Difficult and Uncertain Terrain
The path of Taoist self-cultivation is not a straight line. It can mean studying spiritual texts, practicing meditation, Taoist calisthenics, searching near and far for teachers, not-fitting into mainstream society, and spending valuable time and money without a clear goal.
Sometimes Taoist cultivation may mean a specific diet, exercise, virtue, and sacrifice—but it may not. Mostly, it relies on being true to oneself. It can be difficult to look into one’s own short-comings, to address character defects, refine the spirit, and admit when long-held beliefs aren’t productive. However, these difficult steps are what moves the practitioner toward spiritual growth. The difficult steps turn the lead of base personality into the gold of living life on a spiritual basis. No matter what -ism, religion, or philosophy one adapts, this is the difficult work that must be done for growth.
It’s not entirely clear how Taoist masters developed their meditative and contemplative practices. When and how did they map and understand the energy lines of the body? What made them want to pursue a simpler life that was more in harmony with nature? And further, why did they find it necessary to preserve this information and pass it down through the ages?
The path of Taoist practice follows difficult and uncertain terrain. In order to have time to cultivate spiritual virtue, it is recommended to prolong life through breathing exercises, herbs and a variety of meditation practices. Instead of focusing on external stimulation, the path recommends internal contemplation. Through this, one can nourish the organs and endocrine glands to conserve, improve, and grow the energy of the body.
It seems that longevity, health, and increased spirit is not the goal in itself, but rather to be a better person to help others and to have clearer energy to raise the vibration of one’s environment. To practice a respect for life to help life grow and see it’s true potential. And, to do all of this without a guarantee at the end of the rainbow. The hope is that the ups and downs of the journey itself, which turn the coal into a diamond, make the sacrifice worthwhile.