Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Common misconceptions about Taoism


The purpose of this blog:
Daoism is still steeped in mystery, worsened by the fact 99% of ancient Taoist texts remain untranslated, and even the little that is translated and published in European languages .... suffer from significant mistranslation and misinterpretation.... a sad situation as a majority of these 'translations' are done by well meaning academics who are mostly non practising Taoists. Such publications are as reliable and accurate as recipes translated by someone who doesn't cook! So while the words get translated, they often do not reach the original  meaning resulting in misinterpretation. A miss is as good as a mile. 

A common discrepancy between Chinese Taoism and Western-interpreted-Taoism is that that many Western sources choose to interpret Taoist teachings in ways not originally intended. The western perspective tends to focus on Enlightenment, Spirituality and religious aspects, perhaps in an attempt to conform to the misguided assumption that things Eastern tend to be ' more spiritual '. This is particularly evident  to anyone who can read the original text in its original Chinese form from the Taoist Canon Daozang and compare them to works published in the West. Another common observation is that western Taoism tries to explain the vague with even more vagueness, but sounding so profound ! Which is why Taoism teachings often appear as nothing more than abstract inapplicable concepts to be discussed over a glass of Chardonnay by  'intellectuals'. It doesn't have to be that way. Taoism can be used in physical and abstract ways in daily life.. Examples will be provided below.

My teacher is a Taoist of the old school, belonging to the Dragon Gate lineage. He follows the unbroken line of ancient practices, and like those before him, embrace Taoism not as a religion, but as the " Natural Way of doing all things", for maximum benefit, minimum effort or damage to yourself and the environment.

For those who have no access to Taoist teachings by way of a direct experienced teacher, I hope you find this blog useful, in that offers some clarity to all the mumbo jumbo you read in books. It intends to offer insights sharply different to 95% of the commentaries about Taoism found on the net and books. Sadly many such commentaries seek to be more mysterious than was intended, more profound than needs to be ... thereby making the subject more muddy and less accessible to many. This writings are drawn from what I've learnt in class over the years. It is a work in progress, and probably will remain that way for a long time. I have chosen to discuss practical examples of Taoist attitudes and methods, differing from the profound sounding but vague airy fairy ideas discussed in many books on Taoism . I have also deliberately chosen not to discuss in specific detail the exact style of Internal Alchemy Daoyin my teacher practises.

Understand also that Taoism, in it's original form, had no religious aspect and does not seek to be evangelized. So whilst it demands no audience unlike all organised religions, it welcomes humble, sincere and persevering students.Taoists prefer to remain secluded, away from the prying public, often keeping to themselves and if they do teach, it is only to a small group of students who have proven their dedication and commitment. They must be
1. ready ( awaken to the worldly illusions)

2. willing ( to make changes and  readjust) 
3. disciplined ( dedicated to commit time ) 

... before they can start to cultivate Taoism and enjoy its benefits. Many Taoist texts, in particular the Tao Te Ching ( Dao De Jing) appear to be written in vague, poetic, metaphorical language. It may surprise you to know that this 'vagueness' and uncertainty in words, is deliberate action by the author, Laozi, for the Tao had a tendency to be 'hidden' revealing hidden wisdom only to those who are calm, dedicated, committed and 'pure of heart .Being  'hidden' is so characteristically Taoist, and more will be said later.

The most important thing to a Taoist ...
......is his life on earth, the here and now. No, not his spiritual life in this life or the next.... Is that surprising ? LOVE or happiness are not Taoist ideals or goals nor is it an ultimate achievements. Love is allowed, and if one is fortunate enough to be part of a genuinely loving relationship, may it prosper, but never let love replace life .... that is the Taoist view.
It follows that the highest priority of any authentic practising Taoist is the protection and maintenance of his PHYSICAL life from disease, physical deterioration, physical danger, psychological stress. It is the pursuit of this paramount goal that spawned the myriad methods in the arts of health, healing, longevity, (and the pursuit of physical immortality) psychological peace, stress reduction, practical philosophy, martial arts and self defence. Taoism aims to add years to your life, and life to your years. It's about staying young whilst growing older.


Introduction :
What is practical Taoism ? 
It is when one applies 'obscure' Taoist principles in daily life in dealing with one's human and physical encounters. ... How you interact with others and the environment with minimum effort and maximum benefit, without disturbing physical or social equilibrium, and restoring equilibrium using only natural ways if balance and harmony, if  disturbed. In fact if this imbalance is not restored by humans, Nature will do it for you, naturally and this re-balancing may not always be pleasant or peaceful. Taoism gives clear insights on how to look after one's health in the most natural way ( nutrition & lifestyle ), how to deal with danger, anger, sadness, despair and how to make a living with minimum effort, struggle or stress.

Beyond basic level, it is unsurprising that a Taoist is often good at Chinese medicine, Qigong ( Chi Kung),  soft martial arts ( Tai Chi ), military strategy ( Sun Tzu ), calligraphy,
Taoist paintings, Wei Qi board game (aka GO), Geomancy (Feng Shui) and psychological and philosophical insights into the human condition.

Taoism ( Daoism ) is an ancient tradition, an order whose community of followers and practitioners accept and practise Taoist principles of living. Taoism's shamanistic roots date back some 4-5,000 years, yet it's discoveries and principles are still as practical and applicable to this day.

Taoists are by definition naturalists.Taoists avoid doing anything unnatural ie. that which does not occur spontaneously in nature or requiring great effort or struggle. Participation in unnatural events adds to the disturbance of natural equilibrium ( yin yang ), the resulting turbulence to the system can only be calmed when the system finds a new balance. In the course of the re-establishment of a new balance, lives could have been lost, and health and environment damaged. This observation is deeply ingrained among many Chinese, and you may hear of it when they speak of " not wanting to  disturb the harmony " of some given situation .
Most know of Taoism as a religion or some mystic esoteric system, a few may be aware it was originally a science, art, philosophy and metaphysics before politics caused Taoism to be adulterated when it began to take on a religious facade.

After several thousand years, Taoism's evolution,degradation and corruption into religion peaked circa 142 CE in a movement started by Zhang Daoling (
张陵; traditional Chinese: 張陵; pinyin:) who founded the religious movement - Way of the Celestial Masters ( Tianshi Dao (simplified Chinese: 天师道; traditional Chinese: 天師道; pinyin: Tiān Shī Dào) . The reasons are many and have to do with political events of the day, a topic that will not be covered in this blog. Whilst most of the Taoism of today has the useless and shallow veneer of religion, there are a small group of sincere and strict Taoists who maintain the original non religious Taoist ways. They are Taoist purists.
They are around, but not easy to find, they do not advertise themselves widely. That said, even religious Taoists do benefit in some way from original non religious aspects of Taoism.

It is non religious ideas of Taoism and its practical principles I wish to share here.
The true power and value of practical Taoism lies in the original non religious Taoism, unfortunately this is obscured by the veneer of religious ritual.
In a nutshell, a Taoist studies Nature, learns and practices ways to work with Nature to obtain optimal benefit to himself, his community, animals and natural environment, and natural processes without harming anyone of these participants or disturbing the natural equilibrium state. At a higher cultivation level, a Taoist seeks to shift from a zero sum gain position to a net positive gain in the Qi ( energy) collection process.

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My teacher grew up in China and is a traditional Taoist. He embraces the original view that the current religious aspects of Taoism are contrived, unnecessary and added on to original Taoism. Religious Taoism distracts one from the real message. His teachers are ancient Taoists, belonging to important lineage of Lü Dongbin ( Dragon Gate sect / Lung Men Pai ) and Zhang San Feng (Wudang). Like many serious Taoists he abides by the teachings of Taoists patriarchs like Lao Tzu ( LaoZi ), The Yellow Emperor, Lu DongBin, Zhang San Feng and a many more.

Religion or Philosophy ?
A person can be Taoist and without embracing any of it's artificial added religious aspects ( which are manufactured anyways) ... there is no conflict or judgement. Taoism is surprisingly compatible with New Testament views....Several books have been written about the similarities  between the quotations of the Tao Te Ching and the New Testament .. google this your self by clicking here 
 or look around Amazon.
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Taoist locations of interest.
Wudang shan is an important Taoist center in China amongst many other Taoist Mountains . White Cloud temple in Beijing is another, but as expected, there, the religious facade has overshadowed it's original non religious value and character.

Practical  tangible benefits of Taoism
Applying Taoist principles in life bring these rewards:
  • Excellent health and extreme longevity with high quality of life even at old age
  • Peace and serenity at all times
  • Physical Safety and Security as well as financial safety
  • Reduced stress due to unique Taoist problem solving strategies and dealing with roadblocks
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How ancient Taoist discoveries came about :
  1. observe patterns in nature or via experimentation ( trial and error discovery )
  2. record observations, and note trends
  3. make connection /correlation between Cause & Effect, but may not always be able to explain the mechanics
The practical part of Taoism is evident when discoveries are applied to solve problems with minimal effort and in a natural way (Wu Wei) . In a nutshell, Taoist's scientific applications of these discoveries and inventions have one common theme. They comply with natural law, borrow the force and energy of Nature (as opposed to your own), requires minimum energy expenditure ( Wu Wei principle ), tends not to disturbs natural balance ( ie Harmonious).
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The application of practical Taoism is manifested in many ingenious Taoist inventions and discoveries such as Yin Yang duality-of-opposites-model, binary number system, gunpowder, soft martial arts, acupuncture, herbal medicine, magnetic compass, military strategy (Sun Tzu and the Art of War), Geomancy           ( ie.Feng Shui) etc
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If Taoism sounds mysterious, it might be useful to remember another word for Taoism is NATURALISM, given that Taoism must by principle, comply, abide, depend on and cooperate with Nature and her laws. Taoists never use words like "control, harness or exploit " Nature, such language implies dominance rather cooperation.

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Taoism is the English way of spelling Daoism, which is the official Chinese( Pin Yin ) representation. Another word for Taoist is Naturalist . But doesn't " Taoist " sounds more exotic?
Taoists with great skill and wisdom can often be  recognized with the following characteristics:
  1. Live very long life as a result of extremely good health
  2. Wise and possess great perception clarity
  3. Martial arts skills ( immortal, not indestructible)
  4. Possess a specialized skill in a specific area
  5. is a Scholar -Warrior - ie. good with the pen and sword
  6. And  most remain hidden, preferring to maintain a low profile
  7. Qi / chi is very important in every aspect of his existence
Doesn't that description fit Yoda ?
Star Wars concept drew heavily from Taoist culture.  The Force = Qi .
 Pooh in " Winnie the Pooh" / " Tao of Pooh " books, is a bear character created by Benjamin Hoff to  explain in lay man's language how a Taoist solves problems in life in a practical way.



Physical immortality was the original quest of Taoism
In the early days, Taoists sought to find the secret of physical immortality. After experimenting with herbs, minerals and naturally occurring chemicals Taoists concluded these methods can only prolong .... but not extend life indefinitely.
These methods are collectively known as External Alchemy. Moving on, they discovered Internal Alchemy worked... and Taoist often use the terms  DaoYin, NeiGung, NeiDan to refer to this enhanced version of Qigong.
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Along the way, they also discovered or developed Chinese Herbal medicine, Acupuncture, Tai Chi , Soft ( internal) martial arts - Tai Chi, gun powder, Art of War ( Sun Tzu), I Ching - Feng Shui / Geomancy, Calligraphy, GO board game (aka Wei Qi ) etc
Later on Taoists realized cultivating Qi ( Internal energy) was more effective for immortality. This was termed Internal Alchemy, and it's practice is known as Qigong (Energy Cultivation) or Daoyin - ( guiding and leading energy ). External Alchemy as the path to immortality was then abandoned.


Taoist Qigong 

If one does not practise Qigong or Daoyin, one cannot call oneself a serious Taoist.
 Put simply, Daoist Qigong ( chi kung) essentially is:


1. repetitive physical movement intended to collect cosmic Qi (chi, ki ) in a focussed relaxed CALM state ( physically and mentally)
2. refine Qi ( cosmic Qi , food derived Qi , inherited pre-natal Qi - Yuan Qi )
3. circulating all these Qi in your body to promote healing, tissue and organ repair,health and longevity leading to immortality
Qigong is a uniquely Chinese developed Qi energy cultivation system. Wudang mountain is an important place for Taoist based Qigong.
4. The mind is best emptied, but if that's too hard, just try and still / calm the mind by focussing on just one stationary object ie. a incense tip , but not a flickering candle,

 

Taoist Qigong differs from Zen Buddhist Qigong
Zen Buddhist based Qigong is from Shaolin temple.
Both Taoist and Buddhist Qigong have same objectives ie. to collect Qi. The difference lies in the methods, success rate and side effects. . Zen Buddhist Qigong does not circulate Qi. This is where Taoists say the Buddhist got it wrong. Taoists say by not circulating one's Qi that is dangerous practice and may lead to headaches, dizziness, short temper and Qigong psychosis.

The aim of Buddhist Qigong is to collect Qi and drive it up the spine meridian towards the head in the hope it will leave the body via the crown chakra at the top of one's head. This is the " Enlightenment Buddhists seek".

Contrast this with Taoist Qigong where Qi is collected, circulated around the Microcosmic Orbit ( up the back, over the head, down the from under the groin etc ) ... until such time the Qi naturally matures into Shen and it naturally leaves the body via the crown chakra in natural fashion).

In Buddhist Qigong, during learning stage, if the Qi does not succeed in leaving the crown chakra, it builds up in the head region leading to anger, hot temper, mental disturbance. Taoists   say failure to circulate Qi causes it to accumulate and stagnate in head region leading to mental problems and aggression, in a few extreme cases Qigong psychosis (Zouhuo rumo -走火入魔 or "qigong deviation" 氣功偏差) , which is now a documented phenomenon commonly found amongst the Falun Gong / Falun DaFa cult practitioners.
Many Zen Buddhist Qigong requires the practitioner to stay in stationary postures for 30-60 mins, Zhan Zuang ( Stand like a tree) is one such example. Taoists frown on this. Staying still for so long puts you in the same risk conditions as those experiencing DVT ( Deep Vein Thrombosis ) due to sitting STILL  in an aircraft for hours.

Qigong caution
It is not a good idea to learn qigong from a book or video, unless you really have no access to an authentic teacher. By yourself, and in the absence, you could be practising mistakes.
When looking for a Qigong teacher, the BEST selection criteria you can use to identify an authentic teacher is to judge him or her by their health or recovery from past illness.
After all, if you want good financial advice, do you seek counsel from a poor man or someone recently bankrupted?
I do not recommend Shaolin based Qigong for anyone at all. It's long term damage outweighs its short term benefit. If this sounds arrogant or offends, be aware truth needs to be told. There has to be at least one firm and clear dissenting voice on the net. Taoist Qigong may be slower ( in terms of noticing benefits) but safer and much more comfortable to practise.


Taoists do not meditate
Strictly speaking, Taoists do not meditate, as meditation requires stationary silent sitting, by definition. This is a massively confusing point as most books and internet publications make reference to "Taoist meditation " - a common misnomer. Even worse, some modern "Taoist" books refer to Qigong as Taoist Yoga. This is misleading. Taoism has no Yoga or anything approaching Yoga. How the term " meditation" crept into Taoist text requires some historical explanations involving politics. Across the many dynasties in China over the last 2,600 years, emperors have alternately favoured Taoism  versus Buddhism as the official religion. During one such phase where the prevailing emperor of the day decreed Buddhism as the flavour of the day, Taoist temples were ' ordered ' to teach meditation ( a Buddhist practice) against thier own principles, in their Taoist sanctuaries....it entered their syllabus so to speak...But behind closed doors, meditation was frowned upon by Taoist who wished to preserve the original ways....This is why many Taoist text even from Quan Zhen sect ( Complete Reality )  seem to refer to Taoist practising meditation. Hope this helps.
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Taoist Qigong is always   performed with empty / peaceful / still mind, with the body constantly kept in motion, unlike in Zen Buddhist Qigong, which often requires their Qigong practitioners to remain in stationary stances in a meditative state for up to 30mins, an incredibly unnatural and uncomfortable experience for many. "Moving the body whilst keeping mind still" is a paramount rule stated prominently in the well established Dong-Jing ( Movement - Stillness) concept found in ancient Taoist texts.Tai Chi is often incorrectly described as a moving meditation in many books and web articles written by people who mix Taoism and Buddhism indiscriminately. A more accurate way to describe Tai Chi is " a gentle exercise with the primary goal of training people to move in a foucussed and relaxed, controlled and balanced manner WITHOUT raising the heart rate whilst keeping the mind calm and still. "

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Caveat: Unfortunately much confusion arises as there are all sorts of books and internet articles that propagate teachings that are a mixture of Taoism, Buddhism, Yoga and sometimes Confucianism under the label of Taoism. These inaccurate sources of information confuse and mislead whilst appearing to inform. I come across many who tell me about some book they read that says Taoists practice sitting meditation or non moving Qigong. Only when I point out that ancient Taoist writings ( in the Daozang - Taoist canon) explicitly advise against such practices do they realise they cannot always trust what they read...especially books written by nonpractising Taoists ( Eg academics).

Indian Buddhism, Shaolin Zen Buddhism and Wudang Taoism
Zen Buddhist Qigong incorporates many ideas from Indian Buddhist sitting meditation which typically require stationary postures for extended periods of time. Zen Buddhistm is Chinese flavored Buddhism and itself has major differences from Indian Buddhism, eg. Qigong did not originated from Indian Buddhism. Shaolin followers practise Zen Buddhism and its associated Qigong style, whereas Wudang Taoists practise Taoism and it's unique Qigong. Indian Buddhist do not have Qigong, but they have some similar concepts in Kundalini Yoga .
Taoists do not perform Zen Buddhist qigong. People practising Buddhist style Qigong often say ' they feel the Qi '... this is true , but Taoists view Buddhist Qigong as inferior and dangerous as it does not circulate Qi.

Taoist avoid doing Zen Buddhist Qigong and some types of Indian Yoga
All stationary postures held over prolonged duration are forbidden in pure Taoist Qigong teachings, as " not moving " necessarily means blood circulation is restricted and harmful to the body.Consider DVT - Deep Vein Thrombosis as worst case scenario ....ie. people who suffer blood clots sitting still for extended periods in aircraft seat.

For these reason Taoists say some forms of Yoga especially those styles that require body contortions to uncomfortable postures, bad for blood circulation. Some other forms of Yoga , especially the ones that move a lot, and do not require you to stay contorted for long periods, are probably harmless. Bikram Yoga, a new invention ( 1970's ?) is practiced at 40 degree celcius. Taoists believe Bikram yoga is harmful due to the unnaturally high temperature one is subjected to etc. Unfortunately such suffering based conditioning is attractive to many people who believe in the " No Pain ,No Gain" lie.
I say No Pain , No Gain is No Brain.
Buddhist escape (from problems) Taoist conquer (including conquering their own addictions)
  
Health benefits of Taoist Qigong
When a person has cultivated enough Qi, his immune system will be automatically strong and he will enjoy excellent health. Many pre-existing chronic problems diminish in severity or simply disappear as      Qi helps your body self heal. In the future, you can look forward to NEVER having to suffer from chronic illnesses like Asthma, Alzheimer's Parkinson’s disease or heart problems and even Cancer is an extremely remote threat.

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Taoists are very careful with what they eat
As Immortality is the paramount goal, as well as being extremely careful about clean air and water, Taoist are fussy about consuming clean food with no chemicals, preservatives or genetic modifications etc, and cooked the right way. Taoist are avoid eating processed foods.
Taoist cooking generally avoid using temperatures higher than 100 Celsius. Steaming , boiling are proffered, stir frying is acceptable, but deep frying, roasting, toasting, grilling, barbequing are generally kept to a minimum.... such high temperatures damage the nutrients and produce carcinogens, a fact even modern science concurs with. They are 100% organic where possible.


Taoists prefer to live near mountains for the cleaner air and mineral mountain water and grow own organic food where possible. They are not necessarily vegetarians, though many opt to for health reasons or for the purpose of collecting "cleaner Qi energy". Part of the reason is also not wanting to kill any sentient creatures.

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Taoists do not smoke or drink alcohol for recreation. If any alcohol is to be taken, it is as a medicinal tincture. In general Taoist do not consume any substance that damages health or body. That would be artificial food coloring, sweeteners, preservatives . Many Taoists even avoid drink fluoridated water.

  
You will not find a realTaoist eating ice cream, drinking Coke or any cold drinks (big TCM taboo), eating processed foods that contain artificial colourings, additives, preservatives, flavour enhancers,  artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame or Nutrasweet, drinking coffee or Red Bull. They will go organic as much as possible.  Genetically Modified GM foods are needless to saya big No No.

Taoist diet aims to maintain natural bio-chemical balance within  the body. Removing toxins (metabolic wastes and food poisons such as preservatives, pesticides) and bad fire (substantial and insubstantial fire), balancing Yin and Yang energies are all key objectives of theTaoist diet. Foods that are spicy, cooked at high temperature (roasting, deep frying, barbecuing ) are to be avoided. Stir fry ,steaming and boiling are preferred cooking methods. Good health is the natural inevitable result of such discipline

Chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’, Parkinson's, Dementia, Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis and  Heart problems and hypertension are rare among strict Taoists even at advanced age. My teacher often says " People die from illness, never from old age " Think about that for a while and then ponder of what else you can infer from that.

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Taoist diet avoids spicy foods ( chilly, curry, pepper), cold foods (watermelon), tropical grown foods ( pineapple, mango, durian etc) Such foods are to consumed only if you live in the tropics which is hot and humid, in that case those foods are appropriate for that climate. Taoist food is typically bland.
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Acceptable fruits are apple, pear (Western, Nashi or Ya varieties), peach and strawberries.  Taoist warn against eating bamboo shoots as they are too fiery in nature ( upsets energy balance ), cherries and mandarins .
Chinese medicine and proper Taoist diet   are absolutely important   to Taoists. Many Taoists like to discuss these topics amongst themselves.
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Taoist are the first environmentalists
Taoists respect nature. They protect nature. They borrow energy from nature. They do not try to conquer, harness, damage or exploit nature.
Daoists do not like killing any vegetation or animals or humans unnecessarily. They are anti pollution. No animal culling, let nature self adjust., let nature limit any excessive animal population. They do not like disturbing any natural balance Eg. Green House gases etc.
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Taoists say one must adapt to changes of the environment / times or suffer.
If one does not change with these changes, one will suffer or die.
This applies to climate, work, politics and social situations.
You can only change yourself, not others.
Re-correct, course correct, improve, adjust or face the consequences.

Taoists typically do not like change especially if that change is fast, but when change happens to them , they will always change and adjust / adapt. In a way they do follow the rule of " If it ain't broke, don't fix it .


Moderation or Optimum

The cliche of the day is 'do everything in moderation'. To which I ask, " Does one take Cyanide in moderation ?"  Isn't it more accurate to say " Do everything optimally "...which means to find the right balance which may require making somethings absolutely zero. Eg. Include no mercury in your diet.
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Wu Wei principle ( Effortless Action ) - a core Taoist principle
Wu Wei is commonly mistranslated as Non Action or Inaction.


This is stupid, irrational  and misleading no matter how profound it may sound and how many places you have read it at ! Those who use this translation can't be trusted to  teach Taoism.



It is more useful to translate and interpret WuWei as " Any natural action needing zero or minimal effort “....  Movement without struggle, Eg. the manner water flows along any path, effortlessly. Go with the Flow is often a way to exemplify the nature of Wu Wei. Taoists try to do EVERYTHING according to Wu Wei  ....  at work, martial arts, building things, solving problems, dealing with others, fixing ANYTHING etc. It is the Path of least resistance. Wu wei is best demonstrated by Tai Chi mentality...go with the flow, borrow your attackers' strength, yield to conquer, soft wins over hard etc
  • An example of Wu Wei is sailing. (borrow energy form Nature's wind )
  • An example of NON Wu Wei is paddling a boat under one's steam
If you struggle, worry or suffer pain, you know your action is not consistent with Wuwei. If you found your groove, you will not need to struggle and compete, for your groove is the path of least resistance for you... and that exemplifies an aspect of the WuWei principle.
Wuwei sometimes requires one to take a step back and yield to the opposing force.  Other times it requires staying still. It also means to always take the path of least resistance. And sometimes it may mean to calm/still/ quiet the mind. In a case of YES or NO, Wu wei may mean choosing either and even neither and adopt a wait-and-see strategy.

Taoists comply with Wu Wei as it consistent with their policy of not wasting personal energy (Qi) or physical energy (calories or joules). Wu wei is well exemplified with another core Taoist teaching concerning how humans organize and manage things. There is a contrived way and there is a spontaneous way. The spontaneous way is one that is consistent with Wu Wei and will result in Spontaneous Order. ie. things somehow naturally arrange themselves in a good and efficient way.
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Peculiar characteristics of Taoists 
Taoists are not ambitious by nature, not passionate in any pursuit, especially illusions such as wealth, power, glory, fame, beauty, public recognition, status, ranking, sexual pleasure or material possessions. It might surprise many to know that Taoists avoid doing anything with passion, for passion is an attachment and addiction, they enslave and locks one in vicious cycles. Taoists do not seek pointless challenges .
But this does not mean a Taoists have no aspirations, plans nor prepare. Once a goal is identified, he plans and prepares a way to achieve the intended goal. Ambitious drive is replaced by calm rationale preparation & planning, passion with discipline and commitment.  

He will also be aware he may have to constantly re-adjust and adapt to changing conditions rather than blindly forge forward with no mid course corrections. As an example, this means they will practice their daily Qigong / Daoyin exercises, whether they are in the mood or not. If you are generally content and not ambitious, perhaps you have a natural Taoist streak.


Taoist are flexible, adaptable and will not blindly or stubbornly stay the course if the situation at that moment warrants course correction. This is consistent with the Taoist observation that "every thing in existence changes "... ( I-Ching teachings). Crying and laughing is avoided in equal measure.Taoist avoid participating in anything physically or mentally exciting or stimulating, for that causes the body to leak ( waste) Qi and Shen ( mind-spirit energy). Eg. watching exciting movies, listening to rousing music, singing or any sort, talking loudly and excitedly, getting a recreational massage, smelling perfumes, spicy foods , alcohol, smoking narcotics, roller coasters, watching exciting sports events,bungee jumping, parachuting, base jumping ....you get the idea ? Serenity, peace and harmony is the preferred state of mind at ALL times.

Taoists exhibit a peculiar "just enough/ no more no less" attitude, this is exemplified in not hoarding any material item avoiding doing anything in excess. This attitude sharply contrasts with the " More is better " mentality found in modern society . " Less is more " is a Taoist adage: ...... Daily, daily reduce, is a Taoist mantra.....Often they also display a " if it ain't broke, don't fix it " attitude.

Many appear to have a calm, stoic, "poker face" unemotional, appearance, as excess emotion of any kind (anger, sadness, ecstasy, happiness, fear, love and passion ) leads to loss of Qi energy. Needless to say, in everything he does, a Taoist maintains  a " Pain is NO Gain " policy ....this is one of the defining differences between Taoism as opposed to Buddhist, Judeo- Christian / Western values, which essentially teaches the opposite. A Taoist tries to stay calm whether he faces happy or sad  or bad news. Calmness allows him to maintain a broadband connection to the power of Tao 24 by 7.


Taoists do not actively seek importance via status. Instead they seek to acquire Taoist skills.  Sometimes through the mastery of great skill, such as martial arts , medicine, calligraphy or war strategy wisdom, they inadvertently received unwanted attention unwittingly having importance thrust upon them. Military strategist Zhu Ge Liang, from the Romance of three Kingdoms saga is an example.
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" Nothing achieved with great effort ever last long " is a Taoist creed, an extension of the Wu Wei principle.

Taoists try not to  depend on "modern technology"

You may have heard that Taoists are often suspicious of modem technology.There is some truth to this, but let me clarify.Taoist do not reject all modern technology. After all, they invented gun powder.Taoists separate technology into:
1. Taoist compliant - tech which works with nature
2. non Taoist compliant  - tech which works against nature.

 

Confused? If technology is developed to assist human life without damaging, harming, controlling mother nature, Taoists endorse it. But if a certain type of technology tries to create wealth, increase pleasure or enhance killing ( weapons) and in the process harms, controls or change the processes of nature and it's patterns,  ( plants, animals, environment, atmosphere), then Taoists say that is not good and the Tao will react badly to it. 

Let me explain using Genetic science as an example.  If one develops Genetic technology to better understand how cells works and to treat medical problems, that is good ..... but if that same genetic technology is used to alter the DNA of natural food ( GM crops) or to make a Tuna fish bigger, or crops resistant to insects or create fruits that don't have seeds  ...then Taoist say that such unnatural actions will bring forth bad consequences for all of man kind. For it is unnatural, and therefore against nature. Nature's own automatic self preservation mechanism kick into place and readjust itself to weed out such non life supporting actions, for Nature's imperative is to sustain life, and eliminate BAD changes ...even if it means killing of some people ....( Religious Taoist refers to that as " Heaven has eyes and dishes out punishment " ).

Do you remember mad cow disease ? Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease is a result of feeding unwanted cow parts back to another cow .... Farmers unknowingly using "modern technology"  by unwittingly enforcing cow cannibalism ! Goodness sake...nature meant for cows to be vegetarians ! How on earth did "clever"  scientists miss the fact that a herbivore will not digest meat properly ? Was someone trying to maximize their profits here?

Whilst making life easier in most cases, modern technology is a double edge sword, it also weakens man's natural abilities. Eg Calculator, elevators
Taoists say " acquired human knowledge"

.... is inferior to "natural knowledge”.Taoists value natural knowledge.

What have people been saying ? Does technology make us dumber ? <<< click to read more

Examples of " acquired human knowledge " are 1. modern non Taoist compliant technology 2. human made law or political systems- completely contrived and manufactured. It's flaws are clearly evident in their inconsistencies, and differs from one place to another unlike Nature's laws, which are universal and absolute.
Examples of natural knowledge are Physics, Astronomy, Geology ,Chemistry, Biology, and natural laws of gravity, electricity, life and growth chemical reactions...these explain how nature works.

Nuclear energy, a bicycle, glider or sailing boat, solar energy are good examples of Taoism compliant applied science, consistent with Taoist principles.
Nuclear weapons, helicopter, artificial pesticides, pharmaceuticals and GM crops are examples of applied science that violate Taoist principles.
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Helicopter design has few Taoist leaning technologies , a glider is more Taoist leaning, organ transplantation is anti Taoist, stem cell healing is pro Taoist . Lycra is anti Taoist, cotton is pro Taoist. Bicycle is pro Taoist device. Many Taoists are suspicious of modern technology because some of this modern technology actually is harmful and weakens natural human ability.
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Anything that requires too much energy, disturbs nature's / ecology balance, weakens man's natural abilities is harmful and belongs to the non Taoist compliant category by definition.
This value of this view is most clearly demonstrated during an electrical power failure. Electrical appliances fail us. Imagine your life where traffic lights, internet, phone, elevators stop, fridges stoves water pipes suddenly stopped working when we have become so relaint on them. Life stands still. Everyone is paralyzed. Taoist do not like to be made so vulnerable to frail human technology.
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Despite incredible technological advancements, an aircraft still needs massive amount of fuel to fly and will only last max 24hours on one tank of fuel.
Most of us living in advanced economies take electricity for granted. Yet we fail to a[ppciate how this modern technology very vulnerable. In the event of a power failure, a city is paralysed, whereas a poor man living in a under developed country can still cook with his wood burning stove etc
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The amazing power of Nature - why Taoist try to learn from Nature
Godwit birds
fly12,000 km from Alaska to New Zealand, non stop, without rest over 10 days and one 1 meal. A humming bird or dragon fly hovers far more efficiently than a modern helicopter, and with less noise!

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These 2 examples exemplifies the Wu Wei principle.
* To watch Taoism in action, merely ponder and examine natural phenomenon, especially the amazing feats of animals. As mentioned, Taoism is just " Whatever happens in the absence of man's contrived intervention "

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Humans 'need to learn' how to swim. Yet a dog swims naturally.
Humans can barely jump higher than one's waist level.
Yet a cat can easily jumps 3 times its height/length


A wingless flea jumps 100 times its height. How small brained is this flea ? Did it need to be smart to achieve such natural feats? This is  what Taoist notice.
Animals  sense earthquakes in advance. Humans rely on sensor equipment
And we think we are smarter ?
Well,Taoists say " smarter = weaker" if those smarts lies in human acquired knowledge, "not natural knowledge".


Taoists believe much of these human acquired knowledge / skills ( unnatural technology) actually weakens us.
To this point Taoists emphasize returning to the original state Pu.
( Pu = Uncarved Block, mentioned extensively in the TAO OF POOH ).

Taoists say, in the original state of Pu, Nature bestowed on us many natural gifts (psychic) and physical abilities and intuitive knowledge ...BUT human reliance on "artificial education" and “ unnatural technology" has rendered these gifts obsolete, and we lost them from non use.
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Shamans posses Natural knowledge and are in touch with Nature.

The more technologically advance a man is,  the less "natural", the weaker is his connection to Nature and natural abilities .

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3 practical Taoist guidelines to minimize stress in life:

  1. Be kind to everyone ( including animals )
  2. Lead a simple life ( have few attachments, be minimalist , minimize desires )
  3. Do not be Number 1 ( seek no prominence, promotion or human elected status )
#2 attachments lead to stress / grief, ultimately all attachments ( including love) are illusions
#3 " standing nails get knocked ", tall poppy syndrome
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The 3 simple guide lines are referred to as the 3 Treasures in Taoism

Taoists view ANY form of competition as useless and unproductive and illusionary
Unlike Buddhist , Taoists are allowed to experience DESIRES, as long as they don't allow these desires to trap or lock one into a Fixation or obsessive state of mind. That means wealth is compatible as long as a wealthy Taoist is able to walk away or lose his wealth and not be emotionally disturbed by it.

Taoists advocate COMPETENCE not COMPETITION.
Climbing the corporate ladder, seeking job promotion, winning the marathon are examples of competition. They have little tangible benefit and usually bring more hidden burden.

Can you understand why conquering Mount Everest or winning a race are worthless pursuits to Taoists ? ... as well as being risky and causing health damage? Glory is an illusion and points to  one's own shallowness and insecurity and need for public adoration or approval.
To compete implies struggling to get to HIGH point .
To be competent implies deepening one's skill - going LOW

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Taoists avoid any struggling as it is not consistent with the Wu Wei principle

Eg.
Engineer X struggles to get that promotion to Team leader, Dept Manager then Chief Technology Officer.
Engineer Y deepens his knowledge of a specific technology and becomes a specialist or subject matter expert .
In this example, who is the Taoist ? And who is the Confucianist?

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon embodies a useful Taoist caution.

This is not just the title of a movie, but a Taoist proverb exhorting one to not attract attention (crouching) and conceal one's skills and real power ( hidden dragon ) until such time it is appropriate to unleash it. It also implies humility, modesty have advantages in providing security. This is an important principle in Internal/ Soft Martial Arts and Military Strategy . It is interesting to note that many Western powers such as the USA or like to boast about how many nuclear missiles, warplanes, tanks etc they have....and accused China of not being " transparent " as she does not publish such sensitive information.
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Taoists often use water as an analogy for the Tao
Be like water.
Water stays low
Low is safe.
Height is unsafe... one can fall or be shot at

Water naturally finds the lowest level without any calculation or thinking.
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In practical terms, this refers to NOT seeking any form of social status elevation or even job promotion, where the concept of rising up any system of human made hierarchy.
Water reshapes itself to fit its container, demonstrating the quality of adaptability to ones surrounding or else you will experience stress or die.
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Taoists often holds no social status ( he shuns it as social status is artificial and arbitrary man made system of differentiation) yet is deeply respected and has enormous influence due to his wisdom, knowledge, intuition and skill. He seeks the lowest social status yet is held in high regard by those in "higher positions".


In times of old, many Emperors of China sought the counsel of Taoists who lived in the caves.
Often many of these Taoists hide and made themselves scarce, as they were reluctant to serve or be embroiled with the emperor's greed and political ambitions.But a Taoist will advise an emperor if he feels that advice will be used in a good way. Genghis Khan was advised by Taoist Qiu Chuji (Chiu Chang Chun ) , and as a result limited his annihilation of some tribes in Afghanistan.
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What is the Tao / Dao ?

A direct and literal translation = WAY
If you asked in Chinese " Do you know the way to the Post Office "...
it would literally translate to " Do you know the Tao to Post Office ? "
Tao simply translates to WAY....but in Taoist context, there are deeper implications
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Some useful ways to explain the meaning of DAO/ TAO
Tao = The natural WAY things operate in the absence of any human contrived interference
Tao
= The natural way things operate without any effort ( Wu Wei principle)
Eg.
the way the planets move in orderly harmony
the way water knows how to find the lowest level
the way water transforms into steam when heated and ascends
the way a bird flies without thinking
the way our wounds heal without medicine
the way a bean sprouts when water is added

the way dna code turns egg and sperm into a human being
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Wealth and financial security
Unlike Buddhist, a Taoist can co-exist with wealth.......
....as long as he understands wealth is an illusion to which he must not be firmly attached. Meaning, he can have wealth but if he should lose it all, it should make no difference to how he feels. If a Taoist cannot detach this way, it is best then he stay away from wealth. Taoist tend to opt for jobs that have  low stress, low excitement as these things disturb and distract the stillness and calm they seek.
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Unlike Buddhists, Taoists do not need to surrender wealth to reach enlightenment. In fact wealth often makes it easier for them to reach ' enlightenment ', as doing hours of Qigong at an advanced level means one is restricted from working long hours to make money.
Having money and servants therefore helps one reach ' Enlightenment '.
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It is useful to be reminded that Taoism is NOT a religion originally, but up until around 1000 AD it was ritualized into a religion and along with it much or it original unadulterated value. Learning Taoism from a religious Taoist priest is not the same as learning it from a REAL Taoist. Many Taoist priests do not have the real power, skills and abilities of a Taoist purist ( non religious).

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Happiness is an illusion
Many people search endlessly for Happiness, never finding it permanently till they realize. Permanent Happiness is an illusion and does not exist. Taoists prefer CONTENTMENT, PEACE or STILLNESS - these refer to sitting in the center position ( equilibrium point) between Happiness & Sadness. Perhaps this is why so many are unhappy, as happiness is impermanent, fleetingly and alternates with sadness. How can one find something that doesn't really exists?
As well, in today's society, the pursuit of happiness often confuses one with illusionary ideals such as excitement and fun.


But some people try to find happiness in alcohol, prozac, ecstasy or and adrenalin rush from bungy jumping....by altering their state of consciousness. A few days later they realize it is gone.Taoist's Contentment, Peace, Stillness, Serenity is far more permanent and satisfying.
Taoists say if you experience moments of Happiness, be prepared for the coming Sadness, for Nature will send you an equal dose of the opposite so as to maintain natural balance. It is the law of Nature. Nature tends to the center position = Peace. Peace is NOT the same as Happiness 

Is the Dalai Lama morally qualified to write about how to achieve Happiness?  I often wonder if he is a happy at all.. He is still pretty much attached (obsessed?) to the idea of Tibet becoming independent. Aren't Buddhists supposed to be non attached? Does one seek medical advice from a sick man ? Do one seek financial advice from a beggar ? The Dalai Lama does nothing when his Buddhist monks set themselves on fire year after year when in  protest about the Tibetan situation.

An idyllic Taoist life is to sip green tea daily in serenity and contemplation, whilst appreciating the beauty of nature, perhaps help some people along the way by offering insightful advice, do some Calligraphy or Taoist paintings, play Taoist Chess ( Wei Qi) , do some Qigong or Soft martial arts. If he should work, it would be in a capacity which he enjoys but not necessarily for money as he no longer needs a salary.

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Many devout Buddhists give up all worldly possessions, seeking refuge in a Buddhist monastery, shunning society. Taoists do not run away from society to solve their problems. Many advanced Taoists live in the city, within society, work in Government , work as Teachers, Martial arts teachers or doctors of Chinese medicine, Artists and scholars. Buddhist monks are required to beg for their food...relying on the very society they escaped from. This is a shame on Buddhism. If everyone in the world embraced this Buddhist practice, we will all be returned to the Stone Age. Taoists work for their own food, relying on no one. but themselves .Some Taoists chose to live in secluded areas like mountain caves during those periods when they need a quiet environment to do Qigong training at some key phases of their Internal Alchemy Training.
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Tao Te Ching scriptures
The Tao Te Ching is a very important Taoist scripture authored by LaoZi / LaoTzu circa 550 BCE. Unfortunately it is also the most mistranslated / explained book . This is due to the fact much of those translations and interpretations are made by university academic scholars who are not Taoist. This is similar to someone who isn't a chef , but writes a book about Cooking.
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The best way to learn to be a Taoist is to get face to face teaching. But Taoists often remain hidden, within society or in caves ! Some searching may be necessary, and be reminded that " When the student is ready, the teacher will appear" If you are being charged heaps of money to learn Taoism, flee ! Other important Taoist text are found in the DaoZang.

Important Taoists figures and personalities :
  • Zhuang Zi ( he died, therefore some  Taoists regard him as a low level Taoist )
  • Sun Tzu , author of Art of War ( he died)
  • Zhu ge Liang, the military strategist in RED CLIFF movie (Romance of 3 kingdoms). .....also died
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Pain and Suffering can be avoided
Suffering, disappointment comes from unmet desires stemming from unnecessary attachments. In this respect Taoism shares a common view with Buddhism .

However, the way Taoists deal with removing attachments is drastically different to Buddhist. Consistent with Wu Wei principles, Taoists will use painless( slower) methods requiring little struggle. A Buddhist and Catholic will use suppression and denial methods such as denying one self of bodily urges ie. sexual and harshly cutting oneself off from attachments to wealth, fame etc
Such suppression methods often fail despite the best of intentions. The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
Taoists use a combination of Qigong and dietary changes to remove the "fire that fuels the desires", thus curbing the attachments in a safer way with little chance of rebound. With the fire gone, the desire/ attachments fade away naturally without any need for suppression. Slower , but isn't this more natural?
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Buddhism teaches " Life is Suffering"
Taoism teaches 'Life is Suffering only if one does not follow the Tao'

Based on this, doesn't the Buddhist worldview appear bleak, pessimistic and negative? Some say the Buddhist view implies they look forward to death, as death brings the rebirth / reincarnation they so seek in the hope they will come back in a "better next life" .

Taoists are far more positive minded. They want to make this life good and long, and prolong death as long as possible. Hence the quest for extreme longevity. And physical immortality.

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The only constant is change.
Taoists say everything in the universe changes according to Yin -Yang principles,Yin Yang being the 2 opposite extremes. The universe is in constant flux. The human body is viewed as a microcosm of the universe. When a system has gone all the way to one extreme ( Yin ) , the system will self adjust and bring it self to the other extreme (Yang) . Several cycles later it will find a balance position and not change....until something disturbs that balance , and the whole cycle starts again/ This has been used to describe anything from the way earth quakes work , to stock market movements...and as simple as how a pendulum swings from left ( yin) to right ( yang). It also explains why on Friday an ecstasy pill will bring Euphoria (Yang) and few days later, you experience the other extreme , Sadness (Yin) ... see below for more on this subject.
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Just Enough : No More No Less - aim for optimum not moderation
Taoists believe that for everything you do or collect or apply, no more no less is an important principle to observe. In fact No More No Less is implicit in the concept of balance. As such a Taoist does not collect "stuff " or hoard things or work too hard or worry too much.
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Many may mistake Taoists to be "lazy" bums, whereas a Taoist will refute by saying he isn't a workaholic, not a slave to his employer and knows what work-life balance is and knows when to stop. He is merely putting Wu Wei into action.
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What is Good What is not, for you
"Everything in moderation " is a phrase tossed around carelessly. Whilst this sounds cool, I often ask " Should one smoke in moderation , ingest rat poison in moderation " ?
Perhaps it is better to say " In everything, do properly and aim for optimum, not moderation " .
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Taoist are vigilant about these illusions :
  1. the trap of Fame
  2. the burden of Wealth
  3. the deception of a Job promotion
  4. the weakness of Power
  5. the disadvantage of Status
  6. the shallowness of Appearances
  7. the insecurity of Possessions
  8. the double edge nature of Modern technology
...... I will expand on this in time to come , sorry I'm quite busy now .....


Illusions and other deceptions are the source of much suffering. It lures one into a trap. It sets up all kinds of  " vicious cycles "  preventing your escape. Even if you win the rat race, you are still a rat !

The best way out is to "awaken" and recognise  the illusion for what it is.  The powerful lure of an illusion is often driven and sustained by a potentially attainable payoff or reward. Examples are gambling, seeking fame, promotion or marriage to a beautiful partner. The illusion is very quickly uncovered when one realises that the reward is not satisfying. Yet many choose to ignore this early warning and go into denial and perpetuate the illusion... a dog chasing its tail a squirrel in a wheel...

Taoists do not pursue pointless pursuits that are :

1. Too dangerous
2. Waste energy
3. have no tangible benefit

....... conquering Mount Everest, swimming across English Chanel, running the marathon ...These activities have little benefit and are often done to boost one's ego or satisfy one's need for fame, fortune and glamour. Illusions appear to promise happiness.  Taoists shun them. Taoists do not do anything for fun that wastes energy and has no benefit or anything that damages health. Eg Jogging, bodybuilding, bungy jumping, parachuting, high impact aerobi activities, marathon running - surprised ? Pointless activities are also addressed under the Wu Wei principle. FUN is an extreme Yang position causing imbalance , Taoist try avoiding the extreme position unless it is absolutely necessary. Taoist prefer PEACE & Contentment..a center based position of FUN/ DEPRESSION scale ... more below .
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The only thing that a Taoist guards / hoard is Qi energy.
Because health, longevity and immortality all depends on how much Qi he has.
These are the most important things to him, not wealth or happiness.
He doesn't do anything that waste his Qi energy.
This includes speaking unnecessarily.
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Taoists are soft but not softies
Taoists are peaceful people. But unlike Buddhists, Taoists are not push over pacifists . They will not bow to an enemy threatening to harm or bully. A Taoist strives to be kind to all, but will defend himself or the weak when the situation justifies it. He is assertive, not aggressive.
Sometimes they can come across as Lazy , eclectic, paradoxical, strange, stoic, poker face.
Not rally Lazy, just practising Wu Wei or knowing when to stop.
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The importance of Balance, Equilibrium or going for optimum position
All systems tend to move it's parts until it reaches a balance. Subsequently the systems stays at that balance point within a narrow range of variation. If something natural or otherwise disturbs this balance, the system once against starts to move in an attempt to reach the same or new balance.


It is during this time of "readjustments" one must adapt with the changes or suffer. If the river changes course and is headed for your house, should not one move ?

Balance is good. Balance brings peace. Balance is when Yin and Yang are in harmony. Taoists don't like rocking the boat as that introduces instability. In any system , if change is necessary, it must be gradual and NATURALLY driven , so the '"system" can self adjust in natural manner and re-establish a new balance/ equilibrium with minimal havoc. If change is unnatural and occurs too fast, there will be turbulence and people /animals may have trouble coping with the changes fast enough. Taoists are not against change, but against fast unnatural and unnecessary changes. 

An example is the 3 Gorges Dam in China, which essentially changed the natural path of a massive river. Who knows what effects that has on Tectonic plates and Flora and Fauna? Another example of disturbing natural balance is the introduction of Genetically Modified (GM) foods into the food chain. Our bodies have no experience in dealing with substance that we never encountered in its entire evolutionary history. As well, making cows eat feed containing cow parts is unnatural and again disturbs the balance. The consequence was Mad Cow disease.
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Why so many people suffer from non chemical depression ?
  • Happiness , Joy , Fun , Euphoria are emotions on the Yang end of the scale.
  • Sadness, depression, Boredom are on the Yin end
  • Contentment, Satisfaction, Serenity, Peace, Calm , Stillness is in the middle.

If you seek Happiness and actually get it, rest assured Nature will reward you with EQUAL amount of the Opposite .... ie. sadness, in due course to balance Yin with Yang to achieve equilibrium ,a state of stasis perhaps. That Happiness state will not last for long.
Conversely, if you find you self depressed as a result of direct action or circumstance, that too won't last very long.
This is a law of Nature, to to balance out things ...Taoists understand this,it follows that they prefer to take the Center less disruptive position...PEACE, thus avoiding the distressful swing between the 2 extremes.
Some mistake peace for boredom, but that really means they are addicted to the pendulum swing of the Fun/ Sadness cycle. Unfortunately Adrenalin junkies ( extreme sports etc ?) are afraid of boredom find themselves locked into this vicious and insidious cycle.
Perhaps this is why so many Westerners are '"suffer from depression "..the constant search for Happiness, and temporarily achieving it addicts them as they swing between Happiness and Sadness. Failure to permanently achieving Happiness leads many to believe / perceive they must be otherwise depressed. I disagree.
Perhaps if they STOP chasing this elusive thing called Happiness and seek PEACE AND CONTENTMENT they are more likely to get it and hold on to it.
Permanent Happiness is an illusion.
Peace and Contentment are far more achievable and permanent and satisfying !
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Identifying a Taoist teacher
If what you read about Taoism interests you so far, the next thing to do is to find an authentic Taoist teacher This is not going to be easy and will require some patience.There's just too many low level Taoists, mid level , quasi Taoists or "fake" Taoist quite willing to be you teacher.
As I have been through this search before, here's my list of signs symptoms and peculiarities that may point to a authentic Taoist.
1. Many authentic Taoist are hard to find as they don't make a big attempt at self promotion. Most reside in China, some have spread out to western countries.They prefer to remain hidden. Many are reclusive. Some retreat to mountain caves so as to be able to practice their Qigong / Daoyin with minimum interference. On reaching a certain level, many choose to live in busy cities returning to the mountain caves every now and then to practice Qigong in serenity. Unlike Zen Buddhist who wish to give up their jobs to permanently seek refuge in a monastery , often resorting to begging from the very society they avoid/ escaped from.
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2.Some are reluctant to talk to casual strangers appearing as keen students . They may dismiss you. Some act ignorant if they are in the presence of dangerous people or "unworthy students". Some will only talk to you after you've made your approach several times over the course of a year.or have been introduced by someone he knows well. You may need to get to gain his trust and befriend him first months before asking him to be your teacher. This may seem strange, but in the light of the fact Taoism is not a religion , and does not have its " broadcast imperatives" , you can understand why Taoist prefer to keep this esoteric knowledge esoteric and in the right hands.
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3. Don't expect him to look like a stereotyped Taoist. He's not always in Taoist robes, with hair in a top knot, have droopy snow white eye brows and a 100 year old beard. Many look ordinary. But NONE are fat. Sometimes they have very long hair, but usually well groomed. But they do tend to dress simple and not ostentatiously.
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4. They get turned off if you announce you are very keen and enthusiastic about all things Taoism and want to learn everything and as soon as possible. Why ? ( They value commitment, dedication discipline more than enthusiasm ! )
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5. They are very opinionated. They speak bluntly and plainly and sometimes the brutal truth will offend because conventional viewpoint is vastly different from his. Of course you can choose not to agree with him. Some of these topics touch on religion, world history , sexual practices, lifestyle choices, your bad habits, your diet, attitude to life
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6 Sometimes they will 'test' you to see if you are a 'worthy' or will make it. A worthy student is one that shows potential of some degree of commitment, dedication discipline, not just enthusiastic. As Taoists hoard personal energy, he does not wish to waste it on people who have a high chance of failure or dropping out. For a person to be "accepted" into Taoist training, he/she must be 1) Ready 2) Willing 3) Disciplined
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6. The test will expose if you are 1) Ready AND 2) Willing 3) Disciplined . It will reveal if you are patient, open to learning something new rather than insisting on your view being right. If you have never asked the question " Is there a better way to deal with things... " or been frustrated with things in you life, you are probably not quite READY at this point in time.
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7..A Taoist does not reject a student merely because he comes in with tattoos and piercings and dresses as a Goth. or emo, smokes like a chimney or drinks like a fish. Rather he will like to see if you can recognize the illusions and "scripts" you are acting out on. And if there's any chance you will change upon this awakening..
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8.When seeking a teacher, a Taoist is not impressed by your mastery and dedication of Shaolin martial arts, other hard / external martial arts or your big muscles of towering height or your immense adoration of Japanese culture or Buddhist philosophy. He views these as impediments to cultivating Tao. Are you willing to wake up and change ? ....is the question he asks.
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9. As health is precious and the most protected aspect of his existence, a real Taoist will do nothing to harm his health. This means he does not smoke, drink alcohol ( except medicinal tincture ), eat junk food or engage is dangerous or adrenaline inducing sports or activities. He is keen to cultivate body and mind, unlike Zen Buddhist who deny the body focusing completely on developing the mind.
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10. A Taoist does not seek social prominence or high office. If he is either, it must be because he was thrusted up, not because he strived for it.
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11. The more advanced a Taoist is, the more Taoist arts he will master:
Strong knowledge of Chinese Medicine, Qigong and Daoyin , at least one Internal Martial Arts ( Tai Chi, Bagua, Xing Yi or Lie He Ba Fa ), Calligraphy, Wei Qi board game, Taoist paintings, indepth knowledge of all Taoist classics ( Eg. Tao Te Ching, I-Ching, Yellow Emperor Internal Medicine, and other Taoist works found in the Taoist Canon, DaoZang .
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12. A Taoist will often have a simple and "humble" job if any at all. He does not try to make heaps of money by holding a high stress, prestige job title  all illusions he recognises.. Oddly enough some Taoist are wealthy, the wealth allows him to support himself without work. It's been noted that the cultivation of the Dao requires time and commitment to Qigong / Daoyin. This often limits his ability to take on a stressful job or even have a family. If for some reason he is wealthy as a result of inheritance or income derived from non work investments or lucrative work form his pre- Taoist days that would be a lucky thing. This explains why many people in China of old, can only fully commit to Taoism on reaching their mid 40s, after they made enough money, and their kids are all grown up. That said, there are people who cultivate Taoism in their 20s but this is uncommon yet the best option .
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Humans risk their lives for a little "Happiness"
Animals risk their lives for food
Is it happiness, excitement or mental stimulation we confuse ourselves with?
Perhaps it may be wise to remember " Let your heart lead you, let your head decide if it's right for you "
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If you are Chemically depressed.....
May I suggest you research Magnesium supplementation ( see below ), ensure enough Iron, Zinc & Vitamin D ( or 10 mins  sunshine exposure  on 40%of your skin  daily) Vitamin B complex in your diet, get enough sleep ( 8 hours) go to bed same time every night before 11pm ( Taoist advice to sleep before the Hour of Tzu, improve your digestion and ABSORPTION, GRADUALLY stop doing drugs like Ecstacy, Cocaine, minimise alcohol ( it flushes minerals from you body worsening your depression ) , minmise COFFEE, get enough daily moderate intensity exercise, don't be alone, practise Taoist Qigong ( or Tai Chi ) and you may be amazed at how fast your depression leaves you and may even consider throwing out your Prozac .... .
As well, especially if you tend to eat very little meat, consider taking Zinc supplements and Vitamin B complex especially Vitamin B6 & B12.
Fluctuating or low blood sugar ( hypoglycemia) and regular consumption of Caffeine powered drinks ( Mother, Red Bull) will not make your anxiety / depression any better in the longer term  even if  feels good  for a short while.



More later.....
and there will be .....
People die in Charity
People survive in hardship


Links:


Some books about Taoism