Recently, I was asked about Taoism. Specifically, how it’s relevant to the philosophy of flow or the understanding of the TAO (the Way). The answer is beautifully simple: “life”.
The TAO and Taoism originated in China over 2,500 years ago (Lao Tzu was its founder). However, these ideas are not confined to any particular time or location. They apply everywhere and anywhere. Therefore, TAOIST thought can beautifully supplement our current understanding of Buddhism.
First off, let’s answer a basic question: what is Taoism? Taoists believe that people often get too caught up in unnecessary details — meaning they stray from the simple truth and lose sight of their true selves and their natural connection to the world. They believe that we should not be too preoccupied with how things happen but rather why they happen and what consequences occur as a result. We live in an interconnected universe — everything that happens comes back into our lives somehow, even if it’s years from now. This includes both positive and negative events. Because of this, Taoists suggest that we focus on creating more “positive” (i.e., beneficial) consequences by simply adjusting our approach to life — an idea known as Wu-Wei or ‘action through non-action. They also advise us (especially scholars and philosophers) to take a step back and realize how small we truly are within this largest context, Nature itself (the Tao).
This is very similar to the central idea behind presence: we must be in harmony with our current activity. We need to let go of goals and simply be (and do) what is.
The Taoist approach is all about maintaining simplicity in your life. So when you find yourself struggling or trying too hard in any given situation, that’s actually your ego fighting against itself. The method employed by Taoists is not to fight back — instead, they simply observe their thoughts and then let them go.This way, they can get out of this inner struggle and free themselves from these unnecessary thoughts, emotions, or desires. And once you do that, you’ll find yourself in a state of flow.
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. – Lao Tzu
Peace and Love, Jim