“What is half shall become whole. What is crooked shall become straight. What is empty shall become full. The Tao is the eternal without doing and, yet, nothing remains undone. Without going outdoors one knows the world. Without looking out of the window one sees the Tao of Heaven. The further out one goes, the lesser one’s knowledge becomes.” ~ Tao Te Ching 5th or 6th Century~
A theme familiar to many faiths is that it is not only unnecessary to resist a threatening force, but that it is counterproductive. Resistance creates persistence. The Hawaiian philosophy of the Huna also mirrors this truth: “What we resist, persists”.
This approach to life was also explored deeply by the Taosists of China more than 2,000 years ago. The Tao reminds us of the stress that is created in a society driven by power struggles, force, and personal ambitions. The Tao guides sages and kings to avoid force and unnecessary show of power and rather “act only by inactivity”. This guidance stems from the belief that the country or state would thrive as a matter of course, through the natural ordering of things, according to what should be.
This “non-action” or wu wei approach of the king or the sage is not out of weakness, laziness, or irresponsibility, but rather embraces an active alignment with that which is natural and spontaneous., It is achieved by consciously merging with the the Way (western translation of the Tao). For then whatever happens seems to happen naturally of its own accord.
An expansion on the meaning of the Way/Tao is: the eternal, creative force of the universe that is the beginning and end of all things.
When the sage has achieved this, this eternal creative force than transparently flows through him without obstacle. In this way, the sage becomes one with the Tao, boundless and eternal, and acts without aggression or partiality.
The chief distraction, equally as powerful as this eternal, creative flow is that of desire. Desire is usually amplified by a worldly education which creates the desire for more authority and more possessions.
‘Unlearning’ is the antidote to bring us back into a state of simplicity, a state of enlightenment.
In the modern world, there is a phrase that “neatly sums up the classic human response to a threatening situation; it is called ‘fight or flight’. It is easy to feel, particularly in our current world of competition, that if we do not attempt to take control of a situation, than we are, shamefully running away from it. Fleeing, then suggests fear. Is there not a third option? What if one were to stand still and face the situation, taking in its meaning and then absolving ourselves of its impact?”
The 43rd verse of the Tao Te Ching states: “the most yielding of things in the universe overcomes the most hard.” (Discover Inner Peace, Mike George, p 77)
This points one in the direction of emotional intelligence and sensitivity which then becomes more important than the use of physical strength to attempt to dominate the situation. Instead success comes from responding to the circumstances with the greatest degree of freedom and clarity. An interesting “parallel that can be made to the emotional health of families and other tightly knit groups of individuals. Behavioral therapists have noted that the families with the greatest problems fall into two categories: the first is the family where both the parents and children are outwardly aggressive and reactive towards one another and the second is the family which is terrified of conflict and avoids it all costs.” (George, p 78) See the parallel to “fight or flight” here?
Then there is the third group which exhibits the highest levels of healthy interaction. These are the families whose members live as if they are playing a game, where testing the strength and quality of their relationships is natural and so is balancing that by responding easily and emphatically to each others’ feelings, moods, and ideas. See the parallel of this option to the way of least resistance?
The way of least resistance in societal terms involves just that: listening, observing, and acknowledging issues and problems and then allowing ourselves the freedom to let them go. By releasing negative emotions, it doesn’t give them a chance to cloud or darken our spirit or dominate the way we see the spirit of another.
Like most mystical traditions, Taoism recommends meditation to calm down the senses and allow a union with the Way that goes deeper than conscious thought to take place. The breath is also used to facilitae the flow of universal energy throughout the body.
“The following is a Tai Chi Chuan exercise that provides a flavor of this type of non-resistant free-floating response. It can also be used as a meditative aid.
Sit facing a partner, quite close together. Hold out your hands with your palms facing out. Place your palms flat against your partner’s. Begin to push back and forth on each other’s palms. After awhile, one of you (agree who will do this before you start) will concentrate on following the others’s movements (i.e. stop resisting them)and will not initiate any moves of their own. Basically this partner will begin to mirror their partner’s movements. With time and practice, you will be amazed to see your hands magically moving back and forth, as if of their own accord.
Once you have mastered this technique, try closing your eyes and focusing on the flow of energy that is moving your hands. Become one with this flow.” (George, p 78)