Lao Tzu - or Laozi - was a Philosopher reputed to have written the Tao Te Ching (pronounced Dow-de-jing).
Was he a real dude with excellently pointy side-wisps to his silvery moustache, or a mythical dude with excellently pointy side-wisps to his silvery moustache?
It’s not really clear.
So, read the myth, and you can make your own mind up.
Big L – as we like to call him at So We Flow – rolled as a Record Keeper in the Central Court of the Chinese Zhou dynasty. Frustrated with corruption, he left on a water buffalo for a new and better life. So we’re told, water buffalos were the dope rides of the day, think Mercedes or Maserati with hair.
At the Western edge of the Chinese Empire, the Border Official recognised Big L and asked him to write down his wisdom before he split. What Big L wrote became the Tao Te Ching - the central book of Taoism.
Big L then vanished from the annals of history to his desired life of solitude. Presumably, Big L and the water buffalo lived the rest of their days out in perfect tune with the universe. The big chill. And good on ‘em.
So – nailed on, or #fakenews? Waddya reckon?
Either way, the Tao Te Ching stands the test of time as an insightful set of poems, observations and meditations on how to live a harmonious life. They’re kind of vague and open to interpretation, but that means you can put your own spin on them.
Here’s our twist on the Tao.
‘When I let go of who I am, I become what I might be.’Seriously fellas, how many times do we have to hear this before we get with the script? There’s a whole new world in there, and all we need to do is forget everything we’ve been told. Believe.
‘Empty yourself of everything, let your mind become still.’ Easier said than done, but let’s start with the little things. Turn off the soapbox and read instead. You’ll find more mental clarity when your brain’s not jammed with #fakenews and speculation about celebrity breakups. Argh yes, that’s much better.
‘To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.’ You have everything you need. We know this because you’re the latest model of nature’s best expression, and you’ve expertly evolved over millions of years to be right here, right now, as you are. Why do you think that anything you can think up is going to top that? Everything is perfect.
‘Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.’Absolutely…what…he…said! Drop what you feel you need to control, because you don’t need to control it. Things will find their way in the natural order of things. ‘The best people are like water.’
‘Strong winds do not last all morning, hard rain does not last all day’ and ‘What the Way is to the world, the stream is to the river and the sea.’Much of the Tao Te Ching teaches us to observe and take wisdom from the natural world. ‘The world is a sacred vessel that can not be changed. He who changes it will destroy it. He who seizes it will lose it.’Cue climate disaster! Hold on tight, brethren.
‘Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.’ Earth was once a ball of molten rock in a vacuum, but it got there in the end, right? Just like your slowly fermenting projects, with consistent effort, they’ll get there. Don’t rush it.
‘A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work his done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.’ Show the way, but it’s not a power trip and you don’t have all the answers. Empower others for the best results.
‘A good traveller has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.’ The real juice is squeezed from the process. Love and learn in every moment and always be ready to have all that you know smashed like an avocado at a trendy café. ‘A soy latte please, Farquah!’
‘Truthful words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not truthful. Good words are not persuasive; persuasive words are not good.’It will come out in the end, and aren’t we’re all seeking truth? So, for the avoidance of time wastage, let’s just cut to the crux.
‘At the centre of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.’Don’t think about it, feel about it. Our minds get peppered by confusing soundbytes from psychopaths and egomaniacs. You know what’s right in your stomach and in your heart, so do that.
‘By letting go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try, the world is beyond winning.’Kansas sing, ‘All We Are Is Dust In The Wind’ and like sands in the hourglass of time, so are our lives. Don’t resist.
‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.’ This helps with that seed of motivation to go to the gym when what you really want to do is watch a super hero movie in bed with a bagel. But once you get there, you’ll be surprised at how much you lift, and little by little those glutes and triceps keep getting firmer. Lao Tzu also wrote, ‘Time is a created thing. To say you don’t have the time is to say you don’t want to.’
Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching serves as a great reminder of stillness, openness and inner-discovery in a world that can be so distracting. Of course, there’s a time for fast action too, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Chill out, Derek.
The universe has got this.
Thank you for reading, brothers. Now trust your inner wisdom, get yourself a water buffalo, and head for the border.
Where did the world come from? Why did God make the universe? Where do people go when they die? What’s the best way to live?
Like deep conversations you have with your bezzies - looking up at the stars with a cold one - we’re nailing all the biggies here at So We Flow. Over 12 months we’re sharing 12 distinct philosophies for men. From Socrates to Chomsky and from Patanjali to Adyashanti, we delve into play, courage, non-duality, hope and more. Together, we’ll make total sense of this cosmic soup.
So stay present and stay tuned to the possibilities, brothers of the Flow.
For more from the So We Flow ‘Move Through Wisdom’ Philosophy Series, check out
So We Flow Journal – Find Courage With Osho
So We Flow Journal – Lift Your Spirit With Alan Watts
So We Flow Journal – Know Thyself With Socrates
So We Flow Journal – Reasons To Hope With A.C. Grayling
So We Flow Journal – Rule Your Happiness with Marcus Aurelius
Other Interesting Bits on Taoism:
Top 10 Books on Taoism by Mind Body Spirit Magazine
Compare Translations of the Tao Te Ching
Lao Tzu: The Father of Chinese Philosophy by GB Times
Philosophy of Taoism by Highbrow
EASTERN PHILOSOPHY – Lao Tzu by The School Of Life
20 Inspirational Quotes from Lao Tzu by Habits for Wellbeing
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