Embracing the One in Taoism and Life

by | Jan 1, 2011 | Taoism, Taoist Meditation | 5 comments

We just had a 1-1-11 day so I thought it would be appropriate to share this post about Oneness and Taoism. The ‘One’ and ‘Oneness’ are very much central to Taoist philosophy and thought.

In Chinese, shou-yi or shou-i means “embracing the one.” This is very tricky because embracing the one means embracing the Tao. The one is the Tao. Lao Tse writes in the Tao Te Ching, “From the one came the two, came the three, came the 10,000 myriad of things.”

In Taoism, to embrace the totality while doing an everyday mundane task means you never leave the totality regardless of the action you might undertake. This is the principle of shou-yi, which is extremely difficult to do.

Initially it requires that you are able to embrace the whole–that you have the internal motivation to become capable of embracing that which is invisible yet connects everything, including the underlying currents.

Everything in manifestation is relative. If you talk to a two-year-old about a high-rise building, you’re going to get a very different take on that building than if you were speaking with an architectural engineer. All of a sudden there are 24,000 things that come to mind–almost instantaneously–all of which have something to do with the building.

So, to embrace the one is to cultivate the Tao, called Yi Ke Tao or I Ke Tao. This underlying ground rule from which all is derived usually results in the practitioner having an extremely open mind, especially in terms of thinking.

Most thought processes tend to consist of varying degrees of closeness. They define a parameter and they stick within that parameter without going an inch beyond it in one direction or another.

In shou-yi, although you might stay within a parameter, you also have to connect with the little tiny pieces, never forgetting the much larger framework connecting it to all and everything. Small mindedness, petty thought and over-concentration is intrinsically not seeing the forest for the trees.

So, if shou-yi is really about seeing the forest, then when considering how someone functions in the world, it becomes much more about wu wei wu, or action and non-action, as discussed in the last post. You are aware of not only of the forest, but simultaneously of each individual tree for which you might wish to take some sort of action or non-action.

Regardless, you are always aware, or at least doing the best you can to be aware, of the entire web to which everything is connected.

In one sense the term shou-yi in Taoism has a parallel in Buddhism to the Doctrine of Interdependent Origination, which says that everything is interconnected–nothing exists in and of itself. The doctrine further explains that everything in existence is a part in a series of causes and conditions that concern the way in which it interacts with all other causes and conditions and therefore often has the appearance–at a given time–of being something distinct and concrete. Let that sink in a moment.

So, we say something exists and we try to define it. However, if you were to really look at anything very, very closely you would realize that nothing actually exists except a conglomeration or a flux in force that just happens to appear to be completely coherent unto itself–at a particular moment in time. And so, at that moment, embracing the one is about embracing the flux, embracing that from which everything derives.

The parallel to mysticism is the constant awareness of God pervading everything and that if this is the basis upon which your actions come through, then the nature of God will flow through you.

So, embracing the one in Taoism does not mean that you are beholden to someone or something no matter how discretely it can be defined. The one is all and everything that can neither be defined nor pinned down and yet is always there. If you wish to practice shou-yi in life, then you are generally in a meditative state most of the time. This is one of the goals of Taoist meditation.

Even if you not in a meditative state at all times, for example when major decisions have to be made, there is still consideration of how everything that will go on within those parameters will affect all the interconnections into the one. You see all the forces around that decision, action or non-action as nothing more than considerations.

Most people will not allow the consideration of the one to even enter into their decision-making process or how they will implement any action or non-action.

So finding even small ways to embrace the one in the beginning could be immensely valuable to daily living. You might be able to release some of your expectations and the pressures that make your decisions seem so important. Once you understand that nothing exists–not even you–then you might find that you don’t become as revved by daily events and enjoy the clouds passing by in the sky more often.

Stay good and best wishes for 2011.



  1. Kevin Robbins

    Thank you for the post Bruce. It’s a good reminder to me to get back to Lao Tse’s writings. Wonderful photo,too. Be well.

  2. shmochino

    once i generated enough of a high frequecy during chi kung that the grass around my feet extending mabye 30cm(one foot) sunk completely down like magic,grass i was not standing on sunk to a compressed state i couldnt believe my eyes this was some sort of huge release from within.Another strange happening was when i was holding my mobile in my plam the vibration was so fast that my palm acted like speaker or amp the sound was as if projected extremely loud rapidly anyway hope u enjoyed my experiences magic happens

  3. Zulkifli Alinazar

    Thanks Bruce, I like the term conglomeration or a flux in force. We are nothing actually as the universe with all its contents is created from nothing. Only God exists so embracing the One would make us something. God Bless You Bruce.

  4. Robber Zhi

    Instant Presence !

  5. stefanie

    And the parallel to quantum physics? The space between maybe? If you look closely enough, everything is just space; I think I read somewhere..


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Access 3 free reports: Secrets of Tai Chi, 30 Days to Better Breathing, and Dragon & Tiger Qigong:

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This