The summarized text of the question submitted to the Personal Tao site is:
What is the Taoist perspective on periods of personal crisis? Is it something that we must go with; to follow in its natural course, and not do anything of an unnatural manner? Does Taoism ever advocate perceiving a crisis as something that should be intervened upon? (For example: calling crisis intervention workers). Put another way: how do you think Lao Tzu would act (or not act) in a period of personal crisis/stress?
This is a question which can’t be definitively answered as the response is situational to the full details of the crisis itself.
Broken down we can answer as follows:
What is the Taoist perspective on periods of personal crisis? Is it something that we must go with; to follow in its natural course…
First, you must do what feels right. For example: sometimes you do have go against the “flow”. Salmon swim against the flow of the river to breed. It’s not easy for them, in fact it kills them, but it’s part of their larger life cycle of reproduction, a larger flow than the river itself.
In other words, we are surrounded by many currents of life. People get so focused on “right actions”, that they then end up resisting a more important larger flow of their lives.
… and not do anything of an unnatural manner?
We are of nature, relax, feel everything around you. Take a breath and assess what is moving about. When you label possible solutions as unnatural, it means having placed limitations on defining the situation. This in turn makes it harder to act.
Does Taoism ever advocate perceiving a crisis as something that should be intervened upon? (For example: calling crisis intervention workers). Put another way: how do you think Lao Tzu would act (or not act) in a period of personal crisis/stress?
Depends on the moment and the situation of the crisis. Asking this question defeats any answer, since it shifts the problem from reality/the moment into the mind. Any pre-conceived answer of mine could never match to the moment described by this general question.
Therefore Lao Tzu would shrug his shoulders and continue what ever he was doing. Since stated in this way: it’s a mind game and not reality. Now if something were actually happening in front of Lao Tzu: then he would assess the situation and then would move along a path that flows from acceptance…
Of course as Taoist: I would also laugh, answer that Lao Tzu no longer walks a mortal life and therefore wouldn’t do anything. It’s really up to you to work from your own acceptance of the situation.
Live in peace and know everything sorts itself out, as we are all of the Tao.
The waking chapter from a Personal Tao might help if you are trying to resolve a personal crisis.
Looking deeper into the question of Taoist Crisis Management
A crisis is a point of potential. Many possible answers exist on how to resolve any crisis. While we might look at a crisis as a negative event, positive outcomes can also arise due to the crisis itself.
Look at the definition of crisis:
- A crucial or decisive point or situation; a turning point.
- A point when a conflict reaches its highest tension and must be resolved.
A Taoist views a crisis as an opportunity to explore and improve the experience of life itself.
When a crisis represents a turning point for another person, A Taoist often acts very simply or not at all. To overreact removes the power of the situation to help those involved to actually learn and make it past the transitional stages of the crisis.
A simple and non violent example: Zen often uses riddles of contradiction to teach enlightenment. The riddle is often something which is both illogical and a contradiction. The riddle works by creating a crisis of logic which literally breaks the mind out of one pattern and into a new direction.
In the previous Zen example. If I were to answer the riddle for another person (or look up the answer in a book), it prevents the whole process of the mental crisis trying to resolve the logic vs. illogical contradiction. So answering the riddle for someone else actually does more harm than good. In this example: knowledge (a solution) is never the goal, rather the experience of the crisis along with the new directions inspired by it: are the goal.
However, if in trying to resolve a crisis a person was about to “harm” themselves, then outside help could be important to help that person resolve the crisis (i.e. help from crisis intervention workers). After-all, sometimes it takes time and several attempts to resolve longer term problems and a more complicated crisis.
A Taoist is very careful in defining harm. Something which might seem harmful to you, could be healing for another person. Or something which might hurt now, could be healing later. The tale of the Taoist Farmer and his Horse illustrates this point.
So in effect you have given me a riddle with real world consequences. As such, the answers are even more difficult to resolve due to real world consequences of actions. No easy answer exists, since by the principle of Yin and Yang: all answers contain elements of beneficial and harmful effects. So to a Taoist this leaves only one course of action: you follow what feels right and with acceptance: then at least you have done the right thing as you acted to your nature. Then you move on: a moment at a time.
It’s never about an answer, it’s always about the journey.