Unity & Taoism, Part 2- Rev. Deb

Midweek Faith Lift

May 1. 2024

Unity & Taoism, Part 2

Rev. Deb Hill-Davis


Spiritual Passages

April 22, 2024

“Gentle Cosmic-ness”


           Playing ping-pong in England, I was taught that the point of a game was to win. But, in Japan, I saw that the best way to win any game is to never to think about the score. The point is to make as many people as possible around you feel that they are winners. You come to see that the opposite of winning isn't losing -- it's failing to see the larger picture. It reminds me why choirs regularly enjoy more fun than soloists. In a choir, your only job is to play your small part perfectly, to hit your notes with feeling, and by so doing, to help to create a beautiful harmony that's much greater than the sum of its parts." - Pico Lyer, What Ping-Pong Taught Me About Life (Ted Talk)


          "Every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other people, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received." - Albert Einstein


           Affirmative prayer for today:  Divine Light of Love, let me always see that there is a bigger picture. When I can’t see or don’t see what that is, I rest in the Divine Assurance that the energy of love does see it and holds it for all to unfold together. Amen.


The message of this story conveys the next important teaching of Taoism that we want to explore.  During our first venture into Taoism, we considered the essential “wholeness” that is the represented in the symbol for yin/yang and the sacred mystery of holding the opposites, of living in the energy of both/and, which we don’t often embrace in the west.  Today our reflection is on the idea of wu wei which is an essential teaching of Taoism.  Wu wei is best described as an actionless activity or a creative letting be.  It is not passivity or noninvolvement, but acting naturally without expectations or attachments. It is much like the ping pong story at the start of the talk today, allowing for the experience of the game, without attachment to outcome. It is an un-self-consciousness that happens for athletes, musicians and other performers when they are “in the zone,” and it brings joy and contentment. 


Chapter 9 of the Tao Te Ching describes it like this:


Fill your bowl to the brim

and it will spill.

Keep sharpening your knife

and it will blunt.

Chase after money and security

and your heart will never unclench.

Care about people’s approval

and you will be their prisoner.


Do your work, then step back.

The only path to serenity.



It is a powerful message that also runs through the teachings of Jesus in passages such as Matthew 6:33-34


              33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (NRSV-UE)


Neither Lao Tzu nor Jesus advised us to worry, hoard, scheme or plot how to get ahead or achieve our goals.  There are troubles, but don’t seek solutions, seek a consciousness of God or love and all that you need will be added unto you in right order and in the fullness of time.  Show up, do your part and let the Universe work through you to respond to your needs and the needs of others and the needs of the situation.


Another major concept of Taoism is that there is nothing “wrong” with the world that we need to try and fix. The world is sacred, not an object and we are not to treat it like an object, nor do we treat each other like objects.  When we do, we are off center and we cause disharmony and imbalance.  Do “bad” things happen? Of course they do, because we get off center and act from a sense of separation and self-importance. When we realize that, we can return to balance and serenity and restore order in our world.  We grieve our losses and the realities of life, eventually coming back into balance and harmony, which is then restored within us. 


One of the concepts of Unity that often gets distorted is the use of the Law of Mind Action.  We use the process of “saying affirmations” with the intention of achieving a specific outcome, which is not the reality how this energy works.  When we pray this way, we are reinforcing our attachment to outcomes that we want, which seldom leads to true freedom or contentment.  When we do this, we are forgetting that bigger picture which is always there, and will always prevail.   When we cooperate with that larger energy, then we allow the Universe to respond, to work through us in ways that astonish, surprise and delight us.  The essential energy of Taoism is to allow what is to unfold and be comfortable in the mystery of the unfolding.  Chapter 36 of the Tao Te Ching says it like this:


If you want to shrink something,

you must first allow it to expand.

If you want to get rid of something,

you must first allow it to flourish.

If you want to take something,

you must first allow it to be given.

This is called the subtle perception

Of the way things are.


The soft overcomes the hard.

The slow overcomes the fast.

Let your workings remain a mystery.

Just show people the results.


This could also be described as living with and embracing the paradoxes of life, which is learning to live with the energy of both/and.  And it also reminds me of the story last week about the challenges of one second that the earth’s rotation presents to the Coordinated Universal Time regulators who just can’t control that extra one second!  They need a serious dose of wu wei!


Prayer is not a significant feature of Taoism, but as Rev. Paul Roach notes, that doesn’t mean the energy of prayer is absent from the Taoist path.  As I was searching for illustrations of the art of living the Tao this week, I came across the following story, from Spiritual Passages, which really hit the spot about Taoism, wu wei and prayer:


            The mother of a six-year-old girl invited some people to dinner. That evening, at the table, the mom asked her daughter to say grace. "I don't know what to say," the girl replied. "Just say what you hear Mommy say," the mom suggested. The daughter thought for a moment, bowed her head and said, "Lord, why in the hell did I invite these people to dinner?"


Have we not all lived with this kind of energy of both/and in prayer??? Prayer does not resolve it, but laughter sure does! And it puts us right in the actual process and energy of living the Tao, which is essentially how it is a prayer.  The Practical Christianity aspect of Unity has a lot of that same kind of energy of living prayer.


There are three divine qualities that help us live in alignment with the highest wisdom or the Tao.  These are compassion, moderation and humility which can help us live lives of bravery, generosity and fulfillment.  The path is to allow the energy of compassion, moderation and humility to light and guide our way.  If we grasp at any of these, we risk hubris and ego-driven actions, which are for sure dead ends.  As Jesus said, in John 14:10, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own but the Father who dwells in me does his works.”  Another way that we say that in Unity is to say, “It is not I, but the Christ within, that does this work.”  When we approach life from this stance, we are cooperating with the energy of the Universe, of the Divine, of the Tao. 


When we do not, as a culture, find this center, this place of balance and harmony, then our world and our lives become much more challenging.  These words from Chapter 18 of the Tao Te Ching are as relevant to day as they were in ancient China:


When the great Tao is forgotten,

goodness and piety disappear.

When the body’s intelligence declines,

cleverness and knowledge step forth.

When there is no peace in the land

filial piety begins.

When the country falls into chaos,

patriotism is born.

In the essential teachings of the Tao, we have the vision of the whole, the yin/yang, which includes all of what is ours to do, which can seem overwhelming.  Then we take the whole apart and see only the particulars and distinctions.  With practice, we see the third stage, which is our inner awareness that apprehends both the whole and its parts as complete, as true unity, as a cosmic oneness.  When we intuitively understand that, we do our work effortlessly and skillfully.


This passage from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 expresses it beautifully in our Christian Scripture:


           9 Two are better than one, for they shall have reward for their life together. 10 If one shall fall the other will be lifted by his or her companion.11 When two lie down together, they shall be warmth and companion for each other. 12 Two cords bound together are strong, but the third strand makes their union unshakable. (NRSV)


It is that third strand of the Tao, of the Christ within, of the Observer self that holds all together in Unity.  May it be so!


Blessings on the Path,

Rev. Deb