The first in a series exploring modern Taoist responses to ecological crises
As a healer, Taoist wisdom teacher and fellow human being I too am challenged to think through the current ecological crisis and what it means for how we should live. Fulfilling our obligations, upholding our agreements, actual or implicit, with the collective, is an essential component of the mechanism providing social cohesion. For example, me throwing a tiny ball of obsolete sweet-wrapper, or what-have-you, from my moving car window, is not with great significance or direct consequence in itself, but I've broken my societal agreement by disrespecting the practical collective need to reduce mess in general.
Were none of us ever to break this agreement ever again, it would be certainly beneficial for the collective, but certainly not to the street-cleaners, or street-cleaning teams, as they would become redundant. Finding themselves temporarily, existentially disheveled and bereft of value, and in that inner turmoil semi-cognitively elect say to flip out and commit some sort of psychotic act harmful to others, and should that trend spread copycat style, first to all their fellow redundant unemployed street-cleaning team members, and then to greater swaths of the disaffected, this would significantly reduce or cancel any societal advantage gained from a less messy environment.
However, there's no chance of that happening!
The immutable law of yin and yang, the inevitable, eternal interplay of complementary opposites, gives rise to an inescapable alternating contraction-expansion, negative-positive cycle underpinning all manifest phenomena including our own rowdy species; and partly because we're a bunch of messy irresponsible bastards whenever given half a chance – so there'll always be mess to counter tidiness.
Hence, you and I are perfectly safe and at liberty to experiment by upholding our stated or implied agreements with the collective even more than we may have hitherto.
Naturally there will be no instantaneous, miraculous result easily measurable on the macro-level, though all the hugest collective changes do begin with such seemingly insignificant acts (putting the paper in my pocket to bin, or better yet - recycle.
But by another immutable principle, the law of reflections, if you're awake to it, you will start noticing an instantaneous effect on the way others treat you, in respect of upholding their own agreements with you more responsibly.
We're talking here about one of the fundamental mechanisms of any successfully rolling society: reciprocity.
But to sufficiently transcend the myopic perspective arising from the ego-centric position to be bothered in the first place, let alone to then act on it, requires a capacity for enjoying a more panoramic perspective than afforded by the habitual everyday parameters of perception. You have to be able to gain enough altitude or distance to see the whole pattern (or picture), whence it's blatantly clear, that every action, no matter how apparently inconsequential in itself, sets off an exponential reaction chain that eventually comes back round, creeps up silently from behind and clobbers you across the occiput.
This mode naturally extends to having an eye to preclude waste in respect of all vital resources – water, food, fuel and so on, and to pay more respect to the more invisible but even more immediately vital resource: unpolluted air.
And what you find is, with practice, learning to let go of the fizz and static, sinking the mind back, relaxing and softening muscle and sinew, desisting from holding the breath, and breathing deeply, slowly and smoothly, watching the belly rise on inhalation and fall again on exhalation, and keeping this focus central to your experience as you work, rest and play, you start sourcing your energy progressively more from within, and hence have progressively less need or propensity to source it externally through unnecessary excess consumption (of products, services, externally provided entertainment, other people's attention, and so on).
And that's just one (small, modest) way to attenuate the pernicious effects of our greedy, guzzling drive to plunder and dominate (the environment and each other), that left unchecked would continue to exponentially accelerate the mass extinction scenario we now face, which eventually inevitably would take us down with it.
In the face of that, and the odd occasional bout of doubt, futility and sense of pissing in the wind, it's important to maintain an intention, however seemingly idealistic or farfetched, for the collective to spontaneously attain to the next evolutionary level of basic common sense, and for us to pool our inestimable collective ingenuity to steering our way masterfully away from encroaching disaster.
And if you like the sound of some or all of that, smile, clap hands, and stand by for more coming soon...
BAREFOOT DOCTOR is acclaimed as one of the world's leading authorities on the practical use of Taoist philosophy and method. He trains millions of people in Taoist mindfulness technique, qigong (specializing in the 'internal alchemy' aspect), and 'SUPERHEALING', his training system of Taoist energy medicine, via online courses, online events, live seminars, talks and retreats. He's been an energy and psychic healer, and practitioner and teacher of Taoist internal boxing forms for five decades; is author of 17 books; produces sonic healing 'sound-baths'; produces and plays techno music (under a variety of aliases) deploying subliminal and background healing frequencies for the dance-floor.
He trained with RD Laing for 3 years in the mid 70s to gain a deeper understanding of the human condition, lived with a Native American tribe in New Mexico for 4 years late 70s-early 80s to gain a deeper understanding of the shamanistic approach to healing, and simultaneously trained as an acupuncturist with Daniel Santos in Santa Fe. He had one of the world's biggest practices in London from 1983 until 2000 when he handed it over to a friend to devote all his time to disseminating the information broadcast style. He wrote a weekly column in the Observer (UK Sunday paper) for five years, had a 13 part hit BBC TV series, 'The Barefoot Doctor', along with regular weekly slots on Johnnie Walker's BBC Radio 2 Drivetime show, and through that has been largely instigative in the spread of popularity of acupuncture, qigong, tai chi and alternative medicine in general.
His mission is to encourage the spread of practical techniques for genuine relaxation and self-realization, for with only a few degrees more of it on a collective level, he believes it's more likely humanity will pool its ingenuity and resources and collaborate in steering us away from the multilevel survival challenges we now face as a species.