The ubiquitous teacher and author has been doling out non-religious inspiration for several decades in the form of world-wide workshops and 30 books; he and Deepak Chopra, that other profitable prophet, pretty much fill the "Personal Growth" section of any bookstore. Dyer was also one of the first to popularize the "law of attraction"—the notion that your thoughts create your life—which "The Secret" book and DVD cashed in on so successfully.
What's the Tao to you?
The Tao is actually three words, the "Tao Te Ching." And the Tao in ancient Chinese means "great way," "te" means living the great way, and "ching" means book. So, it's the book of living the Great Way, or how to live the Great Way.
Some people have called it the wisest book ever written, sort of a blueprint for living a moral life based upon the principles of the highest levels of consciousness that we know today. It was written somewhere between 2,500 and 2,700 years ago, by a man named Lao Tzu who was a contemporary of Confucius but was very much opposed to governments and laws and rules, and fighting and killing, and really believed the way to guide your life is by staying in harmony with nature. That all the answers come from nature.
They all sound very paradoxical. Water is referred to a lot in the "Tao Te Ching" as an example of how softness overcomes hardness, that flexibility overcomes rigidness. The opening line of the "Tao Te Ching" says, "A Tao that can be named is not the Tao." So the Tao is almost like a synonym for God without the religious aspect. It's trying to describe something that's indescribable. But, if you had to describe it, it would be that which animates all of life, which is doing nothing but leaves nothing undone, which is constantly in motion, which doesn't have any requirements for anybody on how to live their lives.
And it is that divine, organizing, invisible intelligence from which all things emanate and to which all things return. It's what allows the other clouds to form, and the mosquitoes to be here, your heart to beat, and your hair to grow.
How does that notion of Tao compare to God?
Well, it's always interesting about God because, it's like all of the religions in the world say that they pray to the same God, and yet they ask that same one God to divide itself up and agree with this one and fight against that one.
Where it's different is that the Tao doesn't break it down into any pieces. It's a complete and total oneness that encompasses all and doesn't look for any kind of religious structure or organizational principles. It finds all of its strength in nature itself—a spider web is a perfect example of the Tao at work. It just takes what comes to it, and what doesn't come to it, it doesn't get itself obsessed with.
[The Tao] wants to reach out and to be creative, and to be in harmony with its own source. And yet, at almost every turn we're taught to not to trust in our nature, and to listen to other people, and to seek outside for guidance and help and sustenance.
And I think that's probably the most profound thing that you can learn from it—is that you, too, have a nature, and that those inner murmurings that you hear about what you want to do or why you should do it, those kind of things are from an inner nature.
And how has reading the Tao changed your life in a practical way?
The way that I wrote this book is that I worked on [each of the 81 verses of the Tao for] between four and five days, and really tried to live what was being taught in each one.
|I See Myself as Palm Trees|
I think I've become much more non-interfering, much more patient, much more tolerant, much more peaceful. I'm in almost a total state of gratitude all the time. I've become much healthier. I've been doing yoga instead of running because it teaches us to be more flexible. One of the most famous lines of the Tao is in the 76th verse: "A man is born gentle and weak. At his death, he is hard and stiff. All things, including the grass and the trees are soft and pliable in life, dry and brittle in death. Stiffness is thus a companion of death. Flexibility is a companion of life."
Flexibility and softness and pliability are associated with life. A tree that is young is flexible. The wind comes along and blows, and it'll blow, and then it'll come back. A tree that's old and hard--as the wind comes along, it'll snap it in half. So I've learned that this is true not just in our bodies, but in the way that we think as well.