What Does It Mean To Practice Taoism in America?

What Does It Mean To Practice Taoism in America?

The word "Tao" is merely a placeholder, a title to describe the unique path that each and every one of us walks over the course of our life.

Oftentimes when people ask me about my faith, I usually receive one of two responses: People either ask me what Taoism is, having never heard of it, or they proceed to correct me, claiming that it's more of a philosophy than a religion. Chances are if you inquired about Taoism in any Asian country, people would most likely know what you were referring to, and might even describe it as one of the founding religions of the far East. At the time I announced my own religious denomination, however, I quickly realized that I was knee-deep in a severe minority.

Initially, this really didn't irk me all that much. One of the perks of Taoism is that it functions very smoothly in private practice. In America at least, any sites of worship are states apart from one another, and organized communities are scarce. But Taoism is primarily concerned with the individual and sustains the belief that one can better their community and their connection to the world through betterment to oneself. In close relation to Buddhist precepts, Taoism emphasizes mindful awareness of self, spirit, and nature, and interconnections that form between the three. Regarding deities, their acknowledgment has varied greatly given the different Asian demographics, but original, general census holds a very agnostic posture. We neither deny nor affirm any central divine figures, not because of a sense of correctness, but out a respect for organic ambiguity. The mystery and the connotation of the unknown stirs a great reverence in us, and although I myself have a measure of confidence in an iteration of higher power, I acknowledge that I cannot know for sure, and perhaps am not meant to. Because of this viewpoint, people often like to write Taoism off as a secular belief system, and although for me it is a spiritual experience, that doesn't mean it has to be for everyone else.

The word "Tao" is merely a placeholder, a title to describe the unique path that each and every one of us walks over the course of our life. There is no overarching umbrella trait that I could think of to describe every single American citizen. We are a very eclectic people, and we are comprised of many distinct facets and interests. There are certainly the few, like myself, who take the ancient Taoist scripts and find religious significance therein, but another person might seek them out for purely philosophical or scholarly endeavors. I take great pride in my faith's ability to be open and accepting of individual perspectives, and therefore any religious snobbery would be counterintuitive to the belief system.

Truly, when any religion or philosophy travels from one country to another, permutation and evolution of that doctrine is all but inevitable. There is no crime in tradition, but as the societies of the world continue to reshape and grow, so too do our beliefs. 50 years from now, the paradigm for what we would consider an American Taoist may be entirely different than it is now, and that's alright. We needn't concern ourselves with keeping strict scrutiny on labels, so long as we remain open to possibilities and understanding of each person's unique take on things.

And so, if I correct someone who calls my own American Taoism a philosophy, I do so to assert my connection to it, not to detract from someone else's. Such questions no longer give me insult; rather, they serve to reaffirm my own values.

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Faith Is A Swinging Bridge

Stepping off of solid ground can be intimidating, but our faith will keep us stable.

Lately I have felt like I am failing God. He has called me to do great things and I think about that all the time but I am not actively doing anything about it. It seems like my faith is always stronger at certain points in my life but during other times I seem to place God on the back burner. I have felt guilty about this but the truth is faith is like a rope bridge.

So first, God calls you to do something. Whether you are being called to third world countries or you are needed in your own city, you see where God is calling you and you start your journey. The first step on the bridge is shaky because it is not the solid ground you are used to. So you grab on to the sides. It is easy to cling to God when you are uncertain and you need extra support.

Then you get comfortable and you're able to walk freely. You can let go of the sides and walk on your own. So yes there are times when you are on your journey and you aren't relying on God as much as you were in the beginning.

But the wind picks up and the bridge is shaking and you are back clinging on to the sides even tighter than you were before. It is perfectly okay to grow closer to God when life is hard. God isn't going to hold the times when you were independent against you.

So whether you make it to the end of the bridge or you stop in the middle to take a break, you look back. You look back at how far you have come and you see that through shaky starts, confidence, and windy times you had your support system.

The bridge below your feet was always there. Yeah gripping on to the sides is helpful but imagine if there was nothing under your feet. Yes, it is important to read your Bible every day to have a relationship with God. But we shouldn’t beat ourselves up when we aren’t able to. There are so many other ways to have a relationship with God and it is important to incorporate that into our daily lives.

You look back and you see that whether you needed Him or not, God was there. You see that whether you were seeking God or not, he was there to help guide you. He is always there. When God calls us to do something we work so hard to get there but it is okay to take a break.

God wants us to take the time to stop in the middle of the bridge and look around at everything he has created. Maybe we need the time to stand still on the shaky bridge before we continue our journey.

The only thing that matters is that we do not turn around and return to the solid ground we first stepped off of.

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