Recently, we were asked about Taoism. Specifically, we were asked how it’s relevant to the philosophy of flow or the understanding of the TAO (the Way). The answer is: “very much”.
The TAO and Taoism originated in China over 2,500 years ago (Lao Tzu was its founder). However, these ideas are not confined to any particular time or location. They apply everywhere and anywhere. Therefore, TAOIST thought can beautifully supplement our current understanding of flow.
35 Lao Tzu Taoism Quotes – The Philosophy Of Flow Video
35 Lao Tzu Taoism Quotes – The Philosophy Of Flow
First off, let’s answer a basic question: what is Taoism?
Taoists believe that people often get too caught up in unnecessary details — meaning they stray from the simple truth and lose sight of their true selves and their natural connection to the world.
They believe that we should not be too preoccupied with how things happen but rather why they happen and what consequences occur as a result.
We live in an interconnected universe — everything that happens comes back into our lives somehow, even if it’s years from now. This includes both positive and negative events.
Because of this, Taoists suggest that we focus on creating more “positive” (i.e., beneficial) consequences by simply adjusting our approach to life — an idea known as Wu-Wei or ‘action through non-action. They also advise us (especially scholars and philosophers) to take a step back and realize how small we truly are within this largest context, Nature itself (the Tao).
This is very similar to the central idea behind flow: we must be in harmony with our current activity. We need to let go of goals and simply be (and do) what is.
The TAO (the Way) represents the underlying natural pattern that connects all things in the universe. It is also representative of pure potentiality — it’s like a reservoir of infinite possibilities. Taoists hold that if people are able to align themselves with the TAO, they will discover all kinds of wonderful things about themselves and their relationship with everything else around them (nature included).
According to Taoism, people become caught up in meaningless desires and self-imposed limitations as they move further away from nature. In other words, as they focus more on the “details” of life.
So in order to achieve flow, you need to adopt a Taoist mindset, follow the path of least resistance (the TAO), remain humble, practice Wu-Wei, and think about how small you are in comparison with everything else.
The Taoist approach is all about maintaining simplicity in your life. So when you find yourself struggling or trying too hard in any given situation, that’s actually your ego fighting against itself. The method employed by Taoists is not to fight back — instead, they simply observe their thoughts and then let them go.
This way, they can get out of this inner struggle and free themselves from these unnecessary thoughts, emotions, or desires. And once you do that, you’ll find yourself in a state of flow.
We share some Lao Tzu quotes that give insight into this wise man and his teachings.
1. “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
2. “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
3. “To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders.”
4. “He who knows, does not speak. He who speaks, does not know.”
5. “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”
6. “He who conquers others is strong; He who conquers himself is mighty.”
7. “When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everybody will respect you.”
8. “I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”
9. “Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.”
10. “He who does not trust enough, Will not be trusted.”
11. “Those who have knowledge, don’t predict. Those who predict, don’t have knowledge.”
12. “To lead people, walk behind them.”
13. “Great acts are made up of small deeds.”
14. “In dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present.”
15. “Treat those who are good with goodness, and also treat those who are not good with goodness. Thus goodness is attained. Be honest to those who are honest, and be also honest to those who are not honest. Thus honesty is attained.”
16. “At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.”
17. “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao; the name that can be named is not the eternal name. The Nameless is the origin of Heaven and Earth; the Named is the mother of all things.”
18. “A scholar who cherishes the love of comfort is not fit to be deemed a scholar.”
19. “From caring comes courage.”
20. “Be the chief but never the lord.”
21. “The power of intuitive understanding will protect you from harm until the end of your days.”
22. “The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world.”
23. “Man’s enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.”
24. “In the world there is nothing more submissive and weak than water. Yet for attacking that which is hard and strong nothing can surpass it.”
25. “To know yet to think that one does not know is best; Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty.”
26. “He who obtains has little. He who scatters has much.”
27. “Ambition has one heel nailed in well, though she stretch her fingers to touch the heavens.”
28. “All things in the world come from being. And being comes from non-being.”
29. “He who talks more is sooner exhausted.”
30. “Sincere words are not fine; fine words are not sincere.”
31. “People in their handlings of affairs often fail when they are about to succeed. If one remains as careful at the end as he was at the beginning, there will be no failure.”
32. “The people are hungry: It is because those in authority eat up too much in taxes.”
33. “He who knows himself is enlightened.”
34. “I do not concern myself with gods and spirits either good or evil nor do I serve any.”
35. “Man takes his law from the Earth; the Earth takes its law from Heaven; Heaven takes its law from the Tao. The law of the Tao is its being what it is.”
So to conclude, Taoism has very much to offer the modern world through philosophy and understanding. It’s free from religious dogma or requirements. Yet it is highly insightful for those who are willing to take their time exploring its ideas.
More importantly, it can help you achieve an even deeper sense of connection with your own self, others around you, and all of nature itself. When you’re living truly in harmony with everything else, then there is no barrier between yourself and flow.
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