Lessons Learned from The Tao of Pooh

I often wonder, what would my world be like if I could truly practice The Tao of Pooh as a way of life?

Winnie the Pooh, a fun, lovable, simpleminded, fictional character, was introduced to the world by English author, Alan Alexander Milne, in 1926. The original story – inspired by his son, Christopher Robin and his son’s teddy bear – has become a children’s classic and is available in more than 25 languages.

In 1982, United States author, Benjamin Hoff, published The Tao of Pooh, a book which uses the characters from Winnie the Pooh, to introduce the philosophy of Taoism. The book made and remained on the New York Times’ bestseller list for 49 weeks. Today, it is used as required reading in some college courses on philosophy.

“Within each of us there is an Owl, a Rabbit, an Eeyore, and a Pooh,” Hoff writes. Now, like Eeyore, we complain about the results. But that accomplished nothing. If we are smart, we will choose the way (the simplest definition of the word Tao) of Pooh.”

The book is conversational in style, an easy, 158 pages that touches on the fact we all have good and bad experiences throughout life. Yet most of us are uncertain about why or even how, we’ve faced such experiences, which leads to confusion. The basic principle of Taoism expressed in the book is “simply a particular way of appreciating, learning from, and working with whatever happens in everyday life. From the Taoist point of view, the natural result of this harmonious way of living is happiness.”

In other words, life is a teacher of valuable lessons. Taoists believe, that “life itself, when understood and utilized for what it is, is sweet” and that “knowledge that comes from experience is more valuable than knowledge that doesn’t.” It is also described as “the wise know their limitations; the foolish do not.”

Henry David Thoreau, a 19th Century American author, poet, philosopher and leading transcendentalist, explains the same concept in Walden. “Why should we live with such hurry and waste of life? We are determined to be starved before we are hungry.” 

So, why Pooh and his friends?  In Chinese, the word P’u means the “uncarved block, or things in their natural state,” and “things in their original simplicity contain there own natural power, power that is easily spoiled and lost when that simplicity is changed.”  Winnie-the-Pooh is as simpleminded as it gets.

As for the other characters, which Hoff says are all within each of us, he describes it like this:  “Rabbit’s routine is that of Knowledge for the sake of Being Clever; Owl’s is that of Knowledge for the sake of Appearing Wise; Eeyore’s is Knowledge for the sake of Complaining About Something.”  Pooh bear just is Pooh bear. It’s as simple as that. And for Pooh, life is fun. “He does silly things and they turn out right.”

Counselors and therapists often point out “it’s the process that makes us wise, happy or whatever.” Hoff concludes: “the masters of life know the Way, for they listen to the voice within them, the voice of wisdom and simplicity, the voice that reasons beyond Cleverness and knows beyond Knowledge.”

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