Flow (repost from 2005)

If the boulders are moved,
Even a river will change its flow.

Except for occasional flooding, the mightiest river keeps to its bed. It flows where it finds openings between cliffs and rocks. If the river is dammed, if the cliff walls are moved, if the boulders are shifted, it will flow a different course. It could even be made to flow backwards if the earth moved far enough.

So it is with the flow of our lives. Once the fixed objects of our lives shift, our circumstances change. If we move to another city, life will change. If we marry one person over another, life will be different. If we situate our business in a good neighborhood, life will be prosperous. If we choose a house in a good setting, life will be healthy. If we arrange our furniture properly, life will be comfortable. If we eat correctly, life will be prolonged. In short, followers of Tao realize that the flow of life can be affected and to some degree consciously manipulated simply by altering its parameters.

Life is the flow of energy. It is the air that we breathe, the force that moves the weather, the force of all minds combined. It keeps the rivers flowing, our hearts beating, and the sky blue. This flow of energy moves constantly according to the fixed points that exist at any given moment. Therefore, by manipulating the cardinal points of our lives, we can change the flow. The freedom to choose and to change belongs to us.

Deng Ming Tao, 365 Tao

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places people disdain.
Thus it is like the Tao. — Lao Tsu, Tao Te Ching


A sailboat moves with the wind,
But May still be steered.
You may flow with Tao,
Yet still make choices.

— Richard Seymour

32. Shapes

Flow has no true shape,
And therefore none can control it.
If a ruler could control flow
All things would follow
In harmony with his desire,
And sweet rain would fall,
Effortlessly slaking every thirst.

Flow is shaped by use,
But then the shape is lost.
Do not hold fast to shapes
But let sensation course into the world
As a river runs down to the sea.

— GNL Tao Te Ching

All things change, nothing is extinguished. There is nothing in the whole world which is permanent. Everything flows onward; all things are brought into being with a changing nature; the ages themselves glide by in constant movement. — Ovid

Back when I was studying engineering, the most dreaded course was fluid dynamics. The mathematics involved in studying fluids is complicated, and in some cases, turbulence in fluids simply becomes chaos, totally unpredictable.

We can determine some of the flow of our lives, but there will always be elements of it that are unpredictable, which, of course, is part of the fun. The true art of Tao is not in trying to control the flow, but in learning enough about how the flow of our life works that we can manage things when they descend into chaotic flow. Not that you can control events outside of yourself, but that you can control how you react and respond to those events. This is the real art of Tao.