Look into the morning dew
Finding a soul’s shape
Reflected in your footsteps
Casey Kochmer 2006
Introduction to Taoist Poetry
The featured poem makes me ask: Is the soul within the footprint or the trail?
As a poet, I know the answer is within becoming the poem itself. It’s a dance: of words, expressions, feelings.
A Taoist poet is an eternal child. Always seeking ways to express incompleteness to be complete within the moment. Discovering it’s all about being patient enough to embrace a lifetime:
Poetry can be such an extreme dance, a dance towards acceptance.
Often a person dives deeply into an abyss, torn apart by our contradictions, into the depths that call out to form poetry: all to balance out our shape. So while visiting the abyss we push inward, clinging to a life-raft now called poetry. The battering we feel forces out one’s nature to be whole. At other times being high, not in the abyss, we explore peaks, discovering our insights. These peaks and the abyss are the yin and yang that pushes our poetry in Taoism. Poetry can be written out from either extreme. In between the peaks and abyss, no need exists to push outward of one’s nature at these rarer times of peace; we have a chance to take in of others, of the world, of the Tao, to listen more completely now.
When words elude us, it becomes the flame inside, to push outwards in our poetry: To discover these new words that don’t even exist. As theTao is beyond words, that means the Tao calls out to us to create poetry as we seek the words.
Poetry shows a way of life that we teach in Taoism:
At times embracing of the world when looking down from the clouds.
At times diving deeply into depths.
At times to always be oneself
Always of the Tao.
Peace within the poetry of your own life.
More about Taoist Poetry
Taoist poetry typically falls under two styles.
The first is to capture the moment. Flash freezing something that tickles the essence of the Tao.
However many Taoist poems step beyond the realm of personal art to be about interpersonal communication. Taoist’s write poetry as a way to teach. From a Taoist perspective, poetry is often the clearest vehicle for transmission of knowledge of the Tao.
Taoism as a teaching embraces many levels of truth at once. Taoism is always relative to one’s situation, containing many perceptions of a situation at once. As a result, only poetry with its multiple levels of meaning can reveal the path to the Tao. The Tao Te Ching perhaps best represents this style of poetry which is at the heart of Taoism.
Poetry and Muses
Poetry is a personal relationship between a poet and life. In this relationship, a person discovers their muse. I can tell you many stories about muses, but here is our secret: It’s not the ex-lover, current lover, friend or anything external the poet might be talking about.
Muses are reflections for those who listen.
This means working with a muse requires a light touch to prevent the disruption of that reflection. Muses are rarely light in return as we receive our inspiration. Working with a muse is a very dynamic back and forth process as you sort out the feelings that arise from your muse.
It can be hellish when you struggle with torn apart feelings…
It’s heavenly as you reintegrate into something greater.
The force behind creation can hammer you worse than any hangover or fight, and yet eventually you discover bliss in seeing life with fresh eyes.
Of all that I have done, I am most proud to have been a poet.
The Source of Your Muse
We each, every day, create and move within our own life.
Are the forces of creative output:
Internal or external or best left undefined?
The answer is all of the above at once…
Being human we like to force it all to be a black and white answer. This is the actual issue. It’s not a question of where the process of genius or creation comes from… the issue is ego tries to “limit” it to a single source…
As soon as we limit ourselves to a single source for creativity,
We then remove 2/3rd of the potential from which to weave dreams into the creation of new ever changing realities.
Much peace towards the creation and unfolding of your new day.
Here is an interesting article about muses and the process of creation
A Positive Muse
A muse can be a harsh mistress.
Often what starts a person’s muse is a negative experience, and the muse then becomes the path towards coming to terms with that experience (sadness, loss, loneliness, desire etc). The trap: people often get addicted to the negative experiences as a tool to engage their muse.
It’s possible to have positive experiences lead to your muse. Positive experiences often are fulfilling, which means a person doesn’t need to express the experience to others for completion. In fact, people often hesitate to step out of such experiences to engage their muse. Be brave and push for positive outcomes. To push a positive experience, and include your muse so they may extend and deepen any ecstatic experience.
The Electric Muse
Our Muse lives in the electric moments of life. Which means at times she won’t hesitate to use an electric cattle prod to stir things up.
I remember one day, My muse was kicking me about in some of the darker corners of the soul. So I ended up writing some harsh words to myself. Understand this: Nothing is worth hiding if you want to be free, to have joy, to discover the wonders of life. Poetry allows you to open up and not hide from your darker experiences. This is why we write it out as poetry. So I wrote it all out in a moment of bad poetry. The words weren’t worth saving, but the act of writing it out released the pain inside of me. It is acceptable to toss away such bad poetry after it has served the purpose of freeing you.
But never hide!
To hide something from others is to hide your nature from yourself. So instead, know to experience wonder fully is to embrace all aspects of life. It isn’t always easy, but the hard edges help us appreciate our positive experiences. The beautiful thing about discovering a Personal Tao is you live! You always push to experience the unknown moment around the corner. When things get bad, A Personal Tao encourages one to work and change things to become great. My Taoism has been a wonderful support for helping me survive my depression. As an example: after writing out my dark feelings, I then turned it around to be with my positive muse and find balance again.
So even as one side of my muse was kicking me around, the other side of her turned it all around to become a dance in the sun. Opening myself to peace, I walked over to a park to encounter my muse as a fantastic, uplifting moment:
A hollywood style moment
Leaves spinning sideways to the wind
Light as a stain glass cathedral bursting from the clouds
Standing mid way between reaching trees,
letting loose, letting it go bare…
it all spun about in slow motion time.
Leaves landing on me.
Leaves flocking in swarms to dash about.
Leaves dropping quickly to the ground
to be swept back up and off
to be taken far far away.
All spun about as
A performance of a blustering fall day.
In time we all bare down:
to the dance upon outside whims.
to the time
of our own seasons.
It was incredible being in the middle of a storm of falling leaves, all glowing from the sun, each leaf becoming a radiant burst of windy motion. And that moment is eternal: a place in heaven embraced in my expression of life.
It’s about balance and discovering the grace of surfing thru both negative and positive aspects of life: It’s this difference between the two which permits the differentiation to know heaven upon stumbling through it.
Yes, a muse is a harsh mistress.
But she is a partner I dance with everyday gladly.
As it means to be truly living.
Some follow the steps of the wise
Seeing direction in the steps.
Finding an answer towards a destination.
A master merely wanders.
Some look to scripture.
In the beginning, There was a word…
A sound, a pattern, a statement
Leading to Dogma, Faith, Belief, Rules…
All fulfilling answers.
Each word implicating truth. (Little judgments each!)
A master is speechless.
I have Tao
But never answers to fulfill it with.
Releasing all answers
to free oneself
to be oneself.
Casey Kochmer May 2008
About Taoist Masters, Answers, and Truth.
People like to follow the path of a Master, yet in the end when you walk, it’s in your footsteps you must go. The answer that Taoism teaches is, in the end, you must follow your nature to discover the truth. Our poems are the dance to embrace this style of truth.
The Tao is discovered by being oneself fully and openly.