Pattern and creativity
Are the two poles of action.

It is wise to plan each day. By setting goals for oneself and organizing activities to be accomplished, one can be sure that each day will be full and never wasted.

Followers of Tao use patterns when planning. They observe the ways of nature, perceive the invisible lines of destiny. They imagine a pattern for their entire lives, and in this way, they ensure overall success. Each day, they match interim patterns against their master goals, and so navigate life with sureness and grace. It is precisely this ability to discern and manipulate patterns unknown to the ordinary person that makes the follower of Tao so formidable.

When unpredictable things happen, those who follow Tao are also skilled at improvisation. If circumstances deny them, they change immediately. To avoid confusion, they still discern the patterns of the situation and create new ones, much like a chess player at the board. The spontaneous creation of new patterns is their ultimate art.

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao

The third viewpoint of nature, and the one we will discuss at length here, is from the Chinese, who use the word Li, to describe nature as organic pattern, translated as the markings in jade, the grain in wood, and the fiber in muscle. All of it is just infinitely beautiful, flowing in all sorts of complicated patterns. There is an order to it, but you cannot put your finger on it. It simply cannot be measured or put into words or symbols. When you look at a cloud, it is not a cube, nor is it circular. It has no specific order to it that we can describe and yet it is perfect. Look at a tree, a mountain, or the foam on water when it hits the shoreline, even the stars; all amazingly beautiful, in all kinds of wild and crazy patterns. All of it has an order to it that we simply cannot measure or describe. This is Li – organic pattern.

The Tao is not something different from nature, the birds, the bees, the trees, or ourselves. The Tao is the way all that behaves. So the basic Chinese idea of the universe is that it is an organism. You cannot find the controlling center of it, because there isn’t any. Everything is a system of interrelated components, all interdependent on the other. Like bees and flowers; you will not find bees where there are no flowers, nor flowers where there are no bees or other insects that do their equivalent. Therefore though they look very different, they are in fact inseparable. They arise mutually. There is no cause and effect as we study with such veracity here in the west. Light and dark, high and low, sound and silence – all are only experienced in terms of their polar opposites.

For me, the world is about process. Whatever task you attempt, there is always a process of fulfilling that task. If you don’t define a process, then the process is simply random. But even randomness is itself a pattern.

Natural processes are somewhat predictable – the days of the year, the seasons, the time of sunrise and sunset, etc. For a woman, there’s the monthly flow. In some ways, I think maybe this atunes women more to process. But we are all creatures of habit, to some extent, and have certain patterns in our lives.

When things are not going well, the trick is to look for the pattern that is going on, and find a way to change it. When things are aligned the way you want them to be, the trick is to be mindful of any discrepancies in the pattern you are trying to create or follow.

But Tao and life are about change. The real ability is to be able to adapt to those changes and alter your plans based on those changes.