When Adya suggested “The Way of the Tao” as the theme for this quarterly newsletter, I sat with what I’ve read or been told of the Tao. I also sat with my direct sense of the Tao, known instinctively, intuitively, and in lived experience.
Although the true Tao is beyond words and definitions, I put to pen this summation of my recent reflections: The Tao is the living spirit of the Void, the potent Womb of Emptiness that births a creation, imbued with organic intelligence. This intelligence is ever-reshaping and changing creation in response to its conditions. Yet this intelligence is paradoxically constant in Its dependence upon the forms of the natural world that give Emptiness living consciousness and expression. It is the Stillness that moves all things and that enfolds the return of each to their Source.
When I consider how Taoism can inform our practice, I recognize an invitation to shift away from efforts to establish order, harmony, and peace primarily with the thinking mind. I recognize an invitation to attune to the natural order, inherent in this very moment. To a mind overly preoccupied with defense against chaos, initially this departure from referencing thought can be disconcerting. However, as the mind is directed to attune to the organic rhythms of life successfully managing itself, thoughts can find their place—their notes in the larger orchestra of this moment.
The breath is often a rhythm for the mind to attune to, for its sustaining notes of in-tide and out recall attention to the organic rhythms and intelligence of the natural order. The intelligence born of the Tao that lives in each of us recognizes itself in this natural order, an order that gradually returns harmony to the thinking mind, enfolding it and refreshing it in the ever-new moment.
The sound and movement of each breath, as well as sights, smells, sounds, and vibrations in the environment express the natural order inherent in this very moment. And each of these harmonize with the drone note, or the sustained chord, of Emptiness—expressing as underlying and all-pervading silence and stillness.
In meditation and contemplation, one can attune not only to the natural order of what appears to the senses but also to the “pause notes” and “chord of silent Stillness.” This is all possible when one’s mind eases into a receptive state, such that the song of the moment in its entirety flows into one’s awareness and one’s awareness merges into the moment.
A person’s mind, and a person in general, can develop an appetite for attunement to natural order and to inherent stillness. Thus, many are drawn to time in nature and some to time contemplating an inquiry such as “What is stillness?” or “What is stillness?” or “Stillness is what?”. In meditation, one’s attunement to the pause between sounds or to the pervading silence may result in one’s consciousness merging with Stillness or with the dark velvety empty expression of Void (perhaps most familiarly encountered as one’s consciousness enters sleep). It is in these times of communion that one’s consciousness can come into accordance with the Tao and know the perfume of Its intelligence guiding the course of life.
What a tremendous invitation! Such an invitation is ever available to restore what is out of sync . . . and indeed all notions of ourselves, to the enfolding wisdom of the unfathomable, natural order.