Embodying the Tao

May I live as the river flows
Carried by the surprise of my own unfolding.
-John O’Donohue

Cultivating Resilience and Nourishment Through Taoist Principles

This summer we have been embodying the Tao in all of our practices. The Tao is best likened to water that is pliable, nourishing, and flows with ease. The Tao is said to overcome all things in the way that water ducks, turns and drifts around whatever it encounters. The outpouring of the great river of the Tao is generous as it sustains the land and nourishes the people. And more, it is humble for like any waterway, the Tao seeks a lower level: “thus the Tao is like a river flowing down the valley to the ocean”, says the Tao de Ching.

The Unfolding River of Life: Embodying the Tao’s Graceful Evolution

In our world today people are pre-occupied with upward mobility—building more, accumulating more, climbing the pyramid. But rivers don’t flow uphill. To follow the Tao is to follow gravity’s course– to lay low, to flow continuously, to be adaptable and willing to yield. Like the movement of water, the Tao is never linear, it never moves straight ahead. It meanders and wanders, sometimes swift, at other times but a trickle, sometimes standing still. Whatever context you find yourself in, trust the Tao and  be faithful to its course.
The Tao of your life is evolving right before your eyes. The word evolve in Latin means to “roll out” (e+volver, to tumble out, rotate). Should you attempt to control it, you block its stream. Stay in the river’s grace, trust life’s unfolding. Then you can be more fluid, more natural in your dealings. When the Chan master Yunmen was asked what is the Tao, he responded “proceed”, or “go on, keep flowing”. This is a good reminder to stay in the river of whatever is happening and not to judge right or wrong, good or bad. When you stay fluid in the river of time, you will nourish and be nourished by all things.
Alchemy + Aim