Updated: May 4, 2018
“For a lack of a better name, I call it The Tao”
~ From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao
A brief history: The Tao is an ancient Chinese philosophy that was written in the late 4th century BCE (before Christ Era) by a guy named Lao Tzu. The legend goes that old Lao Tzu, whose name means Old boy or Old master, was fed up with the moral decay of human society within the Chou kingdom and decided to head up into the mountains to live as a hermit. He got to the western gate of the kingdom where a young sentry asked the old timer if he would write down his wisdom. Legend has it that what he left behind was the Tao Te Ching. Translated Tao Te Ching means: the book of the way, or the book of the way of virtue. Only the Bible has been translated more than Lao Tzu’s 81 chapters.
"Open yourself to the Tao,
Then trust your natural responses;
And everything will fall into place."
~ #23 From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao
The most surprising thing about this muddy, mystical, metaphysical, metamorphosis, this dream behind a dream, was that it felt as natural as breathing. It felt like I had found the thing I had been looking for, but didn’t realize I had been looking for it. This sprouting connection allowed me to feel whole, rooted, calm. It was empowering. A glorious surprise, because as exciting as it was to die in the mud I knew I’d have to hop up, remove the facial hair, strip off the rags, transform back into myself, and be taken back to the hotel. I knew that it would end and the hunt for the next part would begin again, immediately. It’s an endless cycle. The highlights of Hollywood are like amusement park rides, so fun, fast and furious, but, they are over quickly and if you’re not careful, they can make you sick.
“Fame or integrity: which is more important?
Money or happiness: which is more valuable?
Success or failure: which is more destructive?”
~ #44 From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao
After I did climb out of the mud, from that point on everything became about balance, and here’s why….
Several key principles of the Tao led to the revelation in the mud. The first was the understanding of Yin Yang.
“All things have their backs to the female
And stand facing the male.
When male and female combine,
all things achieve harmony.”
~ #42 From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao
This is how Wikipedia defines it:
In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (陰陽 yīnyáng, lit. "dark-bright", "negative-positive") describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolized by yin and yang.
I started recognizing the forces of Yin/Yang in almost anything and everything. Like being ushered back and forth from the prison camp set and the beautiful hotel, the fact that I was playing a prisoner and yet I had never felt freer in my life, and that Dick Potter was starving while I was eating like a king. Once it became personalized, this yin/yang seemed to be everywhere.
"If you accept the world,
The Tao will be luminous inside you
And you will return to your primal self."
~ #28 From Stephen Mitchell’s translation of the Tao
A few days before we shot the death scene, things really changed. A friend from LA sent a small care package that contained some marijuana. Right before leaving for Atlanta we had been taking small puffs of this magical herb and running around the Hollywood reservoir, for miles and miles, and loving it. I was totally surprised by this new experience because I had always enjoyed it for recreation but had never thought that it could be used as a part of exercising. It worked great for running. I found that it was a totally different “high.” When I was moving, breathing deep, heart pumping, the “high” became more about power and focus. Distraction dropped away and was replaced by this dynamic alertness. I didn’t realize I would miss it so much, so I asked my friend to send this package. Also, across from the hotel was a nature preserve with paved trails that went on for miles and miles and even before the marijuana arrived there were times I thought I heard the woods calling to me.
Once it did arrived I was ready. I didn’t have any great expectations. I thought it would be a nice calm trail run. Little did I know that the seedling inside me was about to crack.
It was a completely different experience from the running I had been doing in LA. Suddenly I was all animal. Human thought disappeared and I seemed to be flying through the forest. No friend to chat with, no Hollywood runners to watch, just me ripping through the woods. What was exercise suddenly became ritual, and it wasn’t long into this initial ritual, under these huge, old, dignified, gorgeous trees, feeling more animal than human, that the Tao literally attached itself to my breathing. The two became interconnected and my running mantra sprung to life. Hundreds of miles and 7 Marathons later later I still use the mantra when running: I am the Tao, step after step after step after step…..
The Tao reminded me that breathing is the actual definition of living; conscious breathing, conscious living.