Art Therapy: TAOISM | The Art of Not Trying PT.1

Those who stand on tiptoes don’t stand firmly. Those who rush ahead don’t get very far. Those who try to outshine others dim their own light. Lao Tzu How can we improve when we stop trying to improve? Many people waste their efforts trying to better their lives with questionable results. They gain knowledge and chase external things while exhausting their bodies, and burdening their minds – only to end up in discontent. The Taoists observed that humans tend to act in ways that are counterproductive. And in their attempts to alter the natural way, they only make things worse. All these strivings, rules, ethics, values, surely are invented to benefit humanity. But according to the ancient Taoist sages, weImage from page 267 of "The dragon, image, and demon; or, … | Flickr should get rid of them all. Why? Because all these manmade ideas only remove us further from the natural flow of life. Trying to alter what nature has intended, is like swimming against the stream: it’s exhausting and gets us nowhere. This video is about not trying to change the world, to gain the world. Behind the ever-changing universe lies a mysterious and undefinable force that the Taoists call ‘Tao’, for the lack of a better word. The ‘Tao’ is all-encompassing, and it’s beyond everything that our senses can perceive. Still, we can know and feel the Tao, even though we cannot comprehend it. This symbolizes the tragic attempts by humans to conceptualize things that are beyond their understanding. They use names, categories, they select and discern, but fail to grasp what the universe is truly like. So, they create a deception; an artifice that makes life understandable for humans. But by trying to comprehend, they lose the Tao. “Five colors blind the eye. Five notes deafen the ear. Five flavors make the palate go stale,” wrote Lao Tzu in his work the Tao Te Ching. So, by arranging colors, notes, and flavors, we might enhance our understanding, but we also limit it, as there’s so much more outside of these fixed concepts. The same goes for the human tendency to make rock-solid rules for everything, to get a sense of control. Again, we limit ourselves by doing so because the world is ever-changing, and what works today, may not work tomorrow. Also, from a sense of solidarity and justice, people create immense bodies of ethics, moral codes, and rituals, that form an artificial way of life. Even though the intentions are good: they try to make things work while building their own prisons. Now, let’s talk about the word ‘trying’. I think most of us are familiar with the idea that we should simply ‘act’ and not ‘try’. This idea is closely related to the ‘flow-state’. In a flow-state one becomes the act, like a dancer who becomes the dance, or the poet who becomes the poem. This is wu wei, a concept that can be literally translated as ‘non-doing’ or ‘doing nothing’. In the context of the flow state, wu wei translates best as ‘effortless action’, because we act in a smooth and painless manner. In the context of this video, however, translating wu wei as ‘non-doing’ or ‘doing nothing’ fits best. Literally ‘doing nothing’ is often seen as unproductive, and as a useless way of being, in which there’s no progression. But according to the Taoists, nothing is further from the truth. When we keep in mind that the universe is in flux and in a state of entropy, we’ll realize that there’s always progression in the natural flow of life. So instead of using force, and exhausting ourselves (which is the favorite method of today’s culture), we could travel through life much more easily by using intelligence. Because isn’t it so, that so many times, problems seem to solve themselves? And that by ‘taking action’ we often make things worse?

 

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