This Monday, we invite you to engage in Taoism with the philosophy’s central figure, Lao Tzu. In the central work of Taoism, ‘Tao Te Ching’, Lao Tzu refines the Tao into 81 small excerpts. Each is different, yet the same. They touch on similar themes yet they explore their own universes. Lao Tzu’s teachings hugely inspired philosophies on creativity that are fundamental to ICON, yet there are very few direct references to creativity throughout the ‘Tao Te Ching’. How can they be connected if that’s the case? Let’s read on and find out!
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Be Like Water
Water is the lifeblood of the entire Planet Earth. Nothing that lives can do so without water, and all non-living things are affected by water. The Grand Canyon, a crevice in Earth 277 miles long, 18 miles wide, and over a mile deep was created by water. From the sheer power of this elemental force, Lao Tzu drew principles of Taoism:
Increased Resilience to Change – If the flow of change is a rushing river, what happens when someone fights the current? They use their energy and the current eventually carries them away despite their effort. Inversely, when someone submits to the flow of change they conserve their energy, and face new circumstances at their best.
- How do you feel about change?
- How does the idea of change apply to your creative process?
The Power of Softness – Lao Tzu says soft things can bend and hard things only break. According to Lao Tzu, the idea of “knowing” is a hard thing that lives in the mind because “knowing” what something is rejects other possibilities, other perspectives. So, what happens when hard things in the mind break? When what is known ends up being untrue?
- Is creativity a hard thing or a soft thing?
The Power Of Letting Go
What is something that only takes your energy? Leaving you feeling drained, stressed, and unmotivated. Lao Tzu says by letting go of these things, one can empower their life and their choices.
Non-Doing – Why does someone “do” a thing? Much of the time, it’s to achieve a specific result. Work out to lose weight. Save money to feel more secure in our future. To “do” is not inherently bad. Everyone needs to “do” things to survive. Lao Tzu says “Non-doing” rejects the idea of a specific result.
- How do you think results affect your creativity?
- How does your creativity change without results in mind?
Letting Go of Excess – What do we truly need? Food. Air. Water. Shelter. Companionship. What else? Lao Tzu describes all things outside our needs as “desires.” Desires take energy away from the self. If someone has more energy at their disposal, they can put that energy towards the self.
- What can you let go of to create space for the self?
- What can you bring into that space?
The Philosophy of Flow
The dictionary defines “flow” as: “the action or fact of moving along in a steady, continuous stream.” How does that definition lend itself to creativity?
“Motion” rejects stagnation, welcoming growth and learning. The words “steady” and “continuous” reject obstacles and impediments. Lao Tzu believed that we can bring flow into every aspect of our lives.
Being Humble – “The Master stays behind, therefore she is ahead.” – Lao Tzu
By putting others before herself, by being humble, The Master earns the respect and love of others.
- How do you feel when your collaborators are open to your ideas?
- How do your collaborators react to you when you are open to hearing their ideas?
Cessation of Striving – “It is because he is thus free from striving that therefore no one in the world is able to strive with him” – Lao Tzu.
The rotation of the Earth. The orbit of the Earth around the sun. People know this motion is happening, but do they notice? Does it feel like the Earth is striving to move or is it a steady and continuous flow?
- Which version of motion best serves creativity? Striving or flow?