Lately I've been poking around in various religions and pulling out anything I like, and I've found a lot to like in Taoism. It fits with a lot of my own ideas about embracing life in the present, living in harmony with nature and seeking balance in our lives. The Three Jewels to be sought are compassion, moderation and humility. Very simple, and I much prefer principles over rules. With a few good principles, you can make your own rules and adjust them as needed to specific situations. (By the way Feminist Mormon Housewives had an awesome post yesterday critiquing and questioning the validity of the endless rules within Mormonism. Comment #16 was especially good.)
This very basic overview describes Tao as "the first cause of the universe. It is a force that flows through all life." That reminded me of John's comment on this post: "To me spirituality is what I call the yet-to-be-explained driving force of the universe or the force that moves us when we're alive and leaves us when we're dead."
The explanation of the Yin Yang symbol I found particularly interesting:
That got me thinking: If change is the only constant in the universe, why are we continually surprised by it? For example, when someone dies or there's a natural disaster or your favorite restaurant goes out of business? Why is it human nature to expect constancy?
Or, is it only unpleasant changes that cause us to cry foul at the universe? Have you ever known anyone to get upset over an unexpected job opportunity or a new romance?
In my experience, the happiest people seem to be those who recognize that there's very little that we actually control. They are able to bend with whatever life brings them and appreciate whatever goodness and joy is in their lives in the present moment, recognizing its evanescence. Buddhism has a similar concept: When we recognize that the glass is already broken, then every moment that it's still intact becomes precious. I see this in my children, who are constantly changing. My little one is starting to use language and real words, and while his fledgling speech is so adorable, I'm a little sad that his baby gibberish is disappearing.
Accepting change as inevitable helps us deal with pain too. When I find myself going through something painful, it helps to remind myself, This won't last forever. No matter how bad it gets, it always gets better eventually.
There's much, much more to Taoism, and I may write more as I get further into it. If I've piqued your interest, A Personal Tao was a fun website to explore.