Spiritual followers, take note. I've found something I like: Taoism!
And what's more? Not only do I like it, I practice it! Apparently, I was already spiritual, and I had no idea.
It's official. I'm a Taoist!
And how did I uncover this long dormant well of spirituality? A little book called The Tao of Pooh.
If you're one of the 987,234,234 people that read this book, like, five years ago, congratulations. And if you are one of the five people (like me three hours ago) that haven't read it, I suggest you get yourself a copy, ASAP. And the hardcover, I might add. It's well worth the extra $5 investment. You'll want to hang on to this puppy.
Back to Pooh, and his Tao. I love Pooh. Like, really, truly, warm and fuzzily, unconditionally LOVE Pooh. Most people do. I discovered this not when I fumbled through it at the age of 5, but in my senior year of college, during "Origins of Literary Imaginings," AKA, a children's lit seminar (but that first title sounds soooo much better). And let me tell you, the week we read Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner was one of the happiest weeks of my life. And I'm not alone. My entire class (all 12 of them) came in that Thursday utterly in love with that little bear. While I'm sure we must have touched on why the book elicited such unabashed adoration, I'm also pretty sure I was doodling in my margins and therefore have no recollection (or notes) on the subject. But the bottom line is, Winnie-the-Pooh makes you feel good, and thanks to Benjamin Hoff, I now know why.
Pooh is a Taoist! He's the Uncarved Block! And, well, he just is.
So, in spite of the fact that it's decidedly impossible for me to cover all of Taoism in one post, I'm going to at least give you the highly-abridged version, also known as The Tao of Me, as seen through The Tao of Pooh.
I've decided I'm Taoist because Pooh and I share remarkably similar sensibilities. Firstly, we both like food.
"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
"It's the same thing," he said.
Oh man, oh man. It's like that chubby little bear is in my head! Ask anyone who knows me, (particularly my co-workers); I find the smallest thing exciting, particularly if it's food. The Taoist lesson here, kids? Take pleasure in the small things.
Secondly, I totally follow the Pooh Way (also known as Wu Wei), which is to operate within the natural order of things, without "meddlesome, combative, or egotistical effort." Though I'm most definitely not meddlesome or combative (unless you've just challenged me in Scrabulous), I do suppose egotistical is up for argument, considering I have a blog and all. But I'm only egotistical in that I care what I think; I don't expect anyone else to! In any case, the defining line of the Pooh Way is that it operates "on the principle of minimal effort."
"Just how do you do it, Pooh?"
"Do what?" asked Pooh.
"Become so Effortless."
"I don't do much of anything," he said.
"But all those things of yours get done."
"They just sort of happen," he said.
If there is one thing I know, it's that the best way to do anything is with minimal effort. Trust me. I learned it in high school, I practiced it in college, and now I depend on it in my daily life. Minimal Effort, people, it's the way to go.
Which brings me to my third point. When you're putting all this minimal effort towards something, enjoy it! Take this blog, for example. It's a lot more fun to write than it is to be sitting at my desk, pressing refresh every two minutes, while I obsessively scroll for comments. The same principle applies to shopping, drinking, and, of course, food.
"What do you like doing best in the world, Pooh?"
"Well," said Pooh, "what I like best--" and then he had to stop and think. Because although eating honey was a very good thing to do, there was a moment just before you began to eat it which was better than when you were, but he didn't know what it was called.
The point is to live in the Now, something I agree with whole-heartedly. Which is ultimately my fourth point: I genuinely do not believe in regret. What a futile and not to mention depressing activity! If you can't change the past, what is the point of dwelling on it? Of course, learn from it, but don't beat yourself over the head with your own life lesson. It's your life, it's your experience. You have, by simply living, and therefore by definition, already learned from it, so move on! Everything happens for a reason, even when you happen to, say, eat a pot of honey intended for someone else, or pop the one and only birthday balloon intended for a party:
"I'm very glad," said Pooh happily, "that I thought of giving you a Useful Pot to put things in."
"I'm very glad," said Piglet happily, "that I thought of giving you Something to put in a Useful Pot."
But Eeyore wasn't listening. He was taking the balloon out, and putting it back in, as happy as could be...
And thus, my fifth point: Happiness. I know there has been some trouble with the light-heartedness of my spiritual journey, some concern over the authenticity of my search, and some doubt regarding the sincerity of my efforts. I can't help that I tend to have my tongue pressed firmly in cheek; I enjoy a good laugh, and I enjoy it even more when I can be the one causing it. I don't see why, if some aspect of spirituality is not for me, I can't still make it fun. And apparently that's a-ok with Taoism. According to The Tao of Pooh, "a subtle sense of humor is apparent even in the most profound Taoist writings." So, fine, I'm not necessarily subtle, but I know that nobody ever went wrong by going through life with a smile. And, as the Taoist poet Lu Yu wrote:
The clouds above us join and separate,
The breeze in the courtyard leaves and returns.
Life is like that, so why not relax?
Who can stop us from celebrating?
But better yet, why quote a 1500 year-old poet, when you can quote a cuddly, and might I add, Canadian bear?
Sing Ho! for a Bear!
Sing Ho! for a Pooh!
Sing Ho! for the life of a Bear!