Place the word Tao
Into your heart.
Use no other words.
Why do so many people seek foreign religions? Why are so many of our philosophies translations from other languages? Surely we are all human beings, with hearts and minds, two hands and two legs. Each of us needs spirituality, but why must we always look abroad?
People who investigate Tao ask whether they have to be Chinese to benefit from it. It is true that part of the study of Tao is strictly Chinese. It is also true that this Taoism has never been exported — unlike Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, or Judaism — and has never been preached beyond the Five Sacred Mountains of China. It is elitist, to protect itself from coarse unbelievers. But this Taoism is not the Tao you need.
The true Tao is of no nationality, no religion. It is far beyond the conceptions of even the most brilliant human being, so it cannot be the property of one race or culture. The need to understand Tao is universal; people just give it different names in their native languages. Tao is the very essence of life itself, so those who are alive always have the possibility of knowing Tao. It is meant to be found in the here and now, and it is within the grasp of any sincere seeker.
A lot of us think we need gurus or spiritual guides to learn some mystical religion or have a spiritual experience. I think what we really want is a deep connection to the world, something that doesn’t feel artificial or superficial. We’ve been through the experience of the grand church services intended to awe and overwhelm us, and while exciting for a time, still end up feeling empty.
But Tao is all about being empty! It is about having room inside for the Tao to enter, to realize that when you are empty, you become a vessel for whatever awaits to fill you. And if you open to the Tao, that is what you become filled with. Whoever you are, wherever you are.
Of course, lots of other things will try to fill that space as well. Sometimes, people try to fill it with drugs or alcohol or another harmful substance. Sometimes they fill it with Christianity or another religion, which is fine. Sometimes they fill it with stuff, going on a material binge of thinking buying something new and shiny will make them feel better. Sometimes they fill it with other people, like my mom did for years, taking care of so many others while neglecting her own health and well-being. Some people fill it with work, never taking time for themselves or for family and friends.
Great things about Tao: It’s free, it’s easy to learn about (81 verses!) and yet you can study it for a lifetime, always learning something new, it takes as much or as little effort as you want to give it, and it will never try to run your life – it only tells you how things are, and you do with that what you will.
Not-so-great things about the Tao: Nobody tells you what to do, you have to figure it out yourself. People look at you funny when they ask about it and you just smile and say, “those who know, do not speak”, with that little Mona Lisa grin. (ok, I actually find that one amusing, realy) You get really distracted by little things like hummingbirds, which are fabulous little creatures, or staring at the pattern on the leaf of a plant you haven’t seen before. You find humor in things other people take very seriously, and end up laughing at odd times. You get new insights at weird times and find yourself writing them down or making drawings on all kinds of things. You can’t write a paragraph without having to pause and tickle a cat. It takes an hour to do a post on the Tao because you’re having too much fun playing with Google images….