This weekend I had a conversation with a good friend who used this metaphor to describe how she was approaching a tense situation. She was heading into a difficult conversation and wanted to remain strong and open. I liked the image of a young tree able to bend in the face of natural (and man-made) forces. I thought it was a wise and Taoist attitude. The Tao teaches us to be flexible in the face of change as well as challenge. If a tree never wavers it will snap, whereas a tree with strong roots and flexibility is more likely to survive the storm.
The logo on my business card and website is the Chinese symbol that signifies the Tao. The Tao Te Ching, better known as The Tao, is a book written by Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher. Literally translated, The Tao means “the way”. It is the source of great wisdom and you may already know some of the quotes, for example, “Even a 1,000 mile journey starts with a single step”.
Another metaphor in nature for the Tao is water. Water represents the epitome of adaptability and strength. Water can attack with the devastating waves of a tsunami, freeze into menacing blocks of ice (remember the Titanic?) and trickle its way through the smallest crevice. All life depends on water for its existence, and even the hardest stone will eventually be worn down by water’s constant perseverance.
Both of these metaphors – water and the young tree – describe a guiding principle in Taoist philosophy, that of adapting to your environment or, as people say, “going with the flow”. Bending, adapting, being flexible, or changing shape doesn’t usually change the essence of who we are, but it does enable us to live more harmoniously with the world around us.
I’m practicing my back bends…..