Welcome to The Path of Water

This site is dedicated to exploring the Tao and Philosophical Taoism; and how it relates to everyday modern life in the 21st Century. It also includes posts relating to how I feel Taoism can provide insights for dealing with the problems of everyday living.

The process of writing out my thoughts helps me to explore what I believe and why, so these posts will probably develop over time. I hope that you'll find this site interesting and, for those of you new to the Tao and Taoism, I hope that it can provide you with a first step on the path to a rich spiritual life. If you want to post comments relating to a post or the site as a whole I'd be grateful as all feedback is helpful.

Enjoy your visit - In Tao - Woody

Who would follow the Way must go beyond words.
Who would know the world must go beyond names. *

No man ever steps in the same river twice,
for it's not the same river and he's not the same man. **

Friday, 12 October 2012

The End????

The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao

One who speaks does not know
One who knows does not speak

One of the great ironies about the Tao Te Ching is that it says that it cannot really explain the Tao. Even the legend about its creation reinforces this point with Lao-Tzu being forced to write it before he was allowed to escape the sadness of the world. I've puzzled over this a long tme, particularly the passage about "One who knows...".

Initially I thought that perhaps it was because those who had become enlightened had achieved some great spiritual wisdom too great to share with those of lesser attainment, or that their vision would be incomprehensible to we mindless chattering souls struggling along behind them on the path. Now I believe I understand it better, in that as harmony with the Tao comes closer, this need to talk about it fades and the inadequacy of words becomes ever more apparent.

I've found the idea of writing about Taoism increasingly hard over the last few years, as you can easily see from how many posts I've written for each year (32 in 2009, 1 in 2011). In light of this I think that this may be my last post in this blog, but I thought it important to finish it formally rather than just let it fade away.

At the start of my journey a lot of the driving force was trying to understand my life, the world around me, and my own mortality. This journey continues to take me in directions I could never have imagined and through Taoism I have discovered my true self. While this journey is far from being complete, the old questions of self-doubt and fear of death have faded and something new and positive taken their place. For the first time I can remember I feel whole, happy and at peace.

Of course if nobody had written anything about the Tao there would be nothing to guide future generations and Taoist teaching would have been long since forgotten. The important thing to remember however is that the Tao Te Ching is not some holy book, but just an attempt by human beings to pass knowledge to other human beings. What is really important is what it tries to show you. As with the Buddhist teaching, words are like a finger pointing at the Moon, they are not the Moon itself.

If you are interested in reading more about journeys in Taoism I recommend that you visit Bill Martin's Taoist Thoughts Blog. Bill is the author of my favourite book on Taoism (A Path and a Practice - William Martin) and is the clearest interpreter of Taoist thought that I've encountered in my journey (about 13 years long at time of writing). Of course Bill is just a guy, not a prophet or a guru, so you may not agree with everything he says. Well that's just being a human being! But I do recommend taking the time to read some of his work.

I'd just like to take the opportunity to thank everybody who has read this blog over the last four and a half years, and thank you all for the questions, comments and encouragement. I started this blog to help me understand my journey and it's proved very useful though some things I believed at one stage may have altered with the journey. If anybody else is thinking about trying a similar blog I can recommend it.

So thanks once again to everybody and I'll leave you with the Three Jewels of Taoism which are all you really need to know:


Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Taoism e-Course

I don't intend to make a habit of promoting products or courses through this blog but I'd like to make an exception if you'll bear with me. Bill Martin has written some excellent books interpreting the teachings of the Tao Te Ching. His book "A Path and a Practice" is by some way the best book I've read about Taoism, exploring and explaining it in a simple clear and unpretentious way.

Bill is running a 28 day e-Course (30 January - 26 February 2012) about Taoism through the multi-faith website Spirituality & Practice. Should you be interested in finding out more - the details are here. If it's anywhere close to the quality of his books it should be very good.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Taoism in action

In my opinion Taoism is pretty pointless if it can't improve our experience of life (other belief systems take note!). I find that it's becoming increasingly important in my life, and frustration, unhappiness, anger, boredom etc.... only arise when I'm not using it. I wrote the following in response to a question on the Reform Taoist site about practical examples of using Taoism.

A good example came up on Saturday. I was due to play as the lead musician for our Morris Dancing side. Without boring you with the details, this is far more demanding than just performing in public because there's lots of things that you need to concentrate on and lots of distractions. You're also responsible for the whole dance and the playing of the rest of the band. Add to this that we were in the company of other sides, so if I c*cked it up it would certainly be noticed. In the past this pressure of being lead musician for public performances has got to me a bit and despite extensive practice I've never done that well - mainly just about scraping by. I've found the whole thing unpleasant - only really happy once it's over. As you can imagine, I was dreading this event.

I started re-reading Bill Martin's "Path and a Practice". I thought to myself "This is stupid! I'm a Taoist. I know what's going on - it's the "carving" not the "block" - I just need to address it."

I was reading a bit where it's looking at the TTC Chapter 9. Martin's version reads...

This is a path of letting go
so there will be room to live

If we hold on to opinions
our minds will become dull & useless
Let go of opinions

If we hold on to possessions
we will always be at risk
Let go of possessions

If we hold on to ego
we will continue to suffer
Let go of ego

Working without thought of praise or blame
is the way of true contentment

...and I got it!

I was holding on to opinions - mine, other people's, and most of all what I imagined that other people might think.
I was holding on to possessions - my position as lead musician and status in the side.
I was holding on to ego - my sense of self, self-worth, position, status, place, sense of importance
I was playing with thought of both praise & blame - part imagining a future where everybody says "Hey! You were great!" and part imagining one where everybody says "Hey! You were sh*te" - wrapping it all into a tapestry with memories of past successes and failures.

All of this is natural enough ego-led stuff. You just need to accept and understand that it's the natural chattering of the ego and put it into perspective, understanding that it's not reality. Then you can just let it all go.

So that's what I did..... And I had a really good time - enjoying ever minute of the whole days worth of events.

Sounds easy - but it's not. Maintaining harmony for long against the hyperactive neurotic attention seeking toddler that is the ego is very hard - a lifelong project. But it's worth it because in those moments when you hit it - oh boy!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Taoism and renewal

At this time of the year I'm always reminded of the Taijitu symbol - or the Yin / Yang symbol as it is better known. Not just a pretty design, it symbolises something fundamental in the nature of reality and our experience of it. At the point of greatest Yin, Yang is born and at greatest Yang, Yin is born. Over time everything is born, grows, dies, and is then renewed starting the cycle all over again.

For those of us in the Northern hemisphere tomorrow is the Winter Solstice and we can see the relationship with the Taijitu because at the point of Solstice, our longest night, is born the start of the long journey to the Summer Solstice, our longest day. Indeed I've seen suggestions that the origins of the Taijitu is in observations of the Sun as it moves from Winter to Summer Solstice and back again.

So what does this tell us about our day to day lives? Possibly the best lessons are captured in the old sayings "nothing lasts forever" and "the darkest hour is before the dawn." If you are feeling sad, remember that over time this will pass. If you're feeling overwhelmed by everything, remember that the intensity will not persist and if you hang in there things will become easier. We should also remember however that the opposite is also true, there may be times when we feel sad and times when we feel overwhelmed. So when life is good and when you are enjoying yourself savour it - enjoy the moment - don't take it all for granted. These changes will happen whether or not we want them to. While me may be able to exert some influence upon them essentially we have to bend with the wind - to live in the moment experiencing things as they are, not raging and shouting about how we think they should be.

There is a time for being ahead,
a time for being behind;
a time for being in motion,
a time for being at rest;
a time for being vigorous,
a time for being exhausted;
a time for being safe,
a time for being in danger.

The Master sees things as they are,

without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,
and resides at the centre of the circle.

TTC Ch. 29 (12)


Monday, 9 August 2010

Taoism and the Universe


The universe is the unity of all things. If one recognizes his identity with this unity, then the parts of his body mean no more to him than so much dirt, and death and life, end and beginning, disturb his tranquillity no more than the succession of day and night.


Thursday, 3 June 2010

Taoism, forgiveness and anger management

On the Reform Taoism member forum there's been a really good discussion going regarding anger management and forgiveness. I'm reproducing here the essence of my posts in the thread in the hope that they may be of some wider use.

The original poster (OP)  initially asked for insights from members with regard to Taoism and anger management. This was my response...

For me anger is wrapped up with the ego and arises when my perception of how the world/things/life etc "should be" comes in conflict with how it actually "is." IMHO there's nothing wrong per se with feeling angry. If you feel angry then let it out, but try to direct it so that it causes minimal damage.

What I do once it's out is try to examine where the conflict is and how it arises. I don't try to "control" or "manage" my anger but I find that through understanding the nature of the source conflict, I gain perspective and the situation rarely arises again. Sometimes however it takes several goes before I really understand the source of the conflict.

The strange thing I find is that usually when I finally understand the root of my anger it's almost always something petty, small, and quite often embarrassingly childish. But then as Taoists we
shouldn't run away from our childishness - just not let it take over our lives.

...Following on from the anger management discussion the OP identified that some of their anger originated in unresolved feelings from events in past relationships. In an effort to resolve these the OP enquired about Taoist advice regarding forgiveness. The essence of my responses and resulting discussions are presented here...
  • Forgive or don't forgive. It doesn't matter. It won't change the past - that's been and gone. 
  • Forgiving or not forgiving maintains the illusion that events can in some way still be changed. 
  • Dwelling on past events will bring you no benefit, it won't change anything - it will only take you away from the present and hamper your ability to find harmony.
  • Everything "good" and "bad" has brought you to this point. Both are of equal value in making you who you are.
  • What to do? Give yourself a break. 
  • Accept the past for what it is - something that has been and gone. 
  • Make the decision to live the life you have now, not one that has ceased to be.

...the discussion proceeded onto the roots of the emotional pain from which the anger arises and the urge to forgive or not forgive. You may notice that these issues are closely tied with those of guilt and shame covered in my previous post. Here's what I had to say...

It is the ego that feels wronged. It's saying "Don't you know who I am? I'm too important to be treated like this!" It's all tied up in only "seeing the manifestations" as described in chapter 1 of the Tao Te Ching.I believe that this is a good example of how Taoism can offer us better answers.

It all boils down to a conflict between what happens and what a person (specifically their ego) desires to happen. There is a vision projecting into the future of how things will be & when reality doesn't fit the illusion there is naturally conflict, pain, etc. This can be further amplified by past similar events reinforcing the sense of injustice or vulnerability. This is what the Tao Te Ching is talking about when it says things like...

When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

The Master sees things as they are,
without trying to control them.
She lets them go their own way,

When there is no desire,
all things are at peace.

[The master] has no will of his own.
He dwells in reality,
and lets all illusions go.

Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.

...so both forgiving and not forgiving are just tricks of the ego making it seem as if you have some kind of power or control over past events. Don't fret over the past and how things didn't live up to your expectations, and don't build expectations of the future and how things are going to be. Give them both up and live in the now...

Living in the moment,
abandoning the baggage of past events,
abandoning the baggage of future expectations,
you become free.

Taoism and guilt or shame

Looking at some of the stats for visits to the site I saw that one issue that comes up repeatedly is how Taoism addresses issues such as shame and guilt. I think we all have an idea of what we mean by these terms  but I thought that I'd look up some dictionary definitions from www.thefreedictionary.com - these are the definitions I chose...

shame - A painful emotion caused by a strong sense of guilt, embarrassment, unworthiness, or disgrace.

guilt - Self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing.

Their origin is in how we have somehow failed to meet up to some standard of behaviour. This standard may be an external one imposed by others or society in general, or they may be internal ones which we have consciously or unconsciously imposed upon ourselves. Taoism can help a lot with these feelings. There are two things to examine - the standard and our actions.

Where has the standard come from? What is its purpose? There are obviously social standards of behaviour like laws and customs, but I'd argue that most are based on values we have acquired, normally without consciously analysing or deciding to adopt them. These standards, both social and acquired, are part of the value judgements that dominate our lives. While seeming to give order and structure they are actually a barrier to true enlightenment. The Tao Te Ching says...

When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.

 TTC Ch. 2 (12)

...so we have to get past these values to truly find our way. However this can be difficult because it's reassuring to have these standards, no matter the pain they give us, because without their guidance and limitations we have to trust ourselves - and that can be very scary.

The second issue is our behaviour. Taoism says that the reason we find conflict with these standards, even when we're trying to follow them, is because we're denying our true nature. This denial leads us to abnormal behaviour patterns induced by the conflict between what we are trying to be and what we truly are. The Tao Te Ching says...

Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.

TTC Ch. 9 (12)


Stop thinking, and end your problems.
What difference between yes and no?
What difference between success and failure?
Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!

TTC Ch. 20 (12)

...Shame and guilt are illusions that help to bind us to those standards. When we fail to meet them, guilt and shame are a system of punishment enacted to encourage us to "do better" next time. So let go of those standards. Let go of guilt and shame. Stop trying to be who and what you think you should be, or what others think you should be, and start being who and what you really are.

It's important however to realise this doesn't mean "Do whatever you want!" It means something deeper. Doing what you want often means indulging yourself by doing all the things these standards say you shouldn't. Taoism is about moving past them completely and starting a journey of discovery. Indulging yourself in breaking taboos for the sake of it gets you nowhere - it's just the other side of the coin from obeying them. You need to let them go completely.

So! Are you brave enough to abandon everything you "know" and embrace a life where there's no moral compass or arbitrary set of rules to follow? Are you brave enough to discover who you really are? Then maybe it's time to embrace Taoism.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Taoism, blocks, carving & sticking

There's a concept in Taoism called P'u, which translates roughly as the "uncarved block." Briefly, it is a metaphor that addresses the idea that when we are born we are in harmony with the Tao. Unburdened by values like right & wrong, the names of things, beauty & ugliness, we are free to fully experience existence. As we grow we develop more and more values and move further and further from harmony with the Tao. This is like a block of wood which uncarved has unlimited potential but which with each cut of the sculptors chisel becomes more restricted in the forms it can take. However Taoists are aware of the limitations this "carving" imposes and so seek to return to the "uncarved" state - and hence harmony.

It's a metaphor that I've never been really happy with and it's not what I believe happens. Once a block is carved, you can fill in the holes & artfully paint the surface to make it again look un-carved, but it's just a carved block pretending to be un-carved. I was walking into my daughter's school this morning and suddenly the thought occurred to me that I believe it is more a case of the "unadorned block." As we go through life things like ego, labels, limits etc get added to our original state, just like sticking things onto a block of wood - making us like an "adorned block." If the adornment makes the block look like a hammer it may seem as if it can only be used as a hammer. Take off all the adornment however and you'll find the original block still there unchanged and full of possibilities. So rather than trying to repair the "damage" life has done, we're just trying to get back to something that's always been there but has just become difficult to see.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Taoism and Universal Healthcare

I'm interested in what Taoism can tell us about living in the real world and the decisions we make. In recent times the issue of some form of universal healthcare system has been proposed for the United States. As a beneficiary of and contributor to the UK National Health Service (NHS) I think it's interesting to look at the debate and see if there's anything in Taoist teachings that can inform the decision.

Before getting into the nitty gritty of this issue I think I should first declare my personal viewpoint which obviously may colour my response. Like many Europeans I've grown up with state run universal healthcare and the idea that any country would not have such a scheme seems something medieval. I also believe that capitalism can be a crude but effective system for resource management but that in many areas it must be controlled and restricted to meet the greater needs of society as a whole.

To understand what Taoism has to say it is important to first understand the underlying issue. Normally the debate regarding the provision of universal healthcare starts with why should it be done? In this post however I'd like to look at the reasons why not to do it because they relate directly to what Taoism has to say on this issue. The biggest arguments against seem to be either directly or indirectly economic or political. There is the cost of provision, resistance to paying more taxes, suspicion that a state organisation will waste money or that costs will be inflated, and resentment about "subsidising" those who are poorer or perceived as less hard working or worthy. It is important to realise that regardless of the validity of any of these arguments or your personal political outlook, these are issues that relate to the impact that implementing such a scheme has upon you. For those that do not support universal healthcare I am not saying this as a criticism but because it relates to Taoism's teachings.

So what can Taoism tell us about the debate? I would argue that for a Taoist the answer is simple. In chapter 67 of the Tao Te Ching we are told of the Three Jewels or Three Treasures, namely Compassion, Simplicity, and Humility. Obviously introducing a universal healthcare provision is an act of compassion and putting the needs of others before your own involves humility, so I believe that for Taoists supporting such a scheme is consistent with the journey.

It is important however to understand why a Taoist would support such a scheme. I intend to discuss the Three Jewels in more detail in a later post but I feel some clarification at this point is important. The Tao Te Ching says....

When the great Way is forgotten,
the doctrines of humanity and morality arise

TTC Ch.18 (5)

...so compassion and humility are "jewels" of virtue for a Taoist but not for reasons of humanity and morality? Precisely so. Compassion, simplicity, and humility are "jewels" because by practising them it becomes easier to reach harmony with the Tao. A Taoist would not support such a scheme because it is "good" or "just" or "humane" but because it requires you to relinquish a bit of the personal, the "me," the ego - and that takes you a small step closer to harmony.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Season's Greetings

Whatever your beliefs I hope you have an enjoyable holiday season and a healthy and prosperous new year.

In harmony with the Tao,
the sky is clear and spacious,
the earth is solid and full,
all creatures flourish together,
content with the way they are,
endlessly repeating themselves,
endlessly renewed.

TTC Ch. 39 (12)

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Taoism, Christmas and Ta Chiu

At Christmas time in Western countries it can be difficult for those of other or no faiths. Do you join in with the seasonal celebrations ignoring the Christian message, do you ignore it, or do you link it to celebrating a festival of your own at this time of year?

While as a Taoist its good to experience and enjoy whatever is happening without loading it with value judgements, it can also be nice to feel that you've got a celebration that is in some way "your own." In this light, over at the Reform Taoist Congregation there's been the suggestion that the Hong Kong Taoist festival of Ta Chiu be celebrated in this holiday period.

Taking place on 27th December, Ta Chiu is heavily tied into "religious" Taoism and its practices. I believe the pronunciation is Ta = like Tar but without the "r" sound at the end, Chiu = joo. Here's the description from cultureandrecreation.gov.au....

Ta Chiu is a Taoist festival of peace and renewal that takes place on 27 December in Hong Kong. The participants summon all of their gods and ghosts so that the gods' collective power will renew their lives. At the end of the festival, priests read aloud the names of every person who lives in the area. Then they attach the list of names to a paper horse and set it aflame, letting the names rise to heaven.

 Now the actual practice seems very alien and ritual heavy to a philosophical Taoist, but if you're looking for something Taoist to celebrate around the same time, or if you want to respond to those who wish you a "Happy Xmas" with a Taoist response, this might do the job for you. You don't have to conform to the "religious" parts, just the spirit of "peace & renewal." I that light you can take the basic theme and have any rituals, foods, cards, activities etc that mean "peace & renewal" to you. For me it conjours up images of nature and change. YMMV

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Taoism and blogging

I came across a really interesting blog today which I thought I'd recommend. It covers a wide range of subjects mostly from a Taoist/Buddhist perspective. IMHO it's excellent and it can be found at A Quiet Watercourse. I'll be adding it to my site's recommended blogs as well.

Taoism and dedication

I've been feeling for a while that this blog has been lacking in direction. I originally set it up as a place to explore Taoism and 21st century life but I don't feel that so far I've achieved what I set out to do. Now, it's in the nature of Taoism that often the journey is a winding one and such has been the case with this blog, but I think I'm finally reaching a point where I know where I want to take this site.

One of the things I think that is needed with any blog is a sense of continuity and freshness. While posts written just for the sake of writing something are rarely enjoyable for either writer or reader, a reasonable frequency of posting is important to keep the blog alive. As a Taoist this can be further complicated because I believe you should only really write when the 'muse' takes you and the words flow freely (wu wei again!) such as I'm feeling today.

In the light of these views I intend to push the direction of this blog back towards discussing how Taoism relates to 21st century issues and what to can teach us about living in this time. Now all I've got to do is wait until the first subject inspires me!!!!

Thursday, 1 October 2009


I just received notification that somebody has suggested this site for inclusion in the Daily Reviewer top 100 Taoism blogs (are there 100 Taoism blogs?????) and that this site has been selected. Thanks very much for whoever submitted the details.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Osho - Tao: The Pathless Path

Following a recommendation on the New Taoist Community forum I bought a copy of Osho's book Tao: The Pathless Path My understanding is that the book has been created by collecting together the transcripts of several talks given by him.

The book takes several of the parables of Lieh-tzu - the third of the trio of great Taoist philosophers alongside Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu. Osho then discusses the meaning of the parable and explores its subtleties. At the end of the book is a short section addressing some particular questions - such as the relationship between the Tao, Confucianism and Science.

Generally I've been really impressed with this book so far. Some of the flow is a bit weird, but I believe that's probably because it's a transcript of a talk rather than a collection of reasoned essays. Some of the examples Osho gives, particularly in relation to Christianity, I find of little worth - but possibly they were included as part of tailoring the talks for a particular audience. Opinions on Osho seem to vary but I think this book is well worth a read, particularly if, like me, you've only had very limited exposure to the writings of Lieh-tzu.

Friday, 18 September 2009


It's surprisingly easy to go off track when trying to pursue a Taoist life. Recently I've found that I've veered off into one of the most common traps that Taoists face - engaging in Taoism as an intellectual exercise rather than living it. My post "Difficult questions" is a good example of this.

Chapter 56 of the Tao Te Ching reads...

Those who know don't talk.
Those who talk don't know.

Close your mouth,
block off your senses,
blunt your sharpness,
untie your knots,
soften your glare,
settle your dust.
This is the primal identity.

Be like the Tao.
It can't be approached or withdrawn from,
benefited or harmed,
honored or brought into disgrace.
It gives itself up continually.
That is why it endures.

TTC Ch. 56 (12)

...this is not just a warning about those who would preach their idea of the Tao, it is also a guide towards finding the Tao for yourself - and yes I do appreciate the irony of me writing about this!

Personally I've found I've been spending more time engaging in discussion about the implications and meanings of Taoism rather than just living it. It's strange how it creeps up on you - you think you're cruising in the zone only to suddenly realise that you left it a long time ago. Nobody said that it was supposed to be easy but it's surprising how quickly complacency can set in.

One of my favourite writers, William Martin, in his book "A path and a practice: Using Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching as a guide to an awakened spiritual life" sums the approach up really neatly with the question....

Are you living right now,
or are you thinking about living?

Monday, 7 September 2009

Difficult questions - part 2

After a lot of struggling in an attempt to answer the question I posed in "Difficult questions" I have come to a realisation...

I have been struggling to reach an answer to the question because I've asked the question.

I need to re-evaluate my whole approach to Taoism over the last few years.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Difficult questions

Over at the New Taoist Community's forum we have what we term "Joint reflections." Somebody comes up with a verse of the Tao Te Ching, or a question about Taoist living, and we have a go at coming up with some answers, observations or interpretations. The intention is not really to come up with something definitive, but rather the process itself helps to develop our understanding.

As part of this I came up with a thought experiment where I gave a potentially unpleasant choice to see what guidance we might find from Taoism. My question and my first attempt at answering it follow, but I suspect I'll be thinking about this for years ;-) .....

A (hopefully) hypothetical, awkward and deliberately emotive question about Taoism in real life and how your understanding would lead you to a decision on what to do...

You are a Taoist
You have a child who is dying from some medical condition
A doctor informs you that there is a new treatment available that comes from the application of cloning and gene modification techniques
Your child can be 'cured' but will then need to take drugs for the rest of their life
For the drugs to be produced, every month a human embryo has to be created in a laboratory & then destroyed during processing

OK. After a lot of thought here's what I've come up with so far. Hopefully it will make some sense. I'm not completely happy with my answer and I suspect a lot of it has lots of ego and selfishness lurking in the background somewhere :'(

I find that breaking things down helps a lot, so here goes....

Does the death of my child matter?

To the Tao it is irrelevant. All is one. Nothing has changed.
To reality it is irrelevant. Some part has changed state but the whole is unaffected.
To the universe, the galaxy, or to the earth it is probably irrelevant.
To to the human race it is is probably irrelevant. After all according to Unicef over 26000 under-5s die from largely preventable causes every day. What does one more matter?
To the UK it probably doesn't matter - just one of many.
To my town it starts to matter. We are a small community and many people know us.
To my family and I it matters a great deal.
To my child it is everything.
However, in 100, or 1000, or 10000 years time will it still matter?
Then again - in time will whatever choice I make matter?
So in the grand scheme of things it's of no significance either way.

From Taoism I know that life, death and individuality are illusions - yet I want to "save" my child - an act of ego as much for my benefit as for the child's.
I do however believe that my child should have the chance to make its own choice, and through the treatment it will get the chance to become an adult and decide for itself - even if that choice is to stop the treatment. It will also get the opportunity to seek harmony with the Tao in the interim should that be its path. I also don't believe that my child should bear the consequences of my beliefs, but at the same time I'm aware that I can't predict the consequences of my choices. There is the potential in this for a existential nihilistic approach, because in Taoism in the end nothing we do matters - except to us - but that's not really what Taoism is trying to teach us. At the end of the day Taoism is not about what "matters", nor is it about the destination, it is about the journey.

The level of intervention seems to go against the Taoist concept of Wu Wei. A better approach from a Taoist perspective might be to follow the path where I learn to deal with loss rather than wielding all the big guns of science to intervene, but everything in my make-up tells me that the treatment would be the right thing to do - but is that Te or ego I'm listening to? So I would choose the treatment aware that it includes many contradictions and self-delusions. I would do it because I have the choice, or at least the illusion of choice, and I would prefer to continue the journey a bit further with the company of my child.

Like I say, I'm not completely happy with this answer, but it's my first attempt & any observations would be gratefully received.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Becoming a Taoist - part 2

Humans love ritual. If you've any doubt about this just look around. Not just religious rituals, but those of celebration, those of remembrance, and even rituals whose original meaning has faded in the mists of time (anybody here touch wood?).

Following on from my post in February 09 regarding becoming a Taoist I've come to realise that for many people the act of formally "becoming" a Taoist is something that may need to be marked by some form of ritual to feel "real." So if you feel you want to have some kind of ceremony or ritual, what sort of ceremony or ritual should you have?

I'd recommend that you come up with your own, but if you're short of inspiration or you'd like something prepared in the spirit of what it is to be a Taoist, how about the following?....

Take a bottle of water (water is after all a recurring symbol in Taoism, and of course relates to the name of this site!) and something to eat and find a quiet place to sit surrounded by nature - maybe a wood or a park. If you think it's important to take some friends, do it; if you don't think it's necessary, don't bother.
  • Say "from this point on I am a Taoist and I seek to achieve harmony with the Tao."
  • Sit and listen to the sounds around you.
  • See nature all around.
  • Smell the scent on the air.
  • Feel the wind, sun or rain on your skin.
  • When you feel thirsty, take a drink.
  • When you feel hungry, eat the food.
  • When you tire of sitting & experiencing nature - get up and do something else.
Now you've become a Taoist ;-)

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Bloggers Unite For Human Rights 2009

17th July is the day of Bloggers Unite for Human Rights 2009.

Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)...

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Taoism is about discovery and growth. It is about achieving a new understanding of the nature of reality, our place within it, and what this teaches us about living better lives. Whether pursued as a Taoist or within the context of a religion such as Buddhism, Christianity or Islam, it is about exploring and finding answers for yourself.

Many states and expressions of religion seek to restrict the options for people, through subtle pressure or through enforcement by religious or political bodies. Informally, many communities act to persecute and discriminate against those that are seen as being different on the basis of belief. In some parts of the world those that seek to explore belief or change religion can face persecution, rape, torture or death.

From a Taoist perspective I'd have to question whether your beliefs are of much worth if you can only retain followers through the threat of discrimination or violence. As a Taoist, while I recognise that such activities hold the seeds for the eventual destruction of the beliefs they try to uphold, I also see that until that comes to pass many people will suffer.

In Taoism there is a long tradition of helping others, particularly the poor and oppressed. Organisations such as Amnesty International have demonstrated that coordinated campaigns can make a difference when confronting abuses of human rights. Participation in campaigns to raise public awareness can serve to shine an unwelcome spotlight on the activities of the abusers and help the sufferers.

The "three jewels" of Taoism are Compassion, Moderation and Humility. IMHO there is no room within these "jewels" to accommodate suppression of freedom of belief. As a Taoist I fully support the aims of the UDHR and in particular Article 18.

Without basic human rights people's opportunity to explore the spiritual side of their nature is severely restricted. I'd urge you to read and support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

There are several organisations that seek to help those suffering torture or execution for their beliefs. For more information see http://www.bloggersunite.org/event/bloggers-unite-for-human-rights-2009.

If you are a blogger and are interested in supporting this event, the main Human Rights day on December 10, or other events relating to human rights, try visiting http://www.bloggersunite.org for more information.