Let life flow but learn meaning first

City Talk | 21 Jun 2016

One of the most popular stories in Zhuangzi is about a butcher called Pao Ding.

Pao was carving a joint of beef for a customer who had been coming to his store for many years.

"Pardon me," the customer asked, "but isn't that the same knife you had last year? Don't you need to sharpen it?"

"It's the same knife I've had for the past 19 years," the butcher replied.

"And I haven't had to sharpen it once. For when I cut the meat, I allow the knife to find its own way through the flesh without effort or stress.

"And when I come to a tricky bit with lots of cartilage, I just slow down and allow the mystery to solve itself and in no time the meat falls right off the blade."

The art of grace is effortless but before you reach such a state imagine how much effort you need to put in to refine the practice.

This metaphor is to explain further wu wei, or nothingness, in Taoist teaching.

To reach such a state of nothingness you must know everything.

Furthermore Zen Buddhism preaches "no words ascribed, it is in our heart," although Zen has produced the most books on Buddhism teachings.

Now, let's hear it from Ding himself.

"What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself.

"After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now I go at it by spirit and don't look with my eyes.

"Perception and understanding have come to a stop and the spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural setting, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are.

"So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.

"There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness in such spaces. Then there's plenty of room, more than enough for the blade to play about in.

"That's why after 19 years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone."

The focal point here is implying that nature and our body should be in harmony to reach a healthy and balanced life.

We hear a lot about "going with the flow" and "letting nature take its course," but remember that before we can go with the flow, we must learn how to go and how to flow in a sequential manner in order to go and flow.

Kerby Kuek has published 15 books on feng shui, inner alchemy, Taoism and metaphysics. He can be contacted at www.kerbykuek.com

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