Monday, July 12, 2010

Tao - a life enhancing way...

"If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing you will try to hold on to."
The Tao Te Ching

The Tao Te Ching is an ancient Chinese book of philosophy that has much to teach us about the way of life enhancing. 'Tao Te Ching' can be roughly translated as 'the way and its power' or 'the way of life'.

The Tao Te Ching begins with the following passage:

The Way that can be told of is not the true or unvarying way;
The names that can be named are not the true or unvarying names.
It was from the Nameless that Heaven and Earth sprang;
The named is but the mother that rears the ten thousand creatures, each after its kind.

In another translation, this passage also reads:

The Way that can be experienced is not true;
The world that can be constructed is not real.
The Way manifests all that happens and may happen;
The world represents all that exists and may exist.

To experience without abstraction is to sense the world;
To experience with abstraction is to know the world.
These two experiences are indistinguishable;
Their construction differs but their effect is the same.

Beyond the gate of experience flows the Way,
Which is ever greater and more subtle than the world.

The map is not the territory

What these deep and intriguing teachings are attempting to express, in ways that words truly cannot express because of the nature of words and symbols, is what NLP represents in the powerful saying:

"The map is not the territory"

This thinking tool, originally coined by Alfred Korzybski, the father of the philosophy of General Semantics, highlights the understanding that 'no map can ever fully represent the territory that it maps'. A map will ALWAYS be a deleted, distorted and generalised/abstracted version of the territory. And all words, thoughts and symbols are maps of the world. We never 'truly' know the world, we only ever experience a deleted, distorted and generalised version of the world -- 'The way that can be named is not the true way'.

In other words... the tools you use to make sense of the world and to represent (re- present) the world and communicate your understanding of the world, to yourself (your multi-mind) and to others, will ALWAYS be lies. They are NOT TRUE and can never be true. They may be relatively veridical and may closely represent certain aspects of the world, within defined boundaries and contexts, BUT the map can never be the territory. The menu can never by the meal. Words are NOT the things they stand for.

Robert Anton Wilson, in his brilliant and life changing book 'Prometheus Rising' put it well when he described our human mapping and modeling processes as 'Reality Tunneling'. According to Bob, we each live not in the real world, but in our very own deleted, generalised and distorted 'reality tunnel'. And the world that can be constructed (by our unconscious modeling and reality tunneling processes) is not real. The names that can be named are not unvarying names. As the Buddhist's say, nothing is permanent, nothing exists in and of itself, all is process, constantly changing and varying. And the deep understanding from all these various wisdom traditions and modern neuro and behavioural technologies, is that our model of the world -- our reality tunnel -- is NOT the true world.

What can you do with this?

So what does this mean? What can you do with this to enhance your life?

Well, for a start, it in part means that your beliefs, ideas and thoughts are not totally true, fixed, absolute or real. These insights indicate that it is massively unsane to be rigid in your beliefs and values. NO belief is 'the' TRUE belief. All beliefs are 'names' and no name is the true or unvarying name or way.

These philosophical insights suggest that you are best served in your life when you are more flexible, open and pliant in your attitudes and approaches. Let go of absolutist and unyielding ideas. Let go of dogmatism and the need to be right. Allow yourself to be comfortable with uncertainty and fuzzy boundaries. Nothing is absolutely certain. Possibility and probability are key. Don't take yourself so seriously. Don't take life too seriously -- take life more light-heartedly, with humour, forgiving, joy, balance and flexibility. Relax your model of the world. Relax your attitudes. Map the way of your life with flow, peace and calm abiding joy. It's an incredibly life enhancing way.

More from the taoist way

And for your enjoyment, here are some more key ideas from Tao'ist philosophy as expressed in the "Tao Te Ching", that have generative import for living life enhancingly:
  • Force begets force.
  • Living simply, is life enhancing.
  • Material wealth does not enrich the spirit.
  • Self-absorption and self-importance are vain and self-destructive.
  • The harder one tries, the more resistance one creates for oneself.
  • The more one acts in harmony with the universe (the Mother of the myriad things), the more one will achieve, with less effort.
  • The truly wise make little of their own wisdom for the more they know, the more they realize how little they know.
  • When we lose the fundamentals, we supplant them with increasingly inferior values which we pretend are the true values.
  • Glorification of wealth, power and beauty beget crime, envy and shame.
  • The qualities of flexibility and suppleness, especially as exemplified by water, are superior to rigidity and strength.
  • Everything is in its own time and place.
  • Duality of nature complements each other instead of competing with each other — the two faces of the same coin — one cannot exist without the other.
  • The differences of opposite polarities help us to understand and appreciate the universe.
  • Humility is the highest virtue.
  • Knowing oneself is a key virtue.
  • Envy is a calamity; overindulgence is a plight.
  • The more you go in search of an answer, the less you will understand.
  • Know when it's time to stop. If you don't know then stop when you are done.

wishing you a balanced, flexible and life enhancing way of life'ing,

And from one of the authors I most cherish and revere, here's a translation of the Tao Te Ching that is wonderfully life enhancing to read:

Lao Tzu: Tao Te Ching: A Book about the Way and the Power of the Way

“Ursula K. Le Guin’s translation of the Tao Te Ching is a personal and poetic meditation. Through her own careful study of these ancient teachings, she brings the Way into contemporary life. Each day, I open this book at random and receive a contemplative gift. These words are akin to water in the desert.”

1 comment:

  1. Most of Tao'ism is a very comfortable fit for me. Excellent piece, Grant!

    -- Sully


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