Today’s Taoist Question
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 to 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. As stated in this way: it’s a mind game and not reality. Now if something were 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 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 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 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.
Additional Anger, Crisis, and Emotional Support Reading Materials
Movement of Water
Thoughts About Flow
My nine-year-old son Clayton replied when reading this,
“Feeding the animals is important at the end of the day.”
It was an automatic answer to the question. No fuss or worries, at the end of the day dad we need to feed the animals that depend on us.
Children are of the Tao, because children tend towards actions that feel right, without hesitation. Each action springs forth and we live in the dance of those actions.
The Tao: As an example, is a river.
A person: A single eddy,
in motion with the water,
moments of swirling,
reflecting when still
swept quickly other times upon the currents.
But all within a river which flows.
From spring to stream to river to sea to cloud to rain to earth to spring.
Now unfold and repeat until grasping that each point in this cycle is the same moment amidst the many which form the Tao. This is the most elemental truth of how the interconnections harmonize between everything in nature.
A classic answer to how to solve a problem or crisis in Taoism is to be as water. So let’s explore this answer on being like water.
Be as Water
How does one flow and be at peace at the low times?
To cascade down the cliff and tumble with joy as we encounter each leap of faith to our next destination.
In Taoism, we teach over and over again how to be like water. So many reasons why and also simply because we are water.
We are water (our blood), and stone (our Bones) and air (Breath) and fire (Burning our food to be alive).
We don’t need to seek enlightenment. It’s lived, by living life well. As flows the river into the sea: you can even say enlightenment is attained by all in the end once we release. So why make people jump thru systems of belief to seemingly make them earn something we all already have access to? The power games of religions are just that games. (And often rigged games at that)
Play yes, but know there are no true losers in this game called enlightenment. (despite what others might say in an attempt to control your actions otherwise for their short-term benefit)
As life flows with water, overcome challenges by becoming full and flowing around obstacles and those who would dam(n) you for their own purposes.
To be as water 🙂
In Taoism we embrace water, to flow and how to be pure in intention. So it’s hard to see the environmental damage to our water, the fracking, the oil spills like the BP disaster, the blatant pollution of water across our world. What response would be enough to illustrate and help others understand the enormity of the problem?
I can only say: as we treat water, it treats us in return.
Without respect and kindness in (personal or business) actions towards the water, we only reduced our own life. The current business focused society shows no respect to the surrounding world and the surrounding world returns the treatment 100 % back to society. It’s sad since it’s us the people who take the brunt of the abuse to the environment.
Abuse can take five generations to remove from a family. The clean water act was passed in 1970, so we still have a ways to go to learn as a “collective family” the lessons in respect and kindness on how to stop such societal abuse to our water and the larger world.
But we don’t have any excuses to stop working in fixing water pollution issues. We each must push ahead to continue trying to improve how to live (in respect/kindness). Otherwise, this abuse we are witnessing and is within our society will never end. Patience/release of a destructive lifestyle is required to make a difference.
The lesson to remember about water is:
It has patience above all else,
Water patiently takes eons to work it’s way thru every crack, to wear away all that stands before it.
To follow water’s example is to know it’s in the simple continued actions that make a difference. With patience and simple but kind actions, we do change the world to be a better place. One action at a time.
For Professional Assistance
Julie and I teach from a wide collection of tools that will help you find peace and release crisis. Often addressing deeper truths require outside assistance to gain new angles that resolve out the internal conflict a person is holding. We teach you how to release judgments that hold you back and then flare up later to diminish you. We work with Taoist and shamanic tools that add in a grounded spiritual component to resolving out the crisis.