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Monday, October 31, 2005

Buddhist Mindfulness vs Taoist Flow

I have recently been reading about Buddhism and the concept of mindfulness. The author mentions always being aware of all of the stimuli around you (breathing, footsteps, etc) and all of the little things we normally do on "autopilot".

This seems like a great practice and I can understand its appeal. Yet, previous to this I was reading about Taoism in Chuang-Tzu. There, he mentioned the centipede speaking with the walrus. The walrus asks the centipede how he handles so many legs. The centipede responds that he doesn't try to think about it, but lets it flow naturally. If he actually stopped to think about it, he'd trip.

This sort of automatic "flow" as it might be called, also seems to me to be an approach with good potential and application.

But how can I reconcile these two concepts, which seem directly at odds with one another? I know they both come from different traditions, but might there be some philosophy by which we can know when mindfulness is proper and when flow is proper? Both of these traditions seem to be encouraging them exclusively, but this doesn't seem like truth to me.


  1. Buddhist mindfulness isn't the same as analytically thinking about what you're doing. It just being aware. It's the union of thought and action. So when you are walking you aren't thinking about lunch, you are just walking and being aware that you are walking. It's just a watching of your thoughts, not an unnatural interference with them. So, it is basically just the same as being aware of the flow.

    Why would you want to be mindful, or watch the flow? This is where it helps to know where karma comes from. Karma is any movement of the mind, and the thought speech and action that result. You want to be mindful of your thoughts, or the flow, so that you make good karma and not bad.

    And, how do you start to actually learn how to do this? Find a good Buddhist meditation center.

  2. Thanks much for your comments! I've since learned a little more about karma and I think I understand what you're saying a little better. Thanks again :)

  3. I think you are on to something.
    I view Buddhism as awareness of the oneness of nature (you included) with some ethical suggestions. Taoism as just a laid back way to integrate yourself into the Oneness.
    Stoicism, I am going to review.
    I am not sure anyone needs anyother philosophies than these.

  4. Thanks much for the comment. If you're looking into Stoicism, I might recommend...

    The Stoic Place

    and perhaps the Wikipedia article on Stoicism.