This ancient religion borders on a philosophy that teaches spiritual harmony of self. The belief system sees the universe, self and time as cyclical, and all opposites as intertwined and interconnected, as indicated by the yin and yang symbol. They believe in a natural state that does not oppose, force or aspire. Much like water, an individual that adheres to Taoism should flow around obstacles and not crash down on them or become hung up. Taoism promotes mindfulness which has been proven to promote a healthier mind and body, but there are even more things which can be gleamed from these ancient teachings.
There is a common thread that runs through all living things
Compassion is another significant component of Taoism. A life force or energy runs through all living and non-living things, connecting us in all-encompassing reality, the Tao. Thus, it is easy for us to sympathize and empathize with all things in the universe as we are one. This life force is known as Ch’i and is essential for health and longevity, and the flow of Ch’i is regulated through meditative practices, mindfulness and even the space you live in, which can all help control the flow of Ch’i through one’s body. The practice of feng shui is said to help the flow of Ch’i to inhabitants, inhibit it, or redirect it.
If you want to be full, let yourself be empty
Although this seems like an oxymoron, it’s profound when trying to achieve inner peace or peace with one’s self. When are you the most mindful of not only yourself put also the world around you? Yes, when you try to completely quiet not only the things all around you but also the things inside you. It is only in those moments of absolute quiet when absolute clarity is achieved.
If you realize you have enough, you are truly rich
The constant and restless pursuit of anything – money, success, love or accolades – brings nothing but discontent. You might even have it or you might be in the process of acquiring it, but if your main intention and energy is dedicated to achieving even more then you will never truly be at peace with your efforts.
Perfect activity leaves no marks behind; perfect speech is like a jade worker whose tools leave no marks
It’s not always necessary to make an impression, there are points where staving your words is immensely more valuable than saying something that could hurt someone or just talking for the sake of talking. Listening and being in tune with the conversation will be more beneficial than expressing yourself in a less than productive way.
Simplicity, patience and compassion are your greatest treasures
These three ideals are actually considered the three treasures of Taoism or the three jewels of Taoism. Through these virtues, it is believed that a Taoist can achieve oneness with everything in the universe.
Anticipate the difficult by managing the easy
Preparation is important, but tiring yourself out by taking on too much too early can be detrimental to your progress. Even when athletes train, they give themselves recovery days because if they train too hard, they can actually damage ligaments and muscles. But if you slowly and steadily build up your skills, endurance or stamina, your results will not only be faster but more satisfying, too.
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be
Being stuck in your habits or in yourself can definitely be a detriment to any type of progress or attempt at personal betterment. Openness allows you to see the bigger picture and maybe even an alternative, more effective approach for your goals. Taking that alternative route will help you reserve resources, change your point of view, and even renew your interest in a task.
A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving
Relative to the previous entry, a successful plan is always one that allows for adaptability. If you are fluid, no matter what the obstacles are that you face, a small recalculation will help you avoid them while not putting you too far off course. On the other hand, if you come up against an impassable challenge, and your plan or your personality does not allow for flexibility or fluidity, then you will be wasting both physical and mental energy in vain.
Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill; keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt
The mindless and repetitive pursuit of anything can be counterproductive, so be mindful not only in your pursuit of your goals but also how you achieve them. Much like the two previous points, dedicating resources to a task or cause that is lost is a wasteful activity and could cost you faculties that you will need further down the line (closer to your goal).
Great acts are made up of small deeds
I think this is most evident during moments of humanitarian crises. Each individual takes away one piece of rubble, bandages one wound, embraces one person in despair. It might seem like a small part of the large catastrophe yet, collectively, these actions help in a way that huge amounts of assistance could never. When you are trying to accomplish anything, start chipping away slowly and it will be much harder for you to stop once you create momentum.
He who knows does not speak; he who speaks does not know
Because the person that knows wants to know more, while the person who thinks he/she knows are ignorant and choose not to expand their knowledge. Unfortunately, in most cases, these people are confident in their ignorance.
Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires
In this complex and fast-paced world, simplification can bring vast amounts of inner peace and perspective. The complexity, though, sometimes comes from us, and to avoid these we have to quell our own wants.
Are there any other Taoist teachings that I might have missed? Let me know in the comments section below.