When conducted correctly, with honor and respect, the Tao allows us to come together in a sense of belonging to something far larger than our individual selves. This is the essence of building a “family” of dedication that encompasses many different individuals, lifestyles and orientations to the world. At it’s best, it inspires joy, movement, laughter, a sense of shared involvement and the lifting up and building of our collective and individual chi energies.
I was privileged to have found and participated in such a “family” for over ten years when I lived in Boston. Still, now, 12 years later, circumstances having lead me to other places, I reflect upon our group there and very seriously miss its loss in my life. In our individualistic and ambitious lives, which are states of being our culture artificially induces us to pursue, I feel the Tao, her family and that sense of belonging to be diminishing with rapid progress at this juncture in our collective history. And, perhaps, it is why I write of the magic of the Tao family now, in hopes of its revival.
Whenever we engage in activities directed toward a larger, macrocosmic and natural state, we find ourselves expanding, inspired and feeling so much more than our idiosyncratic and mundane selves. Such is the gift of the Tao in my own life, transmitted to me by my teachers. Whenever I walked out of class, I felt as though I was ten feet tall, such is the spirit of expansion and awareness that the Tao bestows.
Often, after class, I would take a walk around one of my favorite places: Jamaica Pond in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts.
Jamaica Plain is one of the most community-oriented places I have ever lived, full of writers and artists and interesting alternative people who not only had vision, but also knew how to walk that vision in their daily lives. It is a city where there was/is a “there” there. Places where people gathered and talked and discussed philosophy in a number of coffee houses, restaurants and, of course, at The Pond.
In the 12 years I lived there, I walked the path around the Pond many times a week. There are benches for chatting and sandy beaches where families took their children to fish and enjoy the sun on Sunday afternoons. I have been there many times as well in the darkness, watching her still waters under a full moon, deeply connected to nature despite being in the middle of a very urban environment. I have also stood upon her banks in raging snowstorms, arms outstretched and laughing as high winds threatened to knock me over under her powerful hands during winter months. I have run and trained for marathons and triathlons around her circumference and lolled about on her hills of grasses engaged in intimate conversations with close friends during hot, humid summer days.
Over the years I was there, I came to know all of the people around that Pond very, very well, though most of them I never knew personally at all. We all just knew each other, having passed each other by on hundreds of occasions.
All of us there were, indeed, the beneficiaries of a single man named Frederick Law Olmsted, who created what is known as The Emerald Necklace, a 7 mile pathway in the heart of Boston that stretches from the Boston Common all the way to through Jamaica Plain and its Pond to the Arnold Arboretum (just south of Jamaica Pond where every year the festival of the lilacs takes place) and on to Franklin Field at its terminus.
Frederick Law Olmsted was a man who believed in the beauty of nature and, from 1878 to 1896, he built for us a greenery of stunning beauty, winding its way from the environs of downtown Boston through it’s smaller neighborhoods. I was, indeed, most fortunate to have lived within his vision over 100 years after he created it. Such creativity inspires generations and that was and is his legacy, still so alive and vibrant even today.
Such, also, is the power of the Tao, for its gifts do, indeed, outlive us all.
On so many days after class, I would unwind by taking my walk around the Pond. So often, I would come upon people walking toward me and, somehow, I found them wanting to connect with the shining light in my own eyes. We would hold out our hands to each other and make direct eye contact, somehow wanting to connect with what was within me, a reflection, truly, of what was already within them. And we would smile at each other in largesse, and then pass along. That is the power of the Tao.
The Tao is always found in the eyes. Within the Tao, the eyes dance and twinkle and give back out into the world the small world that the Tao bestows upon the practitioner/student/teacher in class. The eyes smile at the sheer expansiveness of it all, having absolutely nothing to do with the small concerns of our everyday selves or worlds.
That is the magic and essence of belonging to a Tao “family.” Made so much more for me by the family of the Emerald Necklace that inspired all of us to a sense of belonging to something larger than ourselves, given to us by Mr. Olmsted. Such recognition gives us the sense of value of tradition, as well as the experience of the new.
Neither before nor since have I found such self-less involvement in the world as I knew there, within those classes, held so magnificently within the environment within which they took place and in which I lived. Many thanks are owed to my predecessors, both old and contemporary.
I write this solely to try to transmit the purest understanding of the Tao. Though bestowed from some outside source, it belongs to all of us, equally, as co-inhabitants of a planet that continuously basks under the vibrant vibrations of our universal sun and cosmic vibrations. In that union of yin and yang, we have the opportunity to find satisfaction and contentment, divorced from the cultural mind-set of the acquisition of external things.
The Tao is, indeed, a dance of cosmic proportions. Even within the depths of urban culture, she is there, always ready to take our hand and invite us into a way of being and knowing ourselves that transcends our mundane lives.
Yes, in the beginning, we all need our teachers to help us through the fumbling, awkward moves of learning the steps. But, once apprehended, the Dance of the Tao belongs solely and entirely to each of us, just like learning the waltz. Once mastered, it is yours to do with what you please. And in that, I request you use it for the highest expression of yourselves and our collective humanity.
My classes have the intention of transmitting that expression of our most intimate and most profound selves to each other and to the world in which we live.
“Oh will you, won’t you,
Won’t you join the Dance?”
C.S. Lewis, Alice in Wonderland