Privileging being over appearance, listening to one’s deep nature, tuning in to the universe… Lao Tseu’s teaching has never been so modern. A few simple principles to live peacefully.
Tao… three letters to say the central axis of the universe, “from where everything starts and where everything comes back”. Three letters for an oriental philosophy that suits our time. Some of us may practice it without knowing it, because this ancestral doctrine gives keys to living in energy, prosperity and authenticity. Less known than Buddhism, often confused with Zen, the Tao tells us “what works” to promote life. “It blunts what slices, disentangles the knots, discerns in the light, assembles what, dust, disperses”, wrote its founder Lao Tseu. Sinologist Cyrille Javary is more direct: “Tao means ‘way’, but it could almost be translated as ‘thing’, he explains. With him, the Chinese invented smiling pragmatism. Here are eight principles of the Tao. To use without moderation.
Search the essence, flee the appearance
“He who does not lose his root can last”, Lao Tzu
The Taoists sought the true nature of things, an approach that invites us to go beyond appearances. Thus, in the middle of November, the Chinese are already seeing spring. They know that the earth must be turned over to prepare for future flowering. The tao privileges being over appearing. “A Taoist today seeks simplicity in everything. To convoluted furniture, he prefers the beauty of raw wood, explains Gérard Edde, author of path of the tao (The round table). To synthetic garments, the purity of cotton. »
Tao life lessons If this spiritual path is attracting more and more people in the West, it is no doubt because it responds with simplicity and modernity to our existential aspirations (…).
To know that one is connected to the world and that the rhythms of the world are in oneself…
“Great is the sky, great is the Earth, great is the being” “Tao Te King”, 25
The tao offers the vision of a holistic world, because it starts from the existence of a common flow of energy, the “ch’i”, which bathes the sun, the planets as well as each human being. “Any man, because he knows he is interacting with all living things, therefore feels he belongs in the universe,” explains Galya Ortega, specialist in Taoist massage. This awareness of ch’i is the basis of many techniques that are very popular today: feng shui, which seeks to harmonize the ch’i of a home with the energy of the people who live there, or acupuncture, which works on the energy points of the body in order to tune the “inner climate” of each individual with the coming season, and thus prevent illnesses.
In everything, recognize the dance of yin and yang
“Yin is what wants to become yang, and yang, what wants to become yin”, Cyrille Javary
To live the tao is to be aware of these two contrary energies, born from the primordial void and which constantly take turns: yang – which corresponds to hardness, masculinity, action, being, light – succeeds with yin, which embodies the feminine, gentleness, passivity, darkness, non-being, night. In any situation, one of these forces will succeed the other. Also, to find harmony, we will constantly seek the point of balance between the two. In the kitchen, we will develop menus that combine yin foods (sugar, fruits, green vegetables, etc.) and yang (meat, eggs, seafood, etc.). In daily life, we will alternate times of rest (yin) and action (yang), return to oneself (yin) and exteriorization (yang). “And the tao reminds us that withdrawing, a very yin attitude, can also be a powerful strategy, because it is what restores yang energy,” says Cyrille Javary. Sometimes, therefore, going backwards is progressing.
Match the cycles
“The four seasons continually change and transform into each other. This is how they can accomplish the duration of time” “Yi Ching”, hexagram 32
All living things are subject to cycles of destruction and regeneration. Events do not escape this law of mutation: each adventure in life has its own periods of action and immobilization. American therapist Diane Dreher, author of The Tao of Womanhood (Quill, New York) affirms that “wisdom is knowing how to recognize the end of a cycle, not fighting against the inevitable and knowing when to move on”. During the day, for example, at what time do we feel at the top of our energy? When does it decline? According to Diane Dreher, we are plunged into confusion when we have neglected to identify at what point in our cycle is this or that affective relationship or professional situation that is causing us problems. The tao can then be comforting since it whispers in our ear: “There is only one thing that does not change, and that is that everything changes all the time. »
“In the rain, see the sun shining. In the flames, drink from the cool spring”, Anonymous
For us Cartesians, who think in terms of good or bad, black or white, the tao allows us to untie the Cornelian conflicts that imprison us. “The one always divides into two”: any situation will untie at some point into a yin situation and a yang situation, nothing in life is unambiguous. The tao therefore suggests that we practice double vision. William Martin, author of a Taoist breviary for the use of parents today (Parents’s Tao Te Ching – Marlowe and Company, New York), invites us to take into account this dialectic of antagonisms in the education of a child: “If you want your children to be generous, you must first allow them to be selfish. If you want them to be disciplined, you have to let them be spontaneous first. […] A quality cannot be fully learned without the full understanding of its opposite. »
sit and forget
“The sage rejects all influence and remains centered” “Tao Te Ching”, 12
One of the most creative Taoist writers, Doctor Barefoot, defines himself as a “spiritual warrior” (Urban warrior, spiritual survival manual – I read). Individualist, he despises politics because he knows that inner work takes precedence over everything and that to act in accordance with the Tao, one must first listen to one’s deep nature. “Never forget: everything you see on television, everything you read on the Net, in the press or in books, everything you hear on the radio, everything (including my guide) is the thought of another. For him, as for the hermits of the 6th century BC, wisdom comes from inner intuition. There is only one way to contact it: enter into inner silence and meditate. “It’s the ‘way of the water’, explains Gérard Edde. We do not meditate to gain more wisdom or serenity but, on the contrary, we sit down to lose something every day: an erroneous idea, a bad behavior, a conflicting emotion… and thus rejoin the primordial unity. »
Live the sexual act as a powerful energy exchange
“During love, the man takes the yin he lacks and the woman, the yang she needs”, Gérard Edde
Today, the “sexual tao” appears as an invitation to perpetual ecstasy. In reality, if the hermits of the 6th century BC developed these sophisticated techniques of sexual union – which they practiced with prostitutes and according to a very precise timetable – it was above all to purify their vital energy. There is therefore nothing romantic about this practice which, like qi gong or meditation, has the essential aim of promoting union with the tao: “The mastery and rigor necessary for lovers were linked to their lack of amorous passion”, analyzes Gérard Edde. The sexual act is experienced as a powerful moment of energy exchange, having as such repercussions on all of life: “When your sexual energy circulates freely throughout the body (and not only in the genitals), you feel higher spiritually and more connected to your impulses,” says Doctor Barefoot.
Learn to “feed life”
“Men of old breathed deeply down to their heels”, Chuang Tseu
The early Taoists, who claimed their desire to attain immortality, developed hundreds of techniques for internal regeneration. These millennial practices have not budged an inch. Living in the tao, in our time, still comes down to becoming aware of the vital energy that is in oneself and to making it bear fruit thanks to these refined techniques: tai-chi, qi gong (the “health gymnastics”), massages Taoists, preventive Chinese medicine, acupuncture, energy breathing, etc. Today, there are plenty of courses for getting started. But let’s not forget the essential challenge on which they were designed: everyone must know how to regenerate themselves, and thus become more and more autonomous. To each his own tao, therefore.
Taoism is a philosophical movement born in southern China in the 6th century BC. The doctrine of Confucius then had the monopoly in matters of thought. Concerning both morals and politics, this established order of the “right-thinking” was questioned by Lao Tseu (Old Long Ear). A former adviser to the royal court, he refused to support the imperial power any longer, which he considered decadent, left society and embarked on a journey during which he wrote the “Tao Te King” (“The Book of the Way and of virtue”). This founding text unfolding the key precepts of Taoist philosophy is a collection of maxims, aphorisms and sayings, divided into eighty-one chapters. The other two fathers of Taoism are Tchouang Tseu and Lie Yukou.
Testimonial: “Thanks to the Tao, I never feel discouraged”
Pascale, 49 years old
“It was in a course of Chinese medicine that I heard about the tao for the first time. I dove into this philosophy of life with relief and pleasure. Raised in a Swiss Catholic boarding school, I lived in guilt. The tao taught me the sense of responsibility. I know thanks to him that everything (beings, situations, places, etc.) is subject to permanent change.
For example, if I have a problem, I never forget that “least unpleasant” always follows “unpleasant”. Also, I rarely get discouraged. And it also goes the other way: a happy situation does not last either. The tao also taught me the strength of “non-action”. There are times when I retract. It’s better for me not to move.
Before, I was impatient. Today, I am waiting for the cycle to be completed. Finally, I discovered what deeply revitalizes me and at all levels of my being: nature. Every morning, I go to my garden and thus, I feel connected to the universe. I don’t need more than that. »