “be considered inertia, laziness, laissez-faire, or mere passivity.”

The Fine Art of Non-Doing

As with those who believe meditation is ‘doing nothing,’ wu-wei is not an easily graspable concept when approached from a mindset of constant action, i.e. the perpetual distraction our brains (and by extension, technology) afford us. Rather, the idea is to not battle yourself to, at times, let the course of life have its way with us. As the authors put it:

Wu-wei as ‘not forcing’ is what we mean by going with the grain, rolling with the punch, swimming with the current, trimming sails to the wind, taking the tide at its flood, and stooping to conquer.

They compare the practice to judo and aikido, two martial arts that teach seasoned practitioners to use their opponent’s force against themselves. By waiting for the challenger to overextend himself, you exploit their exertion and use his body weight to overthrow him. To accomplish this, you need to maintain calm and composure in the midst of potential violence and chaos.

Obsession with Overthinking

Which is why Nick Hobson, a research psychologist and lecturer at the University of Toronto, recently suggested implementing wu-wei as an antidote to our rising rates of anxiety and depression. Instead of pinpointing a singular cause for our growing dissatisfaction with our lives, he points out the reasons are myriad: smartphones, sleep deprivation, a lack of meaningful social connection, and not enough movement. He doesn’t mention diet, though plenty of research implicates bad eating habits as well.

While the causes are many, Hobson points to our penchant for overanalyzing every situation as the elephant in the mind. Instead of holism, a cognitive trait he associates with Eastern psychology, we choose the trees over the forest, leading to an obsession with overthinking.

This stark cultural difference has been confirmed by thinkers like social psychologist Richard Nisbett, who devoted an entire book to the topic. One of the most revealing instances involves the ways in which Easterners and Westerners—these terms are generic and broad, but serve to supply a bit of yin to our yang, at least as a metaphor–view art. Americans seek out a subject, an overarching detail that exemplifies the ‘purpose’ of the painting. Asians, by contrast, seek to understand the relationship between everything in the scene. Their focus is more on interdependence than independence.

Triad Test

Hobson uses the ‘triad test’ to make this point:

Suppose you’re presented with a dog, a rabbit, and a carrot, and then asked which two belong together. The analytic thinker chooses the dog and rabbit because both satisfy the internally held rule of ‘animal category.’ The holistic thinker, on the other hand, chooses the rabbit and carrot because of the interconnected and functional relationship between the two: A rabbit eats carrots.

Western ‘rule-based reasoning’ leads us to believe every problem has a solution. Research in cognition and narrative has shown that when we aren’t offered a resolution to a story, we’ll invent one, often to our detriment—your partner is cheating on you if they haven’t texted, while the reality is anything but. When we’re not provided an answer, we tend to overanalyze the situation, heaping anxiety upon anxiety.

Two Ways to Find Calm in the Chaos

Which is why Hobson suggests two Laozi-era practices to calm our overactive imaginations. Wu-wei is the first, which he says means “we shouldn’t hurry to action.” While he prescribes “to not do anything at all,” which is slightly different from Watts’s and Al Huang’s translation, Hobson recommends an “intuitive style of thinking” to chill our over-analyzing minds. Meditation and visualization exercises are two ways of rerouting our mental habits.

The second involves dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), an evidence-based therapy created by Dr. Marsha Linehan. Among its many applications, it is designed to promote skills for cultivating “mindfulness, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.”

To make this connection, Hobson points to Taoism’s great export, the yin-yang symbol, which denotes mutual dependence exists in everything. Hobson continues:

Two things can be mutually opposed, and at the same time, mutually connected. You can be, for example, in an anxious state and still have perfect control of your situation and your life. Thinking in this way allows a person to tolerate contradictions and to accept the uncertainties that inevitably present themselves.

Hobson writes that DBT has proven more effective than cognitive behavioral therapy (Linehan considers DBT a form of CBT) and pharmacological interventions. The goal is to make incremental changes by admitting that:

a) not everything is going to be exactly how you want it, and that’s okay, b) certain changes will have to be implemented, so practice those changes, and c) recognize that life is worth living. In the balance between states that afflict those suffering from psychological disorders—complete control and lack of control—an emotionally salient mindset can be achieved.

Breaking Free

Not that any of this is easy, but as Hobson mentions, neuroplasticity is a real phenomenon. Seeing the landscape instead of the singular figure walking through it is essential for breaking free of isolationism and the overwhelming burden of anxiety. As Watts and Al Huang phrased it:

Is a long life such a good thing if it is lived in daily dread or in constant search for satisfaction in a tomorrow which never comes?

We all intuitively know the answer. Putting that intuition into action, ironically through a bit of non-action, might just be an important key to healing our anxious minds.

Source: How A Fourth-Century Taoist Concept is Treating Anxiety


Nature does not hurry

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Nature does not hurry
yet everything is accomplished.
Lao Tzu
Artist: Tomas Sanchez

Art of Wu Wei : The Taoist Principle of Action in Non-Action (8 min)

Wu wei refers to the cultivation of a state of being in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world.


The wisdom of non-action

Wu wei (無爲) is a concept in Taoism sometimes translated as non-action or non-doing. It means aligning with the wisdom of Nature, not taking action based on self-centric thinking. Some problems are best solved simply by staying calm and allowing life to take its natural course.

Tao & Zen


Those who seek knowledge

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The usefulness of the cup

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The usefulness of the cup

is its emptiness.

Lao Tzu

The Fragrance of the Rose

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The disciples were absorbed in a discussion of Lao-tzu’s dictum:
“Those who know, do not say;
Those who say, do not know.”
When the master entered,
they asked him what the words meant.
Said the master, “Which of you knows the fragrance of a rose?”
All of them indicated that they knew.
Then he said, “Put it into words.”
All of them were silent.
~from One Minute Wisdom by Anthony DeMello

Zen Buddhism Community


3 Lessons from the Taoist Philosophy of Water

March 3, 2018
 

“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” ~Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee is well-known for his comment about water, which described the essence of his personal journey toward self-actualization. He was not alone in this realization, however, for in the 2600 year-old classic text, The Tao Te Ching, the qualities of water were elucidated in the poetry of Lao-Tzu.

In Tao Te Ching number eight, water, as it relates to our world, is described as such:

“The supreme goodness is like water.
It benefits all things without contention.
In dwelling, it stays grounded.
In being, it flows to depths.
In expression, it is honest.
In confrontation, it stays gentle.
In governance, it does not control.
In action, it aligns to timing.
It is content with its nature and therefore cannot be faulted.”
~Lao-Tzo, The Tao Te Ching

In a recent TED talk, Raymond Tang talks about the hectic and overwhelming nature of our technologically connected society, and how even in the presence of such chaos, one can find fulfillment by relating to the simple and elemental forces of nature.

He discusses the nature of water, drawing out three useful lessons that have been known to the Chinese for millennia.

The first lesson is about humility, and he notes the lowly, yet supportive nature of water as a life-giving force.

“If we think about water flowing in a river, it is always staying low. It helps all the plants grow and keeps all the animals alive. It doesn’t actually draw any attention to itself, nor does it need any reward or recognition. It is humble. But without water’s humble contribution, life as we know it may not exist.”

Secondly, he draws out the lesson of harmony, and how water always achieves it’s aim effortlessly in spite of any obstacles along its path.

“If we think about water flowing towards a rock, it will just flow around it. It doesn’t get upset, it doesn’t get angry, it doesn’t get agitated. In fact, it doesn’t feel much at all. When faced with an obstacle, somehow water finds a solution, without force, without conflict.”

The third lesson regards openness and our tendency to resist change along the path of life.

“Water is open to change. Depending on the temperature, it can be a liquid, solid or gas. Depending on the medium it’s in, it can be a teapot, a cup or a flower vase. In fact, it’s water’s ability to adapt and change and remain flexible that made it so enduring through the ages, despite all the changes in the environment.”

Relating these three lessons to the modern pursuits of business and education, he explains how the lessons offer us a perspective on life that allows for greater fulfillment in everything we choose to take on.

Watch the inspiring full talk, here:

Read more articles by Dylan Charles.

About the Author

Dylan Charles is the editor of Waking Times and co-host of Redesigning Reality, both dedicated to ideas of personal transformation, societal awakening, and planetary renewal. His personal journey is deeply inspired by shamanic plant medicines and the arts of Kung Fu, Qi Gong and Yoga. After seven years of living in Costa Rica, he now lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he practices Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and enjoys spending time with family. He has written hundreds of articles, reaching and inspiring millions of people around the world.