The Personal Tao book examines Immortality. Now, let’s take a closer look at Taoist practices of longevity.
Taoist Lifestyle Habits For a Longer Life
Taoism holds together a lifestyle of practices to guide a person within a long healthy life. How long? Anecdotal stories talk about centuries. The more myth like aspects of Taoism tell stories of men living thousands of years. Science itself has only officially documented human life spans of 120 to 130 years. However, as pointed out in the immortality chapter: it’s actually meaningless to work towards physical immortality. Rather Taoists learn to extend their lives indefinitely. In other words, a Taoist lives day to day with no concern to how long they might live.
Eight Lifestyle Habits for a Longer Life
The first secret to Taoist longevity is an attitude of not predefining age or limits to our nature.
A Taoist lives each day fully and actively. This means life is rich and full of experience. This is important to provide an edge to keep one healthy, flexible and strong. If a person works towards extending their lives unnaturally, then that action also severely limits life by not living to one’s nature.
The chase for immortality comes at the direct cost of reducing the experience of life itself.
The second side of a longevity practice is eating well.
There is a saying in our culture: Garbage in equals Garbage out. If you eat junk food, you become junk. The correlation of quality of life to diet is very simple and direct. The body will not live well, nor long unless eating a balanced, varied and healthy diet. Taoist books and literature go into great details about when, how and what one should eat. It’s all about eating at a proper balance.
This also explains why many diets fail; they don’t shift to respond to the changing needs of a person’s body. Taoist diets tend to be more complicated than western diets to adjust to the needs of the human body changing over time.
Our bodies are a furnace; the body burns what we eat. Eating too much, or certain foods such as refined sugars, cause the body to burn hotter and burn out faster. Certain foods contain antioxidants. Fire uses oxygen to burn, so antioxidants in a board sense help the body slow the burn rate within the cells. However, remember balance: too many antioxidants would also be bad, as the body is designed to run at a mid-level burn rate.
Certain foods are better than others such as Green Tea, Bok Choy, Plums, Cabbage, Yogurt and Brown Rice. No one food contains a perfect balance of nutrients for everlasting life. A person needs to listen to their body and provide mixing of essences to maintain the body.
One example of this practice is a Taoist will not eat meat raised with inhumane practices. To do so is to be a willing part of torture of other life. To eat such meat passes the inhumane processing of the food back into the Taoist’s body and then limits our own life. Most meats massed produced in the modern world is based on inhumane practices. I am stating you must be a vegetarian. A Taoist can eat meat, and as a Taoist, I have a varied diet including some meat. However, it’s important to have respect towards our food’s life cycle. Think about this for a second. If an animal or plant were tortured during its growth process, then its fear, its stress, its imbalanced upbringing would be pushed into its essence. To eat such food: is to devour fear, is to place any accumulated stress hormones or illness into your own body. Eating such food doesn’t promote a long life: rather it promotes a life of fear and more industrial inhumane practices.
As a direct example: Mad Cow disease is a result of an inhumane food system (due to feeding living cows crushed food products consisting of dead cows from the illness). Mad cow disease is slowly spreading in the human population which consumed the tainted beef. Additionally inhumane industrial practices regarding food processing ripple out and change the very culture which a Taoist lives within. The workers at such facilities take on the aspects of the inhumane practices. It affects the workers and ripples out to reduce their own lives. Eventually, a culture that treats its food without respect treats its workers and general population with the same inhumane practices of the food production. It comes full circle to limit and even prevents a long or healthy life for everyone in the society. To a Taoist, everything is connected and part of the Tao. No action is fully independent of another. Longevity requires treating food with the same respect given towards your own body.
So Taoist wisdom teaches a practice of treating food processing with respect and food intake with moderation and balance.
The third commitment to lifestyle improvement is listening to your nature.
So many distractions, so many goals, so many ideals, so many desires, so many expectations, so many different visions, so many images competing, working, trying to lead you to a supposedly better way.
All the noise is just that: distracting noise. How can a person attain longevity if you are always busily moving to the tune of a larger world? A Taoist lives a long healthy life, as a Taoist moves to the beat of their own subtle personal cues.
A Lifestyle Quiz
Do you guzzle to the tune of million dollar diet coke advertisements burning space in your stomach, or do you sip a brew of green tea?
Do you overreach climbing corporate ladders or limber limbs based upon your breadth?
Is your breath measured in beats of the heart or does your body tick to train time tables?
Do you walk barefooted or do you wear your parent’s shoes?
It’s hard to follow our nature, to live a long life when being taught to be someone since childhood.
How much of your life has been spent being yourself
rather than another person?
Longevity is pointless unless you are your own person.
The fourth cornerstone to Taoist Longevity is exercise.
The Personal Tao book touches this subject within the practical limits chapter. It’s important to have a physical practice. It’s critical to keep the body moving and subtle. Exercise practices such as Qigong have been optimized to help keep a person strong and moving for an entire life time. It’s also important not to break oneself while working the body. A Taoist master works at a moderate level of effort in their exercise practice. If you were to look at a Taoist master, they will never appear to be like Mr. Atlas. In fact: any Taoist master always appears quite ordinary from their outside appearance. Yet in reality a Taoist Master’s muscles and body will have surprising tone, flexibility, endurance and strength from their practice. This is important: a Taoist Master dances through life, never to fight life or their own body.
The fifth element to Taoist longevity is attitude.
As stated earlier: a Taoist Master dances through life and doesn’t fight life or their own body. If you treat your body as an opponent or as something to be dominated, well then that limits life. The more that a person resists the world, the more the world will resist back. The world is larger and more powerful than any single person, so a person will always lose upon making life a fight. Excessive resistance wears a person down. It’s fine to fight occasionally, it’s fine to stand up for yourself, as resistance is part of any exercise. However: to stand excessively against the world means the world will erode you away.
Think about how granite blocks become sand at the sea’s surf.
In other terms: This means a Taoist leads a life with low stress. It has been shown in studies that stress is a major factor that contributes towards premature aging effects. A Taoist life style concentrates on good humor and low stress.
The sixth step to Taoist longevity is having a spiritual practice.
We are more than a mind and body. A person is a trinity of mind, body and spirit. Spirit is uniquely defined within the actions of our living. More importantly, a spiritual practice keeps both the mind and body in balance with each other. Consider this the practice with which a person finds peace with their nature. All Taoist’s have a healthy, vibrant spiritual practice.
A Spiritual practice is a combination of intent within actions and the exploration of mysteries of our life. No one set practice exists for this. Each person needs to define and refine over time their own practice. If a person is to live a long life, then it helps to have a reason to do so. A spiritual practice provides motivation for enjoying a longer happier life.
This is where the different forms of Taoism diverge from each other. Many variations of Taoism exist with different established spiritual practices. This is not a matter of just differentiating between the religious forms of Taoism or philosophical forms. It’s a more fundamental process of how a person finds completion of place relative to the larger world, be it a science, philosophy, magic or religion. I find it interesting that many different forms of Taoism exist and the difference comes down to this predefined blend of science, philosophy, magic and religion which forms the baseline for each Taoist school of thought.
The interesting thing is that all schools of Taoism agree upon the nature of the Tao. So despite the differences between the schools of thought within Taoism, I have witnessed Taoists having great respect for each other’s differences in spiritual practice. All schools of Taoism are unified by being a practice of acceptance of the Tao.
The seventh truth to Taoist longevity is to avoid addiction.
Addiction is a process of self-destruction. Described in Taoist terms: it’s redefining the empty space with something external to your nature. In Taoist terms: To live, is to live as yourself. While some addictive substances could seemingly solve problems (such as drugs to shift the mind’s balance to fit a social norm), or electronic plug-in lifestyles to help pass the time and a difficult day’s burdens (such as televised living day to day to month to year to the grave), in the end, all addictions erase a person’s unique nature.
If you live 100 years and only watched television: have you lived at all?
If you drink yourself dead at 50: have you lived anything except an alcoholic haze?
Does removing insanity create masterpieces of vision that society would never dare to create: such as Van Gogh’s starry night?
To live a long life: is to live it as yourself. Life is not about being easy. Life is a challenge and the struggle is an edge which defines our shape. Being tempted by various addictions could appear as a path to make life less difficult. However, all addictions are a dead end in a Taoist’s path of life. Taoism above all else is a practice that embraces living life.
Also, be warned it is possible and a trap to become addicted to comfort.
The eighth and final secret to Taoist longevity must be kept a secret.
This article is a starting point to help give an idea of why Taoism as a practice leads to a longer healthier life. However, much more exists. A Taoist explores and takes time to enjoy figuring out secrets of living. I have given enough information to start people in the right direction. Once you begin putting these ideas into practice, they lead to other mysteries. More importantly: your health will improve, your mind will slowly get clearer and new wisdom will appear. However, this isn’t something which can be given away freely, it’s something earned by your own actions. In time, you will discover much more than longevity. You will both fulfill and reveal the meaning of your own life.
Three traditions exist to discover these addition secrets.
- The first road is to find a Taoist master or temple and study for a decade or two.
- The second road is to drop all knowledge, all ties and go back to nature. To commune for seven to fourteen years and in that time find a place of harmony between oneself and nature.
- The third path is just to chill, be receptive to your life as it happens. This path will not offer the “Third Dragon’s Step of Purification” from Taoist Temple teachings or other secret wisdom men have stored in hidden Taoist scrolls. Nor will this path offer up the “Everlasting Strength of World Roots” or any of the special wisdom attainable by letting go of society to be one with nature. But this path does offer up beauty’s like “Silence Presiding Manager by Single Glance”. This path is based on simply living day to day in society and being yourself. This path still requires letting go of ego, it still takes effort and time. However, of the three paths this is the simplest one and truly is accessible to everyone.
No single path offers all the Taoist secrets, but each path does open up life to be lived well, fully and over an extended period of time. Each of these roads are acceptable paths in the Taoist tradition. Each tradition fits only certain personality types. No path is a sure path unless a person can be true to their nature: something which we always are and are not. Something in an age of one pill solutions or video game escapes few have the patience or time to explore.
I have traveled down these Taoist traditions with each being a mixture of every human emotion. No path is exclusive of another in Taoist practice. By living indefinitely long, a person frees up a boundless amount of time to explore these practices. I have lived 7, 42 and 10,000 years and the secret is rooted in exploring life and embracing what fits your life’s definition.
Chapter 28 – Immortality
It’s said Taoists know the secret to immortality. This is true.
Do you desire to live forever? Taoists in the “know”, (not that there is a “know”), would chuckle at immortality; skeptics will always scoff, and those afraid of death will always cling to the hope of immortality.
Over the years quite a bit of mythology has accumulated regarding Taoism and immortality, so let’s straighten a few curves of this mythology. Taoists have a history of long lives due to lifestyle. The ideals of Wu Wei remove stress, dietary traditions ensure healthy eating habits and daily rituals foster harmony between physical and meditative practices to establish fitness. The Taoist lifestyle creates a delicate balance promoting a long peaceful life. Taoists practice longevity, not immortality.
Immortality isn’t defined by physical time.
A body will not last forever; the very nature of the body is to observe time in its limits. Even in the best conditions eventually, accidents, disease, entropy or crazed weapon-swinging humans will mark an ending to a body’s time. The whims of a larger universe dictate finite final bounds for a given lifespan.
A mind will not last forever. A limit exists to how much of the “self” can reside in mind. Memories fade. In living, a person transcends through an experience of many minds. Aging itself is the process of change that shifts the mind around. A person might have a fundamental core perception of self, yet the manifestation of self-changes throughout a life. I personally have lived at least eight distinctly different lives. How can the mind be immortal, when it shifts so readily into a new life?
It’s possible to approach a steady state in mind, body, and spirit to live for quite a long time indeed. The distinct limits of the mind and body also dictate the nature of immortality to be quite different than what most expect.
- As with any group of people, Taoism has many different schools of thought. Some Taoist’s do seek physical immortality. However, the immortality of the body has never been something outlined within the Tao-Te-Ching.
- In math terms the limit of a sequence of events in a lifespan is convergent. Now to those interested in math analogies, I ask: does a series of life events add up as being conditionally convergent (free will) or does life converge absolutely (predetermined)? A Taoist will answer only with laughter, because it’s both, and then forgets the whole question to go enjoy basking in the sun.
- The lives I have lived so far are: infant, child, teenager, young adult, father, questor and sage.
Immortality isn’t Outside of Our Existence.
A person is an expression of our lives, our mind, our body, our spirit, our ego, our fetch, our being, our soul, our multiple forms… once leaving all the “ours” a person isn’t anymore. Instead, all the “our” building blocks return to the larger nature of the universe, to continue onward in a different cycle1. Heaven and other forms of an ultimate personal expression exist: within the “ours”.
Everyone is immortal in the expression of how they live. Make of your life that which you want to be eternal. Immortality is within our existence.
Immortality isn’t after death and afterlife isn’t an accurate statement. The problem is one of orientation. The ego is so geared to looking forward, that before death, the ego assumes the vast vista of an immortal existence is likewise always ahead2. Discover it’s in the now within life that immortality exists.
If life is limited in time, then how is living within your life immortal?
- Each moment is timeless
- The living is an expression of all our possibilities
- Reincarnation isn’t afterlife: reincarnation is experiencing each life possibility
- Time is an illusion of consciousness
- Consciousness is the wave of our existence flowing forever through the collection of one’s lives
- All moments are interconnected throughout yourself, throughout every expression of ever continuous lives
- It’s possible to bounce within life. All moments are accessible. Our consciousness appears linear, yet with meditation, with practice, it’s possible to touch our overall existence or to re-experience individual moments.
I find it easiest just to relax and actively embrace my experiences, making this life worth living. Searching for proof could be endless, or simply can be summarized as one’s life. Among the choices, it makes the most sense to live the current life with enjoyment and peace.
- Some would say that heaven is this rejoining to the larger universe. To a Taoist, this is also an acceptable viewpoint. Heaven indeed is a mixing of the stars as much as to mixing into our lives. Like the Tao, heaven is something that isn’t explainable in a single term definition: as it’s outside the ego. As a side note: the Tao is not heaven, as the Tao crosses both life and heaven.
- It’s like stepping out of the subway station and then getting confused in your directions.
Now back to death: a vantage point within our cycles of life. It’s the moment when ego stops its movement. Death is just the point when a person’s consciousness fully let’s go. It’s interesting as from the Buddhist point of view; this would be the point at which a Buddha suppresses the consciousness on a permanent basis ending, in effect, the Buddha’s immortal existence. Without ego in the way, the clarity of self-examination and acceptance of life becomes an unprecedented experience. At this juncture, it becomes possible to embrace one’s entirety without any hesitation. Once a person relaxes fully within death to embrace this entirety, the consciousness rebounds back into one of the countless possibilities which define each personal existence. In this cycle of existence, a person is both immortal and mortal. Embrace your nature as both, live your mortal existence in peace, to have heaven in your immortal existence as well.
The belief of my statements, proofs based upon my life is meaningless for anyone else. Likewise having others believe in me, has no meaning back onto myself. The belief game, the proof game, the miracle game are shams. Tricks of the light used to prop ourselves to stand tall, until realizing each ray of light was merely a flickering shadow.
Discovery of a Personal Tao is to cross the line to accept views based, not on the outside world or others, but instead upon oneself. Much of what people seek on the deepest level within a “universal truth” cannot be proven, will have contradictions, and will not even make sense when one has the correct answers. This is unavoidable due to the incomplete nature of each person relative to a larger universe. Yet, and here is the contradiction, we are complete within our own personal nature. It is within this finite absolute limit of being alive that I can find my eternal nature as I am completely and always myself.
I am eternal in my own nature. I rejoice within this.
Summing up a Long Life
The nature of our life is eternal already. The true point and secret of the Taoist longevity practices are to live well. In living well, Taoists do live longer than average lifespans. More importantly, Taoist practice, ensures a healthy body and mind to enjoy a long lifespan. Living to 75, 120 or even past 200 would be a drag if you mind was mush or if your body couldn’t dance anymore.
Taoism is one of the most assessable of all human practices, as most of Taoist wisdom can be considered to be common sense. Science has finally begun to catch up with some of the lore found in Taoist practice. Many of the subtle details of practices such as Taoist diets or Qigong exercises can be found online or through local practitioners. I recommend starting with Qigong. Taoist diets can be a bit complicated and hard to match requirements unless you are living in the Orient where the balance of food was originally determined by Taoist masters. Over time Taoist diet plans will get revised to fit the larger food choices of the modern world, but it will take a few decades still. Taoists are a patient lot, a direct benefit of living within a practice of longevity.
And if you already are 79, is it too late? No! Living boundlessly within “now” is always assessable even unto the last breath. The truth of this practice is just to be open to acceptance: acceptance that you are indeed complete, which we all are, every moment of our life.
The root answer to longevity is to take the time to explore and live to your nature. To do so is to be a Taoist.