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, 22 August 2008

Crying children

On a more upbeat topic, a poster on the Reform Taoism forum was a while back asking for ideas on how to deal with a baby who was healthy but crying a lot due to teething, and the stresses that places on parents. Obviously it's important to check with professionals to ensure there is no serious problem, but assuming all is OK, here are my few thoughts....

I was helped by my mother-in-law's experiences - she used to be a maternity nurse training as a midwife but even she found times where being a new mother got to her. Her life got a lot easier when she reasoned that when she worked in the hospital they checked that any crying baby was basically OK healthwise, well fed and with a clean nappy, and then the nurses would leave them to cry because they were very busy. The babies in the hospital grew up fine, so she brought up 3 kids working on the basis that if the baby was basically OK (e.g. suffering from teething) then if the crying was getting to her the simplest thing to do was to put the baby somewhere where they were safe (e.g. their cot/crib), shut the door, sit down & have a cup of tea for 10 mins, then go back to trying to comfort them feeling a bit less stressed.

If you feel you're close to snapping the child will be a lot better off if they're left to cry in a safe location while you regather your composure than they will be with a stressed out parent. The other thing of course is that babies can sense their parent's distress and that makes them distressed which makes them cry, so it becomes a vicious circle.

Another important thing is to look at your expectations. If you're getting stressed because you want or need to be doing something other than comfort the baby, just accept that it isn't going to happen & just live for that moment.

One other thing I'd add is that as parents we seem to feel pressure to "fix" everything "wrong" with our children. I'm not suggesting that you don't try to comfort your child, but teething hurts, and when things hurt, children (and adults) cry. It's a natural process. Don't feel that if you can't stop your child crying you've failed somehow - just comfort them and be there for them, calmly soothing them as they work through the pain of growing.

All the world knows beauty but if that becomes beautiful this becomes ugly
all the word knows good but if that becomes good this becomes bad (11)

Taoism teaches us that our judgements are relative. By deciding that something is good (e.g. a quiet baby), something else (e.g. a crying baby) is therefore bad. We then try to achieve the good and remove the bad but in reality they are two sides of the same coin. Through excessive efforts to quiet a baby we can actually cause the baby to cry more, or we can get the baby quiet but the methods used can cause more problems further down the line.

In Taoism we seek a middle path, trying to find balance. A baby that cries all the time or never cries should both be causes for concern, but so too should be parents that seek to have a baby that never cries or that they consider to be a burden to their lifestyle.

The Soul

Continuing on my cheery theme of death (I'm really in quite a happy place right now so I don't know why this theme keeps coming up - maybe the Tao is trying to tell me something?????), a while back the question came up of whether there is a separate "Soul" which survives after death and whether science can tell us anything about it. The following is my take on this - YMMV....

What we know is that nature is part of the Tao & that by observing nature we can gain some understanding of the Tao.

Nature is unsentimental. Once things have finished their "usefulness" they die. Our science and technology can postpone this for us but only for a while. If we have a soul separate to our physical existence it seems reasonable to assume that it dies too unless it has some "usefulness" separate to physical existence.

Nature is efficient. It doesn't repeatedly create new energy from which to form matter. When we die, everything that we are is not destroyed - just recycled into new forms. Presumably the same would be true for a separate soul.

The Tao is more than Nature so it is possible to conceive that the essence of a soul falls outside of Nature, but if it does there's nothing that science will be able to tell us about it.

Thursday, 21 August 2008


Nice cheery subject, I know, but I've seen a few posts on forums over the years discussing how to arrange a funeral service for a philosophical Taoist. I saw another the other day and it got me thinking about how I might want it done given that most probable attendees might not even really know anything about Philosophical Taoism or even Taoism in general.

I was also looking for some structure which would not be completely unfamiliar to the attendees, but which would be true to my beliefs. It's not going to matter to the deceased whatever happens but ritual is a useful mechanism to help the mourners cope.

Whatever...this is what I came up with as a possible structure for such a service. It's envisaged that one or more people would handle the officiating (speaker) role and my personal request would be that all attendees wear brightly coloured clothing - just to brighten things up!

Any opinions and/or suggestions gratefully received.

Philosophical Taoist Funeral Ceremony

Welcome & thank you for coming to this ceremony to mark the passing of ..insert-deceased's-name.. .

..insert-deceased's-name.. was a Philosophical Taoist. The concept of Tao is the Taoists most deeply held belief, and the Chinese word "Tao" roughly translates as "Way". Lao-tse, the ancient Chinese philosopher widely regarded as the founder of Taoism, taught that the Tao simply defies description and that the only true way to seek it is through personal spiritual exploration and dedication.

The Tao is difficult to explain but amongst other things it is conceived as the fundamental non-sentient, impersonal basis of reality. The Tao can be seen behind the natural processes and balance of the Universe and all things in the Universe, while seeming separate and distinct, are actually just aspects of the Tao.

Philosophical Taoists believe that Death is not a loss, but a transformation, and that what we knew as ..insert-deceased's-name.. has now moved on to participate in the endless dance of manifestation and change that is the Tao. While it is natural to feel sorrow at ..insert-deceased's-name.. passing, it is important to balance this sorrow with our memories of the life ..insert-deceased's-name.. lived, our times together, and the love and friendship that we shared.

<...insert short obituary for the deceased, hopefully with a story or two of happy experiences & giving personal idea of deceased's personality...>

Philosophical Taoists do not have Gods or prayers or hymns, but they do follow the teachings of Lao-tze's book called "The Tao Te Ching", which he wrote over 2500 years ago. The Tao Te ching is not a Holy Book like the Bible or Koran, but rather is a guidebook on how one can live in harmony with the universe. I'd like to read you just an excerpt, adapted from a translation by Jonathan Star...

Become totally empty
Quiet the restlessness of the mind

Only then will you see that all things emerge from emptiness

Only then will you see that all things flourish and dance in endless variation

Only then will you see that all things dissolve back into perfect emptiness
Emerging, Flourishing, Dissolving back again - This is the eternal process of Nature

Be still

With stillness is revealed eternity

With Eternity is revealed a vision of oneness

With a vision of oneness is revealed universal love

With Universal love is revealed the great truth of Nature

The great truth of Nature is the Tao

Whoever knows this truth lives forever

The body may perish and deeds may be forgotten
but he who has the Tao has all eternity

Now can we all take a minute of silence to consider our own memories of ..insert-deceased's-name..

This was ..insert-deceased's-name.. favourite ..music/reading/etc....

<...Play music/read etc... while coffin is buried or curtains close for cremation or coffin buried...>