Monday, June 20, 2011

The Taoist Path

Taoism is a 5,000 year old tradition. It is not really a religion but more a way of life. It is based on living in harmony with the natural world and uncovering the connection we have with all things. True Taoism or Inner Taoism (tao jia) is focused on the internal spiritual unfolding of the individual as he/she comes to an understanding of the forces of balance (yin/yang) and energy (chi or ki) that govern all of creation.

At the core of Taoism is the Tao. The Tao is all encompassing. It is the energy of everything in existence. Despite the appearance of differences in the world, within the Tao everything is one. Since all is one, matters of true and false or good and evil are irrelevant and only arise when people cannot see beyond their narrow perception of reality. Taoism is a system of philosophical thought that puts emphasis on a deeper exploration of life instead of the shallow materialistic world.

Taoism is a holistic tradition that addresses all three parts - body, mind, spirit - of the whole individual. The physical practice of Taoism is concerned with breathing and movement exercises to circulate energy and maintain health. The mental practice of Taoism is meditative in nature and focuses on introspection into the nature of existence. The spiritual practice of Taoism seeks to understand and reveal the grand interconnection of the universe and merge with it through esoteric and mystical experiences.

The Taoist masters of old recognized that most people are only recreationally spiritual, meaning that they are not really interested in anything beyond surface spirituality. Life is too hectic and busy to spend time in contemplation of the Tao. They developed simple exercises of energy circulation to enable people to live healthy, peaceful and successful lives. The idea was that if people practiced these arts for their own gain long enough, they would eventually stumble upon a deeper realization of the Tao and their connection to it.  

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Living in the Matrix

All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force…
We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind.
This Mind is the matrix of all matter.
---Max Planck

Max Planck was the German physicist who was generally regarded as the inventor of quantum theory. He was the first person to coin the term “the Matrix.” The concept of the matrix was popularized in the movie The Matrix starring Keanu Reeves. In the movie the matrix was the sinister creation of the machines that turned on mankind and created a reality to keep humans ignorant of the fact that they were being harvested for their energy.

The reason this movie resonated deeply with so many people is that there seems to be some kind of conscious awareness in the back of the mind, (a hintegedanke?) of the basic precept - that most humans spend their waking lives hypnotized by their sensory world, which gives them the illusion of a material world, while in reality, they are merely living in a construct, a world of thought created to keep them ignorant of their own place in the universe. Disconnected from their real identity and their creative potential, they wander through life unaware of what they are missing.

Now, the idea of a reality created by machines to subjugate humankind is pure fiction, yet it has a strange ring of truth that comes very close to something basic, almost primordial, deep within us. In daily life it is not uncommon to encounter people who seem oblivious to the reality of what is going on around them. These folks, when faced with the many unknowns of life and questions about its purpose, gradually relinquish conscious control in order to have their basic sensory needs satisfied. They are so plugged into their matrix that they become accustomed to being told what to eat, what to think, what to believe, and how to act. They get caught up because they lack an awareness of how potentially powerful their own thoughts are and of their connection to the whole.

Unfortunately, when people are caught up in the matrix, their thoughts and concerns revolve around competition and mistrust in all of their encounters. Their political, economic, religious, and social agendas become battlegrounds for flexing their misguided individuality. These people often feel as if there is much that remains unknown, yet blindly accept superficial answers to philosophical or existential questions because to find out more might shake the ground they are standing on. Their reality is the only reality.

For many, fear becomes the great motivator. Attempting to overcome fear by facing it becomes a constant obsession. Paranoia and violence are the acceptable norms because it provides a feeling of aliveness. For these people greed, lies, mistrust and a lack of care are rewarded and power becomes the ultimate goal.

Most of us are not ready to be unplugged from the matrix of our own minds. We have become too comfortable. By staying mindlessly connected to this construct of the ego, we remain trapped in their matrix, a prisoner of fear.

It can seem a rather bleak picture, yet one we cannot ignore if we are to become aware of our place in the web of life and the fundamental truth of existence: we create our own reality.

wishing you much peace,
the wandering sage 
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