• Gregory Sporleder

How I became a Taoist - part 1

Updated: Apr 14, 2018

The perfect storm of circumstances aligned in the fall of 1993 that allowed me to create my own personal meditation practice. This inspiring little secret has kept me absorbed and connected not only to my life but to the universe itself. It has also kept me out of the rope section of Home Depot and from googling “how to tie a noose.” Through the highs and lows, this living force is always inside of me and I never intended to share the secret, in fact, the inspiration for the secret advocates NOT sharing. The inspiration believes that the secret grows deeper and fuller if kept private. And that’s what I’ve done, for all these years, until, the tsunami of insanity came crashing ashore in the fall of 2016 and seems hell bent on pushing not only me, but all of society right to the edge. Interestingly enough, the bedrock of my secret teaches that when a force becomes so overpowering you must find a way to counterbalance.

So, without any further to do, I'd like to introduce, to those not familiar with, the Tao Te Ching.

The hope is that this humble little seed of an offering might be a bit of a cosmic antidotal contribution to these turbulent times. Something that might help in the balancing of things. The story of how I allowed my intelligence, soul and physical being to merge with the ancient Chinese philosophy of the Tao Te Ching and created an inner cosmic sanctuary where my meditation lives. This inner calming world helps my to balance this crazy outer world.

#6 from the Tao Te Ching.

The Tao is called the great mother:

Empty yet inexhaustible,

It gives birth to infinite worlds.

It is always present within you.

You can use it any way you want.

~ From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao

Prior to the start of this story I received, for my 29th birthday, a copy of Stephen Mitchell's translation of the Tao Te Ching. For such a little book, I was stunned by its impact. I had some wisdom literature under my belt but this was different, it seemed to be written specifically for me. That first night I read it three times over and that’s when the little seed was planted in me.

A few months later, the end of October, I landed a job, flew to Atlanta and the only book I took was the Tao. I had been in Atlanta for a couple weeks on the particular night the story starts and I was looking up at the fat sweet moon floating in the Georgia night sky, when suddenly the seed started to sprout. It hit me. My childhood dream had really come true, I was truly living my dream, and, to my great surprise, behind this dream was another dream, a dream behind a dream. The Tao was coming to life within me.

It felt as if I was being plugged into the universe in this sweet, synchronistic moment, which was ironic because at the same time I was laying in the mud preparing to die. The old “death and rebirth” was happening to me, except there was a twist.

I laid back in the mud, closed my eyes and waited

......and ACTION

A part of me died that night as another part was being born.

It was a TV movie called “Andersonville.” Yes, that Andersonville, the dreaded Confederate prisoner of war camp. Built to hold 8,000 men, the prison once held more than 33,000. A reported 12,000 of the prisoners died in the 14 months it was in operation. It was a living hell.

My character’s name was Dick Potter and his job in the story was to show the newly captured soldiers, the main characters, around the prison. It doesn’t take long for the hardened veterans of the camp to attack the newbies and we witness the agonizing suffering that is Civil War prison camp life, which you saw in Technicolor. The stabbing, this death scene was my childhood dream come true. You see, I grew up knowing I’d be a roofer, and a damn good one. My grandfather taught me the trade and I loved it. It came natural and by the time I was 18 I could bang nails like a young woodpecker pecks. At the same time I also had a fearless aptitude for performing – acting, dancing, cracking jokes. My parents, knowing I could always return to roofing, encouraged me to follow this passion for performing. The road from that decision to dying in the mud is a whole other story. But, what’s important to know is that I constantly relied on my intuition. Each time I was knocked down, and there was plenty of that, or, I had to make a risky decision, like moving to New York City at age 20, then on to Chicago at 21, knowing only a few people in each place, with only a few hundred bucks in my pocket, it wasn’t intelligence or judgment, but my gut, my intuition that always guided me. My intuition led me to this dream acting moment, because next to kissing, dying is the young actors dream. And there I was, complete with glued-on beard, mustache, wig, dressed in rags, laying in the mud, being stabbed, in a Civil War prison camp, on a film set, being directed by the legendary John Frankenheimer. Dream come true. Check.

Now, this second dream, this sprouting seed of the Tao, had my intuition’s attention, because seemingly out of nowhere I started feeling, to quote the Tao directly....

#15 from the Tao Te Ching

“Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.

Courteous as a guest.

Fluid as melting ice.

Shapable as a block of wood.

Receptive as a valley.

Clear as a glass of water.

Kindhearted as a grandmother

Dignified as a king.”

~ From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao

I had opened myself up to the Tao and I began to feel not only a connection to this universal force but a discovery of my primal identity. That night in the mud I found a dream behind my dream, and since then I’ve called myself a Taoist.


© 2018 Gregory Sporleder