Taoism: Learning to Breathe
Colorful Warmth Vegetable Harmony
As discussed previously, these twenty-five days are about learning of new spiritualities, religions you might not know that well, and belief systems other than your own. Today’s is all about breathing and riding the wave of life, surfing the ebb and flow of experiences encountered so as to arrive at the destination of personal peace. Today we are embarking on the Tao journey.
Tao or Dao translates as “way” and it became for its followers and adherents in China a philosophical, ethical, and religious path. Like many words the word “Tao” has multiple meanings. Besides “way”, Tao translates as “path” or “principle” and became ingrained in much of the Chinese culture, regardless of whether it was considered Taoist or not. For its followers, however, Tao denotes that which is the source and the force behind all of existence.
A simple explanation of the Tao way involves one accepting one’s life. Next one is to follow one’s breath in order to find peace. Lastly, Tao advocates smiling which is seen as enabling possibilities. Existing for over twenty-five hundred years, Tao has various schools of thought. Most stress the important of wu-we, action through non-action, simplicity and spontaneity. If this seems like a yin-yang, it is. In fact, the familiar circle divided into two parts, one black and one white with a curve dividing them and a contrasting smaller in each half is a Tao symbol, the yin-yang. Also important are the Three Treasures of compassion, moderation, and humility.
Tao is but one of the Chinese folk religions that have existed in this ancient land. As diverse as its terrain, these religions stress not a need to believe but the importance of belonging. These religions have served to incorporate the people, their traditions, their history and their beliefs as a way of embracing the future. Even the government which disdains all religion has adopted a wu-we attitude of action through non-action towards these religions. That is not to say religious persecution has not occurred in China. It has. However, Chinese religion is much more than something to be worshipped one day a week. The Chinese live their beliefs in all that they do.
Regardless of which folk religion, Chinese religions all have four common elements that are spiritual, moral, and cosmological. The “Tian” or heaven is seen as the source of all morality. Qi is the breath or substance from which everything exists. Jingzu is the reverence paid to ancestors and the Bao Ying is moral judgment.
In an article entitle “The History of Tao”, Richard Seymour wrote: “Taoism emerged from a rich shamanic tradition that existed in China since the Ice Age. These shamans were healers and diviners, they had power over the elements, could travel to the sky, converse with animals and had knowledge of the use of plants.”
Lao Tzu’s great treatise: the Tao Te Ching meaning “The Classic of the Tao and the Virtue” is considered the first great writing of Tao. It is second only to the Bible in being the most published work on earth. Again quoting Seymour: “Chuang Tzu, a contemporary of Lao Tzu, is another great father of Taoism. His work, the Chuang Tzu, rich in storytelling and humor, is similar to the wisdom of Lao Tzu but differs in important ways. Whereas, for instance, Lao Tzu’s sage involves himself fully in the affairs of state, the sage of Chuang Tzu will have nothing to do with politics and will refuse all requests to take part. For Chuang Tzu, the maintenance of spiritual integrity required that the sage retreat from the corrupt and chaotic world.”
The Tao is a way of balance and recognition that with the light comes the dark and vice versa. It is an acceptance of living and the highs and lows. It is the recognition that all of life can be a lesson if we will embrace it and learn from it, smiling for the opportunities along our pathways.
The Taoism diet consists of 50 to 70 percent whole grains, 20 to 30 percent vegetables and 5 to 10 percent animal or bean products, according to Grand Master Mantak Chia, founder of Universal Healing Tao. It is strongly encouraged that one eats a vegetarian diet, although deference is given to the nutritional changes one needs during one’s life. For example, brown rice is not given to either babies or the elderly as it is considered that their Qi cannot properly digest the grain’s fiber.
This is a personal favorite. Quick and economical, it is easy to make when unexpected company arrives to brighten my day.
1 cup chicken broth
1 cups prepared rice (I prefer brown rice)
1 cup chopped frozen spinach
1 cup frozen peas and carrots
1 cup frozen squash
½ cup canned chick peas, drained
½ cup canned, drained diced beets (This you might have to omit depending upon your companions’ taste buds!)
Add herbs, salt and pepper to taste. (I like oregano, lavender, thyme, rosemary, sage, and basil.)
Heat the broth over a medium heat until it reaches a slow boil. Add the prepared rice, spinach, peace and carrots, and squash. Simmer for fifteen minutes. Add the beets and simmer for another five minutes. If you like, you can omit the rice and heat separately, serving the vegetable mixture over the rice. Either as a soup or entrée, it really is delicious and cheerful with all the colors of the earth!