The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao.
The only advice I got on Taoist meditation was: try not to try not to think. There are things you’re just never going to accomplish if you really put your head to them.
When I gave my friend this book, he complained of the poem-like verses, said he wished I would write stories to explain them instead (my 81 instalments is a bit of a friendly nod to that). But the reality is, this the ineffable baby! You can write treatises on it and never get it. Insight comes from the stripping away of the intellect not the furiously working of it.
It’s one of the things I love about poetry (and twitter, actually) the distillation tends to get the busy brain out of the way and get right to the heart of it. My favourite haiku (by Basho):
Even in Koyoto
Hearing the cuckoo’s cry
I long for Koyoto
…takes my breath away every time I hear it. Now I could expound thousands of words explaining the simultaneous feelings of spiritual longing and connection, and all the deep passion and paradox and beauty in the haiku – which you would probably just smile and nod politely over anyway. But if you get it, you GET it.
If you’ve had that moment, your heart cries YES to this poem. If you haven’t, it will stick with you somehow, and perhaps years from now, you will have that moment and this haiku will come back to you (and you’ll be madly google-ing to try and find it again).
If you truly, deeply understand something, it’s simply and you can say it in a few words, or in a smile, a look, a laugh. If you lay a lot of words on it, you’re talking around it, of it, but it isn’t IT. The tao that can be told, well, that isn’t quite it.
So try not to try not to think, just let the words be.