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. **

Monday, 28 January 2008

So...how did I become a Taoist?

I was raised a Christian in the Church of England. As a family we rarely attended church except for weddings, funerals and main holidays such as Easter and Christmas, but I was sent regularly to Sunday school. Even at a young age, while I liked lots of the stories like Noah, Moses, Jesus with the fishes, I always felt that some things didn't make sense. Why did it matter that Jesus' mother was a virgin? If Jesus was God, why did he have to go through such a charade to forgive us? What's all this nonsense about a Trinity?

By the age of 12 my doubts were complete. Some bits I just didn't believe, and if the teachers were not telling me the truth on those bits, how could I trust them on anything else? I'd pretty much decided that the spiritual aspect of life was completely worthless. However, this started to change when my grandmother died. I missed her a lot and was deeply sad, but then it occurred to me for the first time as a real concept - I was going to die one day too!

I started thinking about life and death and started trying to understand how I fitted in. I don't want to make this sound like some great search - I found out bits about what some religions believed, but this was just brief interludes over the course of many years when most of the time I did my best to ignore the subject.

The western beliefs did little for me and all seemed to have the same flaws that Christianity had in that they seemed to consist of half-baked fairy tales designed to make life and death less scary. When I started to read a little about eastern beliefs I started to feel I was on to something. I'd come to the opinion that whatever was "the answer", it had to essentially be simple.

I'm a great fan of Einstein, particularly his thought experiments and use of reason. One of the quotes attributed to him is "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler" and this has always made sense to me. One of the problems I had with western religion was the level of complexity in their beliefs, a complexity which I believe comes from trying to make their beliefs fit the real world that we experience.

The level of complexity reminds me of the problem of understanding planetary orbits in the 16th Century. Before and after the scientific revolution that changed our world view from a system with the Earth at the centre to one with the Sun at the centre, it was considered that the motion of heavenly bodies must move in perfect circles due to classical theories of how the universe is ordered. The problem with this was that when observed in the real world, some of the planets did not seem to obey the rules, occasionally going the wrong way in the sky for a short while before reverting to their correct motion. Because of the belief that circles must be involved, systems of more and more complex motion involving circles upon circles (called epicycles) were imagined to explain this behaviour. These systems got ridiculously complex but still had trouble explaining planetary behaviour until Johannes Kepler came along and explained the motion with mathematically simple ellipses. If the explanation had been based on a modern scientific process of observation, measurement and theorisation the system of circles and epicycles would never have survived for very long, but because the whole system was built on erroneous beliefs a highly complex explanation was required.

Being drawn to eastern beliefs and simple explanations, Buddhism, and especially Zen seemed to approach what I felt seemed to make sense, but the world-view seemed to see life as a struggle whereas generally I've enjoyed life, so for many years I was uncommitted.

When I met my now wife, one of the books she had was "The Tao of Pooh" by Benjamin Hoff. When I read the book I thought WOW! I don't agree with everything it's saying, and some parts seem contradictory, but this is the closest I've found to what I feel. I read on from here taking in some other Taoist writings, specifically the Tao Te Ching (TTC), and found that where I'd disagreed with Hoff, the TTC seemed to give answers that seemed right to me.

After this revelatory moment you'd think I would have dived in head first, but actually it went on the back burner - always there in the back of mind but un-pursued. It was only when I hit the age of 40 and started again to think about death and started to get fearful in the middle of the night that I really started to delve into Taoism and found it answered my questions and has lead me on a path of contentment, but also of wonderful experience.These days I wouldn't claim I'm a very good Taoist but each year I find it influences my life more, I'm more at peace, and I get richer experiences from life.

If any of this rings any bells with you then I'd recommend that you find out a bit more about Taoism and see if it can give you what you need to enjoy and savour life, and let it give you peace with the approach to the inevitable end of life. I recommend it!

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