The Personal Tao book examines Immortality. Now lets take a closer look at Taoist practices of longevity.
Taoism holds together a lifestyle of practices to guide a person within a long healthy life. How long? Anecdotal stories talk about centuries. The more myth like aspects of Taoism tell stories of men living thousands of years. Science itself has only officially documented human life spans of 120 to 130 years. However, as pointed out in the immortality chapter: it’s actually meaningless to work towards physical immortality. Rather Taoists learn to extend their lives indefinitely. In other words a Taoist lives day to day with no concern to how long they might live.
The first secret to Taoist Longevity is an attitude of not predefining age or limits to our nature.
A Taoist lives each day fully and actively. This means life is rich and full of experience. This is important to provide an edge to keep one healthy, flexible and strong. If a person works towards extending their lives unnaturally, then that action also severely limits life by not living to one’s nature. The chase for immortality comes at the direct cost of reducing the experience of life itself.
The second secret to Taoist Longevity is eating well.
There is a saying in our culture: Garbage in equals Garbage out. If you eat junk food, you become junk. This is very simple and direct. The body will not live well, nor long unless eating a balanced, varied and healthy diet. Taoist books and literature go into great details about when, how and what one should eat. It’s all about eating at a proper balance.
This also explains why many diets fail, they don’t shift to respond to the changing needs of a person’s body. Taoist diets tend to be more complicated than western diets to adjust for the needs of the human body changing over time.
Our bodies are a furnace, the body burns what we eat. Eating too much, or certain foods such refined sugars, cause the body to burn hotter and burn out faster. Certain foods contain antioxidants. Fire uses oxygen to burn, so antioxidants in a board sense help the body slow the burn rate within the cells. However, remember balance: too many antioxidants would also be bad, as the body is designed to run at a mid level burn rate.
Certain foods, are better than others such as: Green Tea, Bok Choy, Plums, Cabbage, Yogurt and Brown Rice. Yet no one food contains a perfect balance of nutrients for ever lasting life. A person needs to listen to their body and provide a mixing of essences to maintain the body.
One example of this practice is a Taoist will not eat meat raised with inhumane practices. To do so is to spiritually be part of torture of other life. To eat such meat passes the inhumane processing of the food back into the Taoist’s body and then limits our own life. Most meat massed produced in the modern world is based on inhumane practices. This isn’t a statement to be vegetarian. A Taoist will eat meat and as a Taoist I have a varied diet including some meat. However, it’s important to have respect towards our food’s life cycle. Think about this for a second. If an animal or plant was tortured during its growth process, then its fear, its stress, its imbalanced upbringing would be pushed into its essence. To eat such food: is to devour fear, is to place any accumulated stress hormones or illness into your own body. Eating such food doesn’t promote a long life: rather it promotes a life of fear and more industrial inhumane practices.
As a direct example: Mad Cow disease is a result of an inhumane food system (due to feeding living cows crushed food products consisting of dead cows from the illness). Mad cow disease is slowly spreading in the human population which consumed the tainted beef. Additionally inhumane industrial practices regarding food processing ripple out and change the very culture which a Taoist lives within. The workers at the such facilities take on the aspects of the inhumane practices. It effects the workers and ripples out to reduce their own lives. Eventually a culture that treats its food without respect, treats its own workers and general population with the same inhumane practices of the food production. It comes full circle to limit and even prevent a long or healthy life for everyone in the society. To a Taoist, everything is connected and part of the Tao. No action is fully independent of another. Longevity requires treating food with the same respect given towards your own body.
So Taoist wisdom teaches a practice of treating food processing with respect and food intake with moderation and balance.
The third secret to Taoist Longevity is listening to your own nature.
So many distractions, so many goals, so many ideals, so many desires, so many expectations, so many different visions, so many images competing, working, trying to lead you to a supposedly better way.
All the noise, is just that: distracting noise. How can a person attain longevity if you are always busily moving to the tune of a larger world? A Taoist lives a long healthy life, as a Taoist moves to the beat of their own subtle personal cues.
Do you guzzle to the tune of million dollar diet coke advertisements burning space in your stomach, or do you sip a brew of green tea?
Do you overreach climbing corporate ladders or limber limbs based upon your own breadth?
Is your breath measured in beats of the heart or does your body tick to train time tables?
Do you walk barefooted or do you wear your parent’s shoes?
It’s hard to follow our own nature, to live a long life, when being taught to be someone since childhood.
How much of your life has been spent being yourself
rather than another person?
Longevity is pointless, unless you are your own person.
The fourth secret to Taoist Longevity is exercise.
The Personal Tao book touches this subject within the practical limits chapter. It’s important to have a physical practice. It’s critical to keep the body moving and subtle. Exercise practices such as Qigong have been optimized to help keep a person strong and moving for an entire life time. It’s also important not to break oneself while working the body. A Taoist master works at a moderate level of effort in their exercise practice. If you were to look at a Taoist master, they will never appear to be like Mr. Atlas. In fact: any Taoist master always appears quite ordinary from their outside appearance. Yet in reality a Taoist Master’s muscles and body will have surprising tone, flexibility, endurance and strength from their practice. This is important: a Taoist Master dances through life, never to fight life or their own body.
The fifth secret to Taoist Longevity is attitude.
As stated earlier: a Taoist Master dances through life and doesn’t fight life or their own body. If you treat your body as an opponent or as something to be dominated, well then that limits life. The more that a person resists the world, the more the world will resist back. The world is larger and more powerful than any single person, so a person will always lose upon making life a fight. Excessive resistance wears a person down. It’s fine to fight occasionally, it’s fine to stand up for yourself, as resistance is part of any exercise. However: to stand excessively against the world means the world will erode you away.
Think about how granite blocks become sand at the sea’s surf.
In other terms: This means a Taoist leads a life with low stress. It has been shown in studies that stress is a major factor that contributes towards premature aging effects. A Taoist life style concentrates on good humor and low stress.
The sixth secret to Taoist Longevity is having a spiritual practice.
We are more than a mind and body. A person is a trinity of mind, body and spirit. Spirit is uniquely defined within the actions of our living. More importantly, a spiritual practice keeps both the mind and body in balance with each other. Consider this the practice with which a person finds peace with their nature. All Taoist’s have a healthy, vibrant spiritual practice.
A Spiritual practice is a combination of intent within actions and the exploration of mysteries of our life. No one set practice exists for this. Each person needs to define and refine over time their own practice. If a person is to live a long life, then it helps to have a reason to do so. A spiritual practice provides motivation for enjoying a longer happier life.
This is where the different forms of Taoism diverge from each other. Many variations of Taoism exist with different established spiritual practices. This is not a matter of just differentiating between the religious forms of Taoism or philosophical forms. It’s a more fundamental process of how a person finds completion of place relative to the larger world, be it a science, philosophy, magic or religion. I find it interesting that many different forms of Taoism exist and the difference comes down to this predefined blend of science, philosophy, magic and religion which forms the baseline for each Taoist school of thought.
The interesting thing is that all schools of Taoism agree upon the nature of the Tao. So despite the differences between the schools of thought within Taoism, I personally have witnessed Taoists having a great respect for each other’s differences in spiritual practice. All schools of Taoism are unified by being a practice of acceptance of the Tao.
The seventh secret to Taoist Longevity is to avoid addiction.
Addiction is a process of self destruction. Described in Taoist terms: it’s redefining the empty space with something external to your nature. In Taoist terms: To live, is to live as yourself. While some addictive substances could seemingly solve problems (such as drugs to shift the mind’s balance to fit a social norm), or electronic plug-in lifestyles to help pass the time and a difficult days burdens (such as televised living day to day to month to year to the grave), in the end all addictions erase a person’s unique nature.
If you live 100 years and only watched television: have you lived at all?
If you drink yourself dead at 50: have you really lived anything except an alcoholic haze?
Does removing insanity create masterpieces of vision that society would never dare to create: such as Van Gogh’s starry night?
To live a long life: is to live it as yourself. Life is not about being easy. Life is a challenge and the struggle is an edge which defines our shape. Being tempted by various addictions could appear as a path to make life less difficult, however, all addictions are a dead end in a Taoist’s path of life. Taoism above all else, is a practice that embraces living life.
The eighth secret to Taoist Longevity must be kept a secret.
This article is a starting point to help give an idea of why Taoism as a practice leads to a longer healthier life. However, much more exists. A Taoist explores, and takes time to enjoy figuring out secrets of living. I have given enough information to start people in the right direction. Once you begin putting these ideas into practice, they lead to other mysteries. More importantly: your health will improve, your mind will slowly get clearer and new wisdom will appear. However, this isn’t something which can be given away freely, it’s something earned by your own actions. In time, you will discover much more than longevity. You will both fulfill and reveal the meaning of your own life.
Three traditions exist to discover these addition secrets.
No single path offers all the Taoist secrets, but each path does open up life to be lived well, fully and over an extended period of time. Each of these roads are acceptable paths in the Taoist tradition. Each tradition fits only certain personality types. No path is a sure path unless a person can be true to their nature: something which we always are and are not. Something in an age of one pill solutions or video game escapes few have the patience or time to explore.
I have traveled down these Taoist traditions with each being a mixture of every human emotion. No path is exclusive of another in Taoist practice. By living indefinitely long a person frees up a boundless amount of time to explore these practices. I have lived 7, 42 and 10,000 years and the secret is rooted in exploring life and embracing what fits your life’s definition.
The nature of our life is eternal already. The true point and secret of the Taoist longevity practices are to live well. In living well, Taoists do live longer than average life spans. More importantly, Taoist practice, ensures a healthy body and mind to enjoy a long life span. Living to 75, 120 or even past 200 would be a drag if you mind was mush or if your body couldn’t dance anymore.
Taoism is one of the most assessable of all human practices, as most of Taoist wisdom can be considered to be common sense. Science has finally begun to catch up with some of the lore found in Taoist practice. Many of the subtle details of practices such as Taoist diets or Qigong exercises can be found online or through local practitioners. I personally recommend starting with Qigong. Taoist diets can be a bit complicated and hard to match requirements unless you are living in the Orient where the balance of food were originally determined by Taoist masters. Over time Taoist diet plans will get revised to fit the larger food choices of the modern world, but it will take a few decades still. Taoists are a patient lot, a direct benefit of living within a practice of longevity.
And if you already are 79, is it too late? No! Living boundlessly within “now” is always assessable even unto the last breath. The truth of this practice is just to be open to acceptance: acceptance that you are indeed complete, which we all are, every moment of our life.
The root answer to longevity is to take the time to explore and live to your nature. To do so, is to be a Taoist.