Modern life has much to imbibe from eastern philosophies. One such philosophy is Daoism (or Taoism) founded by Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher (dating back to 4th Century BC).
Daoism emphasizes the practice of living in harmony with Tao/Dao – ‘the path’. By resonating wholly with the mystical unplanned rhythms of the universe called ‘the way’, we come closer to tao.
The profundity of this wisdom is timeless. Ideas of wu wei (action without intention), naturalness, simplicity, and spontaneity transcend eons. And the three treasures of compassion, frugality and humility escape us in the age of social media artifice, and bigger is better capitalism.
7 enduring lessons from Taoism‘s ancient text of Tao Te Ching are worth re-visiting.
One: Look within and you will find everything you will need. By design, the world today presents little opportunity to living an artful life. We operate in auto-pilot. We fear facing our inner self. Place blame on the outside for what we are feeling within. It is only when we dive into the depths of our soul, we find that which we hopelessly seek. Prayer, meditation, and silence each day explore soul depths.
Two: By letting go, you become free. Humans hold-on in futility. To control situations that we can’t. To materials we don’t need. To people who bring no joy. And whims that weigh our wings down. We shackle ourselves to myths, rules, and limits; when we were born to run free and wild. By letting go, we invite fresh opportunities and limitless possibilities. And liberate.
Three: Kindness and compassion for others will always win in the end. Humans are born pure of malice. In infancy, love and concern saturate us. Years of inflicted worldly cruelty robs children of altruistic instincts. Despite bleak despair witnessed in the world, small acts of kindness tug on our deepest heartstrings. Empathy is an innate human quality and pretending to be otherwise is foolish.
Four: If you realize all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold onto. Daoism reveals the inherent nature of things as being impermanent. From the smallest cell is our body, to the cosmic universe itself; all in an ever-evolving dance of transformation. Us holding onto people, situations, times, memories in the hopes of security is a fool’s errand. The sooner we come to terms with it, the smoother our existence can be.
Five: Be yourself without caring what others think. We tangle ourselves in a web of expectations. We spend a great deal of time worrying about being who we ought to be, neglecting who we already are at heart. We let our ego, and critical self-image get in the way of simply ‘being’ our true selves. The world constantly makes us feel inadequate, anxious, and incapable. Forgetting that we were born complete. All we needed to do was experience the joy of being.
Six: When nothing is done, nothing is left undone. Wu Wei in Chinese means ‘non-doing’. It’s tempting to think of Wu Wei as lazing around as life passes us by. In fact what it means is ‘effortless action’ which is at the heart of Daoism, the Dao or the way. Wu Wei is being in the ‘zone’ or in the ‘element’. We often talk of artists in profound concentration – flowing magnificently with the natural course of being.
Seven: Nature doesn’t hurry, yet everything is accomplished. The best secret in life is hardly hidden from us. Nature gives us all the cues we need to lead a full life. The strength of mountains, the resilience of tress, the timeliness of seasons, the patience of blossoming flowers and ripening fruit. If only we observe the inherent tao of flowing water, we would be richer human beings for it. We need to ask ourselves — Where are are trying to get to in such hurry, when the universe itself takes its time?
There is much to be learnt from Daoism and its complete wisdom. Melt into it’s comforting embrace.