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The Elusive Tao

boat with yin yang on sail

As a teacher of Taoism, I explore spirituality through nature and its ways. I am sometimes asked if I believe in God and my answer is always the same: I am the guest, not the host.

I would never attempt to define whatever it is that sustains the earth and its organisms in strength and wellness.

Something has been driving growth for billions of years and we just showed up seconds ago. How could we, as humans, possibly think we can define it when we have only just arrived?

I have a tremendous respect for life’s benevolence. Since nobody really knows anything anyway – I prefer to wander in the unfathomable.

When I meet a Christian, they always present the idea of creation as something that happened in the past. I invite them to consider how it is still unfolding all around us, growing and surrounding us in its in abundance. I watch how the idea ignites a flame in their eyes.

It is as if, in this moment, they can actually feel the love that emanates from wonder.

This may be what makes Taoism different from other religions: nothing is wrong – and nothing is missing – nothing needs explanation. It just is. And it is perfect.

Taoism is a Philosophy not a Religion

Taoism is a philosophy for living that teaches us to remove boundaries. It also inspires us to move away from judgment and extremes of thinking. This moment of perfection invites our participation. Opening to the possibilities, we are swept up into the endless flow of becoming.

Similar to most religions, Taoism presents ‘a way’ to embrace the joy of living. However, because nothing can be classified as good or bad, Taoism deviates from the idea of evil, sin or being held in judgment.

In Taoism, all values are relative. We can only know one classification by comparing it to its opposite. In this, we hold to the middle way.

Buddhism is a blend of Taoism and Hinduism and Buddhism gets much of its inspiration from ancient Taoist ideas.

The difference between Taoism and religion isn’t so much that Tao isn’t a deity. One can believe in God and still appreciate Taoism as a philosophy for living. However, there is an openness that Taoism cultivates usually absent in organized religions.

Tao isn't Proprietary

Many religions make ‘the way’ proprietary. In other words, followers are the sole beneficiaries of divine love and guidance. “Those people’ who follow the ‘other way’ are doing something wrong.

We are all ‘those people’ finding our way to faith. There is no ‘other’ and we are in this together. No boundaries.

Taoism teaches that developing faith comes from the idea of being the guest – not the host. We are not in charge and relinquish control. Because nobody (even scientists) can really define what is orchestrating growth and wellness on the earth, Taoists abstain from interpretation.

Heaven is in the Here and Now

While many religions require death or reincarnation to discover one's idea of heaven, to the Taoist, heaven is a part of living in the here and now.

When one lives in accordance with Tao, the natural energy that might emanate from what could be called heaven becomes immediately accessible.

This is the light that illuminates the eyes of one who has recovered this lost connection.

Where does God fit into Taoist beliefs? Choosing not to define the divine is actually a sign of immense respect and humility.

The Nameless

When we examine the old Hebrew texts at the root of many western religions like Christianity, Catholicism and Islam, we get a sense that ‘whatever it is,’ should not have labels.

Moses is told “I am that I am.” The word Yahweh isn’t a name. It suggests a way of knowing that allows one to live in grace. Taoism too, is a path of living in grace.

Religion has evolved into a system of logical analysis, labels and dogma. Once we begin describing the teleological principle, we become adversaries. Rather, Taoism reminds us to intuit our connection to the divine, as it will be different for all of us.

Taoism and Dreams

In the Hebrew text of Job, chapter 33, we are told that the divine principle guides us during dreaming. “In a dream, in a vision of the night, then our ears are opened.”

In this way, dreams are an evolutionary mechanism that allow us to transcend self-defeating ideas that keep us trapped in the past. This seems to be what that chapter describes. It says we are "turned away from wrongdoing and away from pride." We know dreaming is a type of awareness where ego abates.

Unhappiness is the hunger pain for change, and joy is its constant companion. Dreaming can lead us back to wellness. Life generates endless change and when we let go, we return to joy.

It is impossible to define something that exists in an endless state of change. We see malleability in the world around us but believe we do not need to change.

How Taoism Supports the Religious Path

Taoism allows us to appreciate nature as a spiritual teacher. Religion is often a way to heal, and giving it labels can make it more accessible. It doesn’t matter how an individual finds ‘the way.’ If the path generates faith and healing, then it should lead to peace.

The problem arises when we believe our way is the only way.

Ownership has no place in the type of unconditional love we might offer to others. We merely open, and something amazing can flow through us. Without judgment, we are participants in endless discovery.

I teach the principles of Taoism to help one connect with their intuitive center and open to possibilities. While the teleological principle is called Tao, these ancient writings make it clear that it is mysterious and exists beyond our comprehension.

As a philosophy, one shouldn’t think that Taoism cannot co-exist with other religious beliefs. In fact, it allows one to cultivate the unconditional acceptance of what is (faith) and opens us to the benevolence at the root of compassion.

We would never define a philosophy as proprietary and yet, most religions are adopted in a way that presents division. Can you find your way to the divine while remaining natural in a natural world. Can you remove the boundaries that separate you from others and a sense of wonder?

Dragging the adversary when there is no adversary, will cost you your inner treasure. Content in your circumstances and genuine in kindness, you are the expression of the love that renews all things.