It is said that ours is an “information society,” and that, “information is power.” Really? What information? Who tells me what information I need to know? Where does it come from? What assumptions does information cause me to make? In the Tao, we learn take great care in receiving information, to drop assumptions, and act from an, “I don’t really know,” mind.
We do not have to travel the world. There is no geographical quest that will bring us to the Tao, which always waits within us. As Jon Kabat-Zinn’s lovely book title states, “Wherever You Go, There You Are.” The heroic journey of mythology is a metaphor for the inner journey to our own heart – that place where we find home and the Ultimate waiting for us.
A culture that follows the Tao produces beautiful products, helpful products, healing processes. People are content. A culture that does not follow the Tao produces trivia, useless things, weapons, distractions, and sickness of body and mind. How do we support a culture of beauty and health and withdraw our support from one of darkness and pain?
How can the Tao, which is the very energy of the Cosmos, seem so filled with imperfection? We want it to be clear, and it is confusing. We want it to speak, and it remains silent. We want it to be straight and smooth and it seems winding and rough. There are no easy answers, only observations that may help give some perspective. This link to a Pete Seeger/Judy Collins song from long ago back in “the day,” may be pertinent.
Worthiness is an intrinsic quality of each life. It is a given. It does not need to be earned or created by any effort or action. It is not based on our wealth, our successes, our accomplishments, or our popularity. Yet we are conditioned from birth to evaluate ourselves by external criteria. This leads to a society of suffering and unhappiness. How do we step away from this trap?
“Wu-wei” – Effortless doing. Effortless, perhaps. Easy, not at all. Everything in my inner and outer world says I must meet obstacles with power, strength, and overwhelming will. The Way of Tao says that only fluidity, softness, and gentleness will overcome in a way that brings true benefit.
Let’s not waste our energy by trying to force things to be the way we want them to be. Yin and Yang together are essential for life. When we relax and remain at the center, trusting events, we find enormous reserves of creative energy available that would otherwise be dissipated in fret and furor.
There are three responses to the Tao as it is taught in various spiritual traditions: devotion to it; off and on interest in it; or dismissal of it as impractical nonsense. I’ve felt all three at one time or another. But devotion has come to reveal itself as the one and only rational response in the face of the absurdity and irrational craziness of conventional wisdom.
Yielding, as water yields in order to move around obstacles, is not capitulation, weakness, or defeat. Water’s purpose is that of nurturing all it touches, and no obstacle, dam, or diversion can ever frustrate that essential quality. Yielding is the strength of adapting to the given circumstances while never losing one’s purpose or true nature.
The Tao Te Ching gives no specific rules to follow in order to “walk the Tao.” Lao-Tzu offers no commandments, beliefs, doctrines, or statements of faith. He simply offers a glimpse of what life might look like, feel like, and be like if we were following the Way of Tao; and, what it might be like if we do not. One aspect of walking the Tao, he suggests, would be an uncluttered mind. OK, good luck with that.