Sunday, October 30, 2016

Taoist Immortality

The Eight Rules for Living Well

In our tradition, there are rules and advice for all aspects of life.  

There are also greater concepts, often not talked about, that we still tend towards.

Among these bigger ideas is immortality.

This idea is not so much about the will to be old, but rather reminds us of three important elements related to age:

·         The Way is a vast teaching that takes time to fully explore
·         The practice demands that we be in shape in order to practice
·         The idea is to live to one’s maximum potential, whether that be at 66 or 118 years old…

There are thus a series of simple guidelines for living long, or at least as long as we can according to our genetics, and especially with the fewest number of inconveniences possible.

Modern research on this hinges on people who lived longer than others, and there have even been multiyear studies conducted on global populations.

They all come down to several simple rules for living as well as possible, as long as possible…and these rules are on all points similar to those of our tradition.

Let us examine together these rules for a long life, there are eight in total: three lifestyle, three dietary, and two philosophical and spiritual:

1 – Moving

2 – Letting Go

3 – Staying Busy

4 – Drinking

5 – Eating

6 – Feeling

7 – Participating

8 – Sharing

1 – Moving Naturally
Physical activity and daily awareness are very important.
This has nothing to do with fussing about one’s daily activities, it’s physical activity with the intention held on the feelings in one’s body.
It is also important to state that none of the groups of centenarians were involved in sport.  The practiced movements were walking, light and daily calisthenics, but not sports in the sense we generally understand it.
The difference is that in sports, the body is pushed too far and too hard.
It is good for a while, but the practice of sports as seen by Westerners exhausts the body.
Qi Gong exercises are superior for obtaining good and lasting health.

2 – Letting Go: Knowing How to Relax Each Day
This is a simple rule of balance between work and rest.
Furthermore, it is the organizing of spaces for relaxing in one’s schedule…every day.  These moments can be brief, but should be increased proportionally to the stress one experiences.
In general, the more we feel stressed, the less we take care of ourselves and our relaxation.  This rule demands we do the opposite: the more we are under stress, the more we must endeavour to carve out relaxation periods in our day.
This does not require advanced techniques, it’s simply the capacity to sit down and breathe for a few minutes, two to ten times a day.
These “lost” minutes allow us to stay healthy, to avoid depression or hating one’s job…in the long term this habit saves us time.
In one’s practice, this occurs via Shen Gong (meditation) and one’s habits of balancing work and rest.

3 – Staying Occupied: Having Enthusiasm for the Wonders of the World
An honest focus on subjects of one’s choice is what fuels a life of many years.
The stimulation of one’s nervous system, senses, and intellect permit one to stay young in spirit and in body.
Boredom is a source of tension and stagnates the energy; it is the source of great stress.
Enthusiasm is a stimulant for our vital processes, and for our desire to engage.
As well, none of the aforementioned groups of centenarians retired in old age.  Work and one’s occupations never end; rather they evolve as one ages.
By never retiring, we are obligated to adapt how one works, depending on whether we are 20 years old or 90.
In the study of a teaching or a tradition, one flourishes in their research into self and the world.
To be busy also means to participate, to go in search for oneself regardless of one’s tradition, as per the eighth rule.
In our tradition, the vastness of knowledge to acquire permits one to continue searching for the duration of their life.

4 – Drinking: To Stimulate the Body, Seasonal Tonics
In all centenarian traditions around the world, people take herbal preparations with each seasonal change.
Within these traditions, we find herbal wines, traditional preparations, and pills for “long life”.
Seasonal changes are prepared for with the regular inclusion of natural products.
People do not hesitate to take products when they are sick, whereas the smarter move is to take them before the body becomes exhausted.
At every seasonal change, it is recommended to take products that can help the system to adapt with the least amount of effort…it’s a little effort to make every three or four months that can have a great effect on one’s health.
In our tradition, products to help with seasonal changes come in the form of herbal drops or essential oils.

5 – Chewing: Mostly Vegetables, Some Meat
When the practitioner is building their body, it is important to eat of all foods, and not to eat too little.
Animal protein is beneficial for building the body and increasing its “yin”.
When the body is strong, or when one approaches the age of 45, one must reduce their animal protein intake for a lighter diet.
Vegetables and fruits should make up the majority of one’s diet.
It is not necessary to follow a strict diet, but reigning things in every three months promotes a relaxed body that does not fatigue.
In all studies, the concept of a balanced diet rich in vegetables forms the backbone of a good general health and of an absence of serious illness together with the digestive and excretory systems.
A healthy proportion of fresh produce obligates one to chew well, and a low amount of meat eases the work for the digestive system.
In our tradition, dietary rules and the phases of the Taoist diet follow this principle.

6 – Feeling: Not Eating Too Much or Too Late
There is a real importance to not eating too late in the evening.
An undigested meal is a poison to the system if we go to bed while digestion is still happening.
One must retire, relaxed, with the digestion completed, or very nearly so.
This isn’t possible if we sleep by midnight but eat dinner at 10pm…
Also, it is important not to overeat, otherwise we risk exhausting our digestive system.
It is good to eat dinner, neither hurrying nor delaying, around 7:30pm.
It is preferable not to eat a variety of dishes, or spaced apart, as digestion is a process that requires a beginning and an end; more phases just complicates things.
We must also be aware that the stomach will only signals its satiation half an hour later…this means that if we eat too quickly and too much, we could be stuffing ourselves for an unnecessary half hour.
It is good to self-evaluate one’s needs, and to satisfy them without succumbing to neurotic eating habits.
In our tradition, we speak of sleeping early, and therefore eating early.
It is important to understand that for Westerners today living privileged lives, we are often overeating…let us learn to eat a bit less, there’s no risk of becoming malnourished…

7 – Participating, Living According to One’s Values
A belief in our values helps us live better and longer.  These values can be religious, spiritual, or philosophical.  
These beliefs allow us to find meaning to life, and to answer questions we may pose ourselves.
Religions and religious traditions help people to find good values to live well amongst others.
The Way is an essential part of living well, as it helps one find purpose to their life.
One doesn’t need to be spiritual or religious, as sharing with others can be through moral or social means.
One’s personal understanding of the world, its changes, and one’s integration into all this are what allow us to live better and with a certain sense of security.  This reassurance helps us to live better, longer, and without dread.
The sense we have of our lives and our place in the world are two stimuli for a happy longevity.
Daily practice gives us an understanding of ourselves and of others, in a better perceived reality.

8 – Sharing: Putting One’s Family or Clan Above All Else
A belief in values is important, but the ability to share them with likeminded people is equally so.
The human communities that live the longest all have a strong habit of mingling, talking and sharing on a weekly basis.
This primordial social link gains its greatest value when it unites people around shared values, especially when they meet specifically for this reason.
The practice is a way to find oneself in a fraternal group that shares a common aim.
This shared endeavour brings a fraternal ambiance which we can carry our entire lives…a powerful stimulus for longevity.

We see that the wisdom of the Taoist clan tradition, based on ancient texts dating back between the 4th and 7th C, are aligned with these most recent studies (the latest from 2009).