On my recent retreat, as well doing a huge amount of Qigong practice, I took along some Taoist texts that I wanted to revisit. Taoism is many things. On the one hand, it is the native religion of China, with all the rituals, temples, and history that suggests, but on the other hand (and these are the aspects that interest me the most) it contains various esoteric systems which address health, martial arts, self-development, meditation, diet, spiritual advancement, astronomy, fortune-telling, etc.
The through-line that connects all the above-mentioned facets is the understanding and application of The Way (Tao). It’s incredibly difficult to elucidate to the layperson, but The Way essentially means finding the Natural order in any situation and following it, whether that means choosing a job that suits your nature, navigating relationships, healing illness and injury, working in political strategy, or pursuing the heights of human possibility through the spiritual arts.
The two texts I was focused on were the Wen Tzu, and Opening the Dragon Gate. The Wen Tzu is a sort of “sequel” to the Tao Teh Ching, reportedly transcribing the further teachings of that book’s author Lao Tzu (the most notable Taoist patriarch and ancestor). It was most likely assembled by his students and adherents around 2000 years ago, and contains wisdom and advice both esoteric and broadly applicable. My favourite line currently is “Look for fragrance while carrying something foul, and you won't succeed no matter how clever you are”. This is a great reminder that we may have a tendency to self-sabotage, by not subordinating our lesser inclinations to our higher goals.
Opening The Dragon Gate is a true story (though I could imagine scientific types disputing many of the remarkable happenings in it’s pages) about a young man, Wang Liping, who is chosen as the next successor of the Complete Reality school of Taoism. Starting in China’s turbulent 60’s, he is trained by three elderly but remarkable men in various esoteric arts, as a way of both developing his persona and skills to the highest level possible, and of transmitting this precious but arcane knowledge on to the next generation. Scattered in between some mind-bending philosophy and history are descriptions of skills and feats befitting a superhero movie or fantasy epic. It’s niche, but it’s exactly my niche J
The connection to this blog, and thus my website and business, is that Taoism is at the root and heart of Chinese Medicine. Though Mao tried to separate the two, he ended up with much reduced versions of both. Happily, there are now many Masters looking to rejoin Taoism and Chinese Medicine to enhance health outcomes for the current generation.