As they say, do the Tao now.
Many of us have turned to spiritual books and meditational practices in order to cope with the unrelenting stress that our present COVID-19 situation gives us. With nothing but time on our hands, we’re home and we’re starting to grow bored.
Yes, it’s fun to pretend this is one big Netflix-Hulu-Prime Marathon of the Gods, but the truth is, we’re nervous, and television entertainment is only acting as a band-aid, a temporary suture for our fear and depression.
I have been a student of Eastern philosophy for my entire life, and though I’m not a religious person, I do dabble in the practices that give me peace and lift me up. I’ve lived in an ashram where I studied yoga and pranayama, the practice of breathing; read all the books by Alan Watts on Zen Buddhism; grew up with Paganism and Witchcraft; learned the ways of High Magick, tantra and mantra meditation.
It was always hard for me to walk the Abrahamic paths, and Western religions left me cold. Of all the paths I’ve walked, the one that works best for me is the Tao. And it is the Tao that is getting me through the crisis.
What is the Tao?
It is the way, the path, the road. It is the natural order of the universe. It is nature.
The Tao, pronounced “dow,” is a mysterious concept, not able to be fully known, but intuited, felt. The Tao is the universe, and our awareness of it as infinite, perfect and eternally nameless. The study of the Tao is called Taoism.
How can the Tao help you get through the Coronavirus crisis?
When we align ourselves with the Tao, we are in full acceptance of nature and her ways. It is the moment we know in our heart that what is happening at any given moment is both part of the plan and as it should be, no matter what is occurring.
This may feel uncomfortable at first, but when we know ourselves as part of the ever flowing universal energy, we fear nothing and accept all. We become bigger than our limited understanding of this terrifying virus. We become at peace with all things.
The wisdom of the Tao is brought to us by the enlightened being named Lao Tzu, who gave us the magnificent manuscript entitled Tao te Ching: The Book of the Way. These 81 poetic and thought-provoking verses help us to stay balanced; they enable us to seek contentment in whatever our earthly situation is.
If we are able to master our minds, then the world of “things” and situations are a mere play of consciousness. Nature gives and takes, and we are here to witness.
It would be impossible to understand the Tao in one sitting, but one reading from Tao te Ching definitely has the power to attract you, as we all seek peace. The Tao is a place of ultimate peace and solace.
These quotes from Lao Tzu’s Tao te Ching are particularly relevant for the times we are now living in.
I hope you can see into them and allow them to penetrate your fear.
1. Everything is part of the whole.
When we “do the Tao now,” we accept that everything is part of the unending flow of the universe.
“If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.”
2. Accept, don’t change.
Try not to see what is wrong with this or that. Instead, come to accept things as they are, and you will find the beauty in all situations.
“If you try to change it, you will ruin it. Try to hold it, and you will lose it.”
3. Desire causes pain.
When we desire, we set ourself up for disappointment. Unfulfilled desire turns to anger and frustration.
“To understand the limitation of things, desire them.”
4. We need leaders, not pushers.
Arrogance limits us. If we are ever to be a light to others, we must understand that leadership is not about forcing our will, but of understanding what people want and need.
“All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are. humility gives it its power. If you want to govern the people, you must place yourself below them. if you want to lead the people, you must learn how to follow them.”
5. The wisdom of age is real.
When we are very young, we think we know it all. But life has lessons for us, and as each one comes, we begin to understand that these lessons will never end.
“The further one goes, the less one knows.”
6. Lust and greed cause chaos.
The human spirit is made weaker when we spend too much time dwelling on the thousand things that we want. When we do not want, we live in peace.
“When there is no desire, all things are at peace.”
7. True love is found in letting go.
We needn’t prove things. What we are, and who we are should be enough. When we give of ourselves purely, we receive more than we ever thought possible.
“True words aren’t eloquent;
eloquent words aren’t true.
Wise men don’t need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren’t wise.
The Master has no possessions.
The more he does for others,
the happier he is.
The more he gives to others,
the wealthier he is.”
8. Duality defines life on Earth.
If we accept that all things are balanced by their polar opposite, we come to know that all experiences are part of the whole experience. Bad will become good, and vice versa, over time.
“Hope and fear are both phantoms that arise from thinking of the self. When we don’t see the self as self, what do we have to fear?”
9. Trust in the universal flow of all things.
The Tao — nature — is the only reality. When we force things into being — like love or business — we are assuming those things wouldn’t work without our prodding. They will. Do the Tao now.
“Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.
Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He remains as calm at the end
as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He simply reminds people
of who they have always been.
He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.”
10. Understand the Law of Polarity.
All things are balanced with their opposite. If we insist on doing things one way, we must come to understand that the opposite effect is not only possible, but probable.
“Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health.”
11. Release the need for stress.
Trust in the idea that if you let go, you will get your answer. Quiet minds hold infinite knowledge. Noisy minds hold very little other than noise.
“Let it be still, and it will gradually become clear.”
12. Humility is understanding.
Brash behavior only shows weakness and neurosis. One cannot help their fellow human until we come to terms with the idea that we are all flawed, with the potential within us for greatness.
“A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy
as the shadow that he himself casts.”
13. The universe flows freely, and so must we.
If we wish to understand who we are, what our place is in this universe, we must give up the notion that we know it all. Let go of your preconceived ideas in order to find out what the truth is. Make way for the truth by letting go of the lies of the mind.
“The world belongs to those who let go.”
(If you’re interested in the Tao, read the Tao te Ching, and supplement the readings with further discourse by Dr. Wayne Dyer.)
Being of the Tao has really helped me during this crisis. It’s good to feel like a candle that continues to burn as the wind around me blows. That is the Tao — that is the feeling of peace one can have all the time, even in the face of calamity. Do the Tao now.