As I sit here with the wind rolling past my mountainside home, warm sun slowly reanimating the dormant insects and reptiles, first stirrings of cars in the distance; I am reminded of the pure and natural expression of the spiritual mind that can be found in the works of the Chinese sages of old.
Simply put, the Tao is an unspeakable experience. It cannot be worded, nor categorized, nor classed. We may say for purposes of convenience that it refers to the one to whom every “that” belongs; that it is energy, transformation, change, but also none of these, as these can be seen as merely features of it. The experience of such a thing is perhaps rare, perhaps common, for who can genuinely say he has found an unspeakable non-object?
I walked in a paradisiacal meadow on Saturday morning, footfalls lightly touching the leafy earth, chest warming from rising sun, and examined in minute detail the particulars of the vast natural environment I found myself in. All around fine fibres of airborne pollens and cast-offs of plants formed illuminated patterns like oil on water, the infinitesimally small creatures of the undergrowth ran geometries over grass stalks and under logs, the flowers raised their delicate symmetries to catch the elixir of life streaming from the heavens.
I scaled a log over a small creek, gently bubbling, and strolled casually through soft grass, coming to rest my eyes on the activity of a native bee flitting and darting around a spiny green growth of some sort. It moved itself in a variety of forms, little dances of evolutionary import, showing me itself from every angle before finally turning to face me for a moment, hovering in mid air as still as an artificial point before darting off into the morning.
These recollections are but mouldering butterflies on the shelf of my present consciousness. They hold no life any longer, only mechanical replays of their once subtle and spectacular realness. In this way, we can come to see that no matter how beautiful the descriptor, it is not the Tao. The Tao is alive, breathing, pulsing, changing; it is always here and now, not in memories of a holy here and now that happened last week.
In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu, “the Old Boy”, tells us that the Tao is like water, for it seeks the lowest level of things, which men abhor. If one spends enough time around waterways (and I mean natural waterways, not the mathematically precise grids built to trap the decaying memories of the cities and suburbs), one will come to the unavoidable realization that water is modelling a perfect way of being in the cosmos. It never tries. It never exerts itself or forces itself without due cause. Simply put, water uses the gravity already present in its environment to trailblaze across its opposite, its other, being of course dry land.
It is a form of Judo, using the opponents strength against him at opportune and critical intervals. But of course we must take care not to see nature as a battle, not in any serious sense. Where we find violence, eating, killing and conflict in nature, we may put aside our egoic and rationalized conceptions of it, based on our own mad warring natures, and simply see it instead as a dance wherein neither party exists separately from the other, where both are merely energies exchanging routines in a fantastic form of play, way out on the far end of the spectrum of vibration we call pain.
So, water, using this judo, overcomes the hard. By being soft, formless in and of itself, empty of hard and static self nature, it is at home anywhere. And we may see ourselves as a form of water too, if only we recognize our kinship with this aspect of the one great and eternal Self that we grow out of like fruit from a tree. Like water, we may yield instead of bracing. Like water, we may flow instead of stopping. And like water, eventually, if the heat is too much, we may evaporate into skies, throw off our gross forms and become a misty delight being blown on the winds across the cosmos.