I just finished reading the Tao of Pooh and I enjoyed it very much. I know nothing of Taoism but through the book the basic principles were easily explained. Without acting like the ‘desiccated scholar’ and going point by point and referencing this and that I think I’d like to summarize the points I think I learned that most appeal to me.
I like the idea of just ‘being,’ to just appreciate the moment by seeing what is already in front of me. In this ‘modern society’ my brain has been trained to race to accomplish this task then accomplish that like a ‘Bisy Backson.’ My mind tells me I need to turn on the TV, look at my smart phone or find some other type of distraction. But if I just sit still and appreciate the moment I can hear the birds outside, I hear the bubbling of my fish tank and I can see the flowers in my garden swaying in the breeze. It is in these moments of quiet that I’m at peace. It is a very difficult thing to quiet the mind as thoughts calling me to go engage in some activity continually enter my mind and I physically have a hard time sitting still or meditating for more than five minutes.
I’ve only tipped a toe in the ocean that is Taoism through this beautiful book but I’ve found so many nuggets of great wisdom that I pulled out my highlighter and would like to write them down here for easy reference as I do not yet have the ability to immediately recall everything in every book that I’ve ever read as my mind is already forgetful at the ripe age of 38.
When you discard arrogance, complexity and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: Life is Fun.
I knew this; it occurred to me around the age of 34 when I’d been in the USA for a few years and finally time to think and reflect after traveling the world and all that I had experienced. Living overseas and learning different languages gave me a certain amount of confidence and through this confidence I no longer needed to compare myself with others. I had done something unique and for me that was worth more than material things that many in our society base their own self worth on – diamond rings – expensive cars anyone? My young son also influence me by his excitement of the world and how he found bugs simply fascinating. I too took a closer look at bugs and through this was able to rediscover how interesting my own backyard can be let alone the rest of the world! Along with my newfound confidence and the amazing insights of my son I was free to fully enjoy what other ‘adults’ might find silly as they are mostly concerned with Very Serious Subjects for Very Serious People; or sports, but sports can be serious to serious people.
Brain can be fooled. Inner Nature, when relied on, cannot be fooled. But many people do not look at it or listen to it, and consequently do not understand themselves very much. Having little understanding of themselves, they have little respect for themselves, and are therefore easily influenced by others.
The idea of listening to your heart, or inner nature, or that little voice – whatever you want to call it – really appeals to me. Our society is literally polluted with noise, propaganda, sales pitches, things that are trying to get you to think in a certain way. As I mentioned above I find it hard to meditate or even sit still for more than a few moments as I’ve been trained to be a task-doer and have to process or ignore a complete barrage of noise every single day. I have made it a priority to find quiet time everyday in which to empty my mind, think of nothing and try to actually listen to my inner nature; I want to give it a chance in between the shouting of my Brain that rudely interrupts with random thoughts.
Our Bisy Backson religions, sciences, and business ethics have tried their hardest to convince us that there is a Great Reward waiting for us somewhere, and that what we have to do is spend our lives working like lunatics to catch up with it. Whether it’s up in the sky, behind the next molecule, or in the executive suite, it’s somehow always farther along than we are – just down the road, on the other side of the world, past the moon, beyond the stars….
There is never enough, we always must do more. In our society we are trained to never be content with what we have, with who we are. If I had to describe the USA in 2016 in one word I would say “more.” Our entire system is based on spending more, acquiring more, doing more, progressing more. To just sit down and appreciate who we are, what we have does not compute in this society. And in the business world it is even worse. Every boss everywhere could simply be replaced with a parrot who continually repeats “more.” Best sales year ever? “More.” Highest profits ever recorded? “More.”
The main problem however is in our own minds. “The grasping mind,” always wants more, is never satisfied. Happy is he who can sit down on a park bench, feel the breeze and say to himself, “I am content.” Or better yet, “I am happy.” This is very hard thing when you have the trifecta of society, work and religion all telling you “more, more, more.”
Looking back a few years, we see that the first Bisy Backsons in this part of the world, the Puritans, practically worked themselves to death in the fields without getting much of anything in return for their tremendous efforts.
“Say, Pooh, why aren’t you busy?” I said.
“Because it’s a nice day,” said Pooh.
“Why ruin it?” he said.
“But you could be doing something Important,” I said.
“I am,” said Pooh.
“Oh? Doing what?”
“Listening,” he said.
“Listening to what?”
“To the birds. And that squirrel over there.”
“What are they saying?” I asked
“That it’s a nice day,” said Pooh
“But you know that already,” I said.
“Yes, but it’s always good to hear that somebody else things so, too,” he replied.”
Anyway, from the Miserable Puritan came the Restless Pioneer, and from him, the Lonely Cowboy, always riding off into the sunset, looking for something just down the trail. From this rootless, dissatisfied ancestry has come the Bisy Backson
It’s not surprising, therefore, that the Backson thinks of progress in terms of fighting and overcoming.
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? The fight against “____.” Insert just about anything in the blank and it has been used in American society the past forty years. I’ve written a lot about this in my blog and in fact got so tired of all the fighting wrote a nice little rant just a little while ago: Fight everything everywhere
Another reason this book really appeals to me is how it references Walden by Henry David Thoreau. That became one of my favorite books these past couple of years and strengthened my belief that I was not crazy for wanting to appreciate the moment, to slow down and just be, even though society keeps screaming ‘more, more more.’ I like to walk in my garden, appreciate sunsets, work less. I do not like to watch sports and shout at my TV giving instructions to players who cannot hear me. I would much rather listen to the singing of the birds and feel dew on the grass than sit in a great stadium with everybody screaming for their player to put the ball where it needs to go more than the other team whose fans are screaming the same thing.
Henry David Thoreau put it this way, in Walden:
Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry. Men say that a stitch in time saves nine, and so they take a thousand stitches to-day to save nine tomorrow.
What could we call that moment before we begin to eat the honey? Some would call it anticipation, but we think it’s more than that. We would call it awareness.
This occurred to me making Thanksgiving dinner; which takes all day to make but is eaten in the course of half an hour. It occurred to me that I actually enjoy making the food in preparation and anticipation of a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner than actually sitting down and eating it! Perhaps it could partly be due to the fact that we invite so many guests I end up having to sit at the kid’s table even though it is my house, my food and I cooked it! But that isn’t it; the anticipation of something is often more exciting than actually receiving or doing the thing.
Do you want to be really happy? You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you’ve got.
An Empty sort of mind is valuable for finding pearls and tails and things because it can see what’s in front of it. An Overstuffed mind is unable to.
To see the beauty of what is right in front of me: the flowers, the trees, the sunsets, my friends and family are all right there, I just need to be able to see clearly. In order to do that I must quiet Brain and get rid of the never-ending Thoughts telling me to do this, acquire that and see how beautiful life is for who I am and what I’ve already got.
But the adult is not the highest stage of development. The end of the cycle is that of the independent, clear-minded, all-seeing Child. That is the level known as wisdom.
I tried to explain this very thought to someone close to me many years ago; I did a terrible job and could not express the thought which is written perfectly above and thus was called crazy. For me, the quote means that we should return to the awe and excitement children have with just about everything. Life, reality and why anything exists at all is a grand mystery that we should all be excited to be a part of. We should want to ask infinite questions such as young children do and to pop out of bed running to go get the day started morning after morning.
Well, that is everything I had highlighted in the Tao of Pooh. I think I’ll go take a walk in my garden.