Book Summary: The Tao of Pooh

A terrific and short read on the principles of Taoism. The author highlights the belief that happiness and contentment come from an acceptance of our own Inner Nature and an ability to operate in accordance to the natural order of Life.

The following are passages I’ve enjoyed from the book The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.

The main ideas include:

 

  • Taoism and The Natural Order
  • The Uncarved Block
  • The Futility of Knowledge
  • Inner Nature
  • Self Reliance
  • Wu Wei and Minimal Effort
  • The Busy Trap
  • The Joy of the Journey
  • The Power of Now
  • Wisdom and Happiness
  • The Voice Within

 

 

Taoism and The Natural Order

  • “To Lao-tse, the world was not a setter of traps but a teacher of valuable lessons. Its lessons needed to be learned, just as its laws needed to be followed; then all would go well.”
  • “The basic Taoism that we are concerned with here is simply a particular way of appreciating, learning from, and working with whatever happens in everyday life.”
  • “From the Taoist point of view, sourness and bitterness come from the interfering and unappreciative mind. Life itself, when understood and utilized for what it is, is sweet.”

The Uncarved Block

  • “The essence of the principle of the Uncarved Block is that things in their original simplicity contain their own natural power, power that is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is changed.”
  • “From the state of the Uncarved Block comes the ability to enjoy the simple and the quiet, the natural and the plain. Along with that comes the ability to do things spontaneously and have them work, odd as that may appear to others at times.”

The Futility of Knowledge

  • “A well-frog cannot imagine the ocean, nor can a summer insect conceive of ice. How then can a scholar understand the Tao? He is restricted by his own learning.”

Inner Nature

  • “Everything has its own place and function… When you know and respect your own Inner Nature, you know where you belong. You also know where you don’t belong.”
  • “Once you face and understand your limitations, you can work with them, instead of having them work against you and get in your way.”

Self Reliance

  • “The Way of Self Reliance starts with recognizing who we are, what we’ve got to work with, and what works best for us.”

Wu Wei and Minimal Effort

  • “When we learn to work with our own Inner Nature, and with the natural laws operating around us, we reach the level of Wu Wei. Then we work with the natural order of things and operate on the principle of minimal effort.”
  • “Through the centuries, man has developed a mind that separates him from the world of reality, the world of natural laws. This mind tries too hard, wears itself out, and ends up weak and sloppy. Such a mind, even if of high intelligence, is inefficient. It goes here and there, backwards and forwards, and fails to concentrate on what it’s doing at the moment.”

The Busy Trap

  • “For a Reward, perhaps. Our Bisy Backson religions, sciences, and business ethics have tried their hardest to convince us that there is a Great Reward waiting for us somewhere, and that what we have to do is spend our lives working like lunatics to catch up with it. Whether it’s up in the sky, behind the next molecule, or in the executive suite, it’s somehow always farther along than we are–just down the road, on the other side of the world, past the moon, beyond the stars….”

The Joy of the Journey

  • “The honey doesn’t taste so good once it is being eaten; the goal doesn’t mean so much once it is reached; the reward is not so rewarding once it has been given. If we add up all the rewards in our lives, we won’t have very much. But if we add up the spaces between the rewards, we’ll come up with quite a bit. And if we add up the rewards and the spaces, then we’ll have everything-every minute of the time that we spent. What if we could enjoy it?”

The Power of Now

  • “In order to take control of our lives and accomplish something of lasting value, sooner or later we need to learn to Believe. We don’t need to shift our responsibilities onto the shoulders of some deified Spiritual Superman, or sit around and wait for Fate to come knocking at the door. We simply need to believe in the power that’s within us, and use it. When we do that, and stop imitating others and competing against them, things begin to work for us.”
  • “Once we see what the situation is and what we can do about it, we need to utilize everything we find -along the way in order to accomplish whatever is required. More often than not, the things we need are there already; all we have to do is make use of them.”

Wisdom and Happiness

  • “Do you want to be really happy? You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you’ve got. Do you want to be really miserable? You can begin by being discontented.”
  • “Wisdom, Happiness, and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they’re part of a continuous cycle that begins right here. They’re not only the ending, but the beginning as well.”

The Voice Within

  • “Within each of us there is an Owl, a Rabbit, an Eeyore, and a Pooh. For too long, we have chosen the way of Owl and Rabbit. Now, like Eeyore, we complain about the results. But that accomplishes nothing. If we are smart, we will choose the way of Pooh. As if from far away, it calls to us with the voice of a child’s mind. It may be hard to hear at times, but it is important just the same, because without it, we will never find our way through the Forest.”

TaoofPooh002

A short and very enjoyable read. It packs a beginner’s intro to Eastern Taoism through an easy to read and friendly childhood allegory. 

All content credit goes to the author. I’ve simply shared the bits I’ve enjoyed the most. 

Cheers ’till next time!

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