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Leader Resource 1: Taoism Background
Taoism is a faith practiced by more than 20 million people around the world. The name comes from the word "Tao," which means "the Way." In this case, "the Way" means a way of living in balance and at peace with all that is.
Taoism is very old. We know that it existed before 550 BCE and that it originated in China. Many Chinese today consider themselves Taoist, although they might also say they are Buddhist or Confuciust as well—believing in Taoism does not preclude engaging in other religions. Some would say that Taoism, like Buddhism, is more a philosophy than a religion because of its emphasis on how you live your life rather than on worshipping gods or goddesses. However, Taoism takes many different forms, and some Taoists do worship deities—and some do not.
Taoism is not a popular religion outside of China. In this country, not many people consider themselves Taoists. However, popular culture has embraced a few Taoist practices and beliefs, such as the exercise Tai Chi, the decorating principles of Feng Shui, and the yin/yang symbol. A popular book is The Tao of Pooh, which compares Taoist principles with the lives of characters from Winnie-the-Pooh.
For this workshop, we will focus on the most common and crucial tenets of the religion. While there are several ideas central to Taoism, or, following the Way, we will focus on these three:
- Balance is key to peace and happiness. Troubles of various kinds are the result of imbalance.
- We are part of Nature. Being healthy and at peace with our physicality is essential to mental and emotional clarity and health. Everything must be in balance. The art of Tai Chi—a system of slow, meditative physical exercise designed for relaxation, balance, and health—grew out of Taoism.
- There is a flow of energy through all things, which Taoism refers to as chi. Recognizing and moving with this natural flow of energy will make life joyful and easy; resisting it will make life a struggle.
Taoism is like Unitarian Universalism in that the search for truth is the individual's responsibility. Taoism tells you that balance will lead to peace and happiness, but it will not tell you what balance looks like in your own life. That you must discover for yourself. For all of its followers' appearance of peace and stillness, Taoism requires a great deal of energy and discipline to implement fully into practitioners' lives.