Published on February 6th, 2014 | by msalt

Your Own Private Tao of Idaho

“The Tao of the Palouse” is a short (8 minute) documentary about a Daoist hermitage in rural Idaho. (The Palouse is a rich farming region spread across Eastern Washington and Idaho.)

This is very much a place that attempts to teach Daoism in the Chinese tradition. Charlotte Sun, the woman who started it, was encouraged to do so by her Chinese teacher, Bao Zong-De, who never came to the U.S. The video shows Tai Chi, readings of the Daodejing in English and Chinese (with line 2 of first chapter preceding line 1), and a well-spoken young devotee.

“We don’t reject modern life,” she says, “but we evaluate it, and try to integrate it but trying to stay true to the core” (of Daoism). She refers to things like the farmwork they share and washing clothes by hand, deliberately, even though they could choose to throw the laundry in a washing machine.

“When you just focus on one thing, ‘I’m raking the ground, I’m raking the ground’ or ‘I’m washing the sock, I’m washing the sock,’ your mind goes into just being quiet … and you can slow down and just be self-aware. … The farm work just helps you be quiet.” That’s the full-time student, William Langlois.

It’s an interesting contrast to a book I recently received for review, “Trying Not to Try” by Professsor Edward Slingerland of the University of British Columbia. He is aiming at a contemporary audience with a well-researched tome nonetheless presented a bit like a self-help book: “here’s this cool new (old) method that can totally help you succeed in sports, work and love!”

It’s an interesting attempt at popular contemporary Daoism very much along the lines of what I’m trying to do with this website. I just started reading, so it’ll take a while to digest, but it looks very promising. Especially for people unable or unwilling to move to the quiet side of Idaho.

About the Author

Mark Saltveit is a writer, standup comedian, skimboarder and dad based in Middlebury, Vermont. His improv show "Palindrome Fight!" will be at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Aug. 5-29th 2022 at the Kilderkin Pub, 67 Canongate, at 7:30pm each night except Tuesdays.

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