Over the many years of teaching people as a Taoist master, I have seen many disciples come and go. The hardest thing in learning Taoism is not the language or theories but the power to be persistent with your faith. It goes the same for any religious practice, regardless of religion or sect. How to hold onto your Tao and not let go or give up? I want to write this post for all my disciples or even the disciples-to-be to give them some guidance, encouragement, and tips to help them overcome their hurdles and become successful Taoists.
The Bottleneck Period
You will encounter this sooner or later, which most call a bottleneck period. You feel exhausted, tired, and frustrated because it seems like no matter what you do, it just doesn’t get better. You keep failing something, have trouble picking up your pace again, and seem to have lost motivation for the practice. It feels like you are just at the end of the journey and about to give up because you feel like this will not get better.
Trust me; I have gone through that stage too! However, I have walked all the way here and have gone through a few of these myself. How did I do it? Very simple, zoom out and see the bigger picture.
The problem is always you are too focused on what is going on now with the present or what is in front of you. If you zoom out and see life as a whole, you will realize that maybe the hurdle you got in grade 3 is nothing when you look at it again in grade 5. It seems like a big deal when you are in grade 3, but it is not anymore when you are past that period. Think about it; things will change, and new elements will pop up. It is not the end of the world; give it some time. Just like everyone panicked about the pandemic! You can wait a bit first, and eventually, you see people come up with new ideas to work their way around a new lifestyle, then the panic is gone.
I am Not Good at This
You will eventually make excuses for yourself like, “I am not good at this.” It feels natural to say this when you have tried a few times and keep getting things wrong. Think about it; no one is good at this or that; we are not born to know things. However, isn’t that why you have to learn and do more to master it? If you cannot do it or fail again, then that is why you need practice and experience. Doing more will only help you realize what is needed to get there. Don’t focus on judging yourself and label yourself a failure yet. You are not supposed to judge yourself. Leave it up to your upper (me) to judge; you focus on doing and trying. This will only lead you to success and nowhere else. If you feel like you are failing so much, you should also see that this is so important for you to retry and redo again. The more time and effort you invest into things, the better you get at them.
It's Getting Dull or Fading Out
Sometimes you feel like you have lost the motivation or interest to learn or keep going. Think about things we do in life to “get to the end,” like our everyday life things; brushing teeth, cooking and eating, cleaning up the house; everything is very “ordinary,” and they stay around the same all the time. However, those simple and ordinary things are what you do all your life to get to the end. The important and beneficial things are not always the most exciting, but they get you to the end; they help you achieve your goals. Like the older adults doing tai chi in the park all their life, it is the same thing every day, but that’s what it takes to get you a healthier body and a happier ending. Taoist cultivation is the same too. When you feel you are losing interest, think about the goal of this cultivation again. Doing so brings you to the result, which is what matters. Excitement might be fun once in a while, but getting to the end goal is the most important. Keep going; you will eventually be there with the others who achieve the goal in the end. Taoist cultivation is like an exam for people’s hearts. Only those with the will and desire to get to the end will be getting there. School might not be fun for you, but it is what you need to do to get to the next phase in life.
The best way to save yourself from ANY situation where you feel like you cannot keep going on something is to “let go” and “forget yourself.” I am not talking about giving up but letting go of the idea of trying to do things “yourself.” Imagine you have an issue with your organs and go to a doctor for help. What do you do? You let go of yourself completely and let the doctor take over the wheel. Doctor asks you things, and you answer. The doctor tells you to do this and that; you do as told. The doctor says you need to do surgery; you pay and get it done. You will be fixed. When you are a Taoist facing the hurdle of persistency, do the same thing. I am your doctor; come to me for help. Let me know what is going on like you are naked in front of me, and show me everything, whether they are ugly or not. Tell me everything, and then wait for me to tell you what to do, do them, and you will be fine. I have gone through much more than you, and I know how to overcome these hurdles as a Taoist master.
The hardest thing is to follow the doctor’s words fully. Many people go to one doctor and love to go through a few more to “compare” the doctor’s suggestions. That will kill you because you don’t trust the doctor you found. You kept trying to be the boss and judge everyone while you are the victim and the one who doesn’t know what to do; how can you judge? As a Taoist disciple, you are not supposed to judge your master too. When I tell you things and guide you, then you follow and do what is told.
Communication is the king! Even though I said to follow what is told, it doesn’t mean you “do” things without telling me what you are experiencing or what is in your mind. You could say it out loud if you have confusion, questions, or even anything you want to know. Following and obeying doesn’t mean you shut up and do things. Updating me after you have done things I told you to do is also critical. If you never updated me on the results, I would never know if you have done it right or not too. As our commandment says, “communicate proactively and accordingly.”
If you are not yet a disciple, feel free to ordain today! Disciples, I strongly suggest you read over our ten commandments and five virtues again. These doctrines are so evergreen; they will always point you the right way on any day.