Sit down, unbuckle your mind, and unlearn everything you know. Taoism (aka Daoism) defies the usual tenets of religion. There are no strict rules, rituals, or beliefs that need to be followed. Instead, Taoism better described as a philosophy that emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao. Although there is no definition for the Tao, it is broadly understood in English to mean “the way” or “the path”. It’s okay if you have no idea what that means. Understanding Taoism is a lifelong journey where you discover your own truth, but let’s start with a bit of history.
Brief History of Taoism
It is not known just how long Taoism has been practiced. Originally, it was viewed as a shamanic practice that was passed down verbally from master to student. However, about 2,500 years ago in Ancient China, the Tao-Te Ching was written by Lao-Tzu. This book is one of the oldest surviving documents about Taoism. Its 81 short, ambiguous poems offer philosophical guidelines for achieving a balanced life in a range of situations. Over the years, Taoism grew and is now considered a religion because over 31 million people identify as Taoist.
Taoism: The Basics
The beauty of Taoism is that you define what it means to you – it is the journey of your life and no one else’s. Since there are 7.5 billion people in the world, there are 7.5 billion ways to interpret and practice Taoism. This is why it is difficult to explain and understand.
Taoism emphasises that the universe dictates our paths and that we need to embrace this and live in harmony with the universe. To better understand this, think of your life as an endless river. You must not think of yourself as being in the river. You are the river, flowing effortlessly through life. Taoism teaches that we should let go of worry and let nature take its course. To do this, we need to be in touch with ourselves. This means that we must accept and understand ourselves, and most of all, be kind – both to ourselves and our surroundings. We shouldn’t dwell on the past, or worry about the future. Instead, we should accept who we are, flaws and all.
Taoism does not interfere with other religions. It respects the concept of God and your definition of God. This is because a person’s view of god is a reflection on how they view their own life. The Tao is not before, after, superior to, or inferior to any god. This is why the Tao is undefined, so that you can interpret it for yourself.
Because, it is so versatile, Taoism has stood the test of time. It is just as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago. If you feel like Taoism is best for you, please do more reading so that you get a better understanding. In the meantime, here is some practical advice:
1. Don’t rush to learn Taoism. Taoism teaches patience and the journey to Taoism is also a healing process.
2. Be still and block out the noise from civilisation. You need quietness to listen to yourself.
3. Embrace your imperfections – they’re what make you, you. Accept both the best and worst parts of your life.
4. Live in the now, without expectations. Setting expectations means that you are relying on something outside of yourself, and this will only lead to disappointment.
5. You are your best teacher. Be open, experiment, and embrace only what works for you.