Within each of us there is an Owl, a Rabbit, an Eeyore and a Pooh. For too long, we have chosen the way of Owl and Rabbit. Now, like Eeyore, we complain about the results. But that accomplishes nothing, If we are smart, we will choose the way of Pooh. As if from far away, it calls to us with the voice of a child's mind. It may be hard to hear at times, but it is important just the same, because without it, we will never find our way through the Forest.
[...] 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.
It starts when we are children, helpless but aware of things, enjoying what is around us. Then we reach adolescence, still helpless but trying to at least appear independent. When we outgrow that stage, we become adults — self-sufficient individuals able and mature enough to help others as we have learned to help ourselves.
Many people are afraid of Emptiness, however, because It reminds them of Loneliness. Everything has to be filled in, it seems appointment books, hillsides, vacant lots but when all the spaces are filled, the Loneliness really begins.
Knowledge and Cleverness tend to concern themselves with the wrong sorts of things, and a mind confused by Knowledge, Cleverness and Abstract Ideas tends to go chasing off after things that don't matter, or that don't even exist, instead of seeing, appreciating and making use of what is right in front of it.
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. While the Clear mind listens to a bird singing, the Stuffed-Full-of-Knowledge-and-Cleverness mind wonders what kind of bird is singing. The more Stuffed Up it is, the less it can hear through its own ears and see through its own eyes.
Consciousness returned to the palace and asked the Yellow Emperor, who told him, "To have no thought and put forth no effort is the first step towards understanding the Tao. To go no where and do nothing is the first step towards finding peace in the Tao. To start from no point and follow no road is the first step towards reaching the Tao."
The more it snows, the more it goes, the more it goes on snowing.
Chuang-tse described it this way:
It is widely recognized that the courageous spirit of a single man can inspire to victory an army of thousands. If one concerned with ordinary gain can create such an effect, how much more will be produced by one who cares for greater things!
As Lao-tse wrote, "A tree as big around as you can reach starts with a small seed; a thousand-mile journey starts with one step." Wisdom, Happiness and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they're part of a continuous cycle that begins right here.
It's sometimes referred to as the Snowball Effect, which can remind you of the time you pushed that little ball of snow along, and it got bigger and bigger until it got so big you couldn't stop it, and it rolled all the way down the hill and flattened the neighbour's car, and soon everyone was talking about the Huge Snowball that you let get completely out of control ...and that may be why we prefer to think of it as the Tiddely-Pom Principle, instead.
Tz'u, which can be translated as "caring" or compassion" and which is based upon the character for heart. In the sixty-seventh chapter of the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tse named it as his "first treasure", and then wrote, "From caring comes courage." We might add that from it also comes wisdom.
As Pooh found out with the North Pole, once we see what the situation is and what we can do about it, we need to utilize everything we find along the way in order to accomplish whatever is required. More often than not, the things we need are there already; all we have to do is make use of them.
The play-it-safe pessimists of the world never accomplish much of anything, because they don't look; clearly and objectively at situations, they don't recognize or believe in their own abilities, and they won't stretch those abilities to overcome even the smallest amount of risk.
When we do that, and stop imitating others and competing against them, things begin to work for us.
We don't need to shift our responsibilities on to the shoulders of some deified Spiritual Superman, or sit around and wait for Fate to come knocking at the door. We simply need to believe in the power that's within us, and use it.
In order to take control of our lives and accomplish something of lasting value, sooner or later we need to learn to Believe.
When we take the time to enjoy our surroundings and appreciate being alive, we find that we have no time to be Bisy Backsons anymore. But that's all right, because being Bisy Backsons is a tremendous waste of time. As the poet Lu Yu wrote:
The clouds above us join and separate,
The breeze in the courtyard leaves and returns.
Life is like that, so why not relax?
Who can stop us from celebrating?
Enjoyment of the process is the secret that erases the myths of the Great Reward and Saving Time.
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 today to save nine tomorrow.
The main problem with this great obsession for Saving Time is very simple: you can't save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly.
Practically speaking, if time-saving devices really saved time, there would be more time available to us now than ever before in history. But, strangely enough, we seem to have less time than even a few years ago. It's really great fun to go somewhere where there are no time-saving devices because, when you do, you find that you have lots of time.
[...] like parents of hyperactive children, the wise find that they can't be everywhere at once. Babysitting the Backsons wears you out.
"I say, Pooh, why aren't you busy?" I said.
"Because it's a nice day," said Pooh.
"Yes, but —"
"Why ruin it?" he said.
"But you could be doing something Important," 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?" 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 thinks so, too," he replied.
"Well, you could be spending your time getting Educated by listening to the Radio, instead," I said.
"Certainly. How else will you know what's going on in the world?" I said.
"By going outside," said Pooh.
"Er ... well ..." (Click.) "Now just listen to this, Pooh."
"Thirty thousand people were killed today when five jumbo airliners collided over downtown Los Angeles ..." the Radio announced.
"What does that tell you about the world?" asked Pooh.
"Hmm. You're right." (Click.) "What are the birds saying now?" I asked.
"That it's a nice day," said Pooh.
It certainly is, even if the Backsons are too busy to enjoy it.
The Wu Wei approach to conflict-solving can be seen in the practice of the Taoist martial art T'ai Chi Ch'ian, the basic idea of which is to wear the opponent out either by sending his energy back at him or by deflecting it away, in order to weaken his power, balance and position-for-defence. Never is force opposed with force; instead, it is overcome with yielding.
One of the most convenient things about this Sensitivity to Circumstances is that you don't have to make so many difficult decisions. Instead, you can let them make themselves.
Using Wu Wei, you go by circumstances and listen to your own intuition. "This isn't the best time to do this. I'd better go that way." Like that. When you do that sort of thing, people may say you have a Sixth Sense or something. All it really is, though, is being Sensitive to Circumstances. That's just natural. It's only strange when you don't listen.
In the words of Chuang-tse, the mind of Wu Wei "flows like water, reflects like a mirror, and responds like an echo".
If you're in tune with The Way Things Work, then they work the way they need to, no matter what you may think about it at the time. Later on, you can look back and say, "Oh, now I understand. That had to happen so that those could happen, and those had to happen in order for this to happen…” Then you realize that even if you'd tried to make it all turn out perfectly, you couldn't have done better, and if you'd really tried, you would have made a mess of the whole thing.
Things just happen in the right way, at the right time. At least they do when you let them, when you work with circumstances instead of saying, "This isn't supposed to be happening this way," and trying hard to make it happen some other way.
You don't have to try very hard to make them work out; you just let them.
It drives down the street in a fast-moving car and thinks it's at the store, going over a grocery list. Then it wonders why accidents occur.
It goes here and there, backwards and forwards, and fails to concentrate on what it's doing at the moment.
[...] down through the centuries, man has developed a mind that separates him from the world of reality, the world of natural laws. This mind tries too hard, wears itself out and ends up weak and sloppy. Such a mind, even if of high intelligence, is inefficient.
[...] when you try too hard, it doesn't work. Try grabbing something quickly and precisely with a tensed-up arm; then relax and try it again.
“Tao does not do, but nothing is not done.”
"Nothing special," the old man replied. "I began to learn while very young, and grew up practising it. Now I am certain of success. I go down with the water and come up with the water. I follow it and forget myself. I survive because I don't struggle against the water's superior power. That's all."
The efficiency of Wu Wei is like that of water flowing over and around the rocks in its path — not the mechanical, straight-line approach that usually ends up short-circuiting natural laws, but one that evolves from an inner sensitivity to the natural rhythm of things.
For it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, "There is no hurry. We shall get there some day."
Along the way to usefulness and happiness, many of those things will change themselves, and the others can be worked on as we go.
There are things about ourselves that we need to get rid of; there are things we need to change. But at the same time, we do not need to be too desperate, too ruthless, too combative.
[...] quite often, the easiest way to get rid of a Minus is to change it into a Plus.
[...] the bad can be raw material for the good.
[...] rather than work against ourselves, all we need to do in many cases is to point our weaknesses or unpleasant tendencies in a different direction than we have been.
Sooner or later, we are bound to discover some things about ourselves that we don't like. But once we see they're there, we can decide what we want to do with them.
The Way of Self-Reliance starts with recognizing who we are, what we've got to work with and what works best for us.
Unlike other forms of life, though, people are easily led away from what's right for them, because people have Brain, and Brain can be fooled.
Once you face and understand your limitations, you can work with them, instead of having them work against you and get in your way, which is what they do when you ignore them, whether you realize it or not. And then you will find that, in many cases, limitations can be your strengths.
That's the trouble with Tiggers, you know: they can do everything. Very unhealthy.
A saying from the area of Chinese medicine would be appropriate to mention here: "One disease, long life; no disease, short life." In other words, those who know what's wrong with them and take care of themselves accordingly will tend to live a lot longer than those who consider themselves perfectly healthy and neglect their weaknesses.
That doesn't mean that we need to stop changing and improving. It just means that we need to recognize What's There. If you face the fact that you have weak muscles, say, then you can do the right things and eventually become strong. But if you ignore What's There and try to lift someone's car out of a ditch, what sort of condition will you be in after a while? And even if you have more muscle than anyone alive, you still can't push over a freight train. The wise know their limitations; the foolish do not.
“A fish can't whistle and neither can I." Coming from a wise mind, such a statement would mean, "I have certain limitations, and I know what they are." Such a mind would act accordingly. There's nothing wrong with not being able to whistle, especially if you're a fish. But there can be lots of things wrong with blindly trying to do what you aren't designed for.
When you know and respect your own Inner Nature, you know where you belong. You also know where you don't belong. One man's food is often another man's poison, and what is glamorous and exciting to some can be a dangerous trap to others.
[...] everything has its own place and function. That applies to people, although many don't seem to realize it, stuck as they are in the wrong job, the wrong marriage or the wrong house.
It is useless to you only because you want to make it into something else and do not use it in its proper way.
"A fly can't bird, but a bird can fly." Very simple. It's obvious, isn' it? And yet, you'd be surprised how many people violate this simple principle every day of their lives and try to fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that Things Are As They Are.
[...] scholars can be very useful and necessary, in their own dull and unamusing way. They provide a lot of information. It's just that there is Something More, and that Something More is what life is really all about.
To the Desiccated Scholars, putting names on things is the most vital activity in the world. Tree. Flower. Dog. But don't ask them to prune the tree, plant the flower or take care of the dog, unless you enjoy Unpleasant Surprises.
[...] from the scholarly point of view, it's practically a crime not to know everything.
[...] one sometimes gets the impression that those intimidating words are there to keep us from understanding. That way, the scholars can appear Superior, and will not likely be suspected of Not Knowing Something.
From the state of the Uncarved Block comes the ability to enjoy the simple and the quiet, the natural and the plain. Along with that comes the ability to do things spontaneously and have them work, odd as that may appear to others at times.
Piglet thought that they ought to have a Reason for going to see everybody, like Looking for Small or Organizing an Expotition, if Pooh could think of something.
"We'll go because it's Thursday," he said, "and we'll go to wish everybody a Very Happy Thursday. Come on, Piglet."
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.
"Rabbit's clever," said Pooh thoughtfully.
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit's clever."
"And he has Brain."
"Yes," said Piglet, "Rabbit has Brain."
There was a long silence.
"I suppose," said Pooh, "that that's why he never understands anything."
[...] if it were Cleverness that counted most, Rabbit would be Number One, instead of that Bear.
As any old Taoist walking out of the woods can tell you, simple-minded does not necessarily mean stupid. It's rather significant that the Taoist ideal is that of the still, calm, reflecting "mirror-mind" of the Uncarved Block, [...]
[...] no matter how he may seem to others, especially to those fooled by appearances, Pooh, the Uncarved Block, is able to accomplish what he does because he is simple-minded.