Years ago, in a difficult period of my life, I had looked for philosophical help and explicitly found it in Buddhism and not Daoism, rejecting Daoism and its sudden-liberation views in about the strongest possible terms. But that wasn’t the whole story.
I had already been trying to apply the four-stage model of skill development, taught to me by Nancy Houfek, in which one progresses from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence to conscious competence to unconscious competence. Trying to find a peaceful mind in those difficult days, I was all too conscious of my own incompetence, and Daoism provided no guidance that I could discern on how one could make the all-important step to conscious competence. But it is eight years later now, eight years I have spent working on my mindfulness through a nightly prayer ritual and, increasingly, meditation. I’ve gotten better at stopping my harmful thoughts when I put my mind to it; I think I’ve acquired a certain degree of conscious competence. The next step seems to be making it a habit, making it unconscious competence. And when it comes to that, the Daoists might have a point.Continue reading