How do you get back to unconsciousness?

country roadGetting to that point of “unconsciousness” is a matter of practice. The first time you drive to that new job your senses are heightened, and you’re taking in a lot of details about the journey. The 500th time you make the trip you may spend many parts of your trek on autopilot.

Skilled athletes react in a split second. Soldiers and police do the same. Part of this we might say is muscle memory from training, but another part is having learned to react to the moment.

On your drive, you don’t wonder where you’re going and probably only pay attention to events that are out of the ordinary. This state of not-needing to know is the “unconsciousness”. It’s almost as if we’re just along for the ride.

The football player doesn’t know where the ball will go but will just react in the moment without worrying about all the potentials. The skill to develop here is simply living in the moment. Which is the state of that uncarved block, the newborn child, who has nothing to distract him from now.

The leaf needs no one to teach it how to float downstream.

Free Ambient Soundscapes for Meditation

Using a simple audio website I found, I’ve saved a few presets for ambient background sounds I like to use to help me “tune out” the world and meditate. Ideally used with some noise cancelling headphones if you are in an area with lots of loud, intrusive sounds (like a typical busy city). Simply click on the desired link below, click the play button, then close your eyes and let yourself exist in this tranquil zone for a little while.

Mountain Retreat
Imagine yourself in a small bamboo hut on some remote mountain retreat. You sit in stillness on your mat, smelling the wet air, feeling the wind and listening to the rain come down in waves while thunder bellows occasionally in the distance. All the while, a you can hear someone playing a relaxing singing bowl somewhere nearby.

Beach Fire pit at night
You sit beside a large fire pit on the sandy beach. The warmth of the flames keeps you cozy in the cool night air. A light breeze brings you the relaxing aroma of the salty ocean. You feel an occasional mist from a particularly strong wave. Behind you, where the beach turns into wild grass, you can hear the crickets singing their night ballads.

A Summer Field
It’s a beautiful sunny day in a field of tall grass. All sorts of birds flutter about, attending to their important business of the moment. The wind is picking up, and in the distance, a summer rainstorm rolls past.

Do you have any presets you want to share? Tweet them @taoareyou and I will add them to the list. Additionally, if you know of other free sites that offer similar features, let me know.

The Central Theme of Daoism

This posting is referring specifically to philosophical Daoism. Religious Daoism is an entirely different subject and as such, not meant to be considered here. I will lead off by giving you two suggested books for reading:

Dao De Jing: A Philosophical Translation and Chuang-Tzu: The Inner Chapters

I own both of these books and highly recommend them for your own Daoism reference library.

There are many translations of the Tao Te Ching (pronounced Dao de jing, so often you will see it spelled multiple ways, even Daodejing). I would say reading multiple versions would help. The reason there are so many, is because the original Chinese texts cannot be simply translated by character. You need to fully understand the culture and time when it was written. This holds true for any language. For example: In the 1940s, I could say, “I’m feeling so gay today!” and people would think I’m talking about how happy I am. Of course, that sentence has an entirely different meaning in popular English today.

So if you were a translator from the future, say after English had developed 4,000 years from now (about the estimated age of the original Chinese texts), you would have to study Ancient English, and then try to pinpoint the time when the text was written and understand the social and political culture influencing the writer. Translating texts as old as these is a challenge for anyone, and the translations can vary, sometimes greatly.

The translation of the Dao De Jing I listed above is a very in-depth study, including not only the translated text, but also detailed explanations. It’s one of the most well researched versions I have personally read.

Next, as with any philosophy, different people take different things from it. Unlike more defined religious beliefs and practices, philosophy is by nature a venue for discussion and debate about ideas. There are very few absolutes which is why you will come across conflicting views such as “setting goals is good” vs. “do not be concerned with the future”.

My personal stance is somewhere in the middle. If I could live as a hermit, having no connections to society, I could certainly spend my days taking care of “now” and not be worried with the obligations of social living. But even then, I would still have to consider things such as storing up food for the winter.

Living with others however does need planning. We have to consider what we need to do to meet our needs. That is determined by the society in which we live. In many parts of the world,that commonly means developing useful skills, find employment (hopefully related to your chosen skills), and pay for the things you need. This requires planning and training. Both of these things require us to consider the future.

It is also worthwhile to know how to let go of certain worries. Being able to “go with the flow” is preferred to needing to “always be in control”. A Daoist in the 21st century will have to find a comfortable balance between the two ideas. I do not feel the desire to direct situations that are very far removed from my immediate influence. More often than not, I will see how things develop and adjust my own actions accordingly.

Some people call this “conforming” and are strongly opposed to it. In my perspective, moving to conform is the way of nature. Water flows down the hill, conforming to the contours of the land. Over time, the land conforms to the motion of the water.

Obviously, there are times when you are better off making the effort to stand against the current and resist the status quo. And therein lies the most important concept of Dao: balance. The universe’s most consistent observable truth is it strives for balance, equilibrium. It naturally seeks a state of rest between all other influences. The orbits of the planets around the sun are a balance between gravity and velocity.

When considering Daoism as a philosophy to live by, this is what I believe you should keep as your base. Are extreme activities ok? Certainly, but not all the time. Is it ok to eat that rich food? Alright, but not regularly. Oscar Wilde is quoted saying, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” The concept was not new with him. I’m sure idea of “nothing in excess” has been attributed to great minds from all cultures throughout the ages.

Moderation calls for balance. The universe calls for balance. The most central theme for Daoism is balance.