The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

Having never read Winnie Pooh nor been into it as a small child it took me a while to get into the allegorical style of storytelling or feel any kind of affinity with the characters. That slowly evaporated however as the book went on and I became further and further charmed by its philosophical message and the dissection of Pooh, Tigger, Eeyore, Rabbit and Owl as characters who stand in communion with nature. Interspersed between the dialogue of Pooh and his friends, which, although I’m an adult I have to say was highly entertaining and enjoyable, the book relays the main points on Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and explains life openly for what it is.

The message relayed throughout The Tao of Pooh had a pretty deep impact on my reading and brought me to a strange place of calm while I read it. From here on in my state of awareness might consider itself elevated as I continue on the road of giving myself to Wu Wei and not fighting so much with the constant labouring of the mind. Benjamin Hoff has it right, this is an amazing foreword to deeper philosophical and spiritual readings; especially if you’re curious about Buddhism, Stoicism, the teachings of Alan Watts, Lao Tzu and other modern day evangelists of meditation, mindfulness or just getting the best from life.

Choice Quotes

“When you know and respect your own Inner Nature, you know where you belong. You also know where you don’t belong. One man’s food is often another man’s poison, and what is glamorous and exciting to some can be a dangerous trap to others.”

“From the state of the Uncarved Block comes the ability to enjoy the simple and the quiet, the natural and the plain.”

“When you discard arrogance, complexity, and a few other things that get in the way, sooner or later you will discover that simple, childlike, and mysterious secret known to those of the Uncarved Block: life is fun.”

“Life itself, when understood and utilised for what it is, is sweet.”

“The wise know their limitations; the foolish do not.”

“Those who know what’s wrong with them and take care of themselves accordingly will tend to live a lot longer than those who consider themselves perfectly healthy and neglect their weaknesses.”

“We don’t need to play Abstract Philosopher, asking unnecessary questions and coming up with meaningless answers. What we need to do is recognise Inner Nature and work with Things As They Are. When we don’t, we get into trouble. Pooh and Piglet found this out when they tried to catch a Heffalump.”

“Everything has its own Inner Nature. Unlike other forms of life, though, people are easily led away from what’s right for them, because people have Brain, and Brain can not be fooled. Inner Nature, when relied on, cannot be fooled. But many people do not look at it or listen to it, and consequently do not understand themselves very much. Having little understanding of themselves, they have little respect for themselves, and are therefore easily influenced by others.”

“So there is no such thing as an ability that is too useless, too crooked, or too small. It only depends on what you do with it.”

“Mistakes are made or imagined by man, the creature with the overloaded brain who separates himself from the supporting network of natural laws by interfering and trying too hard.”

“The surest way to become tense, awkward, and confused, is to develop a mind that tries too hard – one that thinks too much. The animals in the forest don’t think too much; they just are.”

“The main problem with this great obsession for saving time is very simple: you can’t save time. You can only spend it. But you can spend it wisely or foolishly. The Bisy Backson has practically no time at all, because he’s too busy wasting it by trying to save it. And by trying to save every bit of it, he ends up wasting the whole thing.”

“The honey doesn’t taste so good once it is being eaten; the goal doesn’t mean so much once it is reached; the reward is not so rewarding once it has been given. If we add up all the rewards in our lives, we won’t have very much. But if we add up the spaces between the rewards, we’ll come up with quite a bit. And if we add up the rewards and the spaces, then we’ll have everything every minute of the time that we spent. What if we could enjoy it?”

“In order to take control of our lives and accomplish something of lasting value, sooner or later we need to learn to believe. We don’t need to shift out responsibilities onto the shoulders of some deified Spiritual Superman, or sit around and wait for Fate to come knocking at the door. We simply need to believe in the power that’s within us, and use it. When we do that, and stop imitating others and competing against them, things begin to work for us.”

“More often that not, the things we need are there already; all we have to do is make use of them.”

“A brain can do all kinds of things, but the things that it can do are not the most important things. Abstract cleverness of mind only separates the thinker from the world of reality, and that world, the Forest of Real Life, is in a desperate condition now because of too many who think too much and care too little.”

“The wise are children who know. Their minds have been emptied of the countless minute somethings of small learning, and filled with the wisdom of the Great Nothing, the Way of the Universe.”

“An empty sort of mind is valuable for finding pearls and tails and things because it can see what’s in front of it. An overstuffed mind is unable to. While the clear mind listens to a bird singing, the stuffed-full-of-knowledge-and-cleverness mind wonders what kind of bird is singing. The more stuffed up it is, the less it can hear through its own ears and see through its own eyes. Knowledge and cleverness tend to concern themselves with the wrong sorts of things, and a mind confused by knowledge, cleverness, and abstract ideas tends to go chasing off after things that don’t matter, or that don’t even exist, instead of seeing, appreciating, and making use of what is right in front of it.”

“Do you want to be really happy? You can begin by being appreciative of who you are and what you’ve got. Do you want to be really miserable? You can begin by being discontented. As Lao-tse wrote, “A tree as big around as you can reach starts with a small seed; a thousand-mile journey starts with one step.” Wisdom, happiness and courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they’re part of a continuous cycle that begins right here.”

“Within each of us there is an Owl, a Rabbit, an Eeyore, and a Pooh. For too long, we have chosen the way of Owl and Rabbit. Now, like Eeyore, we complain about the results. But that accomplishes nothing. If we are smart, we will choose the way of Pooh. As if from far away, it calls to us with the voice of a child’s mind. It may be hard to hear at times, but it is important just the same, because without it, we will never find our way through the forest.”