Taoism, in my opinion, is essentially the Chinese version of Shamanism. It’s a philosophy and way of being that has been referred to as ‘the wisdom of nature’.
There is a concept that underlies Taoist philosophy, and this idea is key to personal healing and transformation. In Chinese, it is called tzu-jan — that which is ‘of itself’, ‘by itself’, or ‘of itself so’. In other words, tzu-jan expresses that which is automatic, that which happens by itself, that which simply is with absolutely no effort.
Now this is actually a really easy thing to understand. We are, as alive human beings, brimming over with tzu-jan. Let me show you what I mean:
As you read this, take a moment to find your heart beat. Right now, as you are reading, slow yourself down enough to actually find it. Pause, and find it. It may be in your chest, your armpit, your groin. You may feel it, or you might just sense a movement or life-energy in your body; a feeling that your body is doing its thing. Now, in your mind’s eye, imagine all the functions of your body that are happening right now – You are breathing (you can take conscious control of your breath, but it’s always there even when you aren’t paying attention to it), your stomach is digesting food, your eyes are sending signals to your brain and your brain is interpreting these words on the screen, your glands are secreting chemicals that help maintain your immune system, your hair and nails are growing, even the neurons sending signals to move your finger on the ‘mousepad’ of your computer is so automatic that you arent even aware of it. All of these things happening with absolutely no conscious effort whatsoever from you.
In fact, that thing that you call ‘you’ (John Smith, dentist, 45 years old, father of three) has no control, and no part in just about anything that is happening inside you. It is ALL occurring by itself; effortlessly, and perfectly. It is ‘of itself so’. And you – your personality, your ego, that persona that you define as ‘me’, has nothing to do with any of it. You don’t ‘grow your bones’, they just grow.
Now for a moment, think about waves crashing on a beach, cloud formations on a sunny day, a tree in a forest that you once noticed, a school of fish shoaling in perfect formation. These things, just like the processes in your body are likewise, totally spontaneous. They just are. Yes, the cycles of the moon can effect the tides, gases and elements merge in just the right way to create a cloud, photosynthesis is responsible for the growth of the tree, fish respond instantaneously to tiny vibrations from the others in their school, but these are just explanations and conceptualizations of a bigger process; a Great Happening – Nature occurring all by itself. Can you now entertain the idea, that you actually have a tremendous amount in common with a cloud, a tree, a school of fish?
Even a hawk making a conscious decision to swoop down and eat a mouse is still a completely spontaneous event. Its the hawk’s nature to eat mice (they have the vision to see the tiniest movement thousands of feet away), and mice were meant to be eaten by hawks (they make up for this by being incredibly procreative as a species). You might think that the hawk/mouse example is a little more like us. We do, unlike a cloud or a tree, have a conscious mind.
But here’s the thing: until we learn to teach it not to, our conscious mind lies to us. It tells us who we should be, what rules we are supposed to follow, what we are actually allowed to have, even what we are supposed to look like. But no matter how hard you try, you can’t get out of nature; true authentic nature. You cant tell it what to do, boss it around, or beat it into submission. Nature will always win. And just as your heart beats ‘self-so’, if you give it a chance, your mind can function in the same way. We are just too afraid (confused, beaten down, socialized) to let it.
This is all that healing is: Aligning what is happening in our minds with our real nature. The same nature that beats our hearts and the same force that produces the clouds. And by opening our arms to the Great Happening (and its going to happen whether we embrace it or not) and saying ‘YES’, we stop fighting with nature, we make friends with ourselves, and we see our reflections in the trees.