Part 9 – Finding Fullness: Stillness in Movement
By Dr. Dana Leigh Lyons, DOM, AP
This is Part 9 in an Alchemist’s Notebook blog series exploring places of resonance, merger and synergy between neuroplasticity and Taoist-inspired Chinese Medicine practice.
Three focal points frame the series: Change, Relationship and Process.
For an introduction and overview, see Part 1 – Parallels & Possibilities.
For the three installments on Change, see Part 2 – On the Edge: Introducing Neuroplasticity, Part 3 – On the Path: Introducing Taoism and Part 4 – Past Meets Present: Plasticity in Practice.
For the three installments on Relationship, see Part 5 – Nature Plus Nurture: Mind in Context, Part 6 – Relationship Plus Resonance: Self in Concert and Part 7 – Practitioner Meets Patient: Achieving Influence.
For the first installment on Process, see Part 8 – Seeking Source: Self in Motion. Today’s installment brings Taoism back into our exploration of the self’s unfolding.
Taoism, like the neuroplastic paradigm, situates the shifting self in time—in process.
This process mirrors and manifests the movement of macrocosm. Change is constant and cyclical; every ending, a beginning (1).
In the words of Lao-tzu (2):
The ten thousand things rise and fall while the Self watches their return.
They grow and flourish and then return to the source.
Returning to the source is stillness, which is the way of nature.
The way of nature is unchanging.
Knowing constancy is insight.
Not knowing constancy leads to disaster.
Knowing constancy, the mind is open.
With an open mind, you will be openhearted.
Being openhearted, you will act royally.
Being royal, you will attain the divine.
Being divine, you will be at one with the Tao.
Being at one with the Tao is eternal.
And though the body dies, the Tao will never pass away. 
The Tao Te Ching and Chuang-tzu counsel mindfulness of natural cycles and moving in harmony with them.
Doing so is an expression of de (德), the innate potential or place of the Tao in every being.
Often translated as “virtue,” de is more akin to intuited alignment, or natural “knowing” (3).
It evokes a sense of allowing something bigger than oneself to work through the self. Of learning and acting in ways that can be sensed but not spoken.
Its Chinese character places the “pathway” radical alongside the ideogram for an “eye,” or “directed movement,” atop a “heart”; and indeed, de represents a two-way conduit between universe and heart-mind (4).
Here then, self is an expression of the wider path, or process, of the Tao.
As Watts writes: “in the Taoist view there really is no obdurately external world. My inside arises mutually with my outside, and though the two may differ they cannot be separated” (Watts 43).
Realizing one’s innate potential, or de, means giving passage and voice to what is already there—within the uncarved block and plastic body-mind.
It means allowing feelings, thoughts, words and actions to flow with spontaneity, or zi ran (自然), “in the faith that they will then order themselves harmoniously” (Watts 118).
Moving from this place gives fullest expression to an ingenuous, authentic, unlimited self.
Natural emergence of self—arising in relationship and in process—unfolds within the sphere of a steady, still whole.
And it rests, finally, in a place of responsive acceptance—of wu wei (无为).
Often translated as “nondoing,” wu wei “suggests not identifying with a part of anything, or of ourselves, but embracing all, excluding nothing” (5).
It evokes a sense of recognizing and following the flow of self’s form and function. Of opening to the changes of body-mind without forced seeking.
More than “not doing,” wu wei is about not getting in the way of our innate intelligence and capacity.
The Tao Te Ching advises the same approach when guiding others. In the words of Lao-tzu:
The softest thing in the universe
Overcomes the hardest thing in the universe.
That without substance can enter where there is no room.
Hence I know the value of non-action.
Teaching without words and work without doing
Are understood by very few. 
Rather than interfering with the inherent wisdom of another, the sage teacher or guide sees and moves with the cycles of things, channeling change with subtleness and grace.
Our final installment on Process will explore integrating this Taoist approach to self and other with neuroplastic insights, expanding the horizons of healing partnership.
1. Jerry Lynch and Chungliang Al Huang, Working Out, Working Within: The Tao of Inner Fitness Through Sports and Exercise (Putnam, 1998), 223.
2. Unless otherwise stated, all quotations from the Tao Te Ching or attributed to Lao-tzu are from the translation by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English (Vintage Books, 1972). The chapter number follows in brackets.
3. Alan Watts, with Al Chung-liang Huang, Tao: The Watercourse Way (Pantheon Books, 1975), 108. Citations of Watts here are from this work.
4. The interpretation of the Chinese character de here is from course lectures by Dr. Warren Fischer at the Academy of Classical Oriental Sciences (ACOS) in Nelson, British Columbia.
5. Greg Johanson and Ronald S. Kurtz, Grace Unfolding: Psychotherapy in the Spirit of the Tao-te Ching (Bell Tower, 1991), xiii.
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- Not waiting for perfect - March 8, 2017
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