Inner Reflections
July 26, 2020

What Is Taoism And How It Can Improve Your Life

Taoism dates back to about 550 BC in ancient China. The word “Tao” means the path or the way. It’s the philosophy of moving with the current, flow or the way of nature. 

Taoists spent their lives harmonizing themselves to the natural laws and rhythms of nature. They fundamentally viewed human being as one with nature. 

There’s a story about an ancient Taoist named Lao-Tzu. Lao-Tzu was considered to be a very wise man. He lived in the city for a large portion of his life.

Naturally, people with problems or issues they were trying to solve would go see Lao-Tzu for his wisdom. He was always able to offer wisdom and guidance that nobody else could provide.

Eventually, Lao-Tzu, as he got older decided that he wanted to leave the city and go live up in the mountains. He wanted to just be one with nature again after a life time of serving and giving back to his community. 

As he was leaving the city, the guard recognized him. The guard begged and pleaded with Lao-Tzu not to leave. However, Lao-Tzu insisted on going. 

Eventually, the guard knowing that he couldn’t make Lao-Tzu stay, asked him if he would write down his knowledge and wisdom into a book. Legend has it, Lao-Tzu sat down right there on the spot in front of the palace guard and wrote the Tao-Te-Ching, which is now considered the bible of Taoism and often one of the greatest books in history.

“Men are born soft and supple. Dead, they are stiff and hard. Plants are born tender and pliant. Dead, they are brittle and dry. Thus, whoever is stiff and inflexible is a disciple of death. Whoever is soft and yielding is a disciple of life. The hard and stiff will be broken. The soft and supple will prevail.” 

-Lao Tzu

This is just one of the many amazing quotes from Lao Tzu and the Tao-Te-Ching.  It speaks to the power of being flexible and pliable within the dimension of the body but also within our mind and hearts. 

The wisdom of the Tao encourages us to think about ourselves more holistically. Sometimes our minds can get tense, rigid and tight. Sometimes our hearts can get contracted. Similarly, our bodies can get knotted up too. What Lao-Tzu is speaking about with this quote is the importance of being soft, malleable and open as we go through life. 

The Taoists believe in a concept known as qi. You’ve probably heard of that concept qi. In yoga, we call it prana and the ancient Egyptians called it ra. 

Qi is in science, what we would call subatomic energy, and subatomic energy is the energy that makes up the entire physical and material world. 

It’s said to have existed ever since the big bang happened.

Qi, when it manifests into the physical world, can be classified into one of two categories. One is yin and the other is yang. 

Yang is an energy that symbolizes active, warm, fiery and more of a masculine energy.

Yin is the opposite and represents qualities such as coolness, receptivity, deep, still, and more of a feminine energy.

In modern day living, we are very much bombarded by these yang-like qualities. Things are very stimulating. The 24-hour news cycle is always going. Even with forms of fitness, we’re always trying to do the fastest, hardest and strongest thing. The way that we work and the way that we live our lives is very active, often superficial and rarely with sufficient pause or reflection. 

Not that you have to always be slow but the Taoists, they emphasize this philosophy of balance between yin and yang.  That’s the way of moving through life with the spirit of nobility and a spirit of true wholeness.

The Taoists practice meditation as a way to awaken the flow of chi, or life force, and to harmonize with the universal laws of nature and find true balance.  Even with yoga, the ancient wisdom of Taoism teaches us the importance of balancing the yang type of power flows with the deep stretches of yin yoga. Yin teaches us the much-needed wisdom of slowing down in the hectic world we live in today.

Below are some recommended practices for you to further explore the concepts and insights of Taoism: