I have been asked many times how to find a Temple, Master or how best to learn Taoism. Here is a brief Taoism 101 course outline on how to discover Taoism.
This is a different type of guide to learning Taoism. Taoism teaches a person to follow their breath, to embrace wonder and the joy in living gracefully with style. So here is the modern practical guide to living as a Taoist!
What is Taoism?
To many people, a confusing aspect of Taoism is its very definition. Many religions will happily teach philosophy and dogma which in reflection defines a person. Taoism flips this around. It starts by teaching a truth; “The Tao” is indefinable. It then follows up by teaching that each person can discover the Tao on their terms. A teaching like this can be very hard to grasp when most people desire very concrete definitions in their own life.
A simple way to start learning the definition of Taoism is to start within yourself. Here are three easy starting steps to learning Taoism:
- Don’t concentrate on the meaning of Tao (this will come later naturally)
- Understand what Taoism is. Taoism is more than just a “philosophy” or a “religion”. Taoism should be understood as being: A system of belief, attitudes, and practices set towards the service and living to a person’s nature.
- The path of understanding Taoism is simply accepting oneself. Live life and discover who you are. Your nature is ever changing and is always the same. Don’t try to resolve the various contradictions in life, instead learn acceptance of your nature.
Taoism teaches a person to flow with life. Over the years Taoism has become many things to many people. Hundreds of variations in Taoist practice exist. Some of these practices are philosophical, and others are religious. Taoism makes no distinction in applying labels to its nature. This is important since as a person, we are each a blend of many truths. The truth taught in Taoism is to embrace life in actions that support you as a person.
Taoism teaches a person to live in their heart.
Here are some simple starting tips to help a person live as a Taoist.
- Having a set of basic guidelines can be helpful. However realistically, guidelines don’t determine how to live; instead, Taoism teaches by living you will express your nature. My guidelines are the following:
- With care, I aid those who are extended expressions of my nature.
- Be true to me
- Connect to the world as I want to be treated.
- Connect to those outside my nature with decisive action.
- To those unwilling to accept me for my true nature, no action is required:
Just silently let them be themselves as I remain myself.
- I own nothing; I am merely a passing custodian of items outside of my nature.
- Discover a set of practices to aid keeping the mind, body and spirit engaged and strong. Remember practices should support your essence with the activities fitting the needs of the moment. Your life practices will end up being an ever-shifting mix of activities relative to your needs. For example, I practice martial arts to keep my body strong, yoga to make my body subtle, meditation to clear my mind, bike around simply to fly, and poetry as a lens of examination. All these and more are my shifting practices to support my essence, and in doing each, each helps me learn more about myself and the world.
- Take time, relax and just explore and poke around. Taoism has no plans. Taoism is based on following your gut feelings and trusting your instincts.
- It’s the pause in a breath… that each step of living becomes visible for your larger life to improve and follow upon. Smile, when needing to pick a possible next step. To smile is to open possibilities. Breathe when needing a break. Since to breathe is to be at one with yourself. Alternate the two, and your path will become free and clear for an entire lifetime of wonder to explore. This may sound simple, but you would be surprised how many people cannot embrace this most basic aspect of Taoist practice! People think it cannot be that simple! Taoism truly is this simple. If you follow and practice step four, not only is that all one needs to embrace Taoism fully, but also anything becomes possible within this simple practice. However, most people need time letting go of expectations. So it’s also ok to dig deeper into Taoism. Taoism has many many levels of teachings on purpose to help people from all perspectives move smoothly in life.
I can summarize Taoism as simply as
Taoism is acceptance of your life.
Taoism is following your breath to find peace.
Taoism is opening up a smile to enable possibility.
If you embrace these three ideas, everything else follows in Taoism. Some people do start here. Others take a longer more colorful path. That’s fine also since you get to experience more color in your life. No wrong path exists at the end since it’s about experiencing life.