Understanding the Tao

Pink Lilly

Tao Menu

Brief Overviews:

Tao General

This section contains a brief information relating to Tao, and when one thinks that according to Lao Tzu, it is impossible to describe the Tao, then this is by definition wrong!
However I have tried to include introductions to a number of subjects that are related to this topic. Including - Ying Yang, Feng-Shui and Tai Chi. I also hope to include a page on Chi at a later date.

Introduction to the Tao

This section contains both a primer, (understanding the Tao), and an introduction to the Tao.

Both of these are also available as more detailed pdf files for you to download:-

  1. Understanding the Tao pdf
  2. The Tao an Introduction pdf

Yin Yang

A brief introduction to the principles of Yin Yang, and why you should NOT assign the female or male principles to that specific gender, this is a common mistake of many who have simply heard or read that one is female and the other male.

The yin-yang symbol is probably one of the most used and misused symbols that has become popular in the western world to symbolize oneness.


Many books have sentences similar to the following: -
Once you have found a suitable location, made sure you are facing a supportive direction, you can then turn your attention to the interior!!! Are these writers serious?

In the two articles you will find a short overview of the principles of Feng Shui, and the home.

I will be incorporating some, (if not many) of the feng shui principles in the 'Lifestyles' section.

Tai Chi

The aim of Tai Chi is to foster a calm and tranquil mind, focusing on the movements and exercising control over ones self.

Tai Chi movements have their origins in the martial arts, and practicing Tai Chi does have some martial art applications.
For many practitioners the focus in practicing Tai chi is not first and foremost martial art orientated, but a meditative exercise for the body, for others the combat aspects of Tai Chi are of interest.


Understanding the Tao


The differences between the Tao and classical religions are probably the first things noticed by most people who start to read about the Tao. For one thing the image of a God, or an omnipotent being who watches over everyone and judges them on whether or not they followed some code or rule (normally set by some person, who ‘hears’ or somehow ‘knows’ the will of God!!!), is completely missing from the Taoist way of thinking. Also the promises of rewards and happiness, that may or may not be given, are also missing.

There is nothing -
that is not a part of the Tao.
And -
nothing in which the Tao does not exist
Tschuang Tzu.

So what does Taoism promise, what has it to offer to anyone who follows the Tao? Well, the answer is nothing, in fact the Tao is not interested if you follow it or not, but unlike the classical religions or beliefs who say that you will be dammed or worse if you do not follow them, Tao simply says the decision is yours, no threats, promises, recriminations, hell-fire, purgatory, in fact nothing. Tao is for the here and now and in some ways the past and the future, because unlike having a god or being who sits outside creation looking down on you, the Tao is creation – it is the universe.

According to Tschuang Tzu, there is nothing that is not a part of the Tao, nothing in which the Tao does not exist, and at the same time it remains the beginning and end of everything. However it is also the nothing that existed before anything and not until its material manifestations was it visible, visible as our world and universe.
An analogue between god and Tao can however be found in some of the Christian writings, in that people like the Christian monk, ‘Master Eckart’ wrote that god was to be found in all of creation and not somewhere ‘out there’ in an imaginary heaven.

One could still believe that a god will protect or reward, even if that god is a part of this world. But the Tao offers no protection, in fact everything written about the Tao regarding this matter, says that the Tao is not interested in us, (when one is honest this is probably nearer the truth, no matter what we choose to believe). Which on first impression means that no one is there, no god, no spirit, no supernatural helper or omnipotent being, that can help us, even when we sit it our darkest hour.

This impression is wrong though; there is help to be found in the Tao, extraordinary help, sober and help that works. The Tao as the origin of everything does nothing – but leaves nothing undone, simply because everything is a part of the Tao, and nothing exists that is not a part of the Tao. Our basic feelings, our consciousness is the way the Tao reflects itself into our lives, all our worries, problems, fears, are a reflection of the Tao, that is to say that - our everyday consciousness is our Tao.

There can be no belief in a god that can see into our hearts or that can decide over our fate at a whim, not when one realises that when we look at our own consciousness we are making a direct connection to the origin of everything!

It is our hidden identity with the Tao, which gives us the help in life that we need.

So how does it work? Well it is similar to the saying: ‘help yourself, and then god will help you’. It is however a little more complex than that, in that the way the Tao helps is through our consciousness. So that there is no misunderstanding, let us first make clear what is meant by consciousness. Neuropsychological and psychology have us to understand that consciousness is: ones feeling of self (me), ones thoughts, ones emotions, the impressions/feelings one receives through the senses. But the Tao differentiates a little from those given because they are all part of ones ego, and can be controlled (to a greater or lesser extent) by the individual concerned, we only notice things when we pay attention to them, and ignore them when we are not paying attention to them, (how often have you cut yourself, and only noticed when someone had drawn your attention to it?).

To be aware of the Tao it is necessary for us to be aware of what is happening now, instead of living in yesterday or tomorrow. When one thinks about it, we have no other choice really, because it is only the now that is available to us and everything else does not yet, or no longer exists. The way most people handle the present is like fleeing from reality, in that one only becomes aware of what has happened when it becomes the past.

The problem is that when one decides to live in the now, one soon realises that doing so can be very strenuous, as soon as we noticed something, we start the torrent of thoughts and feelings and we soon loose ourselves in them, and so no matter how conscientious we are, the now is once again forgotten.

Any attempt to live in the now will sooner or later lead to failure due to the stress involved in trying to do so. So why is this so difficult? Well, the reason for this is that we think all the time, and the stress in doing this in a normal manner we no longer notice. One cannot blame thinking, as we do not have the power to not think, and if we had this power there would possibly have been no evolutionary progress.

When we try to pay-attention to everything, we are setting ourselves an impossible task, the brain cannot pay-attention to everything, and any attempt to do so will lead to stress (and possibly a headache).

There is a way out of this dilemma:

Real ‘paying-attention’ closes nothing out, there is no concentration on any specific thing, and there is no decision on what one will pay-attention to or not. That means that one can without any specific effort, be conscious of what is happening both in the world around and within ourselves.

It is simply a matter of being aware that the process of thinking and feeling are things that are happening now, whether one is feeling some emotion that one experienced in the past, enjoying a stroll through a park, or thinking about what one will eat for dinner, it is happening now, not in the past or the future.

So as you see, living in the now is not something that one has any choice in, but being aware that one is living in the now is the part that causes us the most trouble.

Creation is something that is happening all the time, and it always happens now. When someone asks us to describe how long the past, the present and the future may be we have no problem with past and future, because one is behind us and the other is in front of us (so to speak), ad infinitum. However what is with the present? How much time is available to us until it becomes the past, or when did it stop being the future and become the present?

Here is where the problems starts, when I started this sentence the ‘H’ was already part of the past the moment I had typed it. The length of time available to the present is even shorter for the moment I had hit the key for the ‘H’, and even before it had appeared on the screen, it became part of the past, and I cannot even say exactly when this happened.

To try explaining the trap we sit in by using definitions of time as reality is something that one should think about, we could indeed define the present as being a particular length of time, but does it help us?
Time in the sense of asking help from the Tao, is one thing that we must get use to forgetting, because it is simply not usable, even a definition of now does not bring us any further, as it can be seen as the smallest meaningful part of a second, or as something that lasts forever, because it is always there. There can only be the now, no matter how we try to define it or tie it down to a specific moment.

Thinking about the problem of the now leads us to the root of the problem. That is that the time factor can play an important part for anyone who will orientate their lives on Taoist principles. Because getting help out of the depths of ones own consciousness immediately has a problem.

There is a certain way that one must look at problems and worries in order to get help, and that is that one must learn to look at a situation objectively, that is neutral, without letting ones thoughts about the problem (worries and preconceived ideas), cloud ones judgment. One must be capable of seeing a situation exactly as it is, and that will only work if one is capable of letting it be seen exactly as it is, this way one is able to get an unclouded understanding of the situation, and in this understanding one will be able to see a solution.

Especially this advice, letting a problem or situation be clearly seen, without clouding it with thoughts and opinions, gives us more questions to answer about working with the Tao.

Most people quite rightly wonder how they can stop and look at a situation neutrally. Especially one in which they themselves are involved in, with all the thoughts and emotions, the answer to this is:
It is good enough, when one looks at the situation for a moment, one does not have to observe or know about every aspect of the situation, the time between one thought and the next is enough, providing one is neutral. Please try it, when one finally finds that it works (and it may take practice before it does), then one uses it to solve all problems. When you try it, do not expect instantaneous results, it may take hours or days for the first signs of change, and patience is required to recognise what is happening. By simply observing a problem, one can nonverbally and dynamically influence a situation.

Someone who seeks to handle in harmony with the Tao must out of necessity be realistic with oneself. The Tao is not something that simply requires belief, or that promises help from some unknown source, but it is something that requires trust, and if you are looking for answers in Taoism itself, then you are ignoring the most important thing that Taoism has to offer. Yourself...

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