I cannot ever remember having read a book whose every page resonates with my own personal philosophy towards life. I think I just found that book.
Back in December, a sweet and dear friend of mine sent me a box of books. I plan on reading all of these books through the course of this year, and I chose my first one of the bunch to read:
Relax, you're already home: Everyday Taoist Habits for a Richer Life
By Raymond Barnett, Ph. D.
I am well aware that this book is neither the first nor the last one written about Taoism, but overall, I believe that it is a worthwhile read. Raymond Barnett's plainspoken writing style lends a great deal of accessibility to the content. It's not a didactic profile of an ancient Chinese religion in any way, but more of an experiential description of the primary precepts behind Taoism. By relating his own personal experiences and daily practices as someone who has (both academically and spiritually) delved deep into this tradition, the reader receives a very clear and thoughtful presentation of what it means to live a Taoist life.
While just about everything in this book resonated with me on different levels, I was particularly delighted with these three Taoist cornerstones:
1. CONNECT WITH THE NATURAL WORLD
I have to say that I have always felt more spiritual and connected to God when I have been alone and out in nature than I have ever been at a church or religious gathering. I could be sitting on a park bench or at the shore of a lake and feel completely in sync with a greater beating pulse.
2. RELAX AND SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE
The very word "SIMPLIFY" has become a personal mantra for me over these last few years. In my life, about 90% of the stress that I've felt in the past was created by all things extraneous, when I was pouring my energy into something that held little value towards my own happiness. I've been on a constant, soul-searching purge of things both internally and externally that complicate my life and make things miserable. The result continues to be a lightness of being and a better quality of life.
3. GET PHYSICAL AND EXERCISE
Barnett says that it is a common sight in China to see crowds of people out in the early morning out walking or practicing Tai Chi. With Taoism, the body and the spirit are one. Exercise promotes the flow if Ch'i (energy in all things) and nurtures the Tao (the inherent nature of all things in the universe). Whether I am simply walking or working out at my gym, physical activity has become a high priority for me and creates a strong foundation for all the ways that I hope to grow and live my life.
These and several other insights in this book validated a lot of what I've already been thinking and practicing in my own personal evolution. It has been very comforting to know that I am not alone in this path I've been forging. The Chinese have been practicing all of this for hundreds of years, and that is pretty amazing.
I loved this book and will re-visit it numerous times. At just under 200 pages, it was a very quick read full of information, including a historical summary of Taoism as it has evolved in Chinese culture over hundreds of years at the very end of the book. It offers lots of simple and practical suggestions for incorporating Taoism in one's daily life.
I highly recommended this book. Here are some links to purchase it if you wish:
In the next installment of Reading Will Save the World, I will offer my impressions of John Steinbeck's colossal, Nobel Prize-winning novel, "The Grapes of Wrath". I am embroiled in this book right now and will soon be done. Though I suspect that I'll need to lie down for a while as soon as I'm finished with it.
Go on. Read a book. Inform your imagination. See a different world. Save us all.
. . . . Oreo and Buttercup had tea this Sunday morning. I only wish I made them some biscuits too.
Today, I wanted to share a little bit of what I've been getting into lately. First of all, I've been doing an insane amount of reading.
This particular book by Herman Melville has been summoning me to read it for many years now, and I have finally answered it's call.
I have been into self-improvement for a long time now. For almost five years now I have religiously followed a number of authors who speak to becoming a bigger, badder you.
However, the pursuit has always felt a little hollow to me. Becoming a better you has always felt to me to necessitate an overly inward eye. Many years ago I took a pledge around a campfire to live my life for others. While I was just a kid at the time, the pledge is still something that I take seriously, something that has been fed by my activities since.
This campfire experience is one that came back to me several years later when I sought to learn more about Buddhism. My interest was academic rather than spiritual, but I was struck by something on a deeper level nonetheless. I was watching a video series with basic information about what it was to be a Buddhist, and I was struck by a statement the monks said ad the beginning of each installment. "... to achieve enlightenment for the betterment of all beings..."
That is how self improvement reconciles with altruistic, charitable living.
That is how I want to live my life.