The Tao of Happiness
I didn’t grow up with the Pooh stories and that’s a pity because I think my child self would have liked Winnie the Pooh, a lot. I loved stories like Rapunzel and Rumpelstiltskin and the usual childhood fare. But I missed an important lesson that it took me many decades to learn on my own. That lesson is about noticing what most adults miss in their struggle to survive in the workworld and social fray. In Winnie’s world, it is the little moments that matter most. Pooh Bear is presented as a simple soul whose innocence and guilelessness is contrasted with the purblind pedantry of Owl, the narrow-focus thinking of Eeyore and the desire to impress of Piglet. Owl and Eeyore, in particular, take themselves rather seriously. Owl is a Learn-ed bird although he often gets things muddled to good comic effect. Eeyore is a pragmatist who wants answers and solutions to problems, puzzles, and mysteries in his life. Owl is concerned with Why of things; Eeyore is concerned with the Imperfection of things and Rabbit is concerned with the How of things. But, Pooh, being “…a bear of little Brain”, is only concerned with the Is-ness of things.
The Tao of Happiness
Pooh Bear’s tummy IS hungry much of the time and honey is favourite dish. His favourite day is…whichever day it happens to be. His favourite time is any time it’s time to eat or visit friends. Pooh is a creature of the Earth. He knows the world through his senses and he IS curious but not obsessed with finding out things. He is aware that life contains both pain and joy, gain and loss, but he doesn’t fret about any of it. What Is, simply Is and there is really no way to avoid or hide from What Is – though we spend a lot of time trying! Often, it is even hard to understand what Is-ness is happening in the present moment but, for Pooh, accepting is more important than understanding. He has learned that understanding often comes only after a lot Is-ness has happened. Pooh Bear is content to Be who and what he is and has found that Be-ing is the best way to live a happy and harmonious life, although he would consider “Harmonious” to be a cumbersome and difficult word whereas Happy is simple and clear.
The Tao of Happiness
Pooh lives instinctively. He knows that Simplicity and Clarity lead to Happiness which is, after all, what Life is for. That is, if it is For anything. Co-incidentally – or not – that is what Taoist Masters have been saying for about two and a half millennia now and, as Owl knows and Eeyore suspects, Taoist Masters are Very Learned Indeed and know what most difficult words mean. But they also know that life is not about difficult words; it is about Being Aware.
The thing is that in order to be Aware we must first just Be because Be-ing fully present in life, moment by moment, is the ground from which all else arises. Before we can Do, we must first Be. Taoism and Pooh-ism together represent the science and the art of Be-ing. Both are about simple Awareness, a state of non-distraction in which the mind is absorbed in whatever is happening at the moment whether that is washing a dish or solving the mystery of existence. By letting our minds absorb what our senses tell us, we are more ourselves because we become less self-conscious, the paradox of the Tao.
The Name Is Not The Thing
Words can distract us from Awareness. They name things, label people and describe events but words do not get to the root of things. To get to the root things, one must Be At One with what Is. In other words, we must Be in Silence so that Awareness can perceive fully what IS.
Pooh understands this concept as he proves when he and his friends, Rabbit and Piglet, get lost in the Hundred Acre Wood one day and keep ending up at the same old sand-pit at the top of the Forest. They are walking in circles without realising it. Pooh even suspects the sand-pit is following them around and suggests that they walk away from it and then try to find it again and perhaps they’ll find the way Home instead! Rabbit thinks it a silly idea because Rabbit believes in Reason and Logic and both are against Pooh’s argument. However, being of an Empirical disposition, Rabbit decides to demonstrate the absurdity of Pooh’s idea and he walks away from the sand pit and then starts back again but Pooh and Piglet, having waited for 20 minutes, have left the sand-pit. Unlike Rabbit, Pooh, a bear of Little Brain, is getting tired and his tummy is telling him it’s time to eat. Suddenly, Pooh Bear has an Idea! If everyone will just be totally silent for a while, Pooh believes he will be able to hear the twelve pots of Hunny calling to him from his kitchen! But he’ll only be able to hear them and follow the voice of the Hunny Pots if no one speaks. In this way Pooh believes that he can find his home. And so he and Piglet set out silently listening for the Hunny pots.
The Wisdom of The Tao, The Wisdom of Pooh
What is Pooh telling us here? Several things at once, actually. If several people are suggesting solutions to a problem but their approach is not working, it is time to switch tactics. Pooh is offering an intuitive solution to the problem of getting back home from the Hundred Acre Wood. He thinks perhaps the best way to solve the problem is not to Try. Trying keeps bringing them back to the sand-pit. Perhaps, not trying is the answer. Pooh’s solution is to let the Hunny Pots “speak” directly to his empty tummy so he can follow the sound of the Hunny Pots home. Piglet is doubtful that it will work but Pooh insists on trying his solution with the result that he and Piglet find their way home to the waiting Hunny pots. Pooh may be a Bear of Little Brain but he has the uncanny wisdom of a Taoist Master. And therein lies the secret of a happy life: living in harmony with What Is. Listen to your Inner Taoist and you won’t get lost in the Hundred Acre Wood we know as Life. And you might just find some Honey as well…
© Delia O’ Riordan 2013, 2014
The Tao of Pooh is available from Delia’s Amazon Shop: HERE.