All great spiritual traditions have at their core universal truths and ways of living that transcend time. Despite its antiquity, the Taoist Water tradition is singularly relevant to the needs of the computer age. It helps people resolve and come to terms with many of the human condition’s basic spiritual questions:
- Why am I here?
- What is the nature of spirituality?
- How can I overcome the conditionings of childhood and become emotionally and spiritually mature?
- How can I resolve my spiritual, psychic and emotional pain?
- How can I come to terms with death and dying?
- How can I remove the obstacles to change, come to accept myself as a worthy human being, and learn to live a balanced life that leaves me personally satisfied and in harmony with those around me?
These central questions have been addressed by all of the world’s great spiritual traditions. Within each of those traditions, there are two fundamentally different ways in which individuals have sought answers.
The first follows the outer path of organized, belief-centered religion. The second follows the inner path of direct internal spiritual experience, or what are commonly called the “mystic” or “esoteric” spiritual traditions.
Examples of belief-centered religions, both East and West, include Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and the external Taoist religion called tao jiao. At the core of these organized religions are several basic ideas held in common. They require faith in the existence of an external supreme spiritual being or beings.
You and God (or the gods) are intrinsically separate and different. God rules and controls your fate in the afterlife. Many traditions assert that you cannot personally know God until after you are dead. The religious establishment therefore serves as the intermediary between you and God.
All these factors may put a person in direct conflict between rationality on the one hand and faith on the other.
Each organized outer tradition usually has its parallel inner mystic spiritual tradition. Christianity has Gnosticism; Judaism has the Kaballah; Islam has Sufism; Hinduism has yoga and Hindu Tantra; Buddhism has Zen, Tibetan Tantra and the Dzogchen tradition; and Taoism has Taoist meditation.
The inner mystic traditions are also based on several basic ideas held in common. They require faith that a human can directly connect at the center of his or her heart and mind to the permanent un-nameable consciousness, which exists forever. Like the burning bush Moses encountered, it does not consume itself. God does not exist outside of you; rather, as the Gnostic Christian tradition believes, the kingdom of God is within.
However, to maintain a consistent, direct experience of the unchanging root of the universe as a continuous living awareness – without a middleman – requires you to expend tremendous effort to truly go into, clear out and reintegrate with the depths of your being.
Taoist Meditation practices
Since engaging in Taoist spiritual work is practiced for three primary reasons, Taoist meditation is designed for each level. You must decide where you would like to go with meditation.
The first is the need to cope with the ever-increasing pressures of the computerized age, including civilization’s stresses on our physical, emotional and mental health. The resolution to those pressures is found in the preparatory practices that energize, heal and relax the body as you simultaneously slow down, quiet and release the tensions within your mind.
The second reason is a desire to connect directly and in a deeply personal way to an ever-present source of spirituality that is greater than our limited personality and ego. This source is the spirit or soul, and what the Taoists call “being.” The resolution to this primal need is found in the Taoist meditation practices in which you learn to dissolve and resolve the inner spiritual, emotional and psychic conflicts that prevent your mind and spirit from becoming still. From that place of stillness you come to experience great inner peace.
The third reason is the spiritual need to transform your inner world until your individuality directly merges with the unchanging source of the universe, God, spirit, a higher power, universal consciousness and the Tao. The resolution of this need is found in the exceedingly challenging Taoist inner alchemy practices, which ultimately result in enlightenment, union with God or the Buddha mind. This stage of meditation, covered in The Great Stillness by Bruce Frantzis, requires an open-ended commitment for as much time as it takes be it years, decades or many lifetimes.
So where to go? It starts with a deep calling within. One does what one can do right now, right this minute. You will only have success with what you can stand to do or that which you grow to love to do. Otherwise meditation – like anything in life – will become little more than a chore rather than part of who you are or can become.