Let’s look at three questions.
1) What does it mean to be a Taoist in the modern world?
2) How do you live as a Taoist in today’s world?
3) What does it look like to be part of a modern Taoist community?
The Fast Answer: Be yourself and support others to be themselves!
The Long Answer
First – What does it mean to be a Taoist?
Being a Taoist doesn’t require any outside approval. Modern Taoism has no badges, baptisms, churches, nor any external validation processes. View Taoism as a practice of being strong in your own story. The final validation a person needs is their own!
Self-validation is a hard thing, many people don’t accept themselves. People seek external validation because it’s easy to pretend to accept yourself when others accept you. The only trouble is external validation never completely fills the holes of a person’s soul. That only happens with internal acceptance.
Living as a Modern Taoist
I created Personal Tao and Awakening Dragon Taoism to help people step into Taoism, to step into their own strength.
Within Personal Tao and Awakening Dragon Taoism there is a structure to help people live a better life.
- Practice acceptance & kindness (while releasing drama).
- Expand your awareness: refining your actions over time.
- Work with your challenges to (1) learn more about yourself and then (2) refining your stories. Repeating steps 1 thru 3 until magically one day step 4 happens.
- Inner peace and a vibrant life.
The actual acts of acceptance, kindness and awareness will vary for each person. Some people may learn to dance, others may work towards animal rescue, while others may go back to school. The options are endless.
Living as a Taoist Today
I can start with myself as an example.
I live in a way to release drama. Drama takes away from my life, it’s wasted energy. In each situation where drama arises, I ask myself: Can I help this drama settle down? If the answer is a clear yes, then I act. However, you can always opt-out of any drama. So if you don’t see a clear answer on how to address drama trying to grapple you down: then you step away from the drama. By stepping away from drama you take energy out of the drama so it can slowly smother away. Drama only thrives with attention. Drama will always try to fool you it isn’t optional so be aware of it trying to trick you that it’s important.
I am always improving on how I live. I strive to make my life better over time. For example, I am currently fasting one day a week to improve my health. After 6 weeks, I have lost weight, feel better, and am healthier now than I have been in years. As I simplify my life, it gives me more space to explore other things in life. In this simple life, I take care of the places where I live, so my home can take care of me.
I am always exploring. We are part of a wider universe. There are worlds of spirit, story and so much more to explore. Take the time to expand your senses and understand body, mind, and spirit. All too many people are trapped by only consuming media as their window for exploration. All too many people are trapped by their jobs or living situations. Again, you can always reinvent your situation and change the stories in play. I often explore using meditation to access what people call spirit and then use that to inspire imagination, stories from seeing life from a different angle. Spirit is infinite and each person will experience it in their own unique way.
I never force anything, rather I evolve in small steps. taking in information and learning from my mistakes to always improve my life.
In kindness, I help others strive to be themselves. In doing this I am slowly creating a community where like-minded people can be friends and help each other. In community efforts, I never force what things will look like, rather together we gently evolve over time, together.
It actually is a very simple life, in some respect too simple for people who are used to drama driving the beat of their life: but I like it. In living a simple life, Taoists are easy to overlook. But under that simplicity is a rich life of imagination, spirit, and joy while watching life unfold around us each day.
Each person will have their own style, some will be flamboyant and others will fight for something larger than themselves. I fight for kindness, but some people might fight for justice or nature, or freedom. The choices are endless, but take time to understand what matters to you and use that as a guide in driving your choices in how you live.
My path probably won’t be your path, but we can share notes, ideas, and always inspire each other in how to embrace life.
A side note: many people find the meaning of life, to be defined towards getting to the conclusion of their life story. When the story ends or shifts a person’s life flounders. A Taoist embraces many stories in life, and consciously shifts between stories. This meaning of life and actions for a Taoist is instead focused upon the style in which they embrace their stories. So a Taoist is never in a rush to get to the end.
If you embrace your essence, act with awareness of your style, you will never feel lost nor empty in life.
What About Facing 2020 and Beyond?
The question : What does it mean to be a Taoist in the post-2020 world: is a hard one because the current world defines people more than the average person defines themselves. The new definitions beyond 2020 will be very different than pre-2020.
We have to be careful since if you stand out too uniquely you can get hurt by others. In the past, a Taoist would lively quietly, off to the side somewhere, and have a simple life as their own. But in today’s world, there isn’t anywhere you can go that is truly separate or disconnected from society. At the very same time, people are isolating themselves from being part of smaller local communities.
We are living within a pivot point in human history where individuality isn’t a safe point of refuge on its own. This has been sneaking upon us for the last 2000 years. Society can and does overlay rules that hurt people who go against the system.
The challenge I see for a modern Taoist is to resist the urge to keep oneself separate. I think as modern Taoists we need to come together in order to protect each other from abusive social systems.
I have called this the coming together of the thousand-thousand communities. The thousand-thousand represents the weaving together of many smaller communities rather than trying to be part of one big community. I highly recommend each person to be actively engaged in several small communities. The communities you can be part of are countless: perhaps to become a beekeeper and hang out with other beekeepers, It might be martial art dojos. It could be finding other artists to create larger artist projects.
So the one modern modification I would encourage all aspiring Taoists to make is: get involved with several communities that match your style of exploring life.
Don’t be invisible to society anymore, create vibrant smaller communities where we can help each other live a kinder, more stylish Taoist life.
How to Help Another Person as a Taoist
In a broken society: you will find only broken life paths to explore when looking for answers outside of yourself.
In 2020, with COVID-19, political unrest, and many problems unfolding, we have the problem of how to face those problems.
An old school Taoist seemingly would have you walk away. Walking away only leaves a burned-out planet now. It’s time to revise the perception of a Taoist practice to be more proactive. Yet, being proactive doesn’t mean giving your power away; it means empowering others.
As you get stronger as a Dragon (a member of our Taoist community), you will attract others, others who will want your answer for their own heart. But remember, as a Dragon, we respect each person’s heart, and it’s against our principles to define another person’s heart. It will be very, very tempting to give your answer to fit in their heart.
Here are some simple truths about answers to consider.
- Many people try to find their answer as something outside of them. To grow beyond what they feel they are now trapped within.
- When you give your answer, it often breaks for another person or magnifies their problems. You have to help a person shift their situation to be able to use your answers later.
- The hardest answer, and the answer that often gets rejected, is helping others just be themselves. You first have to help a person learn to love themselves again in life.
- People have a bad habit of trapping themselves, and only wanting fast answers, answers that come at no cost. All solutions come at a cost, and most people in comfort are unwilling to go beyond the current trap they are within to free themselves. This means you cannot help a person who only wants comfort.
- Empowerment isn’t about giving an answer. Empowerment is a process to assist a person going through their own personalized solution.
Don’t be tricked and get pulled into another person’s trap.
We can’t help a person who isn’t ready to help themselves. The best you can do in these cases is help a person pause to be ready to walk a different path.
The full answer is to help people rediscover kindness and help them be strong enough to remove abuse from their life. But help is given through many small steps (rather than big solutions) to build a person’s power up over time.
Help others when they’re ready, gently and one step at a time.
Show them they aren’t alone, and with you can be part of a larger community.
Often just being a friend and present is the first step in helping another person change.
Being Part of Community
Part of my personal process as a modern Taoist was to create the Awakening Dragon Community. It’s a challenge for me because, as a Taoist, I am reclusive. As a Taoist, I want each person to shine in their own stories and not be overshadowed by a single teacher’s voice or single path.
At first, Awakening Dragon seems to be a simple community, consisting of a discussion board, shared online meetings, and just being friends in helping each other in these crazy times. Yet, it is our modern Taoist community, as a place to rekindle the spirit to live on with kindness.
I am encouraging Awakening Dragon to grow as a self-aware community. I have held off overly pushing the dragon community on purpose because I wanted people to get used to its simplicity first. Now that we have had a decade to just play with innocence, I can share a bit more publically with everyone. Come join us and discover a new community to join.
You don’t have to be a Taoist to be an Awakening Dragon. The community does use many Taoist teachings (kindness/modesty/nonjudgment) to help express our values. We also use many Shamanic and other sources of teachings in our community. A rough guess would be that 25% of the members would be comfortable in saying they would be lay Taoists, and we have a mix of all practices in our community. As a community, we have the core value to not judge, to embrace everyone’s story, and never to force your story upon another. This makes the Awakening Dragon Community very universalist and accepting in nature.
Overall we are a small community of roughly 150 members. We are not rushing to be defined by numbers. Any community that tries to define itself by numbers will lose itself to those numbers. Rather we are growing upon our own terms and sharing our experiences.
Deeper Into Awakening Dragon Community Ideals
Awakening Dragon started with various baselines from Taoism, but Awakening Dragon is not about religion! A religion is a single set of stories. Awakening Dragon Community is about supporting a dynamic, changing, and diverse culture consisting of all Human values and stories.
The difference between Awakening Dragon Taoism and the Awakening Dragon community comes down to this:
- Awakening Dragon Taoism is about how to live your life gracefully to your own story.
- Awakening Dragon Community is about how to live gracefully together relative to everyone’s paths. In other words: support the culture of everyone living together over time in a mix of stories!
In reality, the two work together in a very balanced manner. So closely at times, the two can seem to be the same thing, but they are very separate.
So this means
1) The core for Awakening Dragon for each person is their essence. Awakening Dragon gives community and tools to assist each person to grow against their challenges in life. We use actions that have a baseline of kindness, modesty, nonjudgment (striving not to be first), pu, wu wei, and awareness so we can work to balance out all the different stories.
This is confusing since in many religions people think there is a common single destination or core truth that has to be met or held, as a common belief. This isn’t the case in Awakening Dragon. The common core is to respect is each person’s essence, including our own essence.
2) Coming together as a collective of teachers (since we all have something to offer) requires non-judgment! In judgment, people force their teachings on each other, but in nonjudgment, community members can pick and choose freely from what we each offer without feeling disappointed or feeling like they have to prove something in teaching.
3) Offering side practices such as Qi Gong, Meditation, and other practices to keep ourselves strong while facing problems.
4) Using modern terms to better work with older teachings. For instance, I re-translate “Striving not to be first” to be “Non-Judgment”, or being a “true human” as being “working with our stories”. Awakening Dragon is a community in the here and now. If we come across something from the past that works, we should also feel open to modifying those teachings to work better relative to where things are today.
🙂 Enjoy the sharing, and in the sharing, discover reflections to help you see your own hidden truths more clearly.
For some, this process is magical, and for some, this process is natural, and for some, this process is spiritual. Yet for all, it is a process of finding their truth.
All too many people go out seeking truth externally because they don’t think nor value their own inner story. To Awakening Dragon Taoism that is a sin of judgment, a sin that belittles a person into diminishing themselves. What is sin? Sin isn’t something magical nor to be feared.. but sin is an action that diminishes us. What that diminishes a person varies from person to person: but judgment always limits a person, so we remove judgment as much as possible.
A core concept to Awakening Dragon is to cherish and help each person hold their own inner stories as part of their inner belief.
Then there are all the middle practices, like meditation, yoga, Qi Gong, and teachings… which are a collection of useful tools to help us refine those stories. Those are the tools we teach here, but we never use the tool to replace our inner stories. Over time our stories grow, shift, evolve, and that is transformation as one inner story blossom into a new inner story. Shaping our stories is a process of artistry.
We are all artists here; an artist is merely a person who expresses their soul. Taoism is a very soulful practice. Expressing soul for some will be how you take care of the family, some may express the soul in their cooking, friendship, or a million possible options.
So my final answer in how to be a modern Taoist is simply this:
Be an artist where your life and the way you live IS the art others see each day. We often forget to look at ourselves as we live. Take the time to see your own life as art!