“The great hermit lives in town.”
A Simple Spiritual Path
I am feeling the urge to become a hermit again. This just means I am tired today. But this is the thought that started my day. In retrospect, I have spent more time in life as a hermit than living as an active member of society. Hermit caves are easily found in abundance: hidden as office cubicles, slums or any place where people ignore each other in the rush of the day.
Finding spirituality in Taoism is a very personal process to explore. A Taoist keeps their true spiritual path in the heart. To someone walking by, there would be no outward signs of a Taoist master meditating or transforming into the light.
Answers from a Spiritual Path
I spent yesterday answering dozens of questions. I see hundreds of different questions… and in fact, it’s always the same question with the same answer. Seekers are hungry for answers, details, books, masters, hope, faith, to embrace angels in dancing as the path to find spirituality. Approaching the problem as if it’s about consumption to fulfill oneself to completion.
People approach a spiritual path towards enlightenment, almost as if it were a race, grabbing and stuffing as much light into their core, so they don’t have to be afraid of the dark anymore. Unwilling to accept they are the light itself.
The answers are quite simple. It’s just being human, needing challenges, pushes people into finding spirituality for embracing the answers to be the challenge.
It does all come down to being a personal choice. I know this: as I embrace my spirituality quietly. Being myself internally within my essence and also being externally myself as “Casey” helping others by teaching acceptance.
To a Taoist teacher, patience and acceptance are core; It’s important to recognize the inner nature of each person.
Taoism isn’t a one size fits all solution.
Rather all people fit and are within the Tao as part of the answer, the spiritual path , the way.
A Taoist Teacher helps a student unfold within their own personal Tao. It’s not about teaching the student your path; it’s about giving some outside perspective to help the student along with their path in a more graceful manner.
This is the mistake most people make, trying to make a master’s spiritual path their own.
Finding Spirituality isn’t About Distance
The spiritual path for some will be years in the traveling, for a rare few a moment. It’s all in the same time frame, of the lifetime, it occurs within.
Being one with the light isn’t hard, especially when it’s in our very nature to be the light: what is hard is being something that you are not. This is where most people spend their time chasing stories rather than embracing their essence. This is why it can take 60 years to come to terms with the Tao. Too many stories block the light that normally illuminates our soul. It takes time for people to come to terms with stories. Then upon releasing ungraceful stories, a person gains the clarity to now see Tao.
If you are having a hard time finding graceful answers within your spiritual path, it means you are trying to be something you are not. So simplify and shift your stories if this is the case for you.
Again it’s all a personal choice, every day, within the spiritual path we each choose: to play out as our life.
Personal Tao - Chapter 5
Tao is a Chinese term which translates literally as the “way”. The first written text to describe the Tao is the Tao-Te-Ching, written by Lao-Tzu (The old master). The Tao-Te-Ching is a series of poems that can be considered to be a work of philosophy, a treatise on how to run a government, a how-to book for achieving a balanced life, or a sage’s reflection of humanity and the universe. It is known to have been written over 2400 years ago, but not much else is retained about the origins. Many fun stories abound about these origins; however, these are just that, stories. What is important is that the Tao-Te-Ching and its poetry survive, having had an impact on the course of human events over the past 2400 years. It’s an interesting book, worth skimming. I say “skim” because it is written in a light-hearted manner. If a reader stares too hard or takes the Tao-Te-Ching too literally, the multiple intentions within the poetry will be lost.
Most interestingly, a person who never reads the Tao-Te-Ching may be closer to the Tao than a person who reads the Tao-Te-Ching a thousand times. The Tao is a personal truth unique to everyone. Personal truth is not found in another person’s writing: it’s found within us. Taoist sages and the Tao-Te-Ching will only act as a guide; the actual discovery of truth is always performed through our own actions.
This creates an interesting problem: How to explain something which is unique to each person? A tack often taken is to use metaphors or similes such as:
Discovering the Tao is swimming in the deepest of rivers, where the more one examines the Tao, the deeper it becomes. A person starts off swimming with simple movement; this is the Tao. Our choices made in exploring the river means everyone meanders thru an entire personal universe, yet the entire outer universe has its own currents which buffet and influence each one of us -completely- back. This is the Tao. Finally, enlightenment occurs when a person awakens on the other shore of the river, where both the river and their clothes are gone, leaving one naked in the sand. This is also the Tao.
Metaphors/similes, while powerful, often leave people thinking: “Huh?” as they fail to provide a direct answer. The point is to invoke a person’s consideration of their own experiences. This process of self-reflection is the tool used to describe the Tao. However, this approach often has the problem of being confusing or even useless as we all have very different experiences.
The other common Taoist tact is only to use indirect references and “‘not’ logic” to define the Tao. “Not” logic works since the Tao seems in large part outside of our overall experience. It’s a similar concept to infinity. Just when you have a number big enough to describe infinity, you add one, and the identity of infinity expands out yet again, to become different yet the same. The Tao represents the other side of infinity as the fundamental absolute.
1) Some of these stories could be true, and some could be fables. As a Taoist, the point is to learn from the mixing of our reactions to the tales. Veracity is best left to history; time will change “truth” for each generation.
Using these basics, anyone can seemingly become a Taoist master and easily assemble standard mystical answers about the Tao. For example:
Knowing the Tao should not change anything. But it does, just as knowing yourself really shouldn’t change who you are, but does. It’s the difference between being material or the reflection in the mirror. When the answer is we are both, more and less… The Tao is every contradiction, every truth and each of the standard circular Yoda Yoga style answers, leaving us trying to hold flowing water in a single hand. Try to grasp it, and it’s gone, yet our hands are wet. Accept the fact that we are each a contradiction. This is the truth being described when answers are bantered about: using one impossible statement to prove another impossible statement…
Forget these endless answers. Instead, Relax
A reality is: the Tao’s definition always changes. The nature of change is illustrated by one simple question: how constant is your definition of self? If you were a rock, you would pretty much know what you were, over time getting eroded into sand then to become dust. But humans lead interestingly convoluted transformative lives before becoming dust! The beauty and complexity of the Tao comes from the constant changing in the way we live and in turn the attempt to describe our own path.
The Tao is a crux and a puzzle which becomes the lever to help one lead a more balanced life. The reason is simple: humans have limits, yet our aspirations are limitless. The goal is to touch and embrace these limitless possibilities. Within these aspirations, one can find the Tao waiting for them as a reward. The reward we seek isn’t the destination, but the path itself. This means finding the Tao is attainable within ourselves simply by living. Hence we always have access to our Personal Tao.
In finding yourself on a spiritual path…
The question becomes: What is the best route to take?
Many people take a long hard path since it breaks you down from the outside. Yes, this is a painful path, since it involves getting beaten down by others. However, it’s easier for many people, since the world is doing all the work to break you down. So it ends up being the longer path in resisting the change and beatings. For many people, it’s the path they take, because they don’t know any better way. This is the path of crisis.
Very very few people take the shortest path. However, this is a very hard path, as you voluntarily do most of the work of letting go and breaking out of your expectation traps. It’s full of dead ends and exploration into the unknown. This is the path of transformation.
This means people look to spiritual teachers, religions or established systems as a path in life. This works since. Hopefully, you find a guide to shortcut you around known problems. This option can end up either as a path of crisis or transformation depending on who you find to help you and how well the system they teach matches to you.
The trouble is: what if the guide is taking you to a place, you don’t want to go? Many people avoid this path since they distrust many spiritual practices as being false.
There is another problem with finding a guide in life. The trick is realizing you still have to work, even with the guidance. Otherwise, your life’s path just reverts to the longer path with no personal involvement of direct action. That’s the deeper pattern we have to break out of.
This comes around back to the heart. Be true to your heart in this process to help guide you towards personal truth. Your heart is a guide and outside resource, already built within you, to help direct you towards completion of spirit.
Learning that trust of the heart is always part of any spiritual practice. The path of the heart does take time to master. All Taoist teachers use the heart-mind to reflect upon as the true guide in spiritual life. Humans have used many terms and fancy symbols to represent this truth, from many angles. However, in shorthand: discover trusting your own heart as part of the guidance for your life.
If you know this up front, it can make the journey more enjoyable along the way.