Carving the Block = Knowing the Context.

In Daoism we often refer to something called The Uncarved Block. For most Daoists the lesson goes something like this: In the Dao De Jing, Lao Tzu says “the name that can be named is not the name, naming is the origin of all Things”. In a nutshell this means that if you use language to separate things from each other, you ultimately deny yourself any chance of seeing the interconnectedness of all things. Or the “Not Two-ness” of the Universe. But what does this mean for everyday people? How can we use this in practical life?

The answer is simple. When you say “I am ______” you in effect carve the block that is your true self. If you are an Orthodox Jew from Russia then you effectively nullify any chance of experiencing who you would be if you lived with the Buddhists in Tibet and explored the person you could be if you were born in Tibet. To bring this to an even more everyday level, when you say “I am a depressed person” or “I am a bad person” then you are taking away any possibility of experiencing reality in another way. How many people believe they are depressed? You cannot BE depressed. You must DO it. You have to use your body, mind, and language in very specific patterns in order for that to happen. If you accept that you were NOT born that way and with the interruption of those patterns enough life WILL change. If you believe you are a bad person then you will behave in a way to make that true. But how many ‘bad’ people do great things all the time? And vice versa!

The ultimate reason this comes about is due to fear and a need for control. Using language is a way to control your environment. If she is a bad person then he must be a good one. But these terms are very subjective in the first place and on what time line do you use for comparison? For a person who lives in the Way, to be the uncarved block is about allowing yourself to flow with a situation and using the skill of being clear and still to allow you to see the situation as it is, not as your Mind tells you it should be. To accept and allow reality to be what it is and then flow with it. An example would be, I do not usually eat meat, however I am NOT a vegetarian or vegan. I just have a tendency to not eat meat. But if faced with a situation where there is only meat to eat then I will have no conflicts and I will be able to effortlessly flow with the situation. But for those that are staunch about it and will not eat meat under ANY circumstance then as ‘vegetarians or vegans’ (which by virtue of the distinction is carving themselves) then they will go hungry or possibly starve.

This is how carving the block creates suffering in our lives. When we resist what is, we suffer. Life is a collection of circumstances. We cannot know where it will flow day to day. But if we can learn to relax into it and enjoy the ride we will find the miracles along the Way. For those who cannot it is because they are stuck in their identities (the carvings they have made for themselves) then life will seem bitter, hostile, or unjust. The Way is to live simply, spontaneously, compassionately, and go with the flow.

Priest Patrick
(Lao Da Long)
Priest Xū Gōng 虚公

5 Responses to Carving the Block = Knowing the Context.

  1. Jeremy Pollack says:

    Great article, Priest Patrick! You put the concept of the uncarved block into a truly elegant yet simple perspective for modern spiritual practitioners. Not Two is often difficult to conceive. But certainly, it is something to strive for and yet not to do anything for. Why is just “being” and not “doing” often such a challenge? Being is the path of the Daoist. Resistance and control are contrary to the path.

  2. Josh Paynter says:

    How elegant. And how subtly you point to other central themes in Daoist practice. Well done, how about a book like this?

  3. John Gist says:

    Well put, Priest Patrick. This puts me in mind somehow of Descartes’ “cogito ergo sum,” or “I think therefore I am,” as it is commonly translated. Western civilization is so rooted in this notion that they rarely consider that it presupposes an “I” where, really, there is not one. In other words, your article is subtly provocative. Thank you!

    Question: is it possible, in some instances, that a person can BE depressed through chemical imbalance or the like?

  4. Jack Schaefer says:

    A great article with wonderful inspiration, Priest Patrick. Would love to hear more.

  5. Jane Nash says:

    What a great article. It really gave me a new perspective, quite succinctly, on something I thought I understood. Note to self… Understanding never stops. Not being, but being. Today I will do my best to reflect nature in the ebb and flow of all things…

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