Why Taoists meditate

Before we discuss how to meditate or list all the benefits of doing so from better mental focus to reduced stress to preventing hair loss (kidding), it’s important to discuss why Taoists meditate.

It’s not much different from why Hindus, Buddhists or everyone else does really, save for one subtle tweak. Buddhists meditate to attain enlightenment, quieting their minds and reducing attachment to things and people, thereby moving past their limitations as humans to become higher beings that need not be reincarnated. Tell that to a Taoist, however, and she would laugh.

We laugh not to be cruel or to mock because we love Buddhists — but also because we Taoists believe humans are pretty darn perfect as we are and there isn’t anything to move beyond. We are part of the Tao and we are exactly as we were meant to be.

If you see a fox, for example, you know it was meant to be a fox. It doesn’t need to move past its limitations as a fox. It doesn’t need to strive or aspire to be anything but its foxy self. That’s its true nature, to be a fox and do foxy things because it is part of and attuned to the Tao.

We as humans are no different from that fox, save for one thing — the burdens we have placed on ourselves through age and society.

Think of yourself like an onion. (I’m sure you do this often.) Over time, those around you and society as a whole placed burdens, demands and expectations on you. You started to wrap your true nature in a cocoon of unwanted nonsense. Like an onion, layers and layers of demands wrapped around you. Moreover, you placed them on yourself. Your ambitions added layers to the onion, as did your pursuit of material goods and indulgent experiences. As adults, we become big, fat onions.

Taoists meditate to assist in the peeling off of these layers. Once the demands and ambitions are satisfied to at least some degree, you can begin to push them aside. You no longer strive for superficial things. You no longer listen to the chatter of those who put you in roles that are inauthentic to your true nature.

This is called returning to the source.

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 16

Empty yourself of everything.
Let the mind rest at peace.
The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish and then return to the source.
Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.

Meditate every day to engage in the process of rediscovering your true nature — the one you were born with and always had deep inside. Reclaim your foxy self.


About Leigh

Leigh is an American Taoist philosopher, exploring how modern life and its problems can best be addressed with ancient teachings. She is also a doctor of psychology.
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