I feel the hardest thing about the Taoist path is the balance of the overall long-term practice.
For many people, after a period a Taoist lifestyle can seem to be boring, monotonous or even at times pointless. (Anyone who feels this way, in reflection, feels that way about their own life. They’re looking for practices to spice their life up.) This isn’t a problem from Taoist practice but rather it’s an issue of deciding what practices you choose to fulfill your empty-space.
I can compare Taoism to jogging. On the surface I find the activity of jogging to be very boring. I don’t enjoy pounding the crap out of my knees, and I don’t enjoy running. I am rarely in a rush to get anywhere.
But jogging isn’t boring, and it’s not about a rush to get somewhere.
Boring is merely a matter of perspective.
It’s a matter of pacing yourself for the distance.
Taoism is a practice geared for your entire life. You don’t run full speed expecting to find all the mysteries of life in the first few days. Taoism teaches a person to pace their exploration, discovery and wandering to cover the path of an entire lifetime.
So many get excited when first learning Taoism, only to lose focus over time. They put all their energy into the focus of achieving the results they desire in the now: seemingly in the fewest possible actions.
I’m careful about which students I take when teaching Taoism. Not everyone is at a point in their life where their perspective is ready to pace out the practices. As a result as a Taoist teacher, I have learned to teach different aspects of the practice to fit the person relative to where they are in life.
My goal is always trying to help a person find a sustainable set of practices. So the key to a long-term Taoist practice is not about focus; it’s about living. Consider Taoist practice is like jogging when one lets go of actually running to instead give in to the movement, to run the distance. Then in time a person also discovers to relax and just take it all in, to watch life, to watch the run through the trail.
In Taoism, people place all that energy initially into exploring, and then lose their intensity after finding answers just don’t pop up as they would like. The answers are all there. You just have to run the distance.
People want shortcuts.
Taoism does teach many shortcuts, but the shortcuts aren’t one of time, they are of perception. Taoism provides the tools of acceptance, so it’s possible to settle down and enjoy the run.
Taoism shows a person to take care of mind, body, and spirit, so it’s possible to run the distance. Taoism teaches to drop expectations so a practitioner can have the patience to complete life: to discover it’s about yourself rather than answers. Taoism also teaches that you will embrace many practices over time, to match shifting needs.
Taoism is never boring; it’s your life.
It’s just a question of how we choose to jog through that life.
And legal fine print: To always follow your own body’s limits and nature.
Taoist yoga practice offers a simple piece of advice: Exercise at roughly a 70 percent effort.
Working out under a 50% effort ensures the loss of abilities. The body and mind require at least a 50% level of effort to just sustain itself; anything less translates into losing tone and capabilities. Setting a workout pace harder than 80% effort typically ensures wearing out the body or creates an opportunity for a more serious unhealable accident to occur. Working at a 100% effort quickly results in a 100% chance of breakdown. “Giving it your all” is an unpractical way to live.
A 70% effort is a rule of thumb. It’s a hard enough pace to keep a person growing in strength. It’s a point where a person can stay slightly on edge, keeping a feeling of change present. Life is change, so feeling change is a required part of our health. A 70% effort isn’t too much to overload a person or to cause injury. It’s an exercise load from which a person can back away when a problem does arise, allowing time to correct oneself within the practice. This also allows room to shift gears and to adjust for the unexpected moments of life. This effort level is based upon the conditions of the moment and not past achievements or future expectations.
This simple rule of thumb applies to most areas of life (not just exercise) including love, relationships or trying to govern a population. This is a simple starting point for learning how to live a balanced life.
Getting hurt is part of living. The human body and mind evolved to handle occasional injuries and rejection (for isn’t a rejection in love also an injury?); as a result, never getting hurt in living is also an unhealthy lifestyle (One example can be found in the German medical studies indicating some allergies might be the result of growing up and living in conditions that are too sterile.)
Humans need to overcome problems, letting the body and mind use their internal healing mechanisms. Experiencing problems is part of the process for healthy human development.
When I first started martial arts and yoga, I couldn’t understand why my body actually enjoyed the occasional physical pain it received in practice. It made sense once I understood that my body and mind were rejoicing in the process of healing itself.
This is not a statement that a person should seek injury or problems. Instead, it’s an acknowledgment that the process of healthy living isn’t to be static; it’s to change along with the challenges of life. A balance exists between caution tempering reckless action for safety and bold actions removing the fear that hinders our growth. Living is in part permitting the mind and body to accept and then resolve minor problems. In embracing the small mistakes, it becomes possible to learn how to navigate around larger unhealable mishaps safely.
Take Time To Be Yourself!
Who we are, drifts over time, playing so many roles: child, student, teenager, parent, lover, wife, husband, teacher and more.
The list goes on of all the roles we play, each different, each with unique nuances as each role interacts with others.
Who we are, shifts over time, leading so many lives. We are not one being over the 80 to 120 years we experience life; we are a dozen different people. Every 7 to 8 years shifts our nature, and we grow into something new.
If you want to live a long rich life, then slow down, embrace the moments more fully.
People rush through their life, trying to get to the end so very very fast, and missing everything in the middle: all the changes, the richness of details, all the lives in between we experience.
This is a cultural bias, to rush to see the end. To think it is the end we are trying to achieve so fast when it is the living we are full filling. So slow down to live it all
Otherwise you only truly experience the coffin and the nails that others slammed down to define and shut away what you were.
Pacing life isn’t complicated. I teach patience, to push at 70% and how to experience life in a richness of patience by pacing yourself at this 70% level of effort.
To live, fully yet not rushing to burst apart from running at full steam.