Turning things inside out and upside down seems to be the Taoist way! If I had been inspired by the TicTac advert earlier in the year (which I had been!) to ‘Shake it up a little’ by stepping out of the rut and routine, I have been even more inspired and challenged by Lao Tzu to become empty in order to be full. ‘Shaking it up a little’ for me meant exchanging one lot of activities for another – and that was a great place to start: venturing out further afield, like driving to the coast and paddling in the sea on a bright, glorious day in February.
But Lao Tzu’s challenge is to become more empty: I might say to internally ‘de-clutter’; to tame the buzz of thoughts flitting around; to be attentive to what is going on around you, right here, right now. I was reading the ‘Nowhere and Nothing’ chapter in Benjamin Hoff’s delightful book The Tao of Pooh in which this idea was ably illustrated by the hero Winnie the Pooh, who was able to find Eeyore’s missing tail precisely because he was so attentive to the present on account of not having an over-stuffed mind. His innocence and simplicity are precisely what makes him a great Taoist role-model.
I thought I’d give these ideas a bit of a try-out during my morning run – it sounded easy enough. I started off okay, appreciating the blooming chestnut trees and the bumpy ground underfoot and the sturdy oak trees. I even stopped to feel the trunks – oaks have a rough, indented trunk, birch smooth and even. But then I drifted some place else in my head – for a whole while… Hearing bird song brought me back to the present and I smiled at this simple/difficult task! I suppose a bit like running, I’ll have to train up for this, bit by bit, little by little. Over and out for now – I’m being lured into the present by the cooing doves and buzzing bees.