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. **

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Dealing with loss

On the New Taoist Community forum a poster was asking for advice on dealing with the feelings arising from a relationship breakdown. FWIW, with some modification for tense & context, here's my response...

Tears and emotions are the natural response to loss. They're not good or bad - they just are what they are. When going through a grieving process, the emotions need to be released. They should be let out in the knowledge that they're part of a natural process and will lose their intensity over time.

Negative thoughts are also natural at such a time, but they don't really achieve anything. IMHO their source is the conflict between the image of the future that has been held for a long time (e.g. married & family life), and the image of the future that is developing now. Both of these images are illusions. We can guess, but we don't really have any idea of how our lives will be 1 day from now, let alone over a course of years; and our memories of past events are merely distorted reflections. All we have is right now. The past has happened and nothing can be done to change it. The future is a path to be walked and experienced, an adventure into the unknown that always starts from where we are.

When you find yourself getting wrapped in negative thoughts, try concentrating on being solely in the present moment. Notice how the light reflects on a glass of water. Concentrate on the taste and smell of the food you're eating. Observe the shape of the clouds. When you get consumed by thoughts of what you should have done, what you could have done, what you're going to do, and what you might do - take a deep breath, let it all go, remember they're all just tricks our brain plays on us which are of no real use. Try concentrating on the here and now, on the small and mundane, the breath going in and out, the feel of the things touched. When the negativity starts returning, understand it's natural but of no use, let it go and then gently return to concentrating on the present moment again. The drifting into negativity is natural but can be poisonous, for example leading to anxiety or self-loathing, the concentration on the present is the antidote.

Hello world!

This site has now had visitors from all the inhabited continents on the planet. From the USA to China, from Australia to Iran, from Sweden to Chad, and from the UK to Peru. Thanks to everyone who has visited and I hope you found something useful.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Taoism, parties and fitting in

One of the members of the New Taoist Community asked if members had any personal accounts of how Taoism affects or helps us. I thought I'd offer the following...

Long before I encountered Taoism I became aware that I had a problem. I'd go to social events and I'd feel awkward and clumsy, even when in the company of good friends. When I began working in office jobs I became even more aware of this problem so I'd try to watch how other more confident people acted and try to mimic them. This false behaviour made me more self-concious and that in turn made me more awkward. People seemed to be able to tell that there was something false about how I behaved and responded to me with caution.

Before I found Taoism I had started to become aware that this only occurred in environments where I was trying to fit in - trying to be like everybody else. When I was in different situations I had no such problem. When I was drunk I didn't have the problem either - not because the alcohol was giving me confidence, I've always had a fair amount of self-confidence, but because after a couple of drinks I didn't care what people thought of me and I was willing to be who I am. The problem was that I didn't know what this meant or have a wider understanding of the world in which to fit these observations.

When I discovered Taoism, one of the first things in the Tao Te Ching that really resonated with me was the line in chapter 41 about somebody understanding the way appearing foolish to others. I realised that the reason I felt awkward and clumsy was because I was trying to fit into these situations according to their rules, not according to who I am. I started to stop worrying about fitting in, about being like everybody else, and suddenly things came together. Parties, which had always been difficult to me now became fun. The more I explored Taoism, the better it got.

Occasionally I find myself slipping back into the old ways of thinking, just for a moment or two. Then I remember the Tao Te Ching and everything becomes fine again. In preparing this posting I had a look through a couple of translations of the Tao Te Ching to extract some lines which have some relevance to me for this subject. Mainly from Mitchell, but with a bit of Merel, I've joined them together to come up with a chapter appropriate for me regarding this situation...

Who understands the Way seems foolish;
Who progresses on the Way seems to fail;
Who follows the Way seems to wander

Must you value what others value,
avoid what others avoid?
How ridiculous!
Open yourself to the Tao,
then trust your natural responses;
and everything will fall into place.

Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
When you are content to be simply yourself
and don't compare or compete,
everybody will respect you.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Food for thought

A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
Albert Einstein

Believe those who are seeking the truth. Doubt those who find it.
Andre Gide

"Rabbit's clever," said Pooh thoughtfully.
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit's clever."
"And he has Brain."
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit has Brain."
"I suppose," said Pooh, "that that's why he never understands anything."
A A Milne

When you discard arrogance, complexity, and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is Fun.
Benjamin Hoff

“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”
Mohandas K Ghandi

Show me a sane man and I will cure him for you.
Carl Jung

“Peace will come to the Middle East only after everyone stops fighting.”
G W Bush

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Taoism and Environmentalism

I was thinking about writing something about Taoism and the Environmental movement. Whilst doing some initial research I came across an interesting essay on scribd.com which discusses the building of a modern environmental ethic based upon Taoist thought.

The essay is called The Tao of Green: Building an Environmental Ethic with Taoist Philosophy and is written by Stephen Wolkwitz.


“Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.”


Friday, 12 June 2009

Sustainable energy

Not directly about Taoism and I don't want to use this blog to preach about environmental issues, but for those who may be interested I recently came across a very interesting book. Written by Cambridge University Professor Dr. David MacKay FRS, Sustainable Energy - without the hot air can be bought from places like Amazon, but is available for free in electronic form.

The book attempts to explain why so many scientists believe in human generated climate change and how they come up with targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. In a very clear and non-academic way he takes you through how to work out your own viewpoint and how to come up with your own answers. He uses this approach to examine whether we can support our modern society through the generation of energy from sustainable sources.

For anybody interested in the subject whether convinced environmentalist, skeptic, or somewhere in-between, this book has a lot of information that can help inform your viewpoint. It concentrates on the science not on moral questions and I recommend it.