DAILY TAOIST PRACTICE
If you want to place the workings of the Tao at the centre of your life then you need a routine that works for you practically and is also life-giving i.e., that it fills you rather than depletes you. I share my practice with you below as it works well for me; it is a guide rather than a rule and it incorporates elements that I feel are important to keep the heart filled with the Wonder that surrounds it.
I split each section between three different energetic phases; the Earth, Sun, & Moon paths. Some don't fit squarely into one or the other but that's okay. The Moon path is about quietude, the Earth path about nature, and the Sun path is about the flow of energy. These paths can help you to see if you are missing in one, or too focused on another.
The Moon Path - Sitting & Listening
I will sit in silence twice per day and simply create a space where I listen without actively doing so. I sit once in the morning and once during the evening often with a hot cup of tea in my hands. There is no benchmarking for drinking tea (with the exception of sadō) which can make it easier for the mind to relax as it won't be analysing my progress.
In the morning session, I may sometimes read scripture or poetry and allow that to settle as I sit.
The Earth Path - Living in Unity
I see the house that I live in as a sanctuary and that I am the keeper of the garden for the wild animals, plants, and trees that are in it.
I will only cut things back in the garden when they have reached the peak of their expression i.e., flowered, seeded, or begun to fade. I will keep places of shelter for the animals and birds here, offer food and seed for them, keep stick piles for insects, maintain the stream by freeing it of obstructions and plastics, and if the deer are present, to walk in a way that does not disturb them.
I will remember that all of these things including my family are aspects of the same One. I will respond to them calmly whenever I might feel otherwise. I will cook and serve drinks in the spirit of nurturing and loving, and I will give of my time in the same way when called for. I extend this practice to my work when in contact with people and do my best to help, as long as it allows me to have space to live this Way of Life.
The Moon Path - Lifelong Learning
The Tao is expressed as all the things within and around me. I know that rational wisdom does not always match with the inner-knowing of the One. I experience how this knowing, is within the oak tree as much as it is in the sparrow, or the stone as much as it is a cloud. Although this wisdom is ever-present, I take time within my day to recall it by either regarding the stillness within myself or that of other things.
While I know that this wisdom does not change, it is simply recognised when it is uncovered. In communicating this with others I will remember that each conversation is a process of revealing for both speaker and listener.
The Sun Path - The Rhythm of Work, Silence, & Recreation
Life is full of distractions, and while it is true that the things we do not want are also the same Nameless One, it is healing to the body, mind, and spirit to have a healthy balance between work, play, and calm, and to see how this changes with the seasons.
This practice is to be life-giving and full of Wonder. I avoid work that does not support this way of life. I seek the Beauty in every task and make it central to everything I do throughout the day. Examples of this are that when washing dishes I will be gently aware of the stillness present - on evenings where there is a full moon I will sit quietly - when the nights are clear I will gaze up at the stars with my son and be filled with Wonder - when the garden is full of wildflowers I will sit among them and share their stillness.
I will have Sunday as a day of rest each week. If something is set in place to mean that this is not possible then I will make another day the rest day as close as possible to it. I will base my daily routine around the daylight hours and energy of the season.
The Moon Path - Clearing of Mind and Letting in Wonder
I will make time each morning to rest and allow the whisper of Wonder to enter my day and allow the unexpected to appear. For times when this is not possible, I will find other ways to create this space, for example, while driving, to not be carried away with thoughts.
I know that having a thought-free mind allows the energy of creativity and Knowing to appear, and it also transforms and purifies energy within the body. Time spent without thought feels like an internal shower of freshness washing down from the head to the belly. I practice this throughout the day and notice how regular thoughts are like tiny droplets against the vast ocean of no-thingness in which they arrive and depart.
Each weekday, I will take a short nap of around 20 minutes to recharge my energy.
I know that creativity is also a way to let the Tao manifest through me. When this urge appears I will write poetry, create haiga, or play music as the compulsion arises.
The Earth Path - To Cherish and be Cherished by Creation
All things are Me. By noticing the presence of stillness and silence within things rather than the face of their manifested energy I see Myself. This means that all creatures and non-creatures are the same self. Therefore, nothing has greater or lesser importance. To nourish one is to feed the other. I know that I cannot heal the world, but I do know that if I can nurture my part of it, I will nourish the Whole. With this in mind, I do the following:
Wear clothing that is made with as little harm to the ecosystem as possible.
To buy clothing that reflects the Way of Life described here.
To care for my garden, my corner of the world as previously explained.
To tread lightly on the earth and to try to leave no trace of where I have been.
To avoid using power tools in the garden.
To use eco-friendly cleaners etc.
I will buy local produce where possible.
To eat organic vegan food when possible.
I will recognise my own Beauty and Wonder and cherish myself and care for myself as well as my family.
The Sun Path - To Live Simply
While aims and objectives can be useful in life they can interrupt the flow of what is trying to unfold around me. I know that I may feel dissatisfied with how events come too quickly or too slowly within my day and that I may feel ready to force the pace of life to suit my needs, however, I also know that such decisions are based on a partial view of what is coming into being.
I appreciate that I cannot know of matters outside of my control and, therefore, I remember to be sensitive to how the flow of energy is appearing and leaving my life at that moment. I learn to trust that Life knows better, not that I trust it will do best for "me" because this kind of faith is based on results. I simply know that things unfold by the flow of a greater energy, and that life itself is so; it will be what it will be.
Modern life means that we often have too many possessions and distractions from quiet. For each gift that I receive, I will give something away. Ultimately, I know that nothing is added to or taken away from, there is only the One. Some possessions help us to live life and are necessary, and this is also part of the Unfolding. I watch them come and go.
Earth Path - To Take It Easy
It's no wonder we feel uptight with the world in which we live. When we fight against life's difficulties we rub up against the flow of what has come into being. We do not abide by it.
I remind myself that all events are either physical or energetic manifestations of the Tao. Frustration is simply Its experience of the moment. Joy is Its experience of the moment too. Good and bad drop away when only the One is seen.
In letting go of what I wish to happen, happening occurs. And this does so with the power of flow behind it. So, I remember to take it easy. I recall my need to relax when I sense tension, and to realise that such stress is a sign that my ego is getting in the way and I am beginning to lose the power of that flow.
All is the One, manifest before me. There is nothing to do but watch as it returns to Silence.
The Sun Path - At Ease with the Flow
There are times when I feel forced to do something that I don't want to do, or I am somewhere I don't wish to be. I know, however, that I cannot be anywhere else than where I am at this moment, and while it might not be accurate to say it is the "will" of the Tao, being where I am, doing what I am, is the result of flow.
Flow is a consequence of energy appearing as things and situations, and those aspects of creation learn how best to absorb energy, transform it for their needs, and move excess energy onward. This is the movement of Creation. To love the Creator [Tao] we must love Creation [energy of Tao], the presence of which lies before us in the here and now. To surrender to this moment and its energy does not necessarily mean to give in to it, but to see it for what it is, as a witnesser, as the One from which the energy flows. In doing so, I see how "things" are simply expressions in an arc of energy that must return to Silence and Stillness, like the summer fading into autumn then winter and back through spring. And I remember that I am the undisturbed Settledness it returns to.
The Earth Path - Cloud Wandering
This practice refers to walking in nature and rather than appreciating the beauty of things, it is to wander in a way that notices the Beauty of That which lies within things. To be a Taoist is to notice the presence of the One that is in and of things. All living and non-living things are expressions of That. Some may call it the Tao but essentially we are the Tao naming itself.
I will have Wednesday morning as a retreat morning, to withdraw from work and life demands. I will walk or cycle within the forests and lakes here to recall the Wonder of the Beauty.
Moon Path - Sharing
I understand that no matter how accurately the Truth is described it cannot be understood and experienced by the rational thinking mind. Furthermore, I know that practices like those mentioned here must not become methods. They are practices in the loosest form, and their role is to create space in my day for that to be filled by the Wonder of Tao.
Poetry is a way that comes to me naturally and it provides space in the reader's mind for their own understanding to connect the dots. This is done at a level deeper than the thinking mind. I, therefore, commit to publishing poetry that does not over-tell but works in a way that creates space for Knowing to be revealed.
With haiga I will ensure that my drawings also make use of space to lead the eye to that presence.
But ultimately, having been blessed to see the One alight in all things, and to know that I too am that, I wish to not forget in moments of mindlessness. To pass on presence to others without speaking or doing, but simply being. I wish for that. I hope that no person or animal will ever come to fear me and that I only bring them peace and stillness.
This is my "Way of Life". It will have similarities to other religious practices and is not necessarily how a Taoist might practice. I have found that it works well for me because of the space it gives for the Beauty to unfold within my day, and for me to experience the joy of that Wonder.
If you are to take inspiration from these practices, they need to be soft, not rigid, gentle not hard. In fact, to practise this way is to miss the point. This Way, is here to create space in your day and not fill it with must-dos and methods. In truth, there is nothing to be done for you already have it within you. In truth, there is no truth. Neither is their untruth. There simply IS. Creating space within our day serves to remind us that we only need to let go, to be.
To want to be one way rather than another might still be the play of the "ego". In the way that a wild deer is compelled into the forest for sanctuary, I am enticed into Silence.
And that alone is enough.