Pruning Yourself of all of the Unnecessary


The ancient thinker Lao Tzu is known for having attempted to describe the correct way of living. This "way" is literally called "the way," or the Tao (there are many alternate spellings for both Lao Tzu and the Tao).

One of the main themes put forth in Taoism is the "essenciality" of getting back to nature, getting back to the Tao, and going with the flow. And finding this flow invokes one of the main examples in Taoism; that of water. Water is inherently a constant changing substance that shapes and conforms to every situation it is in. This example of water was popularized by Bruce Lee in his various writings and interviews:
Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way round or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.

Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water my friend.
Lee took this example and applied it to his philosophy of martial arts, called Jeet Kune Do. This style attempted to incorporate many other styles, in so much a way that it ceased to be a style itself. The style was particular to that individual, it had no name.

It is easy to see how this applies to the martial arts. A good fighter is one that goes into a fight knowing what kind of situation he is in. He will use the tools at his disposal in this particular situation in order to come out victorious. In a real street fight, Bruce Lee thought that even biting was allowable. If a situation comes down to life and death, the real fighter, the real man will do all he can to win. If he holds on to preconceived notions about how one should fight, or about what style he is, he will fall to the centerdness of his own mind.

This philosophy of water ,though, can, and should be applied to every facet of our lives. While the Tao seems most to portray a metaphysical description of the universe, a layman's view will allow a person to see the inherent practical qualities.

To get back to nature, one must only begin to shed, begin to prune himself. While a man does not have to go to great lengths to shed everything in his life, he can see that there are things in his life that if he were to shed, he would not only free himself, but make himself happier.

The Many Unnecessary

Unnecessary things do not only include material possessions, but these possessions are a good place to start. Most of the things we have we don't really need, but this idea goes far beyond nostalgiac items. We need to be asking whether or not we really do need the items we think we need. If goes for double if these things are currently a detriment to living. If you can't pay the rent, what makes you think you need texting? Sure, maybe it's a small trinket of expense, but the expense builds, the small becomes the large, and the snowball envelops you.

But there are all sorts of unnecessary things in life. There are unnecessary ideas, prejudices, thoughts, and habits as well. For instance, you may have gotten the idea that you have to go to college in order to achieve a happy life. This is plain wrong. You may be thinking and worrying all day about things in the future and not realize you're missing out on the now.

And this pruning is not just about efficiency. It's freeing yourself from unneeded clutter. It's realizing that there's not just one way to live and creating your own style, not centering yourself in those around you.

The Daily Simplification

In Taoism, a person does not build themself up, they break themself down. A person doesn't seek knowledge; he seeks to rid himself of the unnecessary. Everyday is an attempt at simplification, at realizing your hopes and dreams lie not in gathering, but in releasing your notions about the way things ought to be.

When you do this, things fall into place. You are able to focus on the life you're living, not the life you think you should live, or the life others think you should live.

Simplify then and see with perfect sight that your living now, and now is all you've got.

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