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Known as The Way
The first I recall hearing about Taoism is reading the book, The Tao of Pooh, by Benjamin Hoff in the early 90s. The book is described as “an introduction to the Eastern belief system of Taoism.” The Chapter by the same name as the book title goes on to describe the difference between Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.
Lao-Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching, based his teachings in the harmony with nature, the natural order of things and the laws of nature. What attracted me to Taoism is its simplicity. And A.A. Milne’s character, Pooh, is the epitome of simplicity. Pooh has the ability to go with the flow and be un-phased by catastrophe and drama unlike some of Milne’s other characters such as: Eyeore who frets, and Piglet who hesitates, and Rabbit calculates, and Owl pontificates; Pooh just IS. (Quoted from the back cover of the book, The Tao of Pooh.)
Lao-Tzu calls Tao, ‘The Way.’ Although he insists it can’t adequately be explained because words are too limiting, he believes that Nature can be understood and is inseparable from human beings.
Hoff goes on to describe the basic premise of Taoism as appreciating, learning from and working with whatever happens in everyday life. Having an attitude of acceptance and the ability to go with the flow; explaining that from this harmonious way of living one can achieve happiness.
Hoff tells Pooh that an important principle of Taoism is named after him (Pooh), called P’u, the Uncarved Block. He goes on to explain that ‘the essence of the principle of the Uncarved Block is that things in their original simplicity contain their own natural power, the power that is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is changed.’ Hoff says that this ‘principle applies not only to things in their natural beauty and function, but to people as well. Or Bears. Which brings us to Pooh, the very Epitome of the Uncarved Block.’
I see the simplicity in Pooh – the Uncarved Block – in that his primary motivations are food (honey) and friendship.
Having read all of A. A. Milne’s Pooh Bear books to my daughter when she was growing up, I really enjoyed a second look at Pooh from a different perspective while being introduced to a new spiritual philosophy.
Shortly after reading this book, I saw a news clip featuring mostly elderly Chinese and Japanese people doing Taoist Tai Chi in a park in Vancouver, British Columbia. There was such a beauty in seeing this group of people in perfect harmony as they performed their one-hundred-and-eight moves. I wanted to see more!! I actually found and joined the local Taoist Tai Chi group for about three years in the early 2000s. Having been away from it for several years, I miss it!!
“When you know and respect your own Inner Nature, you know where you belong. You also know where you don’t belong.”
Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh
For those who want to go deeper in studying Taoism, I highly recommend The Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu or The Tao Of Power: Lao Tzu’s Classic Guide To Leadership, Influence And Excellence by R. L. Wing
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