10 Ways How The Tao Can Help You Live Effortlessly
Taoism is an ancient philosophy introduced by a Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu. He is also considered as the author of the book, Tao-Te-Ching, or The Book of the Way. According to Lao Tzu’s teachings, one should follow his instincts to live an effortless and harmonious life. Lao Tzu also stresses upon knowing the Tao, which can be translated as “the way” that all things naturally function. If you’re having trouble finding a balance in your busy life, here are 10 philosophical ideas from Lao Tzu’s book, Tao-Te-Ching to help you find that balance and ground yourself in your true nature. Read on.
Interdependence Of Everything That Exists
Whenever there is beauty there is ugliness. Whenever there is good there is bad. Long and short complete each other. High and low support each other. Difficult and easy need each other. Sound and silence fulfill each other. Front and back follow each other. Form and space shape each other. Life and death give birth to each other. Manifestations and Mystery come from the same source.
What we can gather from this chapter is that both good and bad as per our understanding is an essential aspect of existence. Thinking too much about the negative consequences of your actions will only make you anxious and experience suffering. So, we should understand that whatever do and whatever the result that comes out of our actions are perfectly in order. Therefore, taking credit for our success and blaming others for our failures is laughable, because neither our success nor our failures were in anybody’s control after all. Trying to control the results or situations will only make things worse. This can of course be seen in the world that we live in. Trying to control nature has only resulted in more chaos. Therefore, whatever comes our way, we should accept it gladly and whatever goes away from us, we should let it go gladly.
Some Things Are Beyond Our Perception
Thirty spokes, a rim, and a hub make a wheel. The hole in the center moves the cart. Clay molds into a pot. The emptiness inside holds the food. Roof, walls, and floor frame a house. The space within is where we live. Existence gives the form. Nonexistence gives the meaning.
We humans understand this world with our five perceptive senses and try to derive a conclusion of everything that exists. We fail to notice that life is beyond our five senses. We know how to build marvelous structures and perform amazing things in this world. But, at the same time, we are unaware of how our hearts beat, how we breathe, how we fall asleep, how our glands secrete hormones, and etc. Similarly, we cannot judge a person, situation or actions based on our understanding, we are limited in knowing all perspectives.
The Harmonization Of Our Essence
The ten thousand things are female on one side and male on the other. Using both creates vitality. Balancing both creates harmony.
One of the biggest ideas that divide human beings is the idea of separate genders. We call men as males and women as females, this is solely based upon their physical characteristics. Men are men and women are women for a reason, but it doesn’t mean that men excel in masculine traits and women excel in feminine traits. Both men and women possess masculine and feminine traits, but we suppress one of these traits due to societal or peer pressure. Lao Tzu states that to live a harmonious life, one has to embrace both masculinity and femininity in oneself. This means crying or feeling intense emotions won’t make you less of a man than a woman who feels all ballsy.
Our’s Is a Polarizing Intellect
First we name. Then we describe. Then we compare. Then we set one first, another last. As soon as we start to name it’s time to stop.
As human beings, we have an intellect that is capable of remembering things. We are also social creatures capable of talking and expressing. To understand and socialize effectively, we make use of languages and ego. But, it also has to be understood that our egos that were meant for social convenience have turned against us. We can only understand things by having a name for them. When we name a thing, we have to describe what it is. To describe what it is, we have to compare it with something else. When comparing it something else, we make one superior and put down the other, and thereby creating disharmony or “unequalness” in everything that exists.
How To Meditate
Fill yourself with utmost emptiness. Embrace internal tranquility. The ten thousand things, see how they arise and flow around you—each one coming into being, growing, adapting, changing, fulfilling, then returning to the source—as you sit in stillness in the center, watching.
In the 20th chapter, Lao Tzu describes what it is like to meditate. The western notion meditation involves blocking off all senses and refraining from creating a thought. But, Lao Tzu teaches not to block off your senses and mind and to observe how everything arises and disappears. Be it a sensation or thought, it arises from nothingness and disappears into nothingness, while you are always there.
Being Like Water
The Tao is like water. Water takes the lowest way. It flows around obstacles. It has no projections, but it penetrates that which has no crevices. It’s the softest of all things, but it grinds rock. It resists nothing, but is irresistible. It asks for nothing, but nourishes everything. It strives for nothing, but transforms everything.
Water is one element in our known existence that never restricts itself. You pour it into a bottle, it takes the shape of the bottle, you pour into any other vessel, it takes the shape of that vessel. Water flows into everything and nourishes everything without asking anything in return and it always seeks the lowest level. It doesn’t control where it has to flow, it just flows wherever there is a possibility. It is so soft and gentle, but has the ability to grind rocks into sand.
Do Not Do Things For An Ulterior Motive
Be detached. Work with joy, without caring for the achievement. Travel with joy, without focusing on the destination.
In our generation, it is very much prophesied that doing certain things will result in gaining a particular result. Therefore, people invest all of their childhood into schools and universities trying to achieve something, but they aren’t sure about what they want to achieve. We never name ourselves, but we attach to our names and titles ever so vehemently and when anyone judges us, we suffer. Lao Tzu also tells that when it comes to work, do what you enjoy without caring for any achievements. If you don’t have a goal, you’ll always succeed in what you do.
We Are Already Fulfilled
Look to achievement for satisfaction and you will never be satisfied. Look to riches for contentment and you will never be content. Look to possessions for happiness and you will never be happy. Look to position for security and you will never be secure. Appreciate what you have. Rejoice in how things are. You lack nothing when you realize there is nothing lacking.
It is a rat race for survival, for having the biggest houses, the biggest cars, most beautiful women, a higher standard in the society, etc. We always think that achieving a particular thing will truly make us happy, but how many times it has happened that despite all our achievements we still feel incomplete. When Lao Tzu says that we lack nothing, he means that we breathe normally, our hearts beat normally, we eat when we feel hungry and go to sleep when we feel tired. There isn’t anything missing at all.
Relaxing Your Mind
Muddy water, when still, gradually becomes clear. Be still. Let your mud settle and your mind clear. Wait quietly until the right action comes naturally.
Lao Tzu uses the example of a muddy water to describe our mind. The muddy water cannot become clear until it is left all alone without disturbing it. The mind is similar, keeping it engaged into activities will never let it experiences restfulness. The mind’s job is to scare you and prepare you to go on surviving. But, it doing so, the mind makes us less relaxed and more anxious. So, practicing meditation is one way to achieve the restfulness one desires.
We Aren’t Better Than Anyone Else That There Are
What is a good man but a bad man’s teacher. What is a bad man but a good man’s job.
Lao Tzu explains that good and bad are not superior or inferior to each other but support each other. If you want the bad to turn into good, be a good by yourself and everything will be alright. In trying to turn the bad into good, you yourself become the bad. Let things be the way they are.