Daoist, Master of Taiji and Flow’er of Life

Casey in from of Sanching Temple
Standing in front of Sanching (三清宮), Taiwan’s largest daoist (taoist) temple.

I’ve been meaning to “reboot” this blog, but I wasn’t sure about the direction I wanted to take. I’ve had a long “career” of doing internet things, but over ten years ago I made a video that struck a chord with the worldwide population of gamers that took my online persona in an unplanned direction. It was a wild ride which I highly enjoyed but, maybe 5 years ago, I decided that I wanted to shift it in a new direction. A direction that was more inline with a guy that I kept out of the public eye. A dude that was silently honing his craft as a daoist master of taiji. My visit to Taiwan’s largest daoist temple last week seemed like a fitting time to commit to the transition.

Understanding Daoism

I’ve been studying philosophical daoism like a full-time job for more than 20 years. It’s essence isn’t inside of books, Chinese culture and language, cool photos in front of temples and catch phrases about living in the moment. It’s simply the study of nature. Not only the nature in the Amazon, the Serengeti or mountains, forests, deserts, oceans, rivers, lakes and parks close to you. The nature of nations, cities, governments, corporations, language, philosophy, sciences and, perhaps most importantly, humanity and how you and I fit in it.

Over the years I’ve come to realize that daoism seems to be something genetic, or related to the spirit if you like. It’s not so much taught as it is discovered through natural attraction. I know this from experience. My first brush with daoism was through a book gifted to my brother. Receiving that book is just an anecdote in the life of my brother. He may not even remember receiving it. For me it changed the entire course of my life. A single book. An idea.

My time as a junior daoist was spent both trying to understand it and preach its gospel. A rookie mistake for anyone with a new life experience and idea they think applies to everyone everywhere at all times. Trying to understand transitioned into trying to practice. Trying to preach turned into trying to make it available to be discovered. Once basic needs are met, the right idea at the right time is the best gift I believe I can receive or give to anyone who is in need.

Mastering the art of giving these gifts are best described with the third of the Four Great Vows, which are:

  1. I vow to deliver innumerable sentient beings
  2. I vow to eliminate endless afflictions
  3. I vow to master innumerable approaches to Dharma
  4. I vow to attain the unexcelled enlightenment of a Buddha.”

I ran into these four vows in 2013 on Dharma Drum Mountain as a part of my endless quest to eliminate endless afflictions.

Mastering Taiji (Taichi)

Mastering anything isn’t easy and true mastery comes from knowing you’ll never be as skilled as you’d like to be but you’ll never stop trying. Something I like to tell people is that as soon as you fully commit to becoming something you are that thing. Doctor, lawyer, teacher, preacher, it doesn’t matter. As soon as you’ve committed to being it, you are it, just a extremely junior version. With that being said while I am not, and perhaps never will be, comfortable with giving myself the title “Master of Taiji” it is something I committed to becoming over 20 years ago. In essence, it’s something I committed to over thirty years ago which lends reason to the idea of their being something a person is “destined” to do, or at least destined to never stop trying to do.

Taiji as a martial art and philosophical daoism go hand in hand. One cannot truly exist without the other if the aim is to get to the deepest understandings of them both. For me taiji is all of the internal and external physical attributes necessary to put the philosophical daoist theory into a practice which becomes a way of life. The health, the meditation, the skills, the resources and all of the other things a person needs to keep their happiness, their health and their way of life safe and secure.

For me, taiji isn’t just the physical exercises and principles for a martial art known in Western cultures as taichi (note the difference in spelling). It’s a set of principles which can, and do, exist in any number of martial arts. Once you have the idea, the feeling, it can be nurtured inside almost any martial art and anything.

Flowing to My Dreams

This is the working title of a yet to be published autobiography. There will also be a chapter, perhaps the final one, more aptly titled “Flowing to the Dream”. Most of the people that happen to land on this post and read to this section will be familiar with the idea that “life is but a dream”. It’s found in a short nursery rhyme that perhaps every American has run into at one stage of development or another:

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Being told “life is but a dream” is a nice theory but how does one put it into practice? That’s what I hope to convey in my book. While important, the focus on your life shouldn’t be your dreams or whether life is a dream. The focus should be on the “flow”. Mastering the necessary skills to “effortlessly” surf the waves of life. The paradox of that is the only way to make things effortless is by putting supreme effort into finding and surmounting challenges in life, the biggest and scariest waves. The key is being able to sense approaching storms and watching them from the comfort of the shore and then getting back in the water when the waves are right or looking for new beaches with bigger and scarier waves.

So there I am in front of a daoist temple. On a new beach. Looking for new waves.

View from Sanching temple.
Master Henry Wang, my taiji and philosophy teacher, admiring the view from Sanching Temple.

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